Our top five luxury muscle picks


The formula for classic American muscle has been oft-repeated and it’s pretty straightforward – stuff the biggest, most powerful engine possible into the smallest car, go really fast in a straight line. Sure, if you checked the right boxes, you could get cushy stuff like power windows, air conditioning and an automatic transmission, but most of these options just added weight and aided your competition at the next stop light.

But the prosperous, thirty-something proctologist who had outgrown street racing on Colorado Boulevard or Woodward Avenue, didn’t necessarily care about giving up a few tenths of a second to his neighbor, the accountant. Still, they weren’t ready for the squarish conformism that a four-door Olds, Buick or Cadillac represented. For these guys, an interesting brand of personal luxury muscle thrived briefly. Here are five of our favorites:

  1. 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ– The Grand Prix was the midway point for one John Z. DeLorean, in between the Pontiac GTO and the stainless steel, gullwing sports car that bore his name. While a little bit more grown up than the GTO, with a 390 hp 428-cid High Output V-8 and a four-speed, there wasn’t much that could embarrass a GP.

  2. 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS– The Monte was Chevy’s answer to the Grand Prix. Debuting a year later, oddly enough, it also had a John DeLorean connection. John Z. had succeeded Pete Estes as Chevy’s general manager by the time the Monte was introduced. DeLorean also ensured that the Monte Carlo was available in SS trim with a 360 hp 454 V-8. The Monte was only a few hundred pounds heavier than a Chevelle, so performance was closer than you might think. For those priced out of the LS5 Chevelle market, it’s a pretty tempting car.

  3. 1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7– It’s not like you couldn’t lux up a first-generation Mustang, nevertheless, FoMoCo still decided that its Mercury division needed a personal luxury/pony car. While still very much a Mustang underneath, the more generous overhangs, slimmer profile, hidden headlamps and sequential tail lamps (which survive on the current Mustang) made the Cougar an irresistible mascot for the whole Mercury lineup. XR-7s added better, less Country Squire-like interiors that looked very British, with simulated wood and gauges and toggle switches that looked lifted straight out of an E-type. With a 390 cubic inch V-8 making 335 hp, it had little trouble showing its distinctive tail lamps to much of the competition.

  4. 1963 Studebaker Avanti– The Avanti was a last gasp, Hail Mary play by the dying Studebaker corporation. You either love or hate the looks. Less polarizing is the car’s performance, particularly with the supercharged R2 289-cid V-8 mated with a four-speed manual transmission. Amazingly, R2 Avantis in need of some minor work still can be had for $20,000 or less.

  5. 1967 Buick Riviera GS– The 1963-65 Riv gets all the accolades for its sophisticated Trans-Atlantic style. But the Riv that bowed in 1966 is certainly sleeker with its fastback roofline and it’s arguably the better looking car. Strangely, it shared the same platform as the Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado—both were front-drivers while the RIv retained a traditional rear wheel-drive setup. We’re partial to the visually similar 1967 model for its optional Bendix disc brakes and the all-new 430 cubic inch, 360 hp Buick V-8 that became available that year.

  • 1
  • /
  • 3


Share Leave comment
Read next Up next: Fallen firefighter’s motorcycle is a testament to resilience, 15 years after 9/11