5 of the Most-Coveted Classic Tuner Cars

Tuner cars are nothing new. Back in the ’60s, they were called third-party muscle cars, modified by the dealership or company to increase performance over what the factory offered. Some of them took it a step further and added exclusive wheels, body parts, or custom paint. They built what manufacturers didn’t offer, and a number of legends came out of that work.

Today, Yenko and Baldwin-Motion Chevys, Royal Oak Pontiacs, and Mustang Stallions and Shelby cars are some of the most sought-after vehicles in the classic muscle car market. Here’s a look at some of the fastest and most well-known classic tuners.

Ford

Shelby GT500

Shelby GT500, Source | GPS 56/Flickr

Shelby GT500

It doesn’t really get much bigger than this. From numerous race wins in the ’60s to Nicolas Cage drooling over one in “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” the GT500 is arguably the best-known tuner car of all time. Carroll Shelby knew the Ford Mustang could be more than a “secretary’s car” and totally changed its attitude by reworking the entire vehicle, including pulling the pedestrian 289ci V8 in favor of a 428ci. More than just turning up the horsepower knob, Shelby added a race-worthy suspension built from his Le Mans days (Shelby had been on the GT40 team), so it could tear up the corners as well as the drag strip. Stripes and custom parts helped the visual punch, contributing to the legend and making the GT500 one of today’s most expensive muscle cars.

Chevrolet

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Chevrolet Camaro, Source | mashleymorgan/Flickr

Baldwin-Motion Phase III Camaro

The Camaro was designed to fight the Mustang, so building a competitor to the GT500 was a natural conclusion. The Baldwin Chevrolet dealership teamed with a nearby speedshop, Motion Performance, to create a limited run of super-muscle cars. Baldwin-Motion would work on nearly anything, but it was famous for the Phase III Camaro (no, there wasn’t a phase I or II). This beast packed a 427 that had been heavily massaged with race-worthy parts. Advertising listed it as 500 horsepower and “unreal” torque. That’s not an exaggeration, as it could run 11.5 in the quarter mile. With optional bulging hoods, side pipes, and outrageous paint colors, these cars weren’t subtle, but they were fast.

Yenko SC427 Nova

Don Yenko’s dealership and performance shop had been building hot versions of the Camaro and Corvair for years by 1969. That experience allowed him to get the new Nova right the first time around. Pulling the top-of-the-line 427ci V8 from the big Chevelle SS, Yenko stuffed it, along with a four-speed manual, into the tiny Nova, making a hilariously fun and dangerous car. Four-hundred-and-fifty horsepower was good for 11 seconds in the quarter on slicks, and even zero-to-60 passed in just 5.1 seconds. It would be 30 years before the factory Camaro could do it that quickly, and for the ’60s it was very impressive. Yenko later reflected in Road & Track that the SC427 Nova was “barely legal at best” and was probably too dangerous for the street.

Pontiac

Royal Bobcat GTO

GM’s excitement division arguably created the muscle car in 1964, but by 1968, the 400ci-powered GTO was fading into the rearview. Mega-dealership Royal Pontiac decided to change things by swapping in a 428ci V8 with a fistful of upgrades. Loaded up with ram air and steeper gear ratios, the rebadged Bobcats were capable of daily driving but were a handful at the limit. Car and Driver called them dangerous in the wrong hands, as they were civil enough for grandma around town but just a gas pedal away from supercar firepower. Bobcats were good for 13-flat in the quarter, if you had tires that could grip all that torque. On regular street tires, they were good at turning rubber into smoke.

Dodge

Hurst/Spaulding Dart GTS 440

The Dart was an attractive but mild-looking compact, and it had acceptable performance with its 340ci V8. The late ’60s demanded more speed, so legendary aftermarket performance company Hurst and Chicago dealership Mr. Norm’s Grand Spaulding worked together to stuff Chrysler’s 440ci mountain motor in the compact Dart. Conservatively rated at 375 hp and 480 lb/ft, the repowered Dart weighed 3,600 pounds. The result was shenanigans, as the Dart GTS 440 was severely nose heavy, and lacked power steering or a warranty. It didn’t matter, though, as the overpowered compact could run low 13s in the quarter mile, beating Corvettes for half the price.

