In the halls of musclecardom, numerous people have taken the task of building the ultimate muscle car collection. There was that guy 25 years ago who tried to assemble all the cars from Muscle Car Review magazine’s “50 Fastest” list.
Then there was the late Los Angeles Times scion Otis Chandler who, along with collector Greg Joseph, assembled a sweet collection of the crème de la crème around 1990. There have been several other niche-y collections that have popped up over time (Kevin Suydam comes to mind), but none have really rivaled Chandler’s (former) collection – until now.
The new book Top Muscle: The Rarest Cars from America’s Fastest Decade shows what is likely the best muscle car collection ever. It’s expertly produced by two guys familiar with muscle – photographer Randy Leffingwell and writer Darwin Holstrom.
There are two ways to approach this book. First, from the perspective of the collectors themselves – who owns all these cars? A mysterious, publicity-shy duo who call themselves “The Brothers” whose collection features over 600 cars. You may wonder who they are and what they do, but that doesn’t matter.
What’s important is that they understand the automobiles from America’s high-performance era and know how to pick the most distinctive ones that a top collection should have. Here’s a list of some that are featured in the book:
- The very first Z16 Chevelle built in 1965
- The first LS6 Chevelle SS 454 built
- The only 1969 Mustang Mach I built with a sunroof
- The first production A12 Road Runner 440 6bbl.
- Of the eight Trans Am convertibles built in 1969, the Brothers own four
- Documented 1970 Hemi Challenger R/T with the N94 hood
Top Muscle: The Rarest Cars from America’s Fastest Decade is divided into three sections: General Motors, Mopar and AMC, and FoMoCo (including Mercury and Shelby). The book devotes several pages to each examples of a prime muscle car, and they’ll all a nice cross-section of vehicles from the Brothers Collection. Hence, you won’t find a book filled only with Hemi ragtops/Shelby ragtops/LS6 ragtops. To wit:
- Buick GSX
- W-30 4-4-2 convertible
- A 1969 GTO Judge convertible
- A not-oft-seen Ram Air IV 1970 Trans Am
- AMC Trans Am Javelin
- 1971 Hemi Road Runner
- 1966 427 Fairlane 500
- 1966 427 Galaxie 500XL
- 390 Mustang Mach I
- 1970 Torino GT convertible
- Cougar GT-E
As for what’s touted on the cover, many of the cars within don’t constitute “the rarest cars from America’s fastest decade” or even an “ultimate” list. Sure, the authors had plenty of distinguished vehicles at their disposal, but is a 1-of-4,475 LS6 Chevelle really “rarer than the rest?” Being the first off the line doesn’t add to its rarity to this reader.
However, each car does have its rarity listed, but there are plenty that hardly qualify as “rarest” status – take the GSX Stage 1 as an example. Only 118 were built with a 4-speed, but can we agree there are plenty of cars rarer than that. Contrast that with the “1 of 96” 1970 4-4-2 W-30 convertible, which doesn’t specify this number is for 4-speeds and not total production. Ditto for the 1970 Trans Am.
In contrast, the GTO Judge convertible completely omits the production numbers – why the lack of consistency? The Hemi Challenger R/T shows it as being one of two built, but read further and you’ll learn that “two were believed to have been built” with the N94 hood – no concrete records exist to prove the assertion. Meanwhile, “between 4 and 10” Torino GT convertibles were built with the Drag Pack in 1970, but why the fuzzy math if the exact numbers are available from Marti Auto Works’ invoice service?
A neat aspect to this book is the chapter written by photographer Randy Leffingwell. In it, he writes at length about “light-painting,” a technique that involves manually flooding light across a car for 20-30 exposures – literally painting the car with light while it sits in the dark. Combining all the shots and fine-tuning them with software results in some stellar photographs, all of which can be seen in this book.
In sum, Top Muscle: The Rarest Cars from America’s Fastest Decade is a great coffee table book showing one of the most interesting car collections ever. It is let down by its lack of consistency and a title that creates expectations that aren’t satisfied, but it should be a welcome addition to anyone’s library.