These 8 muscle cars are high-powered and up for grabs

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Muscle cars made a comeback in early 2021, a resurgence that is cause for much rejoicing in the collector community. After a quiet period lasting over three years, a voracious appetite for high-end muscle surfaced at Mecum’s Kissimmee and Muscle Car City Museum sales in January, as well as at Mecum and Barrett-Jackson’s back-to-back sales in the Scottsdale area this March. With muscle cars gaining momentum, and with multiple large sales happening this May between Amelia Island and Indianapolis, we have much to watch. Mecum’s Indy sale in particular is traditionally the largest gathering of muscle cars outside of the January auctions. Here are eight lots we’re eyeing closely.

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible

Hemi Cuda Convertible front three-quarter
Mecum

Mecum Auctions, Lot #F166

Estimate: $5,750,000–$6,500,000

Hagerty Price Guide: $1,250,000–$2,600,000

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a 1971 Hemi Cuda Convertible up for sale. Without a doubt, this is a vehicle that even non-car people understand as the pinnacle of collectible muscle cars. Not only is this car rare, but it represents the end of an era. 1971 would be the final year for the fearsome 426 Hemi engine and with 11 Plymouth Cuda Convertibles equipped with the engine, this configuration would also be one of the rarest.

Collectability for these cars is off the charts and they are considered the blue-chip collector in the muscle-car world. Hemi Cuda convertibles rarely surface for public sale and when they do, they sell for millions. We haven’t seen one since 2016, when this one sold for $2.53 million via Mecum. For this example–one of three equipped with a four-speed, one of two exported to France, and highly optioned by any measure—Mecum Auctions is expecting an equally hefty price of $5.75 million to $6.5 million. A price we’ve never seen for a Hemi Cuda, even in the glory days of the muscle car boom. Whether or not bidding reaches that altitude, one thing is for sure: This car will be a true test of the top of the muscle-car market.

1968 Chevrolet Yenko Camaro

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, Lot S204.1

Estimate: $300,000–$400,000

Hagerty Price Guide: $250,000–$455,000

Don Yenko’s dealership is known for turning out some of the most wild and sought-after Chevrolet muscle cars of the era. Similar to early Shelbys GT350s and 500s, the early Yenko Camaros were built by the team at Yenko’s shop (the 1969s used the COPO system to have their 427-cubic inch engines preinstalled). Early Yenko Camaros arrived as 396-equipped models and, using the COPO system, the shop added a 140-mph speedometer, better cooling, and beefed-up suspension components. Yenko mechanics then dropped in the L72 427 and added their own appearance package including hood scoop, stripes, and a set of Pontiac Rally II wheels with Yenko center caps. This car is one of 65 examples produced for 1968 and 1 of 11 built from an RS/SS. Early Yenkos rarely surface for public sale due to their scarcity and, coupled with the fact that they are all hand-built, collectors pay a handsome sum for them.

1969 Buick GS 400 Stage I

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, Lot F86

Estimate: N/A

Hagerty Price Guide: $25,300–$67,700

Fun fact: 1970 was not the first year that Buick offered the Stage I package in a Gran Sport, nor was it associated solely with the 455. GM wouldn’t lift the restriction on engine size on its mid-size car until 1970, so for 1969, if you wanted a hot GM car, you had to settle for 6.6 liters. If you wanted to go “fast with class” in your Buick, that meant getting the hopped-up Stage I package on your 400. This option specced better-flowing heads, a more aggressive cam, a freer-breathing exhaust, and a specially tuned carburetor. According to advertisements, the Stage I brought only a modest bump in horsepower, but consider that evaluation part of the usual underestimating shenanigans employed by auto manufacturers at the time. This Stage I is finished in a 1969-only color of Fireglow Orange, which lends a sporty look to the reserved lines of the ’69 GS. It is an extremely uncommon car and it comes with documentation, so expect Buick fans to grow lightheaded when they see it.

1970 Chevrolet Nova Yenko Deuce

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, F119

Estimate: $125,000–$175,000

Hagerty Price Guide: $65,000–$145,000

Another machine from the shop of Don Yenko, this Yenko Deuce Nova is the last hurrah for the supercars that emerged from Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania shop. Though 1970 no longer saw the 427-cu-in big-block for which Yenko was so well-known, the LT1 350 hardly deserved an up-turned nose. Used in the ’70–72 Corvette and Camaro Z/28, the 360-hp mill is well loved for its well-rounded performance in these cars and makes a natural choice for a balanced package in the Nova.

