Their era might have gone but they’re still the dream ride of every enthusiast. Yes, we’re talking about muscle cars. Usually defined as high-performance two-door coupes powered by behemoth V8s, classic muscle cars are hailed as some of the most powerful (and beautiful) vehicles to ever hit the tarmac!
While most of them were produced in bulk and are easy to buy today, some were built in extremely limited numbers. These vehicles are hard to spot and even harder to buy, with car fanatics lining up to part with millions of dollars to get one. Here are 40 of these rare and extremely valuable muscle cars.
1962 Shelby Cobra CSX2000: $13.75m+
With just one unit built, the 1962 Shelby Cobra CSX2000 is believed to be the rarest muscle car ever. It was the first car made by racing icon Carroll Shelby and still has its original engine installed!
Fitted with a 260 bhp, 260 cu-in OHV V8 engine with a single 4-barrel carburetor, the Cobra CSX2000 could accelerate to 60 mph from a standstill position in a record 4.2 seconds. This rare car was auctioned off by RM Sotheby's for a staggering $13.75 million in 2016, becoming the most expensive American muscle car to be ever sold at auction.
1968 Ford Mustang GT390 'Bullitt': $3.4m+
While a regular well-kept 1968 Mustang GT may get you anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000, this one was sold for $3.4 million at the Mecum Kissimmee's auction in 2020, becoming the most expensive Ford Mustang to date. The reason? Well, it was driven by Steve McQueen in his 1968 movie 'Bullitt.'
Believed to have been lost for decades, Ford unveiled this ultra-rare car in 2018 while announcing its 2019 Mustang Bullitt. Interestingly, McQueen tried to buy this car from the man who got it for $6,000 in the early 1970s but was refused. The owner's son eventually got in contact with Ford to take the car out of their family garage after decades.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1: $1m+
Known for its aggressive styling and beastly performance, the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is as popular today as it was back in the day. Just 69 ZL1 Camaros were produced, of which this one was model #59.
Powered by a combo of a 427 cu-in 8-cylinder aluminum block engine and an M22 Rock Crusher 4-speed manual transmission, it was 'claimed' to spit 430 horsepower. The actual figure was over 500 horses though! This rare American muscle car was auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson for a whopping $1,094,500 in 2020.
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake: $2.2m+
The 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake is one of the rarest muscle cars that exist today - with just one unit ever built! A crown jewel of Shelby's Mustang-based vehicles, it's also the most valuable Mustang ever produced.
Fitted with a 7L V8 engine from the Ford GT40 MkII race car, the Super Snake could easily reach 170 mph, which was kind of a big deal back then. Shelby planned to make 50 of these cars but could only make one unit. This ultra-rare vehicle was auctioned off for a staggering $2.2 million in 2019.
1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama Concept: $3.08m+
The 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama concept car featured an enclosed bubble cockpit with flip-up side windows and a low-slung fiberglass body. Under the hood was Pontiac's most powerful engine to date - a 230 hp, 268 cu-in V8 that, unfortunately, never made it to the market.
Director of GM styling Harley Earl got the idea of this super-sporty Pontiac while watching world speed records being set at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. Just two of these rare American muscle cars were ever built, one of which was auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson for $3.08 million in 2006.
1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake: $5.5m+
Branded as the "Cobra to End All Cobras," this rare muscle car featured an 800 hp twin-supercharged 427 Ford V8, that allowed it to do 0-60 in just over 3 seconds in an era where even a 6-second time was an absolute anomaly.
Just two of these cars were built; one for Carroll Shelby himself and the other for his comedian friend Bill Cosby. Cosby's car was driven into the Pacific Ocean by a subsequent owner, while Shelby's unit (shown here) made headlines when it was auctioned by Barrett-Jackson for a record $5.115 million in 2007 (and then again for $5.5 million in 2021).
1967 Corvette L88S Coupe: $3.85m+
The car shown here is one of the 20 L88 Corvettes that were made by Chevy for the 1967 model year. Built purely for drag racing, this super-rare American muscle car is the only known 1967 L88 produced red.
It boasted a 427 cu-in L88 engine intentionally rated at 430 horses paired with an M22 4-speed transmission and a heavy-duty F41 suspension. The actual ponies delivered on the ground were tested to be an incredible 560. Barrett-Jackson sold this car for a hefty $3.85 million in 2014.
