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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Mustache Muscle: 6 climbing classics of the '70s and '80s

From a performance car enthusiast's perspective, the mid-'70s and early-'80s didn't have much going on. High-compression big blocks were a thing of the past, and burning rubber right off the showroom floor proved increasingly challenging. That didn't keep American cars from looking the part, though.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/mustache-muscle-6-climbing-classics-of-the-70s-and-80s/
102 REPLIES 102
Tinkerah
Engineer

Are they spiking in value? That's what the article was about.
FloridaMarty
Instructor

I guess given enough time, all cars become collectible to someone. I agree, back when these cars were new, I didn't want any of them, not even for free. Who knew?
Snailish
Engineer

Think about what got scrap-drived for WWI and WWII.

 

The worst for me is seeing vintage junkyard photos with stacks of 50s-60s cars that 80% of look better than projects I have had or contemplate doing...

Toomanycars
Pit Crew

I didn't realize the Hurst Olds came with the pathetic 307. I had a regular Cutlass at the time and they could be had with the 305, which is a much better motor. I still have a 87 Caprice 307 which was the one year that some came with the 307 instead of 305.
Smithsonite
Intermediate Driver

The malaise era dragged on forever, it seemed.
Rider79
Technician

The 307 (I drove a 1990 Caprice wagon once with one) had good off-the-line torque - and nothing else.
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Hurst model kept the Old made V8. That's why no 305 (Chevy). Thing is, with the Olds 307 V8, any other small block Olds will fit in it from 330 to 403. Big Block will fit with effort. Tight around the HVAC box.
Duramaxriley
Intermediate Driver

I own a triple blue 1980 Z28 that I bought new. No it's not a muscle car in stock form but at least it has a pleasant shape as opposed to the wedges and blob cars that followed it. Most of these GM V8s of this era suffered the soft camshaft issue so the performance upgrades usually came after the warranty ran out. My car is a 7,000 mile example with the weird for now factory CB radio that only made it into a very few cars.
janedon
Advanced Driver

I think people have figured out that Massive horsepower is pretty useless nowadays--you just can't use it & keep your license--
Padgett
Advanced Driver

Besides that massive hp requires massive rpm. Torque curves are much more interesting. Have now had several GM cars with 7,000 rpm redlines (first was a '93 Pontiac that ate Posches). Suspect the closest thing to a muscle car from GM this century is a CTS-V coupe with a six speed manual, and posi. Of course they stopped making them.
dooscoop32
Detailer

For the most part, the term '70s and '80s Muscle Cars is an oxymoron.
Tapeman
New Driver

Forgive me for going political, but I couldn’t help but see the similarity when the environmentalist-Leftists got control of the agencies in Washington back in the early 70s and today. Back then we went from ground shaking manly “it’s America, so what you want”, to “we will tell you what you can have and you will obey”.
We turned it around then, we can turn it around again.
Personally I celebrate my freedom with a 1969 COPO, a 1967 427x425 Corvette, a Jaguar XJ220, and a host of others.
Celebrate you freedom, your blessing, if you live in America!
Praise the Lord!
DaveH
Detailer

Do you have a Tube channel or anything? Be great to see some of those. Love the XJ220, actually may favourite supercar of those times.
If not, that's cool I understand- I have a bunch of cool cars and am a private person so no social media.
Lash
Intermediate Driver

Just awful.
sir_keith
Pit Crew

Ugly ducklings on parade. I lived through this period, and not even nostalgia can save these sorry examples of just how bad American cars had become. But apparently anything can appreciate...
DaveH
Detailer

People are paying $100-$200k for over restored VW split window microbusses, cool and everything but a useless death trap.
Padgett
Advanced Driver

You assume they are being driven...
WerbyFord
Pit Crew

Back in 1975 I had a choice for my 1st new car, a $5000 Mustang II or an old car.
Went with a 1970 Cobra base engine 429/360hp for $1100. Seller cut the price to $1050 cuz the gas gage quit working, it always read "E". Come to think of it, it pretty much always read "E" anyway.
Much better choice, my dad & I had tons of fun doing a few upgrades.

The Mustang II was not a bad car, based on the Pinto, best small car of the era. But even in that era, it was trying to go up against the 350 Camaro & 400 Firebird and the 302-2v just didnt have what it took.
DrDog
Pit Crew

The Mustang II aberration should have been called The Boss Pinto. What a fraud. The Hurst/Olds? Another joke. If I would have had a friend pull up in that, I would have laughed my ass off when I laid eyes on that shifter. The 77-78 Trans Am was far removed from the glory days of it’s forebears. It needed a Hollywood blockbuster to shore up it’s cred. In conclusion , what we have is a bunch of anemic posers; not one of which is a performance car.
Snailish
Engineer

It's all relative though.

 

My mother-in-law has a late model Explorer ST (or whatever the fancy-fast version is called). Despite being bloated and heavy it's way faster than most pre-2000s vehicles. Including the muscle. Something like a Veloster N likely outscores the top spec muscle in all performance racing related categories...

