Hagerty.com

If the GTO wasn’t the first muscle car, then what was?


#1

You know the name of first muscle car? It was the Pontiac GTO, of course. Right? Depends on who you ask.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/03/08/what-was-the-first-muscle-car

#2

Thanks for doubling back after your GTO piece. There was no more muscle than these elegant beasts with their gold stable mates, starting in 57, the DeSoto Adventurer and the original Plymouth Fury. Both had high-perfromance engines and transmissions.
BTW, you may think that Boeing first added those upturned Winglet wind tips for added performance, but check the upright chrome bumper end-caps on the Plymouth Fury…I’m sure they helped with yaw…lol.


#3

Other “Muscle Car” contenders are the 1955 Buick Century and the 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk. The Hawk was the lightweight “K” hardtop coupe with a big Packard 352 cid V8 shoehorned in. Also the 1956 Packard Caribbean boasted a 374 cid dual quad V8 with a claimed output of 310 HP (but it was resting in a #5000+ body).


#4

Nonsense; the first muscle car was the 1949-50 Oldsmobile 88, which were the first NASCAR champions those years with the new oversquare higher compression V8 engines. In 1950 they used the Cadillac standard transmissions because Olds engineers found out that the old Olds tranny could not handle the new V8. Using a dolled up lightweight GM A-body same as Chevy helped also.


#5

My favorite classic of all time! My mom has a 1956 Chrysler Newport 2 dr. HT which was cool, but I always wanted an original 300. I’ve bid on a few at auctions, but they were always too rich for me.

Virgil Exner has to rank among to top 5 automotive designers of all time.

Thanks for this story and the memories it brings bad.


#6

OK I’m going to throw one into the discussion here and I have copied and pasted the information on it as listed in Wikipedia. It is a car most people are not familiar with much less ever heard of. So my nominee is the 1957 Rambler Rebel.

" The Rambler Rebel is an automobile that was produced by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) of Kenosha, Wisconsin for the 1957–1960 model years, as well as again for 1966 and 1967.

Introduced as a stand-alone model in one body style, the 1957 Rambler Rebel is credited for being the first factory-produced intermediate-sized high-performance car. This later became known as the muscle car market segment. It was also to be among the earliest production cars equipped with electronic fuel injection. American Motors surprised most observers with the December 1956 introduction of the Rambler Rebel – “a veritable supercar”.[7] The new 1957 model debuted as a high-performance vehicle that combined AMC’s lightweight 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Rambler four-door hardtop body with AMC’s newly introduced 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 engine.[8] This made it the first-time that a large block V8 was installed in a mid-size car in the post-World War II marketplace. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler offered no intermediate-sized cars whatsoever."

Below is a link from youtube.com regarding this car. Watch this youtube clip and listen to the owner explaining how this 1957 Rambler Rebel is the first muscle car and how he further explains, as I said, that nobody has ever heard of it. Also, notice he says the ONLY car produced in 1957 that was faster was the Fuel Injected Corvette. And yes, that would mean it was faster than the Chrysler 300 C.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlRAg8lOGpI

PHOTO BELOW OF A 1957 RAMBLER REBEL


#7

The Chrysler 300’s were always classified as the a muscle car in its early days. For me finding a '62 300 Sport Convertible with 3 speed stick shift, no P.S. or P.B. or rear view mirrors. Options included leather interior, AM radio, 413 motor and Sure-grip rear end. Unknown exactly how many were made but one of ???.


#8

I have heard the argument that the 300 was the first muscle car many times over. After reading this article, I would argue the 300, much like the Hudson Hornet, was a NASCAR type full size powerhouse, but not what fits the description of a muscle car. 354/350 c.i./HP was a huge accomplishment in the mid-50’s, almost one horsepower per cubic inch, but dropped into a full sized family sedan. Muscle cars evocative the image of big block high horsepower shoe-horned into a mid-sized or even a pony car configuration.
As in ‘All muscle, not much car’.


#9

Evoke, note evocative. Damn Apple auto-replace.