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500R 'Eleanor': $2m+
While a regular 1967 Shelby GT500 costs around $100,000 to $200,000, depending on its mileage and condition, this one is valued at a staggering $2 million just because of its memorable history.
The car shown here is the actual Mustang 'Eleanor' that Nicolas Cage drove in his blockbuster action thriller 'Gone in 60 Seconds.' Currently owned by German collectible dealership ChromeCars, this super-rare muscle car is powered by a 351 cubic-inch V8 rated at 400 horses.
1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible: $2.25m+
This 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible has been owned by several famous owners, including the man who styled it. Yes, we're talking about Chrysler's renowned automobile designer John Herlitz. However, a memorable past isn't the only thing that makes this Mopar rare.
It was one of 14 vehicles produced in 1970, and one of just nine units to be fitted with a dual-quad 426 hp Hemi V8 and a Hemi A727 Torqueflite 3-speed automatic transmission. This super rare American muscle car was auctioned off by Mecum for $2.25 million in 2015.
1967 Dodge Coronet 426 Hemi R/T Convertible: $300,000+
Dodge rolled out the Coronet R/T (Road/Track) Convertibles in 1967 to market cars with curb appeal. And with a unique combination of performance and exclusivity, they did just that!
While Dodge made 628 R/T convertibles that year, only three customers opted to upgrade the ride with the optional and then-new 426 hp Hemi engine between the front fenders. Being one of three units to be ever built, this rare muscle car is valued north of $300,000 today.
1964 Ford GT40 Prototype: $7m+
The GT40 Prototype is known for being Ford's 1964 Le Mans debut. With an all-aluminum 289 CI V8 coupled with Colotti T37 4-speed gearbox, this muscle car was rated at 350 horses but churned out way more than that!
The GT40 has a rich history and has been driven by some of the most iconic racing drivers such as Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren, and Bob Bondurant. After gracing Ford's stage at the Detroit Auto Show for a number of years, it was auctioned off by Mecum at a whopping $7 million in 2014.
1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible: $225,000+
The 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible debuted with a 7.5L V8 engine rated at 335 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. It was Pontiac's most powerful engine by then and was highly coveted at the time.
While the coupe trim of the GTO Judge was well appreciated, the convertible couldn't garner the same attention. Pontiac made just 17 drop-top units for the 1971 model and pulled the plug on the lineup the same year. As of now, the 1971 GTO Judge Convertible is valued at more than $225,000.
1967 L88 Chevy Corvette Stingray Convertible: $3.2m+
This 1967 L88 Chevy Corvette Stingray convertible was sold for $3.2 million at the 2013 Mecum auto auction in Dallas. With a killer combo of style and performance, this monstrous beauty is worth every cent of its jaw-dropping tag.
Thanks to a behemoth 430 hp engine, the muscle car needs just 11.1 seconds to do a quarter-mile. Though Chevrolet produced 216 L88 Corvettes from 1967 to 1969, just 20 were built during the first year, which is why any 1967 unit is a highly prized possession!
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback: $605,000+
Featuring the rare 820-S NASCAR engine with Holley 4-barrel carburetor and a beefed-up 4-speed manual transmission, this muscle car is the ultimate example of the big-block Mustang.
What makes this car rarer than other Boss 429 Mustangs is the fact that it was one of the first 50 units to be built by hand. Barrett-Jackson sold this piece of art for a good $605,000 in its 2007 Scottsdale auction. Its value is probably twice as much today!
1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1: $2m+
With just three units built, the Chevrolet 1969 ZL-1 Corvette is one of the rarest American muscle cars you can find today. It featured a new all-aluminum big-block engine that was, by then, the most powerful engine ever used in a Corvette.
Chevrolet developed the ZL-1's engine in cooperation with McLaren to replace their legendary L88 engine. Though officially rated at 430 horses, this ultra-high-performance engine churned out up to 585 horsepower. According to experts, this rare muscle car is worth around $2 million.
1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible: $6.5m+
This rare muscle car is the most expensive 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda that didn't sell. Recently put on sale by Mecum in its Indy 2021 auction for an estimated price of $6.5 million, no offer could get close to the asking price. The highest bid it received was $4.8 million.
Just a handful of Cuda convertibles got a Hemi engine in 1971. Besides that, this car is one of the three units to be fitted an A833 manual transmission and the only one to get a Winchester Gray paint.
