Just recently, we’ve brought you this list of 10 best and most powerful entry-level classic muscle cars and this time we’re doing things the other way around. While muscle car’s primordial set of duties included it being the fastest at a straight line and as simple as possible, it was inevitable that one day things will get out of hand. In terms of their simple and bare-boned nature, that is. Most manufacturers figured out there’s the upscale market for muscle cars and they made their move. Personal luxury carriers would become luxury muscle cars overnight, and some muscle cars would become premium in terms of their refinement at the same time. While former only received powerful, high displacement V8 engines, latter got showered with all kinds of plushy options and tech features available at extra cost. Here are the 10 powerful and fully stacked classic muscle cars.
1971 Plymouth GTX Hemi
Gentleman’s muscle car as they called it is as good example of powerful luxury muscle as any. What’s most striking about it is GTX’s dual nature. It was both powerful and refined when ordered bare-boned, as well as when ordered fully decked. The reasons for that were powerful engine choices and numerous features included as standard (including the heavy duty suspension).
Although early seventies saw the introduction of the new regulations and GTX’s 440ci V8 (both 4-barrel and Six Pack) lost some of their edge, Elephant Hemi was still going strong. It was still rated at 425 horsepower, but then again, the engine actually delivered much more than that. 1971 Plymouth GTX was also moderately redesigned and looked better thanks to the new fenders, bumpers and hood cutouts. It wasn’t all about the looks, though. Wider rear track affected the GTX’s handling as well. Although it wasn’t as refined as cumbersome personal luxury carriers from Cadillac, Buick and Olds, Plymouth GTX was still one luxurious classic muscle worthy of an executive.
1965 Buick Riviera GS
There’s no doubt in our mind that Buick owes a lot to the first generation Riviera. Hadn’t there been for the Euro-inspired personal luxury carrier, Buick might have been long gone as a brand. Luckily for them, Bill Mitchell’s stylistic gamble paid off big time and Buick sold around 112,000 of them over the course of following three years. Arguably the most popular and awe-inspiring of them all is the 1965 year model.
This is when Riviera’s “Gran Sport” option became available. GS Riviera was powered by the dual-quad Super Wildcat 425ci V8 engine with 360 horsepower. With it came the dual Carter AFB four-barrel carbs, heavy-duty suspension, and 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. But the cornerstone of the car were probably its concealed headlights. All 3,354 1965 Buick Gran Sport Rivieras made were, interestingly, traditional rear-wheel drive cars. And so were all other Rivieras for that matter. It was peculiar because Riviera’s platform sharing GM siblings Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado were both front-wheel driven.
1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT
Although basically a Mustang with Mercury badging and some stylistic changes, it was the Cougar that reigned supreme when it came to pony muscle cars, Ford Motor Company and luxury. For its initial year, Cougar was kept simple. Only 2-door hardtop body style was offered and people could have chosen between conventional and luxurious XR-7 models. Moreover, both options included the sporty GT package. Same goes for our pick of the day – the 1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT.
Together with upscale wood grain interior trim and leather-vinyl upholstery of the XR-7 Cougar, GT also added the 390ci FE big-block V8 capable of producing 320 horsepower. It came either with 3 or 4-speed manuals, or with optional Merc-O-Matic 3-speed auto trans. Heavy duty suspension, and better brakes and tires were also part of the GT package. Around 27,000 XR-7’s were ordered during Cougar’s first production year, 2,653 of them were coupled with the GT performance package. And like the first gen Buick Riviera from above, first gen Mercury Cougar also featured concealed headlamps.
1969 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ
1969 marked the first year of the downsized Pontiac Grand Prix which successfully addressed the issue of its full-size predecessor’s declining sales. John Z. DeLorean took his sweet time in ordering this change, but better late then never. In fact, he’s probably picked the best possible year for the new stretched A platform, G-body luxury Grand Prix as sales soared from 32,000 in ’68 to 112,000 in ’69. Contrary to its numerous coevals which bragged with concealed headlights, Grand Prix boasted Pontiac’s longest-ever hood, protruded V-shaped grille, and other Duesenberg-type styling cues.
SJ trim hidden behind the UPC Y97 option code was the one we’re looking for here. For $316, prospective buyers could have converted their already powerful and refined car into ultimate luxury performance machine. 370-horsepower 428ci V8, an automatic leveling suspension and a heavy-duty rear axle are what came with it. Those in need of even more power could have switched to L79 428ci H.O. mill available for additional $119 on the SJ Grand Prix. It packed 390 ponies thanks to the high-flow exhaust manifolds and 10.75:1 compression ratio. It could have been ordered with both the manual or auto gearbox, but choosing manual rendered air conditioning unavailable.
1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III
It took Lee Iacocca’s coming at the helm and more than 10 years since the Mark II in order to finally push the Lincoln Continental Mark III into the market. And it was a huge success for the Blue Oval. Low production costs due to platform sharing (with Ford Thunderbird) and high revenue usual for personal luxury cars made the Continental Mark III one of Ford’s most successful ventures into the luxury car market.
