blank 12/23/13 01:58PM 1970's Muscle Cars, Muscle Car Performance

Was 1970 the Pinnacle for the Muscle Car?
Guest Blog from Wild About Cars

The LS6 SS454 Chevelle could kick some major league butt - leaving Hot Rod Magazine to call it the "Earth Mover"

Hot Rod Magazine - and just about every other magazine - considered 1970 as the pinnacle year for the Muscle Car.

Click HERE for downloadable copies of the Ads depicted below
"Earth Mover"

*Glory Days - Was 1970 the Pinnacle for the Muscle Car? Maybe Not.

by Wild About Cars Staff

OK, there is probably not much question about 1970 being the pinnacle in Muscle Car performance, after all, we only have to look at cars like the LS6 Chevelle pictured here to make a good argument for that – but is performance the measure of the "pinnacle" or something else??

To the staff here at WAC, performance may NOT be the reason to name any year the pinnacle. In fact, it could be argued that 1968 or 1969 was the pinnacle, because, if you look closely, in 1970 or any year for that matter, so few of these killer cars were made when compared to the run of the mill Muscle Cars produced. So what are you talking about when you use the word “pinnacle”? Production? Performance? Choices?

Well, from a GM point of view, 1970 was likely the performance pinnacle. Why? Because the Factory finally took off the 400 cu in restriction and this opened the floodgates to likely the highest performance offerings in Buick, Chevy, Olds and Pontiac.
Over at Chrysler, the only 1970 breakthrough was the offer of the Hemi in the Barracuda/Challenger.

At Ford, for 1970, the Boss 429 continued to be offered.  The new 429 Cobra Jet was an available option, but it was not a huge performance leap over the 428 Cobra Jet.
At AMC, the venerable 390 became a 401, and the Rebel “Machine” arrived, but the Javelin and AMX had very similar performance to the 68-69 390 cars.

However, even with these new 1970 offerings, sales figures belie the pinnacle theory. In fact, across the board, ALL makers had much better sales years, performance car-wise in 1968 and 1969.  Everywhere you look, the numbers were better then.

So while some awesome cars showed up in that “pinnacle” year, the decline was already on the way. Here are some numbers to make our case:

  • AMC Javelin – 1968 = 55,124, 1970 = 28,210

  • Buick GS – 1968 = 21,514, 1970 = 20,096

  • Chevy Malibu SS – 1969 = 86,307, 1970 = 62,372

  • Dodge Charger – 1968 = 96,100, 1970 = 46,576

  • Ford Torino GT – 1968 = 100,384, 1970 = 68,430

  • Mercury Cyclone – 1968 = 13,628, 1970 = 13,496

  • Olds 442 – 1968 = 34,122, 1970 = 19,330

  • Plymouth GTX – 1968 = 18,940, 1970 = 7,748

  • Pontiac GTO – 1968 = 87,684, 1970 = 39,981

So when you slice it and dice it, the pinnacle year for putting muscle cars in the hands of the enthusiast was 1968, not 1970. 

We think of this period as “the Golden Age”, and what is so funny is that in the history of the OHV V-8, it was but a blip, covering 1964 through 1970. And if you check the 1971-72 numbers, they confirm that the gold had turned to lead.

Here are some great 1970’s Road Tests:

This article courtesy of Wild About Cars

AMC's Rebel "Machine" was late to the muscle car scene, but it could hold its own.

Buick GS 455s with the Stage I package were surprisingly fast - Dealer installed Stage IIs - fugitaboutit

This image from the 1970 Chevelle SS handout pretty much says it all with out saying anything.

Chargers came in a ton of performance flavors, but tipping the list was the famous Hemi and the 440 "six-pack".

Ford touted their new 429 CJ in the Torino - and rightly they should have - it was no slouch.

Mercury's Cyclone GT with the 429 CJ could run just as hard as the Torino.

The W-30 was Oldsmobile's Super Muscle Car and it ran hard and strong in 1970

Plymouth's GTX was the upscale muscle and with 440-6 and Hemi power (plus the air grabber hood shown) was super strong!

Judge or straight GTO - all could be had with the RA (Ram Air) IV 400 or the 455 HO.

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