#10

Many great cars are listed here. Who can choose? Growing up in the 50’s & 60’s was pretty cool if you liked cars. There were several “sleepers” on our street. Next door the neighbor had a 57 Caddy with dual quads. Across the street was a 56 Bel Air 4 door hardtop with a power pack 265 and all the goodies. A school teacher up the street drove her 57 t-bird to work daily and down the corner was a 64 Chevy Bel Air wagon with a 350 horse 327 and a factory four speed with that horrible GM shift linkage around the bench seat. My brother’s friend drove a 64 Buick wildcat coupe with a 425, dual quads and a four speed manual. Basically a Riviera GS with a stick. The list is endless. Ted Gotelli from Gtelli speed shop was a neighbor. His kid drove a 60 El Camino (in 1960) with a 348. tri-power and a four speed. Twins up the street got matching 61 Pontiac Catalinas with Ventura trim. Both with 389 tri-power, 4 speed ste ups. One in blue the other in red. I have to stop now as I’m drooling on my keyboard remembering them all. The guy who cut my hair had a red 62 Impala SS coupe. Yep, 4 speed, 409 with spinner hub caps. Those were exciting days.


#11

Is everyone forgetting the Studebaker Avanti? First car to achieve 1 horsepower per cubic inch. 15 mph higher top end than the GTO and the same ET through the quarter. Ran 177 mph at Bonneville in 1963 and held the speed record for several years.


#12

Yeah but that was much later than the cars we’re talking about here. And no, the Avanti was NOT the first car to achieve one horsepower per cubic inch.


#13

The muscle car that no one knew about, the 1957 Dodge D501, it was the 1956 Chrysler 300 Nascar spec. 355 HP 354 cubic inch hemi shoehorned into the smaller 1957 Dodge. They planned to make and sell 100 of them so they could go Nascar racing with them but had only made 56 of them when factory patticipation ended midyear.

I do have an earlier nomination for the first muscle car. the 1941 Buick Century with compound carbs (two 2 barrel They took the engine from the Roadmaster and put in the lighter and smaller Special and named it the Century. It was the fastest and most powerful American car of 41 and 42 with it’s straight 8 ohv engine making 165 hp and a genuine 100 mph car.

The compound carbs didn’t return after the war, possibly because the 41 Buick was faster than the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket V8. That would have been a little embarrassing for GM.


#14

Actually the Buick Century model appeared in 1935 and was so named because it was supposed to go 100 mph. I guess the NASCAR racers didn’t know about those '41 Centurys.


#15

My first love, in a lifelong series of fascinating cars.
I owned two C-300s (in sequence) in the 1960s, and a '58 300-D a bit later – all just used cars. Give Chrysler credit: these cars had brakes to nearly match the grunt upfront, and suspensions that were about all you could ask for from a mainstream mfr who wasn’t making a sportscar.


#16

How about the Ford Flathead V-8 produced in the 1930’s?
The 57 Thunderbird 312ci with the Paxton Supercharger.
There were many so called Muscle Cars back in the day,
they just had a different name, Hot Rods!


#17

I know the Century came out earlier, but the compound carbs came out in 41
and they are what made it more powerful than the Packard or Cadillac.


#18

Sooo many choices, each with its merits; but… the first muscle car (big engine in a small car) readily available at any dealership by anybody at a reasonable price was the 1964 Pontiac GTO. …and in 1964 there weren’t many cars cruising up & down main street USA that could run with a 389 tripower 3.55 posi 4-speed Goat. BTW, in the late '60s I made a nice living ($2-300 a week; $50-100 at a time) on the streets of Youngstown, Ohio racing a '65 tripower GTO out of the McDonalds on the east side. Mopars & Mustangs made my car payments. :slight_smile:


#19

Hey mikeev…great replay of the life of the average car lover growing up in suburban America in the '50’s and '60’s! My experiences were very much like yours! I remember a Doctor’s kid who got a car for graduation - 1965 GTO but it wasn’t powerful enough as a stock GTO, they had the local dealer install a 421 tri-power! Wow, was THAT thing fast! Those were the days! I weighed-in a while back on the first muscle car issue and it kind of comes down to the definition of a Muscle Car - I think the #1 criteria is, it has to be factory-built. If that’s the case, the 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 2 Dr Sedan was often cited as THE FIRST. It’s because Detroit took a larger V8 normally installed only in the larger 98’s and dropped it in a lightweight coupe. The results were tremendously successful for Olds because the hp/weight ratio of the competition simply couldn’t match it. After that, many of the examples described above all vied for the honor of being “the next one”. Just my 2 cents worth.


#20

First “muscle car” in American automotive history has gotta be the '55 Chrysler 300. C-300 – 300 horsepower Coupe!
Ended up getting myself a '63 Pace Setter Convertible with a 413 in it. Such a joy to drive.1963Chysler300Convertible4|666x500