1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11: $450,000+
During the early 60s, Chevrolet was finding it hard to compete with Ford and Chrysler in the factory drag wars. It first fielded 348 cu-in V8s and soon elevated them to 409 cu-in, but even that wasn't enough. So in 1963, it decided to give a knockout punch!
The 1963 Chevrolet Z11 Impala was no less than a beast. Its 7L 430hp V8 was the largest engine to be fitted in an Impala by the time. Chevy built 57 of these cars, and just a few units exist today.
1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: $3.5m+
Steve McQueen's 1968 'Bullitt' Mustang could only hold the title of the most valuable Ford Mustang just for seven months. Bullitt's auction record of $3.4 million was beaten by this 1965 Ford Mustang GT350R prototype.
Sold for a whopping $3.5 million by Mecum at its Indy 2020 auction, the 1965 GT350R became the most valuable Ford Mustang in the world - a title it still holds today. Famously known as the 'Flying Mustang' due to its association with racing icon Ken Miles, this rare muscle car was the second GT350 and the first GT350R unit built by Shelby.
1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird: $415,000+
The 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird was meant for NASCAR racing. And with a behemoth 426 Hemi V8 engine with dual 4-barrel carburetors and A833 Hemi 4-speed manual transmission, it did just that!
Its pointy nose and overall aerodynamic design were quite effective in reducing drag force, allowing it to do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. With just 58 units built, it's one of the rarest muscle cars today. The one shown here was sold by Mecum for $415,000 at its 2017 Harrisburg auction.
1966 Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code: $300,000+
The 1966 Ford Fairlane 500 is one of the 57 units that were produced in 1966 with the R-Code FE 427 big-block Cobra V8. Rated at 425 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, it was Ford's most powerful engine at the time.
Like almost all muscle cars of the era, the engine output was deliberately underrated to keep insurance costs down, so the actual power rating was way more. Just 20 of these vehicles are known to exist today, with a well-kept unit valued at around $300,000.
1969 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Convertible: $1.9m+
Ford seemed to be winning the factory drag wars in the late 60s but that changed when GM gave Pontiac the task of making its own version of Chevy Camaro based on the F-body platform. The resultant Pontiac Firebird Trans Am went on to become one of the most popular monikers of the muscle-car era.
While Pontiac built 689 Trans Am hardtops in 1969, the soft tops were even rare, with just 8 units to have left the factory. The top-down seen here is one of them. This rare GM F-body muscle car is one of the four convertibles to have 4-speed and the only one to have a triple-white exterior.
1969 Hurst Oldsmobile 442 Convertible: $270,000+
The Oldsmobile 442 was the most powerful ride offered by the brand, and the Hurst convertible version was, in fact, one of the rarest muscle cars in history. Just two Olds 442 top-downs were built with the Hurst racing shifters. However, one of them was wrecked beyond repair and was replaced by a third one.
These two special edition vehicles were often seen in parades at racing events with 'Miss Hurst Shifter' Linda Vaughn standing on the trunk and George Hurst himself behind the wheel to promote the company's racing shifters.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle 454 SS LS6: $250,000+
Hailed as the "King of the Streets," the 1970 Chevy Chevelle 454 SS LS6 featured a highly coveted LS6 454-cubic-inch big-block V8 fed by a 4-barrel Holley carburetor. With a rated power output of 450 horses and 500 pound-feet of torque, this big-bodied street machine became the very face of the muscle car era.
The actual dynamometer readings were over 500 horses. Since only 20 of these vehicles were built, the Chevelle 454 SS LS6 is one of the rarest muscle cars, with a well-kept unit valued at more than $250,000.
1966 Ford GT40 MkI: $4.4m+
The 1966 Ford GT40 MkI holds the record for being the first road car delivered to North America. Powered by an American 289 cu-in 306 hp V8 engine, this ultra-rare muscle car was built in the UK.
Ford's main goal behind the MKI lineup was to take down endurance racing's kingpin, Ferrari! This unit, however, was meant to serve as Ford North America's official Promotional GT40. It was auctioned off by Mecum for a whopping $4.4 million in its 2016 Monterey auction.
