Big, bad, rumbly V8s, rear-wheel drive, and a chassis about as well refined as a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Muscle cars are the American dream on four wheels. With today’s market prices, though, they’re really becoming a dream.
The death of the muscle cars is just weeks away. So, prices are soaring! You’re lucky, however, because you’re reading this blog. So, of course, we’re going to show you some cheap muscle cars that you can still enjoy if you make, well, normal amounts of money.
1978-1993 Fox Body Mustang – Foxy Lady
Our first car is one that has grown a lot in popularity recently. It’s one of the misfit muscle cars from the age of the gas crisis. But, thanks to the aftermarket community, this little pony has earned a nice reputation for itself.
The original Mustang is an all-American classic. But, by the time the ’80s and ’90s rolled around, the ‘Stang had changed. It wasn’t the same pony car, but it became a short, stubby hatchback. There wasn’t even a 5.0-liter on offer when the original fox body Mustang came out. These changes were all a response to the gas crisis.
But, if the Mustang had turned into a little econobox, why is it on our list? Well, because the Mustang had some life left in it. And the ‘Stang got its mojo back. Visual changes were implemented to bring back the old Mustang look. These updates helped, but the V8 making a comeback is what really got people excited. It didn’t look like a muscle car but it had the heart of one. This was more like the Mustang from the good old days.
The fox body had slightly redeemed itself; however, it remained the black sheep of the Mustang’s lineage. But that doesn’t mean people have completely abandoned modding it. People are easily able to get 400 horsepower from their little muscle cars and, from there, the possibilities are endless!
Converted into drag cars, track day cars, and Sunday cruisers, this is the Miata of the muscle car world. That’s the biggest reason we’ve selected the fox body for our list. This is one of the most modular variations of the ‘Stang on the used market and we’ve seen plenty of them on sale for less than $10,000. We found a convertible one for $6,500 on AutoTrader and, frankly, that’s a killer deal.
Our next car is a little less at home on the drag-strip and probably more widely used at local Southern California car meets with Dayton wheels. These are bad cruising machines that can still pack some of that classic American muscle punch.
1972-1983 Chevy Malibu – Riding Like a G
The G-body itself is a pretty versatile chassis, making its first appearance in the 1960s. This chassis found itself being used by a wide variety of GM personal luxury cars, and the Malibu was one such car. The Malibu our grandfathers knew had more of the muscle car formula than the current model. Fitted with a 5.0-liter V8, the G-body had the heart and soundtrack of a traditional muscle car. Rear-wheel drive also helped pull off some sick burnouts!
What makes the Malibu a choice for our list is the ability to mod both the chassis and engine. Both can be taken to wild extremes to make some seriously badass machines. You’ll see Malibus as drag racers, as grand tourers, on dubs, slammed on their asses, and in pretty much any configuration under the sun. That’s what makes the Malibu so cool and so appealing to the car community.
We found a wagon from AutoTempest for just under $10,000! And it already has some pretty sweet mods done to it already! So, no matter what crowd you like to cruise with, we think that you can’t go wrong with a jack-of-all-trades car like the Malibu.
Our next car is pretty similar to the last one. In fact, it’s based on the same chassis, so we figured it would be better to knock out two birds with one stone. This is one of the many brothers of the Malibu, the Buick Regal!
1972-1983 Buick Regal – G-Body 2: Electric Boogaloo
So, the Chevy Malibu is an established multipurpose tool for the car community. But what if you want to be a little different? Something a little sportier? That’s where the Buick Regal comes into play.
The Regal was a more elegant car with more luxuries, but it still had what would be known as the 3800. This V6 powerplant is known as one of the best in American history. Later years brought several different versions of the Regal, including a turbocharged V6 and a Grand National version. And I think we all know about the GNX Regal, the famous turbocharged V6 monster from an era where muscle cars were disappearing.
Unfortunately, that Regal isn’t on our list, but the base models certainly are. We found one equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 for less than $10,000. Like most other GM motors, this one can be modded with relative ease. So, if you want something a little different from the Malibu with racing heritage, take a look at the Regal.
The next car on our list is part of a long line of muscle cars. Some people would say it’s the ying to the Mustang’s yang.
1993-2002 Chevy Camaro – The Catfish
This is going to be a divisive one, but hear us out. This is a car worth looking at, even if its nickname is “The Catfish”. So, mid-90s muscle cars aren’t usually everyone’s favorite, but the 1995 Camaro should definitely be on your radar, particularly the V8-powered Z28.
Not only are these things cheap as hell thanks to their mostly plastic construction, but they’re also super easy to mod. If you can look past all of the 90s GM “charm,” the Catfish is one of the best cases for a cheap-as-hell V8 that you should totally have in your garage at some point.
We found one on AutoTempest for less than $10,000 with a 5.7-liter V8! It’s not a T-top coupe, but the muscle car formula is there, so why not take a dive with The Catfish?
And, now, we move from one Chevy to the next. This one, like the Camaro, is an all-time classic.
1983-1996 Chevy Corvette – Digital Dashboards and Synth-Pop
This probably wasn’t your grandpa’s Corvette, but it’s still a great car. Coming from the time of synth-pop and neon, the C4 ‘Vette represented a completely new generation of sports car from Chevy.
