HomeCar CultureQuestion of the Day: What is the first muscle car?

Question of the Day: What is the first muscle car?

Give us your take in the comments section

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What is the first muscle car?

Give us your take in the comments section.

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1961 Chevrolet Impala
David P. Castro
David P. Castro
David P. Castro is one of our lead writers. The Santa Rosa, California native is an experienced automotive and motorsports writer with a passion for American muscle cars. He is a credentialed automotive, NASCAR, and IndyCar reporter that graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno. A devoted F1 and NASCAR fan, he currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, son, Siberian Husky, Mini Cooper, and 1977 Chevrolet C10.

62 COMMENTS

  1. By EVERY definition of the term “Muscle Car”: a big motor in a mid-size car; the 1964 GTO was the first muscle car. Anything and everything else which followed was a copycat. I’m not saying there weren’t some good copycats. To me, the more, the merrier when it comes to a good (and fun!) thing.

    I had the distinct pleasure of not only growing up during this era, but I also owned a ’67 GTO for 20 years, from the Fall of 1975, to the Fall of 1995. It’s by far the most exciting and fun car I’ve ever owned!

  2. This is the one-two knockout punch!
    Opinions on the origin of the muscle car vary, but the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, is cited as the first full-sized muscle car.The Rocket 88 was the first time a powerful V8 engine was available in a smaller and lighter body style (in this case the 303 cu in (5.0 L) engine from the larger Oldsmobile 98 with the body from the six-cylinder Oldsmobile 76. The Rocket 88 produced 135 hp (101 kW) at 3600 rpm and 263 lb⋅ft (357 N⋅m) at 1800 rpm and won eight out of ten races in the 1950 NASCAR season. The Rocket 88’s Oldsmobile 303 V8 engine (along with the Cadillac 331 engine, also introduced in 1949) are stated to have “launched the modern era of the high-performance V-8.

    The first rock’n’roll record was ‘Rocket 88’, recorded by Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Jackie Brenston and co were, however, Ike Turner And His Kings Of Rhythm, and rock’n’roll was little more than a euphemism among the African-American population in early 20th–century America.

  3. The ‘65 Shelby Mustang was the best of the early era muscle cars, though I agree the GTO came first. By ‘67, all manufacturers were onboard and the public had many good choices.

  4. 421 Catalina is probably the first. 61-62 Chev 409 and some 61 Chrysler products preceded the 64 GTO. Granted the 389 in a light weight 64 LeMans body was the definitive muscle car if a couple of years late.

  5. Chrysler 300 / Plymouth & Dodge cross ram 426 wedge engines were about 2 years before the GTO. Chrysler also had the 361 cross ram. But, Pontiac was recognized to be the first to put the big motor in a smaller car so I guess you can look at in both ways.

  6. An il forgotten, and no one even mentions its existence…Oldsmobile Jet Star 1! Luxury ride. Family oriented. One Hell-of-a Jet Car. Check it out!

  7. The early 60’s model Studebaker’s, R2 and R3’s could make an argument for first muscle car. The hawk and lark we’re both midsize cars with beastly supercharged engines

  8. Y:all seem to forget the engine that Ford introduced a flatbed V-8 back in 1934 that John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow used to out run anyone they wanted to,but that’s not the first. In the 50s we saw glimpses of the first muscle car with the Corvette and Thunderbird… BUT… the 1st true muscle car the hit the dealerships was none other than the Pontiac GTO.

  9. 64 GTO!!! My Dad owned one, my granny had to co-sign for him when he bought it. Not long after that he married mom, and in 67 I came along…he had to trade it in for a 67 Catalina, 4 door. Family thing ya know.

    • To me this is a gray area. My opinion for a Muscle car should be a Big block engine (for its time period) manual transmission & dual exhaust in a Mid-size car. If the 1949 Rocket Olds came with all the above or any other earlier automobile then it should be crown the First!

  10. Don’t know the year, but my father used to say his father’s Buick Century from the 1950s was a muscle car-full size car engine in the smaller model. He said the car was very fast for its time.

  11. There were several performance cars during the 50’s that would qualify as muscle cars. But most people consider the 64 Goat to be the first official muscle car.

  12. Chrysler 300 was “the banker’s hot rod”. Mustang was the first “pony car”. There were super stock Dodges and Plymouths but they were factory race cars that came with no warranty. Pontiac GTO for the win.

  13. As the definition of “Muscle Car” is a big engine in a small, lightweight car with little creature comforts: and the true winner is a 1963 (modified by John Z) Pontiac Tempest.
    If Chevy had created a 409 425 HP Nova it would be their claim and why someone hasn’t crafted one of these baffles me.

  14. I like the 1962 409 Biscane Chevrolet . I had a 1964 GTO with 3×2’s with other performance work done. I couldn’t beat my pals 62 409. That 409 was a read bad muscle car.

  15. Yes gto is most called the 1st muscle car. Love em had a couple. But consider the definition big engine in midsized car: In 62 the Dodge and Plymouth were downsized sort of a late decision by mopar. 62 had the 413 and in 63 the 426. Check the weight and dimensions of the Dodge and Plymouth vs the 64 gto. MO, seems gto wasn’t the 1st.

  16. Depends on what decade you are qualifying 50s would be Nascar Hudson hornet inline 6 if I remember it won most Nascar races of the early fifties. Different decades have Different categories of cars that have had so many cubic inch and horse power capabilities. Up until this very time. Fastest drag times being set by female drivers.

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