Just 175 of these Novas were produced and this one is 1 of 10 in Sunflower Yellow. It is equipped with the TH-400 automatic transmission, however, which may be a detractor to some; but as far as production numbers go, this one is in the minority. This Yenko Deuce has undergone a recent restoration and earned a 98.8 percent at the 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. However you feel about the automatic transmission, this is an exceptional example and bound to bring an exceptional price.

1969 Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, S27

Estimate: N/A

Hagerty Price Guide: $34,100–$118,000

While this isn’t the flashiest one built, this ’69 GTO is perhaps the coolest thing we’ve seen in a long time. Despite the mature nature of the Expresso Brown paint and the vinyl roof, and hub caps, this car packs a major wallop. Under the hood lies the majorly powerful Ram Air IV engine, paired with a four-speed and 4.33:1 gears, making this car a real gentleman’s hot rod. While rated at only 370-hp, the 400-cu-in Ram Air IV engine was one of the hottest engines you could get in any Pontiac aside from the 421 and 455 Super Duty. With a high-lift cam matched with a set of high-flow heads and a stronger rotating assembly, the Ram Air IV was a serious performer that could take the abuse.

Unfortunately in the case of this GTO, the engine is labeled “correct to the car,” indicating that the original mill is long gone. Despite the robust build, high performance engines could, on occasion, scatter themselves all over a race track after a hard pass. Despite the missing engine, this car is incredibly cool, based on its looks and options (or lack thereof) alone.

1970 Dodge Hemi Charger

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, Lot S189.1

Estimate: $250,000–$300,000

Hagerty Price Guide: $93,800–$244,000

Being a Hemi Charger alone is enough to draw attention; add in the fact that this car has only 14,000 original miles and is unrestored, and you have an attention grabber. 1970 was the last year for the fuselage-body Chargers and very few of them came equipped with the 426 Hemi. This car has everything you could want in a Hemi Charger: the four-speed with a pistol-grip shifter, the Super Track Pak, and the high-impact Hemi Orange color.

Just as noteworthy as the options list is this car’s exceptional and original condition. By now, most cars of its era have been restored, and those that haven’t show visible deterioration of condition even under active preservation. This car looks like a time capsule. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this Charger—it is bound to garner plenty of attention when it crosses the block in Indy.

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator Cobra Jet

Mecum Auctions

Mecum Auctions, Lot S272

Estimate: $140,000–$175,000

Hagerty Price Guide: $57,300–$167,000

The Mercury Cougar didn’t have the presence of a fast car, but don’t let that fool you. These cars could be ordered with face-melting performance. This 1970 Eliminator is the perfect example, a Q-Code car that came equipped with a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air, four-speed, and the Super Drag Pack, which includes the oil cooler package with 4.30:1 gears and a Detroit locker. Aside from the Competition Orange paint and spoilers, there aren’t many visual cues that would indicate that this Cougar is such a wild cat. These are incredibly uncommon cars, since their cousin, the Mustang Mach 1, vastly outsold the Cougar Eliminator. This car brings rarity and sleeper performance that few other cars of the era can offer. This Eliminator went through a rotisserie restoration in 2009 and is still in exceptional condition; it also comes with documentation which is an added bonus. If you’re into Mercury Cougars, this is definitely one to watch.

1964 Dodge 330 Lightweight

Bonhams

Bonhams, Lot 193

Estimate: $150,000–$200,000

Hagerty Price Guide: N/A

OK, so this technically isn’t a muscle car as much as it is a full-tilt race car, but this Lightweight is too cool to ignore. This 1964 Dodge 330 is one of just 55 lightweights produced for 1964. With aluminum panels and magnesium components paired with a race-spec 426 Hemi, this thing was meant to dominate at the track rather than between the stoplights. The cherry on top for this amazing piece of machinery? It was sold at Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding Dodge. For the Mopar enthusiast, it doesn’t get much better than that. While more race car than street car, this 330 is a glimpse at what would turn into an all-out war of cubic inches and horsepower between the Big Three over the succeeding years.

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