College basketball’s March Madness is upon us. Chances are you either: A) can’t wait to fill out multiple brackets, B) have grown tired of losing to the guy who fills in the brackets according to school colors, or C) just don’t care about basketball.
Love it, hate it, or indifferent, filling out tournament brackets has become somewhat of a rite of spring. Hot rodders want rites too, so we’ve created a special version of March Madness that all gearheads can get behind: Muscle Car Match-Ups. In this hot-rodded version of the Madness, we’ve placed 16 top muscle cars in a NCAA-style bracket to crown the best muscle car ever. And YOU determine the winner!
How it Works
We’ll present our entire bracket below (Editor’s Note: Yes, we know some great cars didn’t make the cut—you try narrowing it to just 16). You can vote for your first round winners in one of three ways:
- Write all your first round picks in the comments section below.
- Follow OnAllCylinders on Facebook and vote on each individual match-up when we post it. You make your pick by commenting on your favorite.
- Follow Summit Racing Equipment’s Facebook page. Our friends at Summit Racing will post individual, head-to-head match-ups from the tournament, and you can comment on your favorite to vote.
The Bracket (Round 1)
Our bracket consists of just 16 cars, and we tried to include vehicles from a broad spectrum of manufacturers to reflect the wide range of muscle cars that have been offered. With just 16 cars in the first round, some great cars missed our cut for this year–cars like the Pontiac Firebird, Mercury Cougar Eliminator, and others. See who did make the cut below.
1964 Pontiac GTO vs. 1969 Dodge Charger R/T
The 1969 Charger reached legendary status on its own, but earned cult status when Bo and Luke piloted a ’69 Charger on TV’s Dukes of Hazzard. We went with the 1969 Charger R/T because of its standard 440-cubic-inch engine and special handling package. (A 426 was also optional.)
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 vs. 1970 Buick GSX
The Chevrolet Camaro is one of the most famous pony cars of all time and has earned honorary muscle car status with us. The first-generation Camaro is the most sought-after, and its 302-powered Z/28 version was developed for Trans-Am racing.
Buick combined luxury with muscle. The 1970 Buick GSX, which was the high performance package for the Gran Sport and featured a stout 455 cubic-inch engine. The Stage 1 version used a more aggressive cam and higher compression for even greater output.
1970 AMC Rebel “Machine” vs. 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429
We wanted to include an AMC in our brackets and could’ve easily gone AMX. Instead, we went with the 1970 AMC Rebel “Machine” because it came standard with AMC’s most powerful motor ever—the 340-horse, 390-cubic-inch engine.
Rare but undeniably awesome, the 1969 Ford Boss 429 featured Ford’s 429 cubic-inch engine (go figure). The engine was developed for NASCAR use and built to compete with Mopar’s popular HEMI engine. In the end, only 859 Boss 429s were made, and the car remains highly collect-able.
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T vs. 1970 Oldsmobile 442
The Dodge Challenger R/T arrived late to the muscle car game , but it came in with a loud roar. It was available with some of Mopar’s most potent powerplants, starting with the 383. The 440 and 426 HEMI engine were also options.
The Oldsmobile 442 started as an option package before becoming its own model. Before 1970, General Motors banned engines greater than 400 cubic inches on midsized cars. The ban was lifted, and Oldsmobile began offering the powerful 455 engine in all of its 442s in 1970.
Ford took its largest V8 engine and shoehorned it into the midsize Fairlane body to create the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt. Featuring a “high-rise” 427 cubic-inch engine, the Thunderbolt was extremely lightweight and scary fast. A very rare vehicle, only around 100 Thunderbolts were made.
The 1970 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda was recently commemorated on the U.S. Postal Service’s latest stamps—and for good reason. The 1970 HEMI ‘Cuda featured Mopar’s brand new E-body, incorporated the almighty HEMI engine, and came standard with a distinctive shaker scoop.
1969 Pontiac GTO (the Judge) vs. 1964 Plymouth Belvedere
Perhaps no muscle car better reflected American culture than the 1969 Pontiac GTO ‘the Judge” model, which was named after a popular comedy routine on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. The Judge had a serious vibe, though, thanks to its standard 400 H.O. Ram Air III engine, Rally II wheels, spoiler, and wide tires.
The 1964 Plymouth Belvedere introduced the world to the 426 HEMI engine. The HEMI-powered ’64 Belvedere was so potent that it won first, second, and third at NASCAR’s 1964 Daytona race. And HEMI fever was born. Need we say more?
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 vs. 1970 Chevrolet 454 Chevelle SS
The 1967 model year was the first for Carroll Shelby’s legendary GT500. It came equipped with a 428 Police Interceptor engine, and a handful were available with Ford’s race-inspired 427 V8.
When GM lifted its ban on 400-plus cubic-inch motors in mid-sized cars, Chevrolet responded in a big way. Its popular Chevelle SS model was now available with a 454-cubic-inch engine, and an LS6 option gave the Chevelle 454 SS 450 horsepower. It was one of the most powerful vehicles that anyone could purchase.
1968 Plymouth Road Runner vs. 1965 Shelby Cobra 427
Meep-meep. The 1968 Plymouth Road Runner was a hero in that it made muscle cars affordable again. The 383-powered Mopar was all about muscle and offered few amenities. Chrysler passed the savings on to the consumer and a new generation of young enthusiasts was born.
The only car in our brackets to combine American muscle with European styling, the 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 brought together a roadster body with a 510-horsepower, 427-cubic-inch “side-oiler” V8. The Carroll Shelby creation remains one of the quickest cars ever built.
Vote for your winners in the comments section!
Click on the slide show at the top of the post to see the tournament in bracket form and to view OnAllCylinders staff picks. Let the Madness begin! Check out our Round Two post here.