Available as both the 2-door coupe (8,205 units) and the 4-door sedan (27,346 units), Continental Mark III was fitted with the 365-horsepower 460ci big-block V8. Priced at $7,120 for the coupe ($43,000 today) and $7,419 for the sedan ($45,000 today), Continental Mark III sat proudly at the top of the food chain, together with Cadillac Eldorado. Although Lincolns never managed to outsell their GM counterparts, Mark III came very close. Included in the exorbitant price tag were the standard vinyl roof, tinted glass, automatic climate control, SureTrak anti-lock brakes, and Michelin radial tires. Continental Mark III was the first American car to feature the Michelin radials, in fact. They became standard in 1970. Since 1971 was Lincoln’s golden anniversary year, there were 1,575 special edition Lincoln Continental Town Car models built. Unlike numerous slightly revised special edition cars, Mark III Town Car was truly special.
1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk 400
2-door luxury coupe always sat atop the Studebaker line, but even the Golden Hawk had the special golden model. Midway through 1957 model year, Indiana company introduced the 400 trim. Golden Hawk 400 featured a premium price of $4,208 (almost $37,000 today). It was priced more than $1,000 atop the regular Golden Hawk which cost $3,182 so it’s no wonder the 400’s were rare. But the fact they were only produced in 41 copies makes them some of the rarest classic luxury muscle cars ever made.
Beginning with 1957, Studebaker replaced the 352ci Packard V8 with their own 289ci V8 mill making the same 275 horses. Of course, it needed the McCulloch supercharger in order to do that. Apart from lots of power on tap (remember, those were the fifties), Studebaker Golden Hawk 400 came with standard leather interior, upholstered trunk, power steering, power brakes, power seats, and power windows. Although 3-speed manual was standard, additional $119 bought the 2-speed Flight-O-Matic auto. Due to the late fifties recession which had lead to slow sales in the luxury car segment, Studebaker Golden Hawk was dropped after only three model years.
1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme SX
Another rare option, Cutlass Supreme SX was an exclusive 1970-1971 affair. Much more upscale than conventional Cutlasses, Cutlass Supreme featured Osborne cloth or Moroccan vinyl both for bench and Strato bucket seats. It also had numerous additional amenities otherwise unavailable in more affordable cars, but that wasn’t what’s made it great. Performance was.
1970 Cutlass Supreme SX had a few different 455ci V8 options at hand. Standard L33 and optional L32 were available until mid-year when L31 replaced the former of the two. There was also the W-32 option which generated the same 365 horsepower and north of 500 lb-ft of torque as the L31. However, W-32 also had larger intake valves making it slightly more potent. A total of 9,374 models were built over the course of two years in both the hardtop and the convertible body styles. Needless to say, there are currently only 682 Cutlass Supreme SX’s in the Cutlass SX registry. Not as rare as Golden Hawk 400’s, but quite rare nevertheless.
1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
We had the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Olds Cutlass Supreme, so there’s no reason not to include their GM sibling Chevy Monte Carlo and round up this trio of intermediate luxury muscle cars. The most interesting of the Monte Carlo’s was surely the SS model. With performance as its main attribute, people expected it to quickly become one of the most popular Chevy’s around. But it didn’t. It never caught the attention of its underpowered siblings which became instantly successful. Monte Carlo SS 454 generated up to 360 horsepower thanks to th 454ci Turbo-Jet V8. This option was available for $420 and also included the heavy-duty suspension and wider tires. It could have been ordered exclusively with the 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. There were some indications of a 450-horsepower LS6 Monte Carlo SS, but live specimen still hasn’t surfaced.
Apart from plenty of power, Chevy Monte Carlo SS featured all the tech and plushiness of the conventional lineup. It had the standard front disc brakes, wood grain dashboard, higher grade nylon or vinyl upholstery and rich carpeting among other things. There were a total of only 3,823 SS Monte Carlo’s produced for 1970 and that figure fell even further for the following year.
1963 Studebaker Avanti R2
It was the end of the line for Studebaker, but Avanti was there to ensure they’ll go out in style. Back at the time, Studebaker marketed it as America’s only 4 passenger high-performance personal car. And it lived up to that standards. 289ci V8 with the 4-speed manual, Paxton supercharger and Carter AFB carburetor was good enough for 240 horsepower. It broke no less than 29 records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Maybe it was down to the price of a luxury coupe, or perhaps due to its peculiar styling, but Studebaker Avanti was only produced in north of 4,500 units. 1962 numbers are even lower. There were only around 1,200 of them that year. A sad fate for such a fine vehicle. After all, Avanti was offered with standard front disc brakes. It was the first American production car to have them. That’s how Studebaker’s role in auto industry ended. On a high note, but that probably wasn’t much of a consolation for them.
1957 Chrysler 300C
Chrysler 300 Letter Series were quite likely the cars that started it all. Alongside Ford Thunderbird, they were the first personal luxury cars around. We could have picked any of them, but decided to go with the C. Because, apart from the regular 392ci FirePower Hemi V8 with dual Carter 4-barrel carburetors making 375 horsepower, there were 18 special edition models which developed a total of 390 horsepower. That was still in 1957, mind you. Even with all that power, the car was comfy, refined and it handled well.
Moreover, 300C was the first one to offer the convertible body style. That car had the sticker saying $5,359 (almost $47,000 in 2017 dollars). Atop of that, A/C was available for $495 extra. 1957 Chrysler 300C didn’t have a hood ornament, but it did have tail fins, front door vent windows and twin backup lights at the back. Inside, it was as refined as any of the above mentioned classic muscle cars. Leather upholstery was standard, door panels were finished with silver appliques, seats had airfoam cushions, and dashboard was soft and came with a clock. A total of 1,918 hardtops and 484 convertibles were built which puts the final Chrysler 300C figure to 2,402 units.