1968 Dodge Hemi Dart LO23 Super Stock: $275,000+
One of the fastest muscle cars of its era, the 1968 Dodge Hemi Dart LO23 was a breakthrough in the auto industry. With just 80 units built, it was the smallest car of the time with the biggest engine of the time! Bare Dart bodies, devoid of anything that added weight, were sent to Michigan's Hurst Performance facility for the sickest outfitting ever.
When lightweight parts (fiberglass hood, thin gauge bumpers, acid-dipped doors, and more) were combined with the 426 Race Hemi and dual Holley 4-barrel carbs, the resultant power-to-weight ratio was simply unheard of. So much so that Chrysler had to place a sticker on all L023 Hemi Darts stating that "this vehicle was not manufactured for use on public streets, roads or highways, and does not conform to Motor Vehicle Safety Standards."
1966 Shelby GT350 Convertible: $1.1m+
This car is one of the four Shelby GT350 convertibles built in 1966 - and the only one to still have its original engine. Equipped with an automatic transmission and factory air conditioning, this ultra-rare muscle car was finished in Ivy Green with a black interior.
Being the only 1966 GT350 convertible with its original powertrain in place, this vehicle was auctioned off by Mecum for a staggering price of $1.1 million at its 2020 Indy auto auction.
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1: $121,000+
Buick wasn't so famous for its muscle cars back in the day - but that changed when it unveiled the legendary 1970 GSX Stage 1. Boasting the most powerful options available (a 455 Stage 1 V8 with 4-speed manual transmission), this beast of a vehicle toppled all records with its insane 510 lb-ft torque.
While Buick made 678 GSX models in 1970, only 118 were given a Stage 1 4-speed manual powertrain with and a killer Saturn Yellow paint, which makes every one of these a prized possession.
1965 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster: $5.94m+
The 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster made headlines when it was sold for an insane $5.94 million at Mecum's 2021 Kissimmee auction. This rare muscle car was owned by Carrol Shelby ever since it left the factory until his death in 2012.
One of five 427 Cobras to get a Charcoal Gray paint, it featured a big-block 427 cu-in V8 with dual 4-barrel carburetors and high-end Toploader 4-speed manual transmission. Though it still had its original body and chassis, iconic restorer Peter Klutt spent 3,000 hours to perfectly restore it to its factory configuration.
1967 Dodge Coronet WO23: $130,000+
The 1967 Dodge Coronet WO23 might be short on looks but it was a car to be reckoned with back in the day. What it lacked in style, it more than made up for in performance, thanks to its 426 cu-in twin-Carter AFB Race Hemi powerplant.
Mated with Torqueflite automatic transmission, the V8 Hemi produced a severely under-rated 425 hp (the actual value being north of 500), enabling the WO23 to accelerate to 60 mph in just around 5 seconds. With only 55 vehicles built, each unit is a rare find!
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS: $143,000+
This 1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS is not only a beauty, but also a behemoth beast. With an ultra heavy duty GM custom built LS7 427 cu-in engine mated with a TKX 5-speed transmission, this thing spit out an insane 633 horses!
Just like its looks and performance, the interior of the Camaro RS was also ahead of competition and had plenty of premium touches. This rare muscle car was auctioned off by Mecum for $143,000 in its 2021 Chattanooga auto auction.
1968 Shelby GT500KR Convertible: $176,000+
The 1968 Shelby GT500KR was a popular muscle car back in the day. The KR moniker - that stood for King of the Road - referred to Cobra Jet 428 cu-in 335 hp V8 engines. The power rating was deliberately underrated for insurance purposes and the actual output went north of 400 horses.
While Shelby made quite a number of GT500KR hardtops, the top downs were relatively rarer. The unit seen here was one of just 47 to have received a Special Yellow paint. It was sold by Mecum for $176,000+ at its 2021 Chattanooga auction.
1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible: $3.5m+
The 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible made headlines when it became the first muscle car to sell for over $1 million in 2002. The one shown here was sold by Mecum during its 2014 Seattle auto auction for $3.5 million, becoming the most expensive Chrysler product to ever have been sold.
Branded the "Holy Grail of muscle cars" by Mecum, this Hemi Cuda convertible is one of the 11 units made in 1971 and one of the two 4-speed versions delivered in the US. But what truly makes it an ultra-rare muscle car is the fact that it's the only remaining unit to have the original factory-installed drivetrain.
1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible: $148,500+
The 1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible is what happens when you combine luxury with performance. This Competition Gold top-down packed heavy-duty 428 cu-in Cobra Jet Ram Air engine, Traction Lok differential and automatic transmission with a luxurious black leather interior.
