Muscle Cars of the ’60s and ’70s Part IV: The Rare

After four months and three prior installments, we ultimately find ourselves at the final chapter of the Muscle Cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s series.

In Part I, we looked at what I felt were the most beautiful muscle cars of the Golden Era, while in Part II, we took a gander at my picks for the downright ugliest.

Last time out, I dispensed with my personal opinions, and instead dealt in cold, hard facts as we elucidated which cars were the flat-out quickest of the breed based on road tests and reviews from period publications.

This month, I thought that determining what the rarest, regular production muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s were would be a fitting outro.

So, if phenomenally gorgeous, outrageously valuable, and exceedingly rare muscle cars are your thing, I urge you to sit back and enjoy exploring some magnificent, expensive, and precious muscle cars with me. Are you in? Excellent, let’s get to it!


(Photo courtesy of Mecum.)

You know you’re on the verge of reading about some unicorns when the most commonplace vehicle on the list is as legendarily rare as the 1971 Plymouth Hemicuda convertible.

Launched along its E-body cousin, the Dodge Challenger, as a 1970 model, the Barracuda combined iconic styling by John Herlitz with some serious optional powertrains, including Chrysler’s legendary 440 and 426 Hemi “Elephant” mills.

Adding a princely $871 on top of the price of a ‘Cuda, the Hemi was the ultimate Chrysler motor, and one of the most potent of the entire era with its stated, but ludicrously underrated, 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque.

(Photo courtesy of Mecum.)

Owing to the price of the Hemi option, very few ‘Cudas rolled out of the factory with one thumping in the engine bay. Out of the 55,499 Barracudas built in 1970 and the 18,690 in ’71, only 652 and 107 Hemi cars were produced respectively.

Already exceedingly low production numbers for sure, those figures were downright astronomical compared to the totals for folks who opted to also equip their Hemicuda with a convertible top. How few did that? A hundred? Fifty? Ha! Try just fourteen in 1970 and a paltry seven in ’71.

Rarity often equals a high price in today’s market, and as such, the Hemicuda convertibles, especially the ’71, command shocking money at auction. Just ask the fellow who paid $3.5 million for one at Mecum in 2014.


(Photo courtesy of Hagerty.)

The original 1964 ½ Ford Mustang represents one of the most unqualified success stories in the history of the automotive industry, with an astounding 418,812 examples sold in its first model year.

Despite the massive sales numbers, Ford vice-president and spiritual father of the Mustang, Lee Iacocca, wasn’t completely thrilled. He had promised before the car’s introduction that it would be a high-performance vehicle, capable of both street and racing use. The Mustang that made it to production though lacked chops both in terms of power and handling prowess.

To rectify this, Iacocca struck a deal with his friend Carroll Shelby to modify the Mustang fastback into a genuine street-legal race car by massaging the powertrain and suspension. The result was the 1965 Shelby GT350.

(Photo courtesy of Hagerty.)

For 1966, the GT350 fastback was only slated to undergo some relatively minor changes, but due to numerous customer inquiries about the development of a convertible, along with Carroll’s personal desire to have one, a Shelby GT350 drop trop project was green lit.

Four convertibles were ultimately built and were painted in Sapphire Blue, Springtime Yellow, Ivy Green, and Candy Apple Red. All had black interiors, air conditioning, and white convertible tops. Other than that, the ragtops were identical to the fastback models in equipment and specs.

In the end, production stopped at just four cars in 1966, but they yielded proof of concept, and would lead to a more widely produced convertible model in 1968. To collectors, the ’66 GT350 convertibles are amongst the most cherished and sought-after Shelby Mustangs. Confirmation of this was the $1.1 million sale price for the Ivy Green car at the 2020 Mecum auction.


(Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

Chrysler got a lot of mileage (pun intended) from their B-body platform. First introduced in 1962, by the zenith of the muscle car wars in 1970, no less than six different models of cars across the divisions of the Chrysler Corporation were based on B-body underpinnings.

