These Are The 10 Absolute Worst Muscle Cars Ever Made

Muscle cars of the past were affordable two-door cars that got a huge engine, a powerful transmission, and a silly name – such as the Barracuda. These cars did not necessarily sacrifice comfort or practicality for pure raw power but rather added to it.



Modern muscle cars are built a bit differently. Instead of existing models which just get a bigger engine, they are built to be muscle cars. There is nothing wrong with this as the specific models are great cars, filled with grumply engine noises and surprising practicality – they are just not entirely as the segment was forty-odd years ago. Then again, muscle cars from forty-odd years ago were pretty terrible for the most part. The 1960s and early 1970s produced some of the best American cars on the planet, but then the energy crisis struck, and automakers were forced to comply with the times, resulting in big names such as the Mustang, the Camaro, and even the Challenger having a 4-cylinder. The mid-late 1970s and 1980s were a dark time for muscle car enthusiasts, producing some of the worst cars the world has ever known.

So, while the muscle car was brilliant in the 60s, 70s, and today, there was a time when they were pretty much awful in every way. With that, here are ten of the absolute worst muscle cars ever made.

10 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner

The Road Runner was the top-of-the-line specification of the Plymouth Volare/Dodge Aspen model line. The Volare was built between 1976 and 1980 and was available as a 2-door coupe, a 4-door sedan, and a 4-door wagon, with the standard engine being a 3.7-liter Slant-6 and a 3-speed automatic transmission.

The Road Runner model was fitted with a 5.9-liter V8, some sportier trim, and the famous ‘Rallye’ wheels. Even though it had a relatively large V8, the Road Runner only produced 170 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, making it a rather underwhelming muscle car – even by 1970s and 1980s standards.

9 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo

The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is one of the most recognizable muscle cars ever made, thanks to starring in multiple movies and because it has a large bird on the hood. The Trans Am was a brilliant car, but by the late 1970s, it had become a ghost of its former self.

To improve both fuel economy and performance, the Trans Am was fitted with a turbocharger on the 4.9-liter V8, which resulted in a whopping 200 hp. Still, it was better than the non-turbocharged version’s 135 hp. While the TA still looked the part, it definitely couldn’t keep up with any of the muscle cars of the past.

Related: A Detailed Look Back At The Pontiac Turbo Trans Am

8 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass

By the early 1970s, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was ending its awesome run of the 4-4-2 with its massive 7.5-liter 360-hp V8. The succeeding generation still had the same engine, but due to emissions and fuel economy regulations, it is now produced just 250 hp – or 270 with the W30 package.

It also got a substantial styling redesign, turning it from the athletic-looking but comfortable muscle car into a rather dry take on a personal luxury car. The 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission also became the standard choice on all Cutlass models, adding to the softer inclination, rather than the sportier stance of the previous generation. All-in-all, a bit of a letdown.

Related: Is The Oldsmobile Cutlass A Good Muscle Car?

7 1981 Mercury Capri

The Mercury Capri was the American version of the European Ford Capri, but instead of being a smaller and more economical version of the popular Pony car, the second generation was instead based on the same platform and shared most parts – including the terrible V8 and the turbocharged 4-cylinder.

The Capri RS had the same drivetrain as the Fox-body Mustang GT – the attempt to make the Mustang performance-orientated again. Funnily enough, the 2.3-liter turbo inline-4 produced more power than the 4.2-liter V8 – 132 hp vs 120hp. Pretty terrible for what was supposed to be a muscle car.

6 1975 Chevrolet Camaro

The Chevrolet Camaro was one of the biggest rivals to the Ford Mustang and one would think that for the second generation, it would just be better in every way. Unfortunately, not. The 1975 model year saw many changes to the line-up as it was the year GM added catalytic converters to all their US cars, including the Camaro.

This meant that the already de-tuned Camaro produced even less power, sitting with a 145 hp 5.7-liter V8 under the hood. Chevrolet also dropped the Z28 package, meaning no performance upgrades could be optioned. Later in the year, the engine was upped to 155 hp, but this hardly made it the performance car of the year.

Related: These Are The Best Features Of The 1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

5 1986 Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2

The fourth generation Pontiac Grand Prix saw a change of platforms to a slightly smaller one in an attempt to appeal to more customers, all while downsizing the engines. Gone were the 7.5 and 6.6-liters, replaced by a 5.7-liter V8 and a 3.8-liter V6 to help cut down on GM’s global emissions.

The fourth-gen Grand Prix saw many changes over the course of production, eventually stopping at the 2+2 – a Pontiac version of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. All 2+2s were equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 which produced around 150 hp, with a 4.3-liter V6 being available as an option. How sad is that?

4 1976 Ford Gran Torino

The Ford Torino was generally quite a popular car, with most trims simply being normal everyday vehicles. Ford did spice up the range a bit by fitting massive 7.0-liter V8s in the Torino models to create muscle cars. One of these was the Gran Torino Sport.

The car was made famous as it starred in the police comedy series, Starsky & Hutch. Even though it featured on television, it wasn’t the most popular or best muscle car out there. The largest and most powerful engine barely made 220 hp.

3 1978 Oldsmobile 4-4-2

The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was hands-down one of the coolest muscle cars ever made. It was big, comfortable, and powerful – all the attributes that made a classic muscle car a muscle car. The fourth generation 4-4-2 was still built on the A-Body platform, but it was the smaller version of the previous one.

This meant that the massive 455cui 7.5-liter V8 was dropped, being replaced by the 5.7-liter as the largest and most powerful engine in the line-up. The engine produced 185 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, running to the rear wheels through either a 3-speed automatic or a 4- or 5-speed manual.

2 1974 Pontiac GTO

The fourth – and thankfully, final – generation of Pontiac GTO only lasted for the 1974 model year before being dropped entirely. Unlike the previous generations, which were based on the large A-Body platform, the new GTO was built on the X-Body platform, shared with the Chevrolet Nova and Buick Apollo.

This meant the model wasn’t a proper GTO as it used the Ventura as its base, adding the GTO package as an option. The 5.7-liter V8 produced 200 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, mated to either a 3- or 4-speed manual, or a 3-speed automatic. One contemporary motoring journalist called the vehicle “a joke of a Ventura compact… uglier and stupid looking.”

Related: Here’s How Much A 1974 Pontiac GTO Costs Today

1 1974 Ford Mustang King Cobra

And finally, probably the worst muscle car ever produced, the Ford Mustang II. Strange, as the first generation was such a hit and helped the muscle and pony car segment blow up in popularity, with almost every American manufacturer taking part.

The Mustang II saw good sales, but it wasn’t a particularly good car. Initially not even available with a V8, the Mustang II saw either a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder or a 2.8-liter V6 under the hood, only sporting a 4.9-liter V8 in the second year of production. That V8 only produced 140 hp and completed the 0-60 mph sprint in 10.5 seconds, crossing the quarter mile at a speed of 106 mph. From the brilliance which was the Boss 429 to the opposite, which was the King Cobra, the Mustang II definitely fell far and fell hard.