We’re football nuts around these parts.
So when the NCAA announced a new playoff format for this fall, our minds started racing: Who will make the first-ever playoff bracket? Will our beloved Buckeyes make these playoffs (not so much)? And of course—how can we put some sort of automotive spin on the competition?
While it took the NCAA decades to create a playoff for college football, it has taken OnAllCylinders just over two years to bring you the Late Model Performance Playoffs. We’ll say it again:
The Late Model Performance Playoffs.
Why late model you ask? Because classic muscle cars and vintage performance vehicles come from an era where college football champions were decided by bowl games and poorly groomed, cigar-chomping sports writers. This is a whole new era—an era of football playoffs, new age muscle cars, and iPhone-toting, Starbucks-swilling writers who like to get their Twitter on.
Why playoffs you ask? Because we still had the blank brackets left over from our Muscle Car Match-Ups campaign in March. However, these
brackets playoff ladders will be filled with the best American performance cars since the turn of the millennium. And you’ll decide the winner.
How it Works
We’ll present our entire bracket below, and allow you to 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.
Billed at the time as the highest performing Camaro ever, the 2012 Camaro ZL1 packs a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine. And unlike its rather plain Jane-looking forefather in the late 60s, this ZL1 offers a decidedly upgraded look over other Camaros in the family. That and about 580 horsepower, too! There have been ZL1s since, but this is the one that started it all.
The 2003 Mustang SVT Cobra marked the 10th anniversary of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team. To celebrate, the SVT crew created the strongest, most-powerful Mustang to date in the form of the 2003 Mustang SVT Cobra. It features a supercharged 4.6L DOHC engine that spit out a mean 390 horsepower.
You knew GM was serious about performance when its original 2004 Cadillac CTS-V was only available with a manual transmission. And then they really stepped things up when they offered the 2009 CTS-V with basically a supercharged version of the Corvette’s 6.2L V8. That’s 556 horsepower worth of head-snapping luxury.
Once called ‘the most radical off-road production pickup ever,” the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor can go where none of the other vehicles on our list can go. Equipped with Fox Racing shocks, urethane bump stops, and electronically advanced four-wheel drive system, this truck can conquer any terrain, earning it the nickname “the 4×4 Ferrari.”
What—no Hellcat? No, because it’s a 2015 model and we’re sticking to current vehicles on the road. That means we went with the next most powerful thing from the formidable Dodge Challenger stable. The 2011 Challenger SRT8 392 introduced us to the 6.4L V8 HEMI, which spit out 470 horsepower and 470 ft.-lbs. of torque.
The last of the legendary Pontiac Trans Ams came out in 2002, and the 2002 Trans Am WS6 was the top of the mountain. Long after the Burt Reynolds mustache went out of style, this Trans Am still churns out the power. Its 346-cubic-inch 5.7L LS1—complete with WS6 Ram-Air setup—delivers 310 horsepower and 340 ft.-lbs. of torque and handled like it was on rails.
When it debuted, the 2009 Pontiac G8 GXP was called “a four-door Corvette” by Car and Driver magazine. Others pointed out that it delivered similar performance to a BMW—but for $20,000 less. It’s the most powerful stock Pontiac ever with its top engine offering 415 horsepower from the factory.
In 2004, Dodge’s Performance Vehicle Operations group combined a standard short bed Ram with a Viper 8.3L V10. The result was the the world’s fastest production truck ever: 2004 Dodge Ram SRT10. Its 500-horsepower powerplant sends the Ram surging ahead from 0-60 miles-per-hour in 5.2 seconds.
We lost automotive performance legend Carroll Shelby in 2012. His swan song? The 2013 Shelby GT500, SAE-certified at 662 horsepower and 631 ft.-lbs. of torque—at the time, the most-powerful production V8 engine in the world. Top speed? More than 200 miles per hour. It’s okay. We want one, too.
Okay, so it’s not the muscle car everyone loves circa 1964-1972. But the 2006 Pontiac GTO does pack a bit of a punch with 6.0-liter, 400-horsepower engine that spawned a bit of a cult following from young, late model performance enthusiasts who figured out that this new Goat could generate a whole bunch of bang for not too much buck.
The all-new redesigned seventh-generation 2014 Chevy Corvette arrived in 2013 and was met with varying reaction. “The front looks like a Viper!” they charged. “The back looks like a Camaro!” they yelled. All we know is it hung with—or outperformed—every car in its class during road and track testing, and was named the 2014 Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Everyone has Hellcat on the brain (and believe us, we get it), but woe to those who ignore what Mopar dished out in 2014, including the very sensible four-door Charger SRT8 Super Bee. It packs a 392 HEMI that produces 470 horsepower and goes 0-60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds.
In addition to not delivering the Mayan apocalypse, 2012 reintroduced us to Ford’s Boss nameplate for America’s most-beloved pony car. The reincarnated Boss 302 pumped out 444 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque, answering the oft-asked question: “Who’s the boss?” Your move, Tony Danza.
Chevy resurrected the Camaro Z/28 in 2013 and injected it with the same 7.0-liter, 505-horsepower LS7 engine used to power Z06 Corvettes. Z/28 was an in-house regular production order number at Chevrolet that the car’s designer actually wanted to change at launch in 1967. But the name stuck. And here we are, witnessing automotive history once again with the 2014 Camaro Z/28.
It was the second year of the sexy C6 and Chevrolet gave us the new Z06—a 7.0-liter LS7 measuring 427 inches which was GM’s largest-ever small block engine. The 2006 Z06 sported wider fenders, a more-aggressive front end, 505 horsepower, and a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds. Not to be trifled with, boys and girls.
Hmmmmm. The SRT Viper has an 8.4-liter, all-aluminum V-10 engine. It makes 640 horsepower and 600 ft.-lbs. of naturally aspirated torque. And, oh by the way, Chrysler just knocked $15,000 off the price to boost sales. And it’s working.