Defining the Best Classic American Muscle Car: A Playoff Bracket Showdown
How do we define the very best classic American muscle car ever made? Is it even possible to arrive at an objective conclusion? These are questions that we aim to answer in this extensive feature story. Over the next several weeks, we will dive into the world of classic American muscle cars, pitting them against each other in a Playoff bracket style elimination format, similar to the NBA Playoffs or March Madness. Why? Because we can, and because it offers us a chance to randomize the matchups to some extent.
To begin the selection process, we had to choose an even number of cars that we could divide by 2 until we were left with only 2 cars. We settled on 32, as we realized that finding 64 truly great muscle cars might be a challenge. We easily found 32 worthy contenders (and even left out a few notable cars), but 64 would have been a stretch. And so, our journey began.
Once we had settled on the 32 finalists, the next step was to create the actual bracket. This presented a few challenges of its own. We had to determine the top seeds and lower seeds, just like in college basketball tournaments. To avoid subjective bias, we opted for a consensus among the team members. While all the cars were deserving of a high seed, we had to make tough decisions and ended up with a few matchups that were unexpected, but exciting.
To ensure fairness in match selection, we used an online random name picker. We matched the 16 top seeds against the underdogs, spinning the wheel each time to determine the matchup. This method added an element of surprise and increased the anticipation for each round.
Now that the matchups were set, we needed to establish the criteria for scoring each round. We agreed upon four factors: icon status, collector’s status, performance, and aesthetics, with a primary focus on the latter two. While the iconic status was important, we wanted the winner to be a car that we would want to drive every day, grinning from ear to ear.
The Round of 32:
Let’s dive into some of the matchups from the Round of 32 and see who emerged victorious.
1965 Shelby GT350 vs. 1966 Plymouth Satellite Street Hemi:
In this matchup, the original Shelby GT350 went into the fight as the heavy favorite due to its iconic status and collector’s value. However, the Plymouth Satellite Street Hemi posed a significant challenge in terms of performance. While the GT350 had a powerful 289 ci V8 engine producing 306 horsepower, the Satellite came with a 426 ci V8 Street Hemi engine rated at 425 horsepower. The decision ultimately came down to aesthetics and icon status, with the Shelby GT350 claiming the victory.
1970 Plymouth Superbird vs. 1970 Pontiac GT-37:
The mighty Plymouth Superbird faced off against the lesser-known Pontiac GT-37. While the Superbird had a striking design and powerful engine options, the GT-37 offered comparable performance at a more affordable price. However, to beat the Superbird, a legendary car, the GT-37 needed to be an all-time great. In the end, the Superbird emerged as the clear winner.
1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda vs. 1969 Shelby GT500:
This matchup pitted two heavy hitters against each other. The powerful Hemi ‘Cuda with its 426 ci V8 engine went head-to-head with the iconic Shelby GT500. While the GT500 had a unique appearance, the ‘Cuda’s performance and looks proved to be superior overall, granting it the victory in this round.
1968 Plymouth Road Runner vs. 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator:
The Plymouth Road Runner, known for its rugged appearance and performance, faced off against the lesser-known, yet equally impressive Mercury Cougar Eliminator. Despite the Cougar’s powerful engine options and chic design, the Road Runner’s raw performance and distinctive appearance secured its win in this matchup.
1970 Dodge Charger Daytona vs. 1968 Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds 442:
In this battle, the aerodynamic Dodge Charger Daytona went against the limited edition Hurst/Olds 442. While both cars had their own unique features, the Charger Daytona stood out with its NASCAR styling and record-breaking speed. The decision was tough, but the Charger Daytona emerged as the winner.
1969 Dodge Charger R/T vs. 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1:
The classic Dodge Charger R/T faced off against the powerful Buick GSX Stage 1. While the Charger R/T had an impressive appearance and history, the GSX Stage 1 offered formidable performance with its 455 ci V8 engine. However, the Charger R/T’s performance and looks eventually led to its victory in this round.
1969 Dodge Super Bee vs. 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt:
The Dodge Super Bee, known for its rugged appearance and performance, went head-to-head with the powerful Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt. While the Thunderbolt boasted impressive straight-line acceleration, the Super Bee’s overall performance and aesthetics secured its win in this matchup.
1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 vs. 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351:
This matchup featured two iconic Mustangs from different model years. The Mach 1, with its distinctive appearance and powerful engine, went against the Boss 351, known for its performance and reputation on the track. The Mach 1’s overall performance and looks proved to be superior, securing its win in this round.
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 vs. 1970 Ford Torino GT Cobra:
This matchup pitted the iconic Boss 429 Mustang against the formidable Torino GT Cobra. While the Torino GT Cobra boasted impressive power and performance, the Boss 429’s rarity and overall performance led to its victory in this round.
1969 Chevrolet COPO Camaro ZL1 vs. 1967 Pontiac GTO:
In this matchup, the dominant COPO Camaro ZL1 went up against the iconic Pontiac GTO. While the GTO had impressive power and performance, the ZL1’s rarity and overall performance secured its win in this round.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6 vs. 1971 Plymouth GTX:
The powerful Chevelle SS 454 LS6 faced off against the sleek Plymouth GTX. While the GTX had a striking design and powerful engine options, the Chevelle’s overall performance and power set it apart, securing its win in this matchup.
1969 Chevrolet Nova Yenko/SC vs. 1970 Plymouth GTX:
In this matchup, the rare and powerful Nova Yenko/SC went against the sleek and powerful Plymouth GTX. While the GTX offered impressive power and performance, the Nova Yenko/SC’s rarity and overall performance secured its win in this round.
And there you have it – the Round of 32 was a thrilling battle, resulting in 16 deserving cars moving on to the Sweet Sixteen round. Stay tuned for the next round where the matchups will become even more competitive, and the choices even tougher.