Muscle Cars You May Have Never Heard Of

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1964 Ford Thunderbolt
1964 Ford Thunderbolt

Sure you’ve heard all about the GTOs; the Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs, Barracudas, and Roadrunners but there are some muscle cars out there that are so rare (and some so forgettable) that you have likely never heard of them. As one generation of hot rodders races off into the sunset they frequently take the obscure and rarest vehicles of their era with them, never to be heard from again. Here are some of the  rarest and most unusual muscle cars that you don’t hear about everyday. I tried to avoid the Camaros and Corvettes, the Mustangs and ‘Cudas in an effort to introduce you to some awesome muscle cars that you may have never heard of.

1968 Chevrolet El Camino SS

1968 Chevrolet El Camino SSThis contraption is a cross between a Chevelle and a pickup truck. It is every hot rodders dream because it will literally “Tote the mail.” By 1968 the El Camino had been around for several years, beginning production in 1959 and 1960 then taking a hiatus until 1964, when it returned until 1987. The re-introduction of the enhanced big-block L78 6.5-liter engine combined with a Muncie M22 Rock Crusher manual gearbox made the 1968 El Camino something special.  The added length of the body and positive traction rear differential gave the SS model an added edge over the competition. The unique body and crouched stance of this car made it one of my personal favorites, and it remains one today.

1960s Pontiac Bobcat

1960s Pontiac BobcatThe Bobcat was a dealer performance package which was sold and installed during the 1960s by a Pontiac dealership in Royal Oak Michigan, called Ace Wilson’s Royal Oak Pontiac tuned the 6.6-liter engines in the Pontiac Catalina, Bonneville, Tempest, and GTO models. Cutting edge engine performance modifications included porting and polishing cylinder heads and manifolds, installing exhaust headers and high-performance mufflers, as well as balancing and blueprinting the engine assembly. The distributor vacuum advance was also limited, high-performance locking rocker arm nuts were installed, the carburetors were jetted, thinner copper head gaskets were used to raise cylinder compression, and specially designed intake manifold gaskets were used to block off the heat riser and keep the carburetor cooler. Depending upon the year, make, model, and degree of modification these upgrades could net the Bobcat models gains in horsepower of 30-hp to 50-hp. Burning premium gasoline (Aamco “white gas” was the best) a 1965 Pontiac GTO with Bobcat modifications performed was  clocked from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.6-seconds. The name “Bobcat” was derived from a combination of the logos from the Bonneville and the Catalina that formed the Bobcat badge. The cars which were equipped with this special tuning package wore these badges.

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

1964 ThunderboltThis was one of the baddest muscle cars of all time. Based on the 1964 Ford Fairlane platform, the Thunderbolt was built especially for competitive drag racing. The Thunderbolt won the 1964 NHRA Super-Stock Class using 7-inch wide street tires, shattering previous elapsed time and top speed records in the process. When the day was completed it had run an 11.6-second quarter-mile at 124 mph, won the Super Stock Title and the Manufacturer’s Cup. The focal point of the Thunderbolt was the 7.0-liter Ford Racing engine with two four barrel carburetors, a high-rise intake, ram-air cold air induction using openings created by the inboard headlight delete option), and equal length exhaust headers. This combination was good for a jaw-dropping 657-hp at 7,500 RPMs. Ford went to great efforts in body weight reduction, as well. The hood, doors, fenders, and front bumper were made from fiberglass, lightweight acrylic glass was used for windows, and every unnecessary item was deleted from production; from sunvisors to the passenger side windshield wiper blade and arm, everything that could be deleted was deleted for the sake of weight reduction. It paid off; when the Thunderbolt was weighed in by the NHRA only a full tank of fuel made the gross vehicle weight rating great enough for acceptance. Only approximately 115 of these cars were produced, making them extremely rare and valuable.

1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 426 Hemi

1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee 426 HemiAnother “Hoss” of a car, any vehicle equipped with a 7.0-liter Hemi has earned my undivided attention. For the sake of accuracy, the 426 Hemi is likely not the most powerful engine available in this car, as Dodge also offered a 440-six pack engine option for this beauty. The name “Super Bee” was derived from the cars factory body line designation of “B” and a racing stripe around the entire rear portion of the trunk was interrupted on each side with a menacing cartoon image of a bee with its stinger prepared to strike. This car was the more economical alternative to the popular Plymouth Road Runner and it featured a heavy-duty suspension setup and a four-speed manual transmission to go along with the massive v8 engine options.

1965 Rambler Marlin

1965 Rambler MarlinThis was the inaugural model of the Marlin, dubbed a “personal luxury car” by its manufacturer, the American Motors Company (AMC). The rambler was a very trendy car that received a barrage of media attention upon its release. It was available with your choice of four engine choices from a 3.8-liter V6 to two-different 5.4-liter variations. It was not as powerful as many of the other muscle cars of this era but instead opted to capitalize on a luxurious interior and a dynamic exterior appearance.

1965 Plymouth Belvedere II

1965 Plymouth Belvedere IILike most Plymouth muscle cars the Belvedere was available with the famed 7.0-liter Hemi engine. It gained national recognition as the “official’ car of the Los Angeles Police Department in the television series “Adam Twelve.” Today, few people have heard of the Belvedere which was a force to be reckoned with on the drag strips of the 1960s.

1974 AMC Javelin AMX

1974 AMC Javelin AMXThe Javelin featured a sporty appearance combined with a reasonably low gross vehicle weight and a mammoth power plant. Under the hood of the Javelin there was a 335-hp 6.6-liter V8 that could be mated to a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual gearbox with a factory Hurst shifter.

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.