Can we call these icons? Each one was a high-water mark for its decade—the Superbird a true NASCAR homologation special, and with a Hemi among the fastest straight-line cars in the world; the Super Duty 455 perhaps the last real performance holdout of all, poorly known outside its fanbase but delivering speed and handling unique among muscle cars; and the Grand National, not only a turbocharged answer to how to make power, but a legitimately fast car with 245 hp and 355 lb-ft. during the dark, slow years when Corvette made do with a paltry 240 hp.
#1. 1973 Pontiac Firebird Formula SD455
A few years back I was when the owner offered a ride in his '73 SD455. When he wound the big block up and chirped the tires on a 3-4 shift, it was like my whole world turned 180 degrees. I had no idea that kind of performance was available in 1973, and looking at the Formula Firebird's specs you wouldn't, either: It's rated at 290hp, but will pull quarter-miles deep into the 13s. In fact, the car is listed in the as hitting 13.8, which is hard to make jibe with 290 hp in a 3,850-pound car with a three-speed TH400. This car, #145023, was sold off the block by in May for $66,000, a solid data point for bidding in Raleigh.
#2. 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
It's OK to laugh at the Superbird, because if you read , you'll know it wasn't built for you. It was built for Richard Petty. Just for Richard Petty, to get him back into a Mopar after he'd defected to Ford. If you look at an original Superbird you'll see they were slapped together; in fact, this one was dinged in judging for being overrestored. But it has a wing, a pistol grip shifter and a Hemi, and that ticks three of the top boxes for any Mopar enthusiast. It was restored and previously sold when the market was far hotter. Hemi 'Birds have lost as much as 50% of their value since 2006, and because of that few people have been willing to sell at auction lately. Collectors have been after this particular car for years, so it could break out of a value curve that puts it under $200,000.
#3. 1987 Buick Grand National
I see Grand Nationals in a few categories. Many went racing off the showroom floor and those were either used up/wrecked quickly, or today are still dedicated race cars. A second batch of cars went racing when their values dropped as used cars. Then there are the modified cars. It didn't take long for enthusiasts to discover that a blown turbo was a nice excuse to do some upgrades, and any muscle car show will have a few of these, making up to 500 hp or more. Plenty of people, however, recognized that there weren't going to be many Grand Nationals made and preserved them in varying states of close to showroom new, with the understanding that original build quality, fit and finish was horrible. As an investment it hasn't panned out compared to gold or Apple stock, but today there is a nice supply of low-mileage cars for sale. I don't know if matches that description, but the pictures suggest it does. Fine GNs under 10,000 miles bring close to $30,000, and look ever more badass every year.