These tuned classics were performance bargains in their day but now sell for serious cash. Ever seen one at a car show or the strip? Let us know your favorite in the comments below.

A Look Back at the Truckcar

Lots of people love pickup trucks but don’t always have the need for a full-size truck. Way back in the ’50s, manufacturers developed a solution with the car-based truck, commonly called the truckcar, or coupe utility. Whatever you call ’em, the idea is the same. Take a car chassis and drivetrain, and drop a small pickup bed out back. While they’re the automotive equivalent of the mullet (business up front, party in the back), the classic truckcar has earned a place in the hearts of many.

Full-size legends

Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero

While truck-ish cars have existed almost since the beginning of the car, Ford really kicked things off with the introduction of the 1957 Ranchero. Built on the full-size Ford sedan and coupe chassis, the Ranchero obviously differed from other cars with its body-integrated pickup bed. At a little over 5 feet long, the Ranchero bed offered light work potential in an easy-to-drive, car-like package.

The ’60s saw the Ranchero transition to the compact Falcon chassis, then the larger Torino, where giant engines like the 460 V8 were common. Cargo ratings hovered just over 1,000 pounds throughout the changes, making the Ranchero a true “half-ton truck.” While it sold well, light trucks were exempt from emissions and mileage requirements, so 1979 was the Ranchero’s last year, as it was replaced by the Ford Ranger compact truck.

The El Camino

The El Camino, Source | Allen Watkin

GM noticed early surging sales of the Ranchero and quickly developed its own competitor. The ’59 El Camino was based off the full-size Chevy sedan/wagon chassis but offered a variety of engines, from a weak inline six, to the fuel-injected 283 Ramjet. The second generation switched to the smaller Chevelle platform, and the El Camino mirrored the muscle car’s options and equipment, including the 396 V8.

The ’70s weren’t a great time for most car manufacturers, but the El Camino survived better than most. With a big-block 454 V8, manual trans, and rear-wheel drive under a lightweight rear, the El Camino was a groovy burnout machine that also delivered a respectable 5,000-pound tow rating when properly optioned.

Compact and odd

Subaru BRAT

The Subaru BRAT, Source | ilikewaffles

Around the time the Ranchero was disappearing in favor of light trucks, Subaru developed this odd little competitor. The BRAT differed from the American car-trucks with its 1.6-liter inline four cylinder making all of 67 horsepower, and driving all four wheels. While the bed was small, the weirdness continued there, with the option of two rear-facing jump seats. Alongside Van Halen’s best years, the BRAT was only available from 1978 to 1985.

Dodge Rampage

The Dodge Rampage, Source | John Lloyd

Apparently the coupe utility market was hot in the early ’80s, as Dodge felt the need to jump in with the Rampage. Despite the popularity of the K chassis, this little guy was built off the L platform (think Dodge Omni) and featured a 2.2-liter inline four powering the front wheels. That’s peak 1980s right there: a FWD truck with a tape player. It was even available in “Garnet Pearl Metallic,” which is ’80s-speak for neon pink. Rad.

Want one brand new?

Holden Ute

The Holden Ute, Source | FotoSleuth

Australia has a unique place in automotive history, as it never forgot how to build a muscle car, even during the 1970s and ’80s. The Aussie version of the El Camino is the Holden Ute. Like standard versions of the truckcar, the Ute features a modern chassis, suspension, and interior, with all the useful bed space you would likely need. If a standard V6 isn’t enough power, step up to the SS version, which features a 400+ horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and 6-speed manual transmission. With a 3,500-pound tow rating, it can haul your race car to the track, and then rip off a high 12-second quarter mile. Work and play in one great-looking package.

Volkswagen Saveiro

The Volkswagen Saveiro, Source | Wikipedia

While the 1980s mostly put an end to the rear-wheel drive truckcar, the Ute has held out until 2017. Now the closest comparable vehicles are small front-wheel drive truckcars like the VW Saveiro. This subcompact coupe utility drives the front wheels with a choice of four-cylinder engines, which is plenty of power when your truck is three-feet shorter than a Toyota Tacoma. Cheap and economical, the Saveiro meets the needs of many owners. Want one? You’ll have to move outside the US, as Volkswagen has no plans to sell them here.