The chassis was completely overhauled and the styling took on the mood of the time. It also saw the implementation of molding plastics in the bodywork, probably the same stuff used to make G.I. Joe toys. Of course, the styling wasn’t the only part that makes the C4 so cool. The liquid digital display was completely revolutionary at the time and dates the ‘Vette as much as its cassette player. But, if you like synth-pop, arcade games, and square digital watches, we think you’ll dig it.
The C4 also comes with the Chevy-standard L-series V8s. There are so many examples based on the particular model you’re looking at, but they’re all equally moddable for more punch. And, of course, we have to talk about one of the best features an old car can have: pop-up headlights! We promise you’ll get a kick every time those babies pop. Some things just never get old.
So, what does all of this 80s excellence cost you? What if we said that it can all be had for under $10,000? That’s a pretty rad deal if you ask us. So, if you want to be able to really run with the RADwood crowd, we seriously suggest you pick one of these bad boys up.
We’re going to change gears here for a minute and look at a couple of more modern examples of great, cheap muscle cars. This one comes as a sequel to one of the most legendary muscle cars of all time. And you may have seen a couple of these drag a safe through Brazil in a movie.
2006-2010 Dodge Charger – The Fast and the Furious
The Dodge Charger is probably one of the best-known muscle cars from the heyday of American muscle. This is, in part, due to the fact that they were great tools for awesome burnouts and probably also due to their role in a certain movie franchise. These bad boys aren’t just spending their time racing Supras and dragging safes, they also make for great, cheap muscle cars for those of us who can’t afford a heist crew.
The new Charger from the 2000s made a serious departure from its origins, becoming a four-door family car used by everyone from that guy at your gym still wearing Ed Hardy shirts to the mom down the street.
But, Dodge is Dodge and they know how to make anything intimidating and mean. The Charger could never go without its signature Hemi engine. That’s what makes the newer Charger such a great deal. You’re getting practicality and power all in one! There’s also an expansive modding community for the Hemi engine.
So, whether you want a drag-car, a track car, or just something to get you to the grocery store a little faster, then there’s a mod to make your Charger really charge. These beasts can be had for dangerously cheap, less than $10,000 for one on the used market. We found one for $8,000 that’s a decommissioned police car. That’s badass.
So, go live out your Fast and Furious dreams with your own Charger. Just promise us you won’t try and steal safes.
This is another four-door from a company that is unfortunately no longer with us. These cars are perfect sleepers because no one ever expects them to actually be quick.
2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP – The Unexpected
Pontiac is one of those companies we can’t help but miss. They’ve been a part of American car culture for decades and it was sad when GM decided to pull the plug on them. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all of that muscle car glory. Because Pontiac is a dead brand, their classic muscle cars ask a little more than the newer ones, but that works for our list.
The Grand Prix was a sedan Pontiac developed to keep the company afloat and keep up with the need for family cars because family cars had become sedans and SUVs, not cool muscle-car coupes. The GXP model was Pontiac’s own attempt to hold onto those old glory days.
Most GXPs you’ll find won’t have the full V8. But, if you look hard enough, there are 2006 models that have the glorious 8-cylinder under the hood. That’s the one we’ll want you to look for. The GXP doesn’t get a lot of love from the muscle car community because it’s front-wheel drive, but there are plenty of good front-wheel drive cars out there.
If you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find one of these gems hiding on the used market. We think the search is worth it.
Okay, so before we get to our last pick for this list, let’s look at one honorable mention from across the Atlantic.
BMW 6 Series – The Euro Muscle
I bet you weren’t expecting to see a European car on this list, were you? This is one of the hidden muscle-car gems from the other side of the Atlantic. The 6 Series is a V8, rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission BMW that we think fits the bill perfectly.
The BMW 6 Series is a great example of Euro muscle, ticking all the right boxes needed for a good brute of a car while still retaining some nice European refinement. The interior is going to be well laid out and well-trimmed. Just ignore the BMW iDrive. That’s why we wanted to include this all-black example on our list.
Your dollar has to stretch a little further, but we think it’s worth it to have one of these beasts in your garage. And, just like that, we’re on our last pick for this list. And it’s a classic!
2005-2011 Ford Mustang – The Modern Pony Car
We’ve already talked about the Mustang on this list but it was one of the older versions. This one is a little more contemporary and was regarded as a return to form for the little pony car. The 2005 model was one of the best-looking versions of the Mustang to come out in a long time. It was squared-off and muscular and even had a fastback roof. It had all the traits that the couple previous generations lacked.
This generation of the Mustang is just as versatile as the previous and succeeding generations. It can be built into a drag car, a track monster, a perfect daily for commuting, or anything else you could want from a V8 muscle car.
So, what can you get for $15,000 on the used market? Well, we found a perfectly good example with the signature Ford V8! This is the quintessential Mustang experience: full V8 power, a manual transmission with a bright white shift knob, and rear-wheel drive for plenty of burnout fun.
This is what muscle car fun is all about, getting a relatively cheap V8 that you can use for whatever you want. And this is one of the best options for the price.