 

Later gen Camaros and Mustangs can be very easily made into performers, depending on the kind of performance one wants. The majority of 67 Camaros were grocery spec to start with too after all.

 

I get it, that the factory didn't provide much if any performance reality options 70s+. In many cases though, they gave us great bones to dress as we want, if we want.

innpchan
New Driver

The surge in popularity of the King Cobra is almost certainly due to its appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). A delightfully wimpy teal and orange example appeared, T-Tops off, opening the movie to the strains of "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl" by Looking Glass.

And, given the millimeter-deep performance bona fides of the car in question, there couldn't have been a more appropriate choice for character at the wheel.
Snailish
Engineer

Fun movie but it's a cameo appearance for the car rather than a hero car thing, so not sure I see it having impact to a lot of people.

Aquay_Mizmo
Detailer

In '81 I had a '80 t-top Trans-Am with a 301 and 175HP. I drove my 23 year old bride to Dallas in it on our honeymoon. It was a fun trip with the roof open and Loverboy on the radio. Now they are both gone, and I miss them both terribly 😞
Tinkerah
Engineer

Unsolicited advice: appreciate that for a certain period in time you lived a dream that not everyone gets to experience.
Rider79
Technician

Sorry.
Loverboy is still around, though; I saw them perform back in June. Still sounded good, too.
Geok86
Instructor

I’m pretty sure he was referring to the car, and his “Bride”. 😢
someguy
Pit Crew

In defence of this era of muscle cars, sure they don't have the power (but does that really matter as much in a world of 3 second 0-60 family Teslas) but they look cool, offer something different than your usual 68 Camaros, have all the smells of the era, seem to be much more rare in survival and good cruisers, and all for a fraction of the price.

If I was at a show, I'd definitely be more interested in checking one of these out rather than yet another big dollar restoration Mustang.
Padgett
Advanced Driver

Interesting but then few know of the four-speed, V8, posi H-bodies of the late 70s. Monza, Sunbird, and even the Olds Omega (only car I ever faded out the disk brakes was coming down from over the ton in the Florida State Autocross). Very little graphics so guess they didn't qualify as a moustache.
Too bad no pictures, wonder if a url counts ?
http://performanceresearch.us/padgett/cars/sbird.jpg
ScottM
Intermediate Driver

The pinto and mustang II had very little in common except the 4 cyl and 4 speed. I had a ‘70, a new ‘74, ‘77 and have a ‘98 GT today. The ‘70 handled terrible, stops were long and just felt ungainly. The Mustang II really went back to its roots in size, and improved braking along with amazing handling and loads of options. Weight to HP was close to the original. I love my ‘98 because of the similar small size, less blocky styling, and also it’s value is growing, the entire market seems to be moving up.
SJM1
Intermediate Driver

Didn't want them then, sure as heck don't want one now. The worst ever "performance cars" ever built. V8s with less HP than my '71 Alfa 1750, and worse fuel economy. They are not even good candidates for a "resto mod" in California, unless you install one of the new factory crate Emissions Engines... Well, in that case, maybe I'll take the Camaro... 'might be nice with an LS3.
Otherwise, let'm rust...
Kimmieh_57
New Driver

Fueled by dealers, auctions and speculators. I saw this happen in the mid 80s, history repeating itself.
ProfGriff
Pit Crew

None of these cars should be considered "muscle". The Mustang II was a bad joke, and both the Z and T/A were shadows of their former selves. My '70 Nova SS 350 4spd. would regularly kick all their butts back in the day. Just sayin'.
Geok86
Instructor

But by the same token, my 17 GTI with 2.0 turbo engine would kick your Nova’s butt…so does that mean it is a “Muscle Car”, and your Nova isn’t?!?! It’s all relative, and a matter of perspective.
sfisher
Pit Crew

You write:

"We can't think of a car more closely associated with a movie than Burt Reynolds' black and gold Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit."

I'd make the obvious joke about Q Branch, but I never joke about my work... unlike 007.
sfisher
Pit Crew

A Mustang Cobra II was the fourth Mustang my family owned, and the third that I got to drive. Our first was a 1965 2+2, which we owned before I reached driving age. But Dad took that car up to an indicated 100 mph, legally in the day on Nevada highways, with the entire family AND our cat inside.

I passed my driving test on my 16th birthday, and was rewarded by getting to drive the family's Grabber Orange 1970 Mustang fastback, as they were called colloquially at the time, to high school that same day. I was originally sad when my parents traded it in on a new Mustang, but as that was a '72 convertible in Grabber Green with the matte black "351 Ram Air" hood -- a pair of solenoids opened the intakes when you engaged the automatic transmission's kickdown feature -- I soon got over losing the George Follmer lookalike.

Then we got a black-and-gold Cobra II liftback/hatchback, the same colors as the GT-350H. The 302 was significantly less energetic than that in the '70 (even though the '70 had just a 2bbl carb and the base V8, not the Boss version). But it was lighter, shorter, and much nimbler than the '72 convertible. Still, it put the "sick transit" in "sic transit gloria mundi." But it DID have an 8-track cassette player.