Some models, such as the GTX and Coronet, were situated atop the product lines of Plymouth and Dodge respectively as top-of-the-line muscle cars, loaded with niceties and plush interiors, while others, like the Plymouth Road Runner and the Dodge Super Bee were just the opposite: stripped down, lightweight, low-cost muscle cars featuring Chrysler’s most potent powertrains. Because they offered maximum performance at a cut-rate price, they sold quicker that Mother Mopar could build them.

For 1970, the Super Bee was the recipient of a controversial refreshing that Dodge called “Fuselage Styling,” as it incorporated design elements interpreted from jet fighter aircraft. The most notable of the Fuselage cues was in the front, where quad headlights set into dual, split grille segments, each ringed by a “bee wing” chrome bumper, were reminiscent of fighter jet intakes. Some hated the design, while others, including your humble columnist, loved the future-forward look.

(Photo courtesy of Classic Cars.)

While the 383 Magnum V8 was the standard engine, the big Hemi was available as an option. When combined with a heavy-duty A-833 four-speed and the Super Track Pack with a 9 ¾” Dana 60 limited-slip rear containing 4.10 gears, you had yourself one of the most formidable factory muscle cars in the world.

The aforementioned steep price for the 426 option made the number of Super Bees equipped with them low, to the extent that only four people resolved to make the 1970 Dodge Super Bee Hemi coupe their new ride. Today the car is in high demand and fetches in excess of a quarter-million dollars at auction.


(Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

When thinking about muscle cars from the 1960s and ‘70s, the name Oldsmobile certainly doesn’t spring immediately to mind. The truth is though, the brand, often thought of as the manufacturer of vehicles for your grandpa, did produce a handful of handsome, and quite raucous muscle cars. At the top of the heap was the 4-4-2.

Initially introduced as an option package for 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass and F-85 models, the 4-4-2, so named for the first generation cars’ four-barrel carb, four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts, was Olds’ version of the Pontiac LeMans GTO which had sold like gangbusters.

By the 1968 model year, the 4-4-2 was an independent model in the Olds lineup and was a true performer with a 350 horsepower, four-barrel carburated, 400 cubic-inch V8 mated to a three- or four-speed manual, or a Turbo HydraMatic automatic. Optional was a W-30 Force-Air induction system that boosted the ponies a bit.

In spite of this formidable package, Olds execs weren’t satisfied. They wanted a car that could compete with the likes of the 400+ horsepower monsters from Dodge, Plymouth and Ford. At the same time, George Hurst, of Hurst shifter fame, was toying with the idea of building his own ultimate muscle car. A deal was struck between Oldsmobile and Hurst, and 515 standard Olds 4-4-2s were modified into what would be known as the Hurst/Olds.

(Photo courtesy of Mecum.)

455 cubic-inch V8s with hot cams, big Rochester Quadrajet carbs, and the W-30 induction system were installed. Output was just shy of the magic 400 horsepower mark. All Hurst/Olds were fitted with Turbo HydraMatics topped with the famed Hurst dual-gate “His and Hers” shifter.

Changes were made for 1969, and included a hydraulic lifter camshaft and a redesigned ram air induction system that was fed by twin, massive, outrageous looking hood scoops. A special Cameo White paint scheme with Firefrost gold accents was applied to all cars.

Tantalizingly, three convertibles were produced at the behest of George Hurst to be used as promotional vehicles. One of the three was destroyed under unknown circumstances, but the other two still exist today in private collections. Their value would be difficult to estimate, but surely would fetch many hundreds of thousands of dollars.


(Photo courtesy of FavCars.)

First launched in 1968, the Plymouth Road Runner represented a clever strategy by Chrysler to cash in on the muscle car craze with folks who couldn’t afford more expensive, high trim line models in the range.

Sharing its B-body architecture with the top-of-the-line GTX, The Road Runner had all of that cars’ luxury items removed, while keeping all the performance parts intact. Adding a cartoon character tie-in with Warner Brothers’ Road Runner and Plymouth had a recipe for mammoth success. In its first year alone, almost 50,000 were sold, with 82,000 the following annum.

