Cheap Muscle: 10 Brawniest Muscle Cars For Enthusiasts On A Budget – HotCars

Whether they’re unpopular or severely overlooked by enthusiasts, these muscle cars all provide plenty of V8 thrill for not much money.
Looking for a good muscle car? Your brawniest bet has to be a classic one from the ‘60s, especially if you want them big and mean under the hood, but gentle on the wallet. The ‘60s muscle car wars, or should we say horsepower wars produced the coolest rides around, and though some of the nameplates have continued to be around till now, as muscle cars, it’s simply not the same thrill.
Today’s muscle car is safe and tech-savvy but asks any purist and they will still talk dreamily about the muscle cars of the ‘60s, and some of the ‘70s as well. So sure, some of these used cars have managed to cost a pretty penny, but there are still plenty to suit the enthusiast on a budget.
So here go the 10 brawniest muscle cars for those who not only want a gorgeous ride but also a wallet-friendly one.
When you think Ford and muscle, the first and perhaps the only car that comes to mind is the Mustang. But the Mustang was more pony than muscle and also, a ‘60s model can cost you quite a bit. So if you are in love with the Ford big blocks of the time, look at the Galaxie 500 instead.
A full-sized car with lots of V8 power, the Galaxie 500 bore a sporty look for 1968, and it came with plenty of good looks as well. The coolest bit is that this muscled elegance can be yours for approximately $6,400
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The Buick Riviera sounds as beautiful as it truly is, and in ’68 it received new sheet metal, making it prettier than before, albeit a bit heavier too. Even then, the 360-horsepower 7.0-liter V8 was good enough to zip this car 0-62 mph in 8.1 seconds, so this was no slowpoke.
Even standard, the Riviera came with plenty of plush and push, including a tilt and telescopic steering column, as well as electric wipers. Aircon was an option, as were chrome wheels and an automatic trunk release. All this for $12,000 or thereabouts is a steal.
The ‘70s may have been a bad time for the muscle cars on the whole but the Pontiac Firebird TransAm tried hard to stay true to its cause, and for many, it’s one of the last GOAT muscle cars from the ‘70s.
1979 marked the tenth anniversary of the nameplate, and they made a cool anniversary version, replete with a turbocharged V8 and some really cool looks. It’s definitely a value add, and while the other models from the ‘70s can be had a bit cheaper, the 1979 version can be yours for around $20,000.
If Cinderella were a muscle car, she’d be a Ford Torino GT, amazing from the inside out and the perfect fit for you, but out shadowed by the likes of the Ford Mustang and the Galaxie. By 1968, the Torino was a fastback, and the GT version came with sporty handling and luxurious interiors – giving you the best of both worlds.
It’s fun to drive with a powerful V8 and looks the part as well. And you can have this brawny muscle car for around $20,000, and it’s worth each penny.
RELATED: This Is What You Need To Know Before Buying A Ford Torino GT
The Mercury never sold as much as Ford did, and much like the other Mercury nameplates, the Cyclone remained a tad ignored in favor of the Mustang and even the Torino. Over the years, the Cyclone has become somewhat of a sleeper because people tend to forget how cool a muscle it was, bearing the same big-block 7.0-liter V8 that jetted 335 horses.
If the Torino is over your budget, the Cyclone would fit in nicely at $10,000-$13,000 a pop, on an average.
The rather diminutive Dodge came with a big heart and was offered in many trims and HIPO packages over the years. Accordingly, the value of the Dart also tends to dart all over the place, and you can find project cars for as low as a couple of thousand to Concours models as high as $50,000 and more.
But pick a 1970 model, and the average price is $10,000-20,000, depending on the condition of the car, the miles on it, and the engine it bears. Bear in mind the Hemi would be expensive but a 5.2-liter V8 will be affordable and still generate plenty of thrills.
After having been introduced in 1964 (and a half), and taking the world utterly by storm, the Ford Mustang revamped its looks for 1968. The engines were better and the looks were way more brutish, and there was more tech as well.
So it’s surprising that you can still get the 1968 model for less than $20,000 and the reason is simple, 1968 was one very good sale year for the ‘Stang and when the pickings are plenty, the price is affordable.
RELATED: 15 Of The Sickest Mustangs Ford Has Ever Made
The Roadrunner apart, the Plymouth Fury was also an aptly named firecracker of a muscle car, especially since from 1969 to 1973, many police departments tended to use one that came with a 7.2-liter V8 powering it.
What sets it apart from other muscle cars is the fact that came it riding on a unibody construction that’s pretty common today but was unheard-of back then. It’s a powerful car and finding one below $10,000 is easy enough. By 1974 though, the Fury was back to its conservative style and sales slowly dwindled.
Once Pontiac Tempest took on the GTO clothing and began to sell like hotcakes, Oldsmobile rolled out the best version of the Cutlass, the 442 that now came riding a 7.4-liter V8 and looked almost as good as the GTO.
The Pontiac GTO is nigh well unaffordable today unless you have pockets as deep as the Mariana Trench, but the Cutlass 442 is an affordable brawny muscle car for a fraction of the GTO’s price, and jets about the same amount of power and prestige.
The Mercury Comet was first the sibling of the Falcon and later became the Fairlane’s mechanical twin. But in 1971, it switched to the Ford Maverick platform and what was cool about it was that it matched the Mustang in the power-to-weight ratio so clearly, here’s another not-so-rare muscled gem for you to add to your list.
A 1972 Comet with a 5.0-liter V8 should be yours for $15,000 or thereabouts, and that’s a cool muscle deal to contend with. So go ahead, streak into the sky…
Sources: Hagerty, BringaTrailer, Hemmings
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Arun Singh Pundir has been a longtime media crackerjack and worked most of his life in sales and marketing. In 2018, he officially flipped and switched sides to the editorial. He lives with his wife, two rascally sons and is a car and motorcycle nut in his free time. Not that he has too much free time. He currently writes news, features, and listicles for HotCars on anything that has any number or kind of wheels. He is also penning pop culture, lifestyle and all things rich for TheRichest. For now, he considers his Isuzu D-Max V-Cross, Suzuki Ciaz, and Royal Enfield Classic 500, the three current flames of his life. His dream is to drive around the world; even if it takes more than eighty days.