In the Nineties and early 2000s, I used to daydream about finding a non-rusty Mustang II and doing a full crazy, handling-oriented restomod to it: crate motor, Tremec, aluminum-paneled interior and cage, IRS, the works. Just to make people's heads explode. The way the market is today, if I HAD done that, I could probably sell it for enough to buy a new Kia... Yeah, okay, that's not something I regret not doing.

Great read, and yes, Burt's upper lip was EXACTLY the image I had when I read "mustache muscle." At least it didn't evoke his Playgirl centerfold.
OkJustOneMore
Intermediate Driver

Thought I'd see a Volare road runner or Aspen R/T. I know the Lil red express truck is a collectible and for the Era was fast. The can ams cousin the 442 is missing here. I'd would pick the Hurst Olds and can am for myself.
Inline8OD
Technician

junk, not worth capitalizing.

120 years of automobilia, and you waste time covering this junk merely so you can expand your customer base. How cynical.

To the innocent: Never buy something simply because you can afford it. Save, accrue information, hold out for what you really want. It's always easier to buy than sell. Don't get mired in fourth-tier junk. You'll never be happy. That's why this junk is available. Everything out of Kelley Blue Book is not "classic." Be discerning.

 

 A car's quality inverse proportion to cheesy decals.   Get real.

Another example of Hagerty going after State Farm, Allstate, Farmers, Geico, USAA, all of whom cover collector cars.

someguy
Pit Crew

yes, but how do you really feel?
onteo
Pit Crew

Having worked at a Ford dealership from 76-79, I can attest to getting rubber in the first two gears of those 302 Cobra II’s right off the transit. That’s more than I can say for my anemic automatic 78 Z28. Another little remembered car was the 78 v6 Pinto, those were rare, but quick when new.
Rider79
Technician

A friend had a V6 Pinto wagon - "wood" sides and all.
Buzz
Detailer

I was a teenaged kid when these cars cam out. Let me give you the picture. In the late 1970’s, true muscle cars were low mileage, rust free, and under a decade old. Gas was still around a buck a gallon. You could pick up a nice Challenger R/T, Boss Mustang or SS/RS Camaro for under a grand. The only people driving those “mustache” cars were middle-aged women, Smokey and the bandit fans, and teens with wealthy parents. The kids that rode around in the back seat of those cars can have every one of ‘em.
Microbob_1984
Intermediate Driver

My high school Freshman science teacher had a Ghia notchback, until she traded it in for a Fiat X1/9. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire, LOL!
DeuceDriver
New Driver

Another Covid bubble waiting to burst.
Real_Life
Intermediate Driver

'70's "muscle cars" is an oxymoron. Seeing the fully decal-ed King Cobra Mustang II makes me want to, erm, puke. The V-8 version did have some oomph for the time, but all those derivatives from GM decals did not enhance the trim package. I do have a soft spot for late AMC products, it's more nostalgic than anything else, but a Spirit "AMX" sans hood decal might be my "cup of tea".
fotogmike
Intermediate Driver

That King Cobra was a nightmare of pinstriping. Scary stuff.
munron
Pit Crew

An interesting aside to this...  I repaired and painted a few of these cars back when they were newish.  On the GMs each piece of striping had its own part number and could be ordered separately.  The Ford products however, only offered the striping as a complete package so a scratched fender repair which would have been maybe $300, stripe included, back in the day on a Trans Am suddenly ballooned to $1300 on a Mustang Cobra.  (Or rainbow sided pickup, for that matter)  Needless to say, lots of Mustangs either didn`t get repaired or got the rest of their decals stripped off.  (Due to the passage of time and deterioration of my memory, the exact details of this tale may not be accurate, or even close to accurate.  Please don`t judge me.)

PhillipinSD
Intermediate Driver

These look like some nice cars from the late 1970s and 80s. They all look in excellent shape. But lets face facts of the real world. Most of the survivors from this era are most likely beat and it would take a fortune to restore the to the value of these. I would go out on a limb just about any decent good looking car from this era in tip top shape has a high value to some collectors of this era. Yes the older they are and in perfect shape they will have buyers paying top dollar. But sadly most just don't have that kind of market value. Many from this era are not much more than rust buckets. Only a few can bring in the money suggested here. But still fun to remember when these were what people my age would have loved to have back then. Most do have much more character than the ubiquitous boring but practical modern cars of today. Automotive character has left the building many years ago. I think many left with Elvis.
Bhanner
New Driver

I owned both the 78 King cobra and a 79 mustang pace car both were fun to drive and lacked performance but the styling was great.I now drive a 84 Svo mustang it's my 3rd Svo I love this car it has the performance and styling.The 86 Svo had the same horsepower as a Gt 5.0 the vette had 235 that year all the suspension upgrades for the GT came from the Svo they were made 84-86 only 9835 were built but Hagerty never seems to mention this vehicle. I see the price on the King Cobra go way up the Svo stays the same
lavapirate
Intermediate Driver

i joke that the only 'gold' car i'd ever consider is a 77/78 TA with t-tops and a hideous gold interior to match
munron
Pit Crew

I`m with you. And if there happens to be two of them, I`ll take the other one.