6 of the best sounding muscle cars
Looks can captivate, but for car lovers, how a car sounds is arguably its strongest sensory trait. Done right, a screaming engine emits a visceral thrill you never forget. Some cars hit the perfect notes to magically elevate the pulse of exhaust gases from mere byproduct to a piston-powered symphony playing a piece in the time signature of 10.5-to-1.
Few eras are so closely tied to these distinctive sounds as the late 1960s and early 1970s. At its peak, the muscle car era’s V-8 noisemakers from just about every manufacturer were unleashed, piped through simple mufflers with little restriction. Here’s a handful of the best from the era.
Oldsmobile 442 W-30
Nothing can sneak up on you at a stoplight like an Olds 442. A grown up’s muscle car, plenty of people have been surprised by what the 442 was packing. The W-30 package put 455 cubic inches of rumble under dual fiberglass scoops. A factory 13-second car in its day, and the exhaust note backed it up.
Plymouth Road Runner
While some of the heavy hitters in this category rely on big displacement, Plymouth did a lot with comparatively little when it came to the base engine in the Road Runner. A 383 is pretty big by modern standards, but was the undercard to the big 440- and 426-cubic inch engines for most of its production run. Those who know are quick to defend it, however, and rightfully so. Putting out 335 horsepower and over 400 pound feet is nothing to sneeze at, and the design of the engine makes it sound awesome, too.
Chevrolet Chevelle LS6
With a shape as timeless as the Chevelle, the engine has to back it up. Luckily, the LS6 454 does not live to disappoint. The rumble seems to permeate the bones of those in the bucket seats—this is a muscle car’s muscle car. It’s brash, unapologetic, and willing to light the tires up anytime and anywhere.
While the Galaxie might not be the first choice of a lot of enthusiasts, it’s worth your attention, if only for the sound. The Galaxie featured multiple flavors of the FE engine, spanning from 332 cubic inches all the way to the mighty 428. You can find an FE in everything from a four-door wagon to the Batmobile—seriously. And the best part? They all sound great.
The GTO is unquestionably muscle car royalty, and though it came with more powerful engines, the 389 with three carburetors stacked on top is one of our favorites. A responsive and powerful package that also dresses up darn nice, the middleweight 389’s popularity makes it a great choice for a fun to drive muscle bruiser.
Dodge Challenger R/T
Few engines command the awe and respect like the legendary 426 Hemi. Combine that with the timeless shape of the 1970 Dodge Challenger and it’s a match made in heaven. The Hemi gets its name from the shape of the combustion chamber, but that also affects the sound due to how the exhaust flows out into the manifolds. Newer designs are more efficient, but there is nothing like the grumble that comes from the back of a 426-powered car.
Have a favorite that isn’t listed here? Leave it in a comment below.