The upscale interior of the Cougar XR7 top-downs put all rival muscle cars to shame. Just 19 of these vehicles were built and the one shown here is widely considered to be the last remaining unit.
1968 Dodge Hemi Charger R/T: $231,000+
The 1968 Dodge Hemi Charger R/T featured a behemoth 426 cu-in Hemi V8 rated at a laughable 425 hp (as it actually was north of 500 horses), that allowed this beast to accelerate to 60 mph from a standing position in mere 4.8 seconds. That's huge, considering that it came more than 50 years ago.
Dodge built just 264 Hemi Charger R/Ts with an automatic transmission in 1968 - one of which is seen here. This unit is special because it still has its original engine and is also the only known automatic Hemi Charger R/T to have a Dark Blue Metallic paint. Mecum sold this rare muscle car for $231,000 in its 2021 Houston auction.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Roadster Convertible: $2.5m+
The 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertible is the first Corvette built with the RPO L88 engine and the only one to get a Tuxedo Black hue in 1967. Rated at 430 hp, the actual output of this formidable powerplant was north of 560 hp.
Another reason why this L88 Corvette is one of the rarest American muscle cars ever is that it was used on the racetrack by renowned Corvette racer Tony DeLorenzo Jr. The top-down was sold by Mecum at a staggering $2.5 million at its 2021 Kissimmee auction.
1962 Pontiac Catalina Super Duty: $150,000+
The 1962 Catalina Super Duty was a masterpiece. Though it gives the vibes of a stock vehicle, it's actually a race car built for drag competition. With a massive 421 cu-in V8, dual AFB 4-barrel carburetors, Borg Warner T10 4-speed transmission, and Hurst shifter, it was rated at 405 horses - but churned out much more!
Pontiac employed a number of weight-saving measures to extract an amazing power-to-weight ratio. Just 142 Super Duty Catalinas were produced in 1962, which makes every unit a rare find.
1964 Shelby 289 Cobra Roadster: $1.76m+
Auctioned off for $1.76m at Mecum's 2019 Indy auction, this rare muscle car is the only factory Stage III 289 Street Cobra from the Shelby production line. It's also one of the most upgraded 289 Cobras ever.
While the standard vehicle cost $5,195, an extensive optional list increased its MSRP to $8,684. From unique quad chromed exhaust tips to antenna radio to polished American Racing magnesium wheels to Stage III-spec 289 cu-in engine with 4 Weber downdraft carburetors, this car pretty much got everything that was up for grabs back in 1964.
1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster: $137,500+
The 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster might not be as rare as most other muscle cars on this list, but it sure is valuable. A well-kept unit can fetch you more than $137,500 and the ones with well-recorded history or original powertrains can rake in much more than that.
Ford made 1,427 Sports Roadsters in 1962. With a 390 cu-in V8 mated with automatic transmission pumping the ride, the Sports Roadster wasn't short on power. But what truly made it a remarkable car of the era was its stunning looks.
1959 Chevrolet Impala Fuelie: $140,000+
This muscle car is one of the 19 Chevy Impalas to have received GM's new Rochester Ram Jet Fuel Injection or 'fuelie' small-block 283 cu-in V8 engine. The Fuelie V8 worked in conjunction with a F522CJ block Boss motor code and a T10 4-speed transmission to generate 290 hp.
This output was 25 hp less than what was offered by the top-most 315 hp Fuelie, which people bought in large numbers due to its chapter cost. Resultantly, the production of 283 Fuelie Impalas was halted, making all 19 a rare find.
1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T Convertible: $1.43m+
The 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T Convertible could have been the face of the muscle car era, if only it were released a few years earlier. Unfortunately for pony car lovers, this beauty was too late. With a new focus on fuel efficiency, the sales environment was turning unfavorable for gas-guzzling muscle cars.
Nonetheless, for its first production year, Dodge built Challengers in a number of engine combinations, creating a few rare units in the process. The top-down seen here is one of them. Featuring a behemoth 426 Hemi V8, dual 4-barrel carburetors, dual exhaust with bright tips, and A833 4-speed manual transmission, this rare muscle car is one of just 5 Hemi Challenger R/T Convertibles produced with these specifications. It was auctioned off by Mecum for $1.43m in 2019.