Ten Exceptionally Fastest Muscle Cars Ever Made
From the days when fuel and global warming was not a problem; Car Company engineers ran wild with ideas that made their cars go faster than the next guy’s. They however seldom did this. But when they did, super creations rolled off the assembly lines for only the lucky few ones. In those yesteryears, knowing which cars were fast and pacing next to them to see if it’s really faster was a common game. But still, the fast and much famous muscle cars were known driving around town. The faster ones were often special order and obviously a step beyond the other popular muscle cars of the era. Various were even assembled solely for drag racing.
1962 Pontiac Catalina Super Duty
Inspired by the dominance at NASCAR more than half a century back, Pontiac decided to, in 1962, build a race car which would be eligible as “stock” for both NASCAR and NHRA (national hot rod association). And out of the drawing board came the Super Duty. The Catalina, powered by a 421 CI engine and stock exterior was the base model. The front trim was made from aluminum and the frame rails swiss-cheesed to cut down weight. Pushing this trimmed car body down the track was a high performance engine which added about $1,200 to the sale price but it was worth it. With a body cut down to the last pound, the Super Duty could sprint down a quarter mile in the mid 12s, a hallowed number in view of the year.
1963 Chevrolet Z-11 Impala
Chevy is devoted to their “Z” labeling like the Corvette ZR1. One of their least known with the “Z” designation was a groundbreaker; the Impala. In 1963, a car-savvy could order the Z-11 package on the then trendy Impala. The stepped-up 409 CI engine, dual carbs and a swarm of internals allowed it to crank out the horsepower. To relieve the strain on the motor, the car was shipped minus stuff considered dead weight. No stereo, front sway bar or even sound proofing to slow this beast down the track. To further cut the weight much of the sheet metal was aluminum. As a result some these cars clocked a record 11s on the quarter mile sprint. Barely 60 were built and only a handful survive to this day.
1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt
When Ford decided to build a car specifically for the drag race, the Fairlane thunderbolt was the answer. This model came at a time when the NHRA required manufacturers to build and sell 100 samples of a car for it to be considered “stock.” It had fiberglass body panels and Plexiglas windows to save weight. This was all because it would not be driven in a normal style. Thunderbolt was powered by a 427 CI “high rise” engine topped with dual 4-bbl carbs. Among other fancy stuff was an aluminum scatter shield around the clutch, typically for those incidents when things got a little out of order. This piece of art made the dash for the quarter mile of the finish line in just 12 seconds with modest sweat. Later models with updated accessories cut down the time to under 10 second.
1967 Dodge Coronet W023
In 1967, racers developed an interest in larger cars at the drag strip and Chrysler was happy to respond to this demand by customers. It was no longer a show for the cranked up little cars. The Coronet W023 was brought forth. The battery’s place was the trunk, the items considered unnecessary were dropped, and then a Hemi took its place under the hood. A 4-speed CTV or manual transmissions were available and ran 4.88 gears in the rear axle. 55 of a sister car; the Plymouth Belvedere were built with a similar setup. All of which came with no company pledge. This was a rather common characteristic for the race cars of the era.
1968 Hurst Hemi Dart L023
Whose cars were the fastest down the quarter mile? This was the source of all the rivalry that car companies sought to take up in a heartbeat. Driven y the desire to be number one, they often made batches of cars exclusively for racing. This pushed engineering to the limits of those days.
Most of the racers were based on the smallest of cars the company offered but under the hood sat the biggest of motors. The Dodge Dart 1968, a 426 Hemi was one of the monsters. An equal made in a mad scientist’s fantasy and brought to reality on the assembly line of Chrysler automobile. Essentials of the Darts were dispatched to local Hurst shop and anything that added weight had no place in the car.
To a drag racer, seats, stereos, carpeting are seen as extra weight? Replacing body parts with fiberglass and dipping some panels with acid cut the weight down. Finished cars were often put to pace in Super Stock drag racing where they turned in ETs in the 9s.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO ZL1
A fierce ford competitor, Chevrolet was not left behind in the small car with an oversized engine contest. Available in a variety of packages, the ’69 Chevrolet Camaro was a smash hit from Chevy coupled with several engine options. GM got dealers complained when it said it will not be selling the Camaro with its biggest engines but it allowed a few dealers to use the Central Office Production Orders (COPO) process to special-order anything they liked. And of course at least one Camaro was ordered with the ZL-1 aluminum block 427 engine. Only 69 of these insane monsters on the road were unchained and instinctively made for the drag strip.
1970 American Motors Rebel Machine
You might not have the dark feelings many have on the mention of “American Motors” if you didn’t acquire your driver’s permit in the era of an AMC Gremlin. The car manufacturer that brought us the Matador, the Pacer and the Gremlin and earned a notable effort at selling a race car. Powered by a “390 CI engine” the Rebel Machine made the dash to the other end of a quarter mile in 14s. Pretty impressive for the time but just like every product sold by the company at the time, its looks weren’t its best suit. Not even in red, white and blue.
1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda Hemi Super Track Pack
The Chrysler’s 426 CI Hemi engine was so efficient it found its way in just about any street racing car. By the ‘70, time was closing in on the behemoths. But, racers who still wanted to get in a few runs before the eco-warriors cut shot the excitement could request a Hemi Cuda with a “Super Track Pack”. With the car stripped off anything which would weigh it down – like one rear view mirror, the car had a 4.10 ratio in the rear axle to get it moving. Hemi or no Hemi it was offered with an automatic transmission. Steady point the wheels straight, floor it and leave the competition in the smoke.
1970 Buick Skylark GSX Stage 1
Apart from the nice looks of the Skylark, Buick wanted it to be fast too on the track. They equipped the already marketed “GS” version of the car with a high performance 455 CI engine and pinned on the X to give it a GSX designation.
The Stage 1 showed a little more changes and the famous 510 ft lbs of twisting force was one of them. The 510 made the GSX Stage 1 Detroit’s torque champion through the years until 2003 when it would lose the crown to the 10-cylinder Viper. All that power propelled the GSX down the quarter in just under 13s. Not bad for a Buick, considering.
1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Drag Pack
Ford is one of the most versatile cars made and the ’71 mustang is no exception. The model is available in various combinations and setups. And naming just one variant for this list is a bit difficult. Ford associated their stuff with a lot of cool names. In 1971, a Mach 1 ford Mustang powered by a 429 CI Super Cobra Jet was available outfitted with a Drag Pack. As if that’s not enough, a 4.11 with a “Detroit Locker” in the rear axle. A functional Ram Air fed the engine before the feds shut down cold air intakes. About 500 Mach 1s slinked the streets back in the day.