Car Buying Advice / The Golden Era of Muscle Cars is Now


Reid All About It: The Golden Era of Muscle Cars is Now

By Andy Reid | June 17, 2020

There's a tremendous amount of mythology around the supposed "golden era" of muscle cars. For years, the stars of the 1960s and '70s, like the Hemi Cuda, Shelby GT500KR Mustang, and COPO Camaros, have been some of the hottest commodities in the collector car market, with the rarest models even crossing the million-dollar mark. These cars are often thought of as some of the quickest and most powerful cars ever built in America.

But let me let you in on a little secret. While those cars are definitely rare and desirable, the real golden era of the muscle car is right now. Not only are modern muscle cars nicer to drive and easier to buy, they're also considerably faster, with some having twice the horsepower of their classic-era relatives. This is an amazing time in the performance car hobby, and never in history have there been more truly exceptional muscle cars available for affordable prices.

That said, here's my list of the greatest modern muscle cars. Each model has a top end model, as well as a more entry level offering. Sorry to rain on classic muscle car lover parade, but every car on this list is faster than anything built during the "golden era." In addition, all have air conditioning, a proper radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and even safety items such as traction control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. Some of these machines are also likely to be future collectibles. So if you buy one today, a decade from now, you might find your car is worth more than you paid for it.


Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the ultimate muscle car

Thanks go out to my friend Ralph Gilles at FCA for helping to make this four-wheeled illustration of insanity happen. The 840-horsepower Demon is the most awesomely ridiculous muscle car ever built.

The zero-to-60 time? How about 2.3 seconds. Quarter mile time? Does 9.65 seconds sound good enough for you? Oh, and don’t forget that 211 mph top speed. This car is the very definition of outrageous — and I love it.

Thank you Dodge, for building the world’s most powerful muscle car. My advice is to buy one now if you can.

Shop Dodge Challenger SRT Demon Inventory

Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi

The Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi is a well-rounded muscle car

If you don’t need the all-out performance of the Demon, the 485 horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI is no slouch either, and it’s available for considerably less money.

Yes, it’s slower. But it hits 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, runs the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds, and has a license-forfeiting top speed of 178 mph. For its size, it also handles quite well, and it’s almost as fun to drive as the Demon. Almost…

Shop Dodge Challenger 392 Hemi Inventory

Ford Mustang GT

The Ford Mustang GT is a performance bargain Hemi is a well-rounded muscle car

Of everything on this list, the Mustang GT is likely the best bargain, as the latest GTs have anywhere from 420 to 460 horsepower. Not that many years ago, those were supercar numbers.

In practice, that means it’ll hit 60 mph in as little as 3.9 seconds, and blast down the dragstrip in just 12.1 seconds. Combine that with its affordable cost, and you’ve got a car that’s hard to pass up.

Shop Ford Mustang GT Inventory

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is a tremendous car

To put it mildly, the GT500 is a serious car. The newest models have 760 horsepower, a zero-to-60 time of 3.5 seconds, and a quarter-mile time of 11 seconds flat.

Now, none of the modern GT500s are what you could call slow, so decide what kind of power you need before buying and shop accordingly, as these cars are a great used car value.

Shop Shelby GT500 Inventory

Chevrolet Camaro Z28

The Chevrolet Camaro Z28 is an awesome modern muscle car

The Camaro Z28 is another of the bargains on this list. While slower than some cars here, the stats will beat any classic muscle car. Along with being fast in a straight line, the Z28 offers great handling, as well as creature comforts unheard of in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Buyers can expect to hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and run the quarter-mile in 12.7, which aren’t bad numbers at all. The magic of the Z28 badge alone makes this car special, and since its future is unclear, you should start hunting now if you want to own this piece of Chevy history.

Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Inventory

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is the best Camaro ever

First, I should start by thanking Ed Welburn for convincing the GM brass to build a new Camaro at all. It wasn’t the easiest sell, and this model is the ultimate incarnation of the Camaro.

Powered by a 6.2 liter supercharged 650-horsepower V8, this car will shoot from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and do the quarter miles in just 11.5 seconds. Unfortunately, the might very well be the last of the ultra-high performance Camaro models. This is a car I’d buy now and stash away for weekend drives.

Oh, and unlike classic Camaros, this model features a Bose premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. For certain, the golden era of muscle cars is now.

Shop Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE Inventory

Related Articles

Looking for more research articles from our panel of automotive experts? Try out these guides or head to the research section for more.

Image of a woman smiling in the driver's seat of a red car

Automotive Glossary

Have you uncovered strange terminology in your car buying experience that is just like Greek to you? Here, enjoy our glossary of automotive terminology to help decode your dealership experience.


Image of a Honda sedan against a city backdrop

CPO Programs Guide

Did you know that certified pre-owned vehicles are often better than the average bear when it comes to used cars? Check out our editor's guide to the top automotive CPO programs before you hit the used car lot.


*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.