1970 Oldsmobile 442
It’s unfortunate that Oldsmobile got such a bad rap in the 80’s and 90’s, eventually shuttering their factory with one final production vehicle roll-off in a sadly televised event. We say this because Oldsmobile is responsible for building one of the most stunning muscle cars to ever debut the great decade of the 70’s: The Oldsmobile 442. This bygone carmaker had produced some of the greatest performance V8s ever – well before Chevrolet and Pontiac. Oldsmobile was one of the first to introduce the modern overhead valve engines, so it’s only fitting that they built the epitome of muscle in 1970 with the Oldsmobile 442.
The 442, or simply “four-four-two”, got its name from its original configuration: 4-speed manual transmission, 4-barrel carb, and dual exhausts, all standard. The first 442’s came equipped with relatively meager powerplants, including a small-block 330 and eventually, a 389. GM stupidly banned its own mid-sized vehicles from receiving motors any larger than 400 cubic inches (we don’t even care why it really is stupid), though this ban was thankfully lifted in 1970.
And that’s why the 1970 442 is so wonderful because it was blessed with Oldsmobile’s fantastically powerful big-block 445 motor. It thumped out (likely underrated) 365 horses and 500 spine-twisting torques at the wheels. An optional W-30 code made a more powerful 455 motor available with true horsepower figures topping out at over 400.
But the W-30 was more than just a souped-up powerplant – it was an entire package that made the 1970 442 one of the greatest muscle cars of the era. The package included a fiberglass hood with too large, functioning air inlets that allow fresh air to meet the free-flowing air cleaner inside. A Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carb came tuned from the factory while a Hi-Po cam and big aluminum intake manifold ensured the 442 breathed as much as possible and spit just as much flame out of its polished tips.
Coupled with a 3.91:1 rear, the 1970 Oldsmobile 442 was capable of making the quarter mile in around 13.9 seconds, giving both the LS6 Chevelle and Hemi-equipped Dodges a run for their money. Particularly insane buyers could even opt for available 4.33, 4.66, and 5.00 rears. A competitive price tag of just $3,100 made the 442 attractive for the economy buyer that wanted as much power as possible. Although Oldsmobile kicked the bucket over a decade ago, its most stunning muscle car will live on thanks to its raw power and price. It also earns an easy spot on our list.
1970 Plymouth Barracuda
Look at the 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda, and you may think that its design and looks were stolen from the Chevy Camaro. You’d be wrong because it was likely the other way around. The O.G. Barracuda was introduced April 1st in 1964 and it quickly became a staple of power for Plymouth, whose muscle production was spurred along by the runaway success of the Ford Mustang.
The Barracuda has humble roots, with initial design and production based on the pedestrian Plymouth Valiant, a boring, square everyman’s sedan with few notable features. That doesn’t matter though because Plymouth’s engineers managed to take the square body of the Valiant and transform it into a sexy fastback using nothing more than some sheet metal trickery and a fastback rear molded by an oversized, wraparound rear window.
The Barracuda’s rushed production meant that it still came with the Valiant’s wheelbase, hood, headlamp bezels, windshield, vent windows, quarter panels, doors, A-pillars, and bumpers. For so many boring features to be re-tooled into a cool pony car that competed with the Mustang in the same year, the Barracuda was already a contender on our list.
What sealed the deal is the third generation roll-out of the ‘Cuda. This redesign got rid of all previous commonality with the Valiant, allowing the Barracuda to truly become its own American muscle icon. The tear-dropped fastback design was removed in favor of a coupe and convertible. Styled by John E. Herlitz (designer of the GTX and Road Runner), the new Barracuda’s shorter and wider wheelbase shared similarities with the Dodge Challenger. Ironically, these same similarities – dubbed the E-Body – allowed the Barracuda to shake itself free of its economy car stigma.
Of course, the Barracuda’s debut as Chrysler’s France Works Team race car helped it form its performance visage. Under the hood sat many motor options, but the most notable was Chrysler’s 426 Hemi and 440 V8. The Hemi produced a whopping 425 horses at the time, firmly placing it in Shelby and Cobra territory. Helping light that fire was a 440ci four and a six-barrel carburetor. On the business end, upgraded suspension and structural reinforcements were needed to plant all that power to the road.
Indeed, the Barracuda was all about showing off. Available factory options included numerous decal sets, hood modifications, and in-your-face colors like Lime Light, Bahama Yellow, Tor Red, Lemon Twist, Sassy Grass, and Moulin Rouge. The Barracuda’s loud image, insane power, and its numerous entrances in the racing world (like All American Racers and the 1970 Trans-Am Series) easily earn it a spot on our list of 25 stunning muscle cars.