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Classic Muscle Cars You Can Afford

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Classic Muscle Cars You Can Afford

There have been a fair number of articles on this topic. one suggesting that a four cylinder  front wheel drive compact was a “muscle car.’  To me, that’s sacrilege.

Musclc cars by the classic definition are V8-powered, rear-wheel drive cars from any number of manufacturers, like  Ford,  AMC or from any  of the GM brands like Pontiac, and Buick including Holden.

I’m not going to inflate your hopes, the list gets shorter every year and of course, the term “affordable” is subjective.  For our purposes we will use the average price of a four-door sedan.  Would have to like to focus on two door models, but the pickings are very scant. I’ll use the 2021 data which comes out to about $45,000.  Here in 2023 , it’s now $48,600.

Before I compiled these picks, I searched for good examples list for sale today (Mid June 2023). One disclaimer: the cars I’ve picked might not be numbers matching cars, or the top trim level of that particular model. You’r not going to get aa numbers matching Shelby Mustang at these prices, but you can get a good example of these models.


Here are My Top Ten Classic Muscle Cars You Can Afford

10: 1970 Mustang Mach 1. 

One of the most recognizable and respected muscle cars has to be the Mustang.  Shelby made them famous, Steve McQueen made them more famous and street racers made them even more popular.

Pop's Toy

Pop’s Toy


9. 1970 AMC JAVELIN 

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8. 1968-72 Chevelle 

The Chevelle was a super popular muscle car for those who felt the Camaro was just too common. Today, they are still near the top of many collector’s list. At $47,900  this one is a little over the budget, but money talks and B.S. walks.

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7. 1973 Ford Torino

Although not the same year of the popular Starsky and Hutch model, my next neighbor was an engineer for Ford for 25 years and he told me that the Torino was the best car had built up until that point. I didn’t get the hype as a  teenager but in my mid 30s I got to ride in a 428 Cobra Jet equipped  Torino and it changed my mind.


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6. C3 Corvettes 

While not the best version of the Corvette, it’s still a muscle car.

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Another underrated muscle car that is growing in popularity today. Goodexamples can be found even cheaper than this  example.

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4. Chevy El Camino 1966- 1972 

The truly special models big block and SS trims will set you back a bit more than $45,000 depending on their condition, but I found this one in a two-minute Google search. I actually dated a girl at my high school just because she owned one of these cars.

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3. 1985-1990 Chevy Camaros/FIrebirds/ Trans Ams 

While certainly not the best version of the Camaro nameplate, many of us grew up with these cars. They were cheaper than its rival, the Mustang. As a kid working at LAX Budget Rent A car, I got to drive these cars every day from our lot to the car wash and back.  I wanted one madly but never took the plunge. This mint condition time capsule is offered for $22,000.


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2. Gen 2 Camaros

While I liked all the cars based on this platform, the 1970 1/2 split bumper  Z28 was my favorite.  I had one briefly- for one summer.  My car did not have air conditioning but it had a 350 so I sold it.  Prices are climbing rapidly, now, so if you want one,  you better get going.

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  1.  Tied for first place has to be the 1965 to 1968 Mustangs and the 67- 69 Camaros

Of course, if you want the Steve McQueen fastback trim, you’re going to have to cough up a fat bankroll.

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As for 1969 Camaros, these have always been the most desirable year. You can find a decent basic model or a  partially restored car for a decent price, but cars like SS and Z28 trims, Yenko edition or the numbers matching cars are going to be upwards of six figures or more.

There are many models I omitted mostly because they were out of the price limit of $45,000.  I couldn’t find a single Dodge Challenger or Charger from the first year of production all the way to the last run in the early 70’s.  And while some Mopar fans will suggest that cars like the Barracuda, the Dart, and the Coronet should’ve been included, there was only room for 10  on a top-10 list so I had to draw the line somewhere.

I also had to axe cars like the Olds 442, the Pontiac GTO,  Buick Grand Nationals & T-Types 1985 -1987, and cars like the 1974 Plymouth Sebring Satellite.  There are many muscle cars you can afford if you’re willing to buy someone else’s unfinished project. Or, you can purchase a lesser trim level (ex. straight six equipped, drum brakes and missing the high dollar options, things like wheels ).

So of all the classic muscle cars you can afford, which tempts you the most?  If you want to check for yourself, check out Hemmings’s “for sale” section.


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