So as to keep the momentum going, in 1970 the ‘Runner received a gorgeous refresh that exuded muscularity. Optional was a rear deck wing, and a pop-up Air-Grabber ram-air intake with shark mouth decals on the sides in case the statement needed further emphasis.

(Photo courtesy of the Volo Museum.)

What made the 1970 Road Runner a true low-cost performance gem though was its mechanicals. Standard was a modified version of Chrysler’s venerable 383, while two versions of the 440 mill – the 375 horsepower Magnum four-barrel, and the 390 horse “Six-Pack” version – were optional, as was the 426 Hemi.

Since adding the Hemi and the convertible options together could make the Road Runner a less-than-affordable low-cost muscle car, it’s not surprising that only three were built that way.

None of these cars have changed hands of late, but it’s safe to say that if a 1970 Hemi convertible should come up for sale in today’s market, it would easily garner seven-figure money.


(Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

Race car driver. Car manufacturer. Automotive icon. If there ever was a person in the world of cars who fit that bill, it would have to be Carroll Shelby. The impetus behind the GT40 race car that beat Ferrari at Le Mans, and builder of Shelby Mustangs like the 1966 GT350 convertible we looked at earlier, Shelby was, and always will be best remembered for his AC Shelby Cobra Roadsters.

First produced in 1962, the Cobra consisted of a sinuous body created by the British firm AC Cars paired with a Ford engine, and was produced both in England and the United States. While early cars were bestowed small block Ford lumps like the 260 Windsor and 289 V8s, in 1965, Shelby upped the ante in a big way.

Into the diminutive roadster, the engineers and mechanics at Shelby American managed to shoehorn Ford’s most beastly motor, the 427 cubic-inch “side oiler,” equipped with a lone four-barrel 780 CFM Holley carb, rated at 425 ponies in normal tune.

(Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

Needless to say, this made the Shelby Cobra the all-out fastest and quickest car available in America at the time. Never a man to be satisfied with the status quo though, for the 1967 model year, Shelby created the Super Snake, which he said would be the “Cobra to end all Cobras.” The Super Snake was essentially a full race 427 Cobra with twin Paxton superchargers, modified with only mufflers and bumpers to be street-legal. Output was a ridiculous 773 horsepower and 446 lb-ft of torque.

Only two were built, one for Carroll Shelby himself, and one that was destroyed by its second owner, who lost control and drove it off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Shelby kept his personal Super Snake for decades until 2007 when he put the car up for auction where it was sold for $5.115 million, making it the most expensive American-made car of all time. That is, until the very first Shelby Cobra made sold at auction for $13.7 million in 2016.


(Photo courtesy of Mecum.)

The Dodge Coronet’s lineage dates back to 1949 and was produced in two distinct periods separated by a hiatus before the 1967 model year version was born.

The Coronet, whose name translates from French to “little crown” started as a full-sized vehicle but was ultimately reduced to a mid-sized car to better compete with the wave of pony cars like the Mustang, Camaro, and Firebird, that were seizing the zeitgeist.

Determined to have a pugilist of their own in the ring, Dodge redesigned the Coronet for 1967 and readied a high-performance variant of it that would leave nothing on the table: the Road and Track, or R/T trim.

Offered in coupe and convertible configurations, the R/T was aesthetically distinct from its lesser brethren with an “electric shaver” style grille and matching real taillight panel, a set of louvered scoops on the hood, and R/T badging seemingly everywhere.

(Photo courtesy of Mecum.)

But what really made the R/T special was what was under the hood. Chrysler’s two top motors at the time – the 375 horsepower 440 Magnum, and the legendary, 425+ horsepower Hemi – were the sole choices. Manual and TorqueFlite transmissions could be had, as could a Big Dana 60 rear end with a 3.54:1 ratio on Hemi cars.

