When you think of the United States military, a few words immediately come to mind:




What better car-guy way to honor the qualities of the U.S. Military than by compiling a list of our all-time most heroic muscle cars—cars that went above and beyond to enhance the hobby we love. See what we did there…connected common qualities of our serviceman and woman to muscle cars?

Moving on.

The following is our list of the six most heroic muscle cars of all-time, and we’ve also lumped pony cars under the larger umbrella of muscle cars. Because it’s our post—and we can. You can create your own list or add to ours in the comments section below.

Pontiac GTO

The Pontiac GTO is widely credited for ushering in the muscle car era of the 1960s and 70s and creating a brand new craze for high performance cars. The GTO started as an option package for the Pontiac Tempest, featured a robust 389-cubic-inch engine, and quickly made its own name for itself as America’s first true muscle car.

1955 Chevy Corvette
We know what you’re thinking: the Corvette is really more of a sports car than a muscle car. We can’t argue, but we’re giving the Corvette an honorary membership into our fraternity of heroic muscle cars, because it brought us the small block Chevy V8 engine. The small block Chevy became a staple of ponycars, muscle cars, and street machines for years to come and served as the starting point for many a high performance engine build-up.

1964 Plymouth Belvedere
That thing got a HEMI in it? If it does, you can thank the 1964 Plymouth Belvedere which sported the first Chrysler 426 HEMI motor. Powered by the now-famous HEMI powerplant, the Belvedere took first, second, and third on the 1964 Daytona 500—and Mopar mania official kicked in. Soon after, Chrysler rose to muscle car prominence by virtue of its HEMI motor.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427
The Shelby Cobra showed the world that anything is better with American muscle and engineering. That included European-inspired supercar styling, which the Shelby Cobra 427 took from the AC Ace two-seat roadster. Legend Carroll Shelby married the AC body with a 427-cubic-inch Ford motor to create this heroic—and now extremely rare and valuable—piece of rolling American history.

1968 Plymouth Roadrunner
By 1968, prices of American muscle cars were escalating. But then—meep, meep—the Plymouth Roadrunner came along and hit us upside the head like an Acme anvil. The Roadrunner—and cars like it—made the muscle car more affordable again by stripping out added luxuries and simply focusing on performance. For that, we call it a hero.

1964 ½ Ford Mustang
This ponycar is the quintessential high performance vehicle. It made our list for many reasons: 1) it spawned bigger, more muscular cars like the Boss Mustangs, 2) while others have come and gone (and come again), it’s been in continuous production since 1964, and 3) it helped spawn the 1960s muscle car wars, which gave us the Camaro, Challenger, and other competitive muscle machines.

Past and present, the Ford Mustang remains the face of American high performance. What’s your ultimate hero car and why? Share your Facebook thoughts below.

Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.