8 muscle cars to watch at Monterey Car Week 2022
Monterey Car Week might best be best known for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and auctions of exotic cars fetching seven- and eight-figure prices. We’ll have eyes on those sales for sure, but our tastes are varied. For every curvy Pre-War French coupe or post-war Italian road racer we drool over, there’s also an American car packing a pushrod V-8 that steals our attention. We scanned Mecum’s deep Monterey 2022 catalog and chose eight such Detroit bruisers to highlight. Some are historic, others iconic … and some we simply wish we could slide into our personal collection.
Estimate: $150,000 – $165,000
1967 was the first year of Chevrolet’s high-revving 302 (5.0-liter) V-8, an engine made especially for the Z/28 Camaro. Unlike the 1969 Camaro with its stylized fenders, the early Z/28s subtly hinted at their Trans Am roots. As one of the earliest Z/28 engineering test cars, it’s possible that every Z/28 that would follow owes this one a debt of gratitude.
This unassuming ‘Maro spent time at Chevrolet Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan where Vince Piggins, the man behind much of Chevrolet’s late’60s racing glory, put it through its paces. Chevrolet General Manager Pete Estes also reportedly racked up some of the car’s first miles before it was sold on to its next life where it became a drag racer. Once a part of Reggie Jackson’s extensive muscle car collection, this nicely restored coupe features a period-correct 302 with cowl-induction ducting, although the listing notes that it is a replacement engine.
Estimate: $200,000 – $225,000
You may remember this car from its former life when it was painted Moulin Rouge and served as a promotional model for BF Goodrich. In 2018, it was restored to its original Alpine white. Its painted wheels and hubcaps give it an understated look, but it’s sort of interrupted by the shaker hood scoop that tells the world that there’s a 426 Hemi lurking underneath. Just 652 Hemi Cuda hardtops were built in 1970, about half of them with an automatic like this one. Not quite a sleeper thanks to that hood scoop, this is still a rather unassuming street car that packs one of the most legendary street engines of the muscle car era.
Estimate: $90,000 – $110,000
Pontiac marked a number a milestones in 1967. It was the first year the brand offered its 400-cubic-inch V-8, a staple of its performance lineup through the core of the muscle car era. It was also the year that four-barrel carbs would take up the mantle of high performance with the departure of Pontiac’s Tri-Power. GM decided that only Corvette would use multiple carbs, but Pontiac was ready, creating the 400 HO. This high-output variant used a manifold that was based on the earlier 421, which proved its mettle in NASCAR and NHRA racing. The result was a fantastic street engine with 360 hp, the same advertised output as the 389 tri-power of the previous year. The single Rochester Quadrajet didn’t have the same visual appeal, perhaps, but it was certainly easier to tune. It was a popular choice among GTO buyers, with more than 13,000 selecting the 400 HO.
This beautiful drop-top also boasts a four-speed manual transmission and Saf-T-Track differential with a 3.55:1 ratio. For a first-gen GTO, it doesn’t get much better.
Estimate: $60,000 – $80,000
The California Special package was cooked up by Ford to give the Mustang a bit of Shelby flavor. It included a louvered hood, blacked-out grille with rectangular fog lamps, side scoops, and a tail panel with 1965 Thunderbird taillights and an integrated spoiler. Additional adornment included a unique gas cap, side stripes, and script emblems on the quarter panels.
This particular GT/CS is equipped with the 1968-only J-code 302 which was rated at 230 hp. Paired with a C4 automatic and a 3.00:1 rear axle, as well as air conditioning and the Décor Group luxury interior, this pony car is built for highway cruising. What’s not to love about a California Special at a California auction?
Estimate: $950,000 – $1,200,000
With their one-year-only fender gills and quad headlights, ’71 ‘Cudas are instantly recognizable, but seeing one with the top down is a rare sight. They’re even harder to find with a 440 six-pack like this one. Just 17 examples of 440 six pack convertible ‘Cuda were built in ’71, so the opportunity to buy one doesn’t happen often. This one was a part of the Steven Juliano Collection and its odometer reads 21,026 miles. In addition to its gorgeous F55 Bright Red paint, the vibrant pony car has some great options, including a heavy-duty automatic and A34 Super Track Pak rear axle with 4.10 gears, perfect to aid the off-the-line punch of the big-block. It also comes with a six-way adjustable driver seat, power brakes, deluxe seatbelts, and the Rallye instrument cluster. This could be one of Monterey Car Week’s biggest Mopar sales.
Estimate: $85,000 – $95,000
There was a time when late first-generation Mustangs didn’t get much love, but we think that time is over. The lines and profile of a 1971 Sportsroof are unique and, according to some enthusiasts, amazing. Pair this with a 330hp 351 Cleveland V-8 backed by a four-speed manual and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an early ’70s muscle car. This understated ride was purchased new by Mike Smith, who owned the car for 35 years. Its original engine was replaced by Ford in 1971, but the total mileage of the car remains just under 12,000. Mecum’s estimate is just below the current #2 (Excellent) price, we’ll have to see how many Ford fans will line up to bid on such a well-preserved piece of muscle car history.
Estimate: $180,000 – $205,000
You probably have heard all about COPO Camaros, but in case you haven’t, the Central Office Production Order was a way to sneakily get a solid-lifter 427 big-block in certain Chevy cars when they weren’t officially offered with the engine. Somewhere around 1000 COPO Camaros were built, with many making the Chevy Bow Tie proud on the drag racing circuit. Currently, a 1969 COPO Camaro is valued at $200,000 in #3 (Good) condition, so its sale price will likely reflect how well its 12-year-old restoration has been handled.
Mecum didn’t have an estimate on this Olds 403-powered Trans Am, and we took that as a sign that it may be a bargain in the making. (That may just be wishful thinking on our part.) The late second-gens are so often represented in the special edition livery made famous by Smokey & the Bandit that it’s refreshing to see one that’s different. The white and red color combo on this example is rather striking, with the red of the interior spilling out onto the hood bird and snowflake wheels.
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