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The 10 Best Muscle Cars of the 1980s

Muscle cars is a term used to describe cars that are high-performance in terms of their speed and power. These cars have been around since the late 1940s. Although there is much debate about the first muscle car, it is the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 to which most experts award this accolade. The popularity and performance of muscle cars increased during the 1960s and 1970s, which is often referred to as the Golden Age of muscle cars. They remained popular throughout the 1980s and this was a decade that produced some outstanding models. Here are ten of the best muscle cars of the 1980s.

1. 1987 Dodge Charger Shelby GLHS

Former Shelby models had already gained a decent reputation for speed when the Dodge Charger Shelby GLHS was released in 1987. This model confirmed its place in the muscle car rankings with its 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 175 horsepower and could reach 60 miles per hour in under seven seconds. Only 1,000 of these cars were released, so it is now a highly collectible model.

2. 1989 Buick Turbo Trans Am

Following the success of the Buick Turbo Grand National, Buick released the Turbo Trans Am. The official horsepower of this car is 250 but the actual horsepower it produces stands closer to 300. The reason they did this was so it did not upstage Corvette in the GM performance hierarchy. In 1989, when the car was released it was one of the fastest out there and it was probably for this reason that it was so popular amongst speed fanatics.

3. 1983 Hurst/ Olds

The 1983 Hurst/ Olds was released to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the original model, which may seem a strange thing to do considering 15 years is not that much of a big deal. Nonetheless, this car was impressive. The 307 V8 engine delivered 180 horsepower and it came with distinctive silver and black paintwork. It had a pretty cool Lightning Rod shifter and could achieve decent speeds.

4. 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Things were still good for Pontiac in terms of producing decent muscle cars in the early 1980s. In 1982, Pontiac opted to take their famous Trans Am model in a new direction with the Firebird and gave the car an overhaul. The design remained memorable even though the car was smaller than its predecessors. The V8 engine produced 150 horsepower and was quick off the mark. Interestingly, it was this model of car that starred as KITT alongside David Hasselhoff in ‘Knight Rider’.

5. 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2

Although Pontiac seemed to have lost their way in the muscle car genre by the mid-1980s, they surprised everyone when they produced this car in 1986. The Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 was a mean and muscly version of the standard coupe. This four-speed automatic boasted a 5.0-liter four-barrel V8 engine which was capable of delivering a huge amount of power. It is also appealing as it was a limited edition model and only 1,225 vehicles were manufactured before it was discontinued in 1987.

6. 1989 Ford Thunderbird SC

The Ford Thunderbird had begun to get a bad reputation in the early 1980s for being unoriginal. This is hardly surprising as it was in its 10th generation by the time they released the Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe in 1989. However, Ford redeemed themselves in the muscle car market with this model as it was far more interesting than its predecessors. It could deliver a very respectable 210 horsepower thanks to the V6 engine. It was even named as the Car of the Year by Motor Trend.

7. 1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

When the Chevrolet Camaro was first introduced in 1982, it was not particularly popular amongst enthusiasts. However, they turned things around when the introduced the third generation of the model, the 1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z. This car stood out from the competition because it was so nimble and lightweight.

8. 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo SS

The Monte Carlo had been off the market for 12 years when Chevy decided to reintroduce it to the market in 1983. It had a V8 engine that gave 180 horsepower. The model continued to be popular into the following year and was successful in NASCAR. They discontinued the model in 1988 but revived it for a second time in 1995.

9. 1987 Buick Regal Grand National/ GNX

When this car was first released off the production line in 1987, it was the most powerful car in the muscle car segment as its V6 engine pumped out 276 horsepower. Another accolade which this car held was the ability to complete the quarter mile in only 12.7 seconds at a top speed of 113.1 miles per hour. This remains a highly desirable car as only 547 examples of the Buick Regal Grand National/ GNX made it out of the factory.

10. 1987 Ford Mustang 5.0

No list of muscle cars from the 1980s is complete without including a Mustang and the model they released in 1987 is worthy of this top position. The Mustang II was universally disliked, so when the Ford Mustang 5.0 followed it was something of a surprise to car enthusiasts. They gave their new car a more modern design and added a 5.0-liter engine that could achieve 225 horsepower. The power was not the only aspect of this car that made it appealing as the speed was another bonus. It could go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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