Muscle cars have always held a special place in automotive enthusiasts’ hearts. Muscle cars represent the golden era of the American automotive industry in the eyes of most gearheads, which is why they’ve earned respect worldwide over the years. Most gearheads dream of owning muscle cars, but with only a few models remaining in production and rumors indicating that they could soon go extinct, it’s getting harder to find decent new muscle cars in 2023.
Thankfully, the used car market exists and is full of used muscle car options, ranging from models built in the 21st century to some of the top muscle cars of the ’60s. However, before you start browsing used car websites, it’s important to remember that some muscle cars can be a nightmare to maintain if you plan to drive them regularly, especially the classic models that have been around for decades. To help you find a good used, reliable car with some muscle, we’ve compiled a list of five reliable used muscle cars versus five unreliable ones to stay away from.
10 Reliable Used Muscle Car: 2005–2014 Ford Mustang
The Mustang is arguably Ford’s greatest model of all time, and undoubtedly, one of the greatest muscle car models. The Mustang debuted in the mid-60s and has been a key part of Ford’s lineup since. Ford recently unveiled the new 2023 Ford Mustang generation, indicating that the beloved model is here to stay.
Most Mustang generations and models have excellent reliability ratings. Ford has been perfecting the Mustang for years, and since the vehicle has been in the market for decades, finding spare parts and mechanics is easy. We’ve picked the fifth-generation Mustang for this article as it has a fantastic modern design, powerful and reliable V8 engines, and affordability.
9 Unreliable Used Muscle Car: 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
We’ve mentioned above that most Mustang generations make great purchases, but not the second generation. The second-generation Mustang debuted at the start of the malaise era, forcing Ford to downsize everything.
The second-generation Mustang turned out to be a huge disappointment that didn’t deserve the muscle car name. The design was uninspiring, and it lacked power even in the ‘high-performance’ 1978 King Cobra trim. The worst thing about the second-generation Mustang is that it used the Ford Pinto platform, which made it extremely unreliable.
8 Reliable Used Muscle Car: 1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
When Chevrolet introduced the third-generation Camaro in 1982, many gearheads didn’t like it. It just didn’t have enough power to be a true muscle car, especially the base model that had the horrible Iron Duke engine.
Three years later, Chevy made it up to its fans when it built one of the best special edition Camaros ever – the IROC-Z. The IROC-Z had a much-improved 5.0-liter V8 generating 225 hp – a respectable figure at the time. The IROC-Z makes a great purchase today as it’s affordable and since it’s a Camaro, maintenance is a piece of cake.
7 Unreliable Used Muscle Car: 1976 Plymouth Volare Road Runner
Chrysler-owned Plymouth built many well-known models before going out of business, and the Road Runner is among the most memorable. The Road Runner was a huge success during the first few years of its production, but Plymouth ruined it in 1976 when they built the awful Volare.
The Volare was initially a good idea, but it came at the worst time for the Chrysler Corporation. The company took many shortcuts during the Volare’s development, resulting in terrible build quality and multiple recalls.
6 Reliable Used Muscle Car: 2008-Present Dodge Challenger
Since Dodge discontinued the Challenger nameplate for the first time in 1983, gearheads were always asking the automaker for a revive. Dodge finally agreed more than two decades later, resulting in the third-generation Challenger in 2008.
The third-generation Challenger was an instant hit. Its design was modern, but it reminded gearheads of some of the best-looking ’60s muscle cars, which is why Dodge has kept it to date. The modern Challenger also comes with powerful and reliable V8 engines, making it a great daily driver.
5 Unreliable Used Muscle Car: 1980 Dodge Aspen R/T
As we mentioned above, Chrysler had a rough time in the late ’70s and had to cut costs during the development of its models. Another model that suffered as a result was the Dodge Aspen, which was essentially the Dodge version of the Plymouth Volare Road Runner.
Like the Volaré, the Aspen had a promising design but terrible build quality, resulting in terrible reliability. The Aspen also received multiple recalls for issues like faulty front brake lines, faulty seat belts, suspension failures, and chronic stalling. Definitely one of the worst muscle cars ever.
4 Reliable Used Muscle Car: 1964-1972 Pontiac GTO
The muscle car segment is arguably the biggest achievement of the American auto industry. The idea to put a large V8 engine under the hood of a two-door sports coupe came from an American automaker, and since then, the muscle car segment has grown to become popular worldwide.
To many gearheads, the muscle car segment wouldn’t exist today without the iconic Pontiac GTO. The Pontiac GTO’s design, power, and driving dynamics gave other automakers a blueprint to use when developing their own muscle car models, which is why everyone loves it.
3 Unreliable Used Muscle Car: 1980 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo
The Pontiac Firebird was one of the models that suffered the most during the malaise era. Even the high-performance Trans Am version could barely make 200 hp, especially from 1980 when Pontiac dropped all its large-displacement engines.
To give the Firebird more power, Pontiac decided to equip it with a turbocharger for the first time in 1980, resulting in the Trans Am Turbo. This turned out to be a mistake. For one, the Turbo didn’t add much power – something that became clear when Smokey and the Bandit II producers had to equip it with nitrous oxide to get the desired performance. The Turbo also made the Firebird unreliable.
2 Reliable Used Muscle Car: 1967-1970 Mercury Cougar
Mercury has been out of business for many years now, but gearheads will never forget it. The Ford-owned division built several fantastic cars, and one of them is the Cougar.
The Cougar debuted in 1967 and was essentially the Mercury version of the Ford Mustang. It used the Mustang platform and engines, but had a unique exterior design to set it apart. The Cougar was a huge hit and won many awards, including the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1967. Since it used Mustang parts, the Cougar is just as reliable as the Mustang and parts are readily available. However, we think it’s a better investment as it’s among the rare muscle cars you can still afford.
1 Unreliable Used Muscle Car: 1972 Mercury Montego GT
We’ve already given Mercury its flowers with the Cougar above, but there’s a reason why the automaker doesn’t exist today. Mercury built several awful models that slowly killed it over the years, and the Montego GT is one of them.
The Montego GT debuted in the early ’70s and was initially a hit thanks to its elegant design, upscale features, and range of V8 engines. However, the Montego GT has one big problem – rust issues. It’s hard to find one of these in rust-free condition.