The Top 5 Muscle Cars

Robert Genat, prolific author & photographer, gives us his top 5 list

DETROIT - Robert Genat is the author of over 30+ book including 'Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip', documenting the history of cruising and street racing on Woodward Avenue. Born & raised in Detroit, he cruised Downriver drive-ins and Woodward with his first car -- a  black 1957 Chevy hardtop. He was awarded the Dean Batchelor award by the Motor Press Guild for his book, The Birth of Hod Rodding. You'll find a list to his books here.

He's also a talented photographer & all the pictures you see here are his own. To see more, check out

Selecting the top five muscle cars is a tough task for me. It's like asking someone with a big family to pick their five favorite kids–someone's feelings always get hurt. But here goes.

1957 Chevy Bel Air:

Killer iconic styling that made an instant impact on buyers and still does today. A wide selection of 283 cubic inch V8 engines including two optional Corvette engines: the dual quad 270 horsepower version and the fuel injected 283 horsepower model. This was also the first year for optional posi-traction rear axle and while not available as an option, the Corvette's four-speed manual transmission was an easy swap. While many people think that the muscle car era started with the 1964 GTO, my feeling is that any car capable of hitting 100 miles per hour in a quarter mile in factory trim is fitting of the title. Hence the fuel-injected 1957 Chevy in any Bel Air body style.

 1965 GTO:

While the 1964 GTO made an instant impact, Pontiac's sophomore version offered more to the buyer. The styling was vastly improved and it could be purchased in three body styles. The standard engine was now rated at 335 horsepower with the optional tri-power engine at 360. One of the best features was the availability for the owner to make the hood scoop functional thereby feeding extra horsepower via cold air to the carburetors. The long list of options gave the buyer to personalize what has become an icon of the muscle car era.

 1969 Road Runner/Super Bee 440 Six Pack:

The Plymouth Road Runner made its mark when released in 1968 as a low cost muscle car with plenty of horsepower and attitude. The Super Bee was its Dodge brother. The attitude turned into pirate level swagger with the release of the A12 optioned versions in 1969. No, it wasn't Hemi powered–but it featured a triple carbureted 440 cubic inch engine rated at 390 horsepower. It came with oversize red line tires on black painted wheels. Street racers didn't need hubcaps so they were not included in the package. The massive functional hood scoop was an integral part of a lift-off fiberglass hood. When this car rumbled down the street, mothers grabbed their children out of the yard because they were sure the devil himself was coming.

 1969 Mustang Mach I:

Ford introduced its pony car in 1964 and it was an instant winner. Ford offered an option list that was long and varied. Each year Ford offered Mustang buyers more options and more horsepower. In 1969, Ford gave buyers a pony car with image to match to match the horsepower. It featured hood scoops (one being functional), drastically under-rated V-8 engines and fat white letter tires on special wheels. Buyers didn't mind the fact that the Mach I and sibling Mustang muscle cars, Boss 302 and Boss 429, were only offered in the fastback sports roof body style (but a Shelby convertible was available).

1970 A tie–The SS 454 cubic inch 450 horsepower LS-6 and the 425 horsepower Hemi Plymouth ‘Cuda.

Both cars have become legendary in what would be the penultimate year of the muscle car and they both could be bought off of the showroom floor by anyone with the cash or decent credit. Both cars came with a warranty that allowed the buyers to thrash and trash ‘em and then have the dealer fix ‘em. Both cars were dripping with muscle car image that turned heads including a standard Shaker hood scoop on the ‘Cuda and optional cowl induction on the Chevelle. The cost of gasoline was not an issue in 1970, but insurance was. A monthly insurance payment for one of these beasts was often more than the car payment.

To see all the pictures, including Robert Genat's first car, click here.

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