As we have seen already with other Mopar cars, combining the optional Hemi engine along with the convertible top jacked the price of the car up considerably, and as a result, only three ‘67s came out of the factory equipped that way.

Thankfully, all three Hemi ragtops have survived the years, and one, a Dark Red Metallic example, sold for $230,000 in 2019 at auction.


(Photo courtesy of the Brett Torino Collection.)

In a quirk of fate, another Coronet, this time a 1970 Hemi Convertible, also makes it to our list.

Sharing the B-body architecture and fuselage styling of the 1970 Dodge Super Bee that we reviewed earlier, the ’70 Coronet was a controversial car from the get-go, with some turned off by its unusual chrome bumpers that fully surrounded the split grille and quad headlights.

Those who turned away in disgust though missed out on one of the most thrilling muscle cars of the entire era.

The tried-and-true, raised-block 440 Magnum four-barrel V8 was the base engine and was capable of 375 horsepower, while the upgraded 440 Six-Pack and the 426 Hemi were optional. Add to that the robust 727 TorqueFlite automatic or A-833 four-speed, and a robust axle with performance gears and you had one heck of a stoplight dragster.

(Photo courtesy of the Brett Torino Collection.)

And as for looks, well, love or hate the front end, the 1970 Hemi Coronet with its Ramcharger-style twin-scoop induction, rear “Bumblebee” stripe, and faux scoops ahead of the rear wheel arches simply looked purposeful.

Only 296 1970 Coronet R/Ts left the factory with a convertible top, and of those, only two were Hemi cars. One was painted in the eye-popping J5 Sublime Green, while the other was painted in the ultra-rare FT6 Dark Tan Metallic.

The latter car was subjected to a ground-up restoration by Mark Worman, and was extensively documented on his TV show, Graveyard Carz. Neither car has sold of late, but a $1.5 million dollar estimate for either wouldn’t be far off the mark.


(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Concours d’Elegance/Trev Dellinger.)

If I were to ask even the most savvy car enthusiast what the rarest regular production muscle car of the Golden era was, most would not come up with the correct answer. Some might say the 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake of which one was made. Bzzzzz, wrong answer, as that car was a prototype that was never produced. Others might chime in with the 1969 Corvette ZL1 convertible, also with just a single example produced. Bzzzzz wrong again, the Corvette was not a muscle car, instead it was considered America’s SPORTS car.

No, I’m here to tell you that the rarest regular production muscle car of the heyday was, in fact, the 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst Convertible. Oh, and yes, only one was ever made.

The second example of George Hurst wanting to have a supercar under the Hurst name, this time he ditched Oldsmobile and its 4-4-2 in favor of Chrysler and its 300.

The 1970 Chrysler 300 was designed in the same vein as full-sized muscle cars such as the Chevy Impala SS, Ford’s Galaxie 7-liter and Fairlane XL500, and Pontiac’s Grand Prix. In other words, a massive car jammed with performance and luxury features, designed to sell to well-heeled enthusiast yuppies, a full decade before anyone even knew what a yuppie was.

(Photo courtesy of

Aesthetically the 300 projected a nautical visage, which is to say it resembled a supertanker or aircraft carrier with an enormous hood featuring a unique scoop, a spacious greenhouse, and a trunk practically capable of swallowing a mini compact car of today. It was available only in a two-tone paint scheme of Satin Tan and Spinnaker White that afforded the traditional Hurst look.

Under the hood lurked Chrysler’s potent four-barrel 440 cubic-inch raised block wedge V8, the very same motor known in Dodge and Plymouth parlance as the “Magnum” and “Super Commando” respectively. Its 375 horsepower was transmitted through a TorqueFlite slushbox complete with a Hurst auto-stick shifter, on its way to an 8 ¾-inch rear axle with a 3.23:1 ratio inside.

501 orders for the 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst were placed and filled, including one convertible that was used briefly for Hurst promotional purposes, but then sold on to a customer in 1973.

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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