1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
This is a safe choice to start this list. The Boss 302 wasn’t the most powerful Mustang of the era – that award goes to the fearsome Boss 429. But the Boss 302 was a proper working class hero with its 290-horsepower 5.0-liter V8, a figure that many people feel was significantly underrated. It was also a track star in SCCA racing, and today it’s one of the most iconic Mustangs of all time.
1970 Oldsmobile 442
The big, beefy Oldsmobile was a beast on the street. Its 455 cubic-inch V8 was good for 365 horsepower, and it produced enough torque to rotate the earth. The W30 package added an extra five hp, and with an optional four-speed manual the 442 could eat up quarter-mile strips almost as quick as it could eat tires.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
Considered by many to be the ultimate muscle car of the classic period, the rather unassuming Chevelle packed 450 horsepower from its 454 cubic-inch V8 in top-dog LS6 trim. Its only mission was to beat everything else in a straight line, and with either a three-speed automatic or four-speed manual with a crazy-short 4:33 final drive, it was among the quickest showroom stock offerings for 1970.
1971 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda Convertible
Much has been written about this car, so we’ll not go into terrific detail. 1971 was the final year for the legendary 426 Hemi engine, and only 11 such ‘Cuda droptops endowed with the mill were built that year. It’s extraordinarily rare, exceedingly fast, gorgeous to behold, and it’s also one of the most valuable muscle cars of them all, with the most recent example fetching $3.5 million at auction.
1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD-455
The oil crisis had rocked North America when Pontiac introduced the first SD-455 in 1973, and emission regulations were coming down hard when this follow-up appeared in 1974. That’s why this Trans Am’s 455 cubic-inch V8 only made 290 horsepower, whereas a few years prior it likely would’ve been over 400. Still, this was the same year Ford introduced the Mustang II that didn’t even have a V8 option. It was positively the last of the big, classic muscle cars. And it was glorious.
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SE
There’s no way we could have a list of 1970’s muscle without this – arguably the most iconic American car of the era. Burt Reynolds of course tore up the southern U.S. in a 1977 Trans Am SE in Smokey and the Bandit, and though the choked 6.6-liter V8 was only rated at 200 horsepower in top trim, it was still enough to make this car a tire-smoking romp. Beyond that, its aggressive, flamboyant style kept the horsepower fires burning in the hearts of Americans until big power started to come back later in the 1980s.
1978 Dodge Lil' Red Express
Some might say a pickup truck doesn’t deserve to be on this list, but this isn’t a normal truck. The Lil’ Red Express marks the first time a pickup was cast not as a work vehicle, but as something for cruising the streets. It was rear-wheel drive with a low stance and cool mag wheels, and more importantly, it wasn’t held to the same emission standards as cars since it was classified as a truck. That’s why its 360 cubic-inch V8 made 225 horsepower at a time when pretty much every other V8 was well under 200. Aggressive gearing helped the Lil' Red Express hit 60 mph in roughly 6.5 seconds, which isn't the least bit shabby for the golden age of disco.