While the truckcar doesn’t look to be returning to the USA anytime soon, we do have a lot of options if you don’t mind buying used. From a fun muscle project to a useful truck alternative, the truckcar style has a lot to offer.

Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

9 Dream Cars You Could Actually Own (Thanks to Depreciation)

Depreciation is a disappointing reality for new car owners, but it also has a bright side for those who avoid buying new: allowing magnificent machines to become easily affordable in just a few years. If you don’t mind your “new” ride having some miles, depreciated mega luxury and exotic vehicles may have exactly what you’re looking for at an unbeatable price. We get that these types of cars are often more expensive to repair or harder to find parts for, making them still out of budget for a lot of us.

However, consider us dreamers.

Since the average new car costs just over $33,000, let’s look at a few head-turning examples that undercut your everyday rides.

Aston Martin DB7

Let’s start off big. Less than $30,000 buys a hand-built British super-coupe with a 5.9-liter V12. The DB7 still looks and sounds amazing today, and low mileage examples are easily found online. At this price point, your Aston will be a little older—about turn of the millennium—but it will be loaded with luxury features. Unfortunately, it won’t have rockets or ejection seats, but it will make you feel as cool as James Bond.

Audi S8

Audi’s big sedan drives as beautifully as it looks, partially due to the 5.2-liter V10 delivering 450 horsepower. The Tiptronic six-speed transmission sends that power to all four wheels, so this can be your practical winter car. There’s also adaptive bi-xenon headlights, Alcantara and aluminum trim, and a seven-inch nav screen. How much does all that cost? Under $20,000 if you don’t mind a decade back, but still under $30,000 for a gorgeous 2009.

Cadillac Escalade

Cadillac Escalade

Perhaps a big family hauler is more of your dream ride. If the Aston won’t carry your five kids, take a look into a used Escalade. New examples start at $75,000, but if you don’t mind the previous body style, you can score a 4WD luxury SUV for less than half that price. Expect leather and speakers everywhere, tons of convenience features, and a 6.2L V8 making the best tow rating on this list. Who says your dream ride can’t be practical?

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Surprised to see a Chevy here? The sixth-generation Z06 put supercars on notice, with 505 horsepower coming from one of the biggest engines available in modern times, a 7.0-liter LS7 V8. The on-track performance was incredible, even with a base price of 70 grand. The years have been kind to this ‘vette, meaning you can score a reliable and powerful coupe for around $30,000. That might be the most horsepower you can buy for the money.

Hummer H1

If you’re more of the off-road type, we’ve got you covered. The original H1 was a military brute barely adapted for street use. It was not the greatest daily driver due to the Spartan interior (the features list is just an AM/FM radio), but over the years it forged a massive cult following. You won’t win any races with more than 7,000 pounds and a 6.5-liter diesel V8, but getting to your favorite fishing hole will be easy and fun. Originally six figures, 20-something models will set you back far less.

Hyundai Equus

Not many kids put posters of a Hyundai on their bedroom walls, but that could be changing. Evidence lies in the excellent Equus, mainly known as the most expensive Hyundai ever made, fully optioned to nearly $70,000. That cash buys a lot of car here, as the Equus is comparable to a loaded BMW 7-Series. Power is impressive, from the 5.0-liter “Tau” V8 driving the rear wheels, and an eight-speed auto keeps the shifting refined. This isn’t your buddy’s Sonata, but a used one is the same price.

Land Rover Range Rover

Land Rover Range Rover

If you enjoy off-roading and a vehicle with civil on-road manners, don’t buy two vehicles, just get a supercharged Range Rover. The blower helps the 5.0-liter V8 churn out 510 horsepower, turning this classy British SUV into a genuine hot rod. Sure, there’s leather, Bluetooth, and dual-zone climate control, but it also has air suspension, descent control, and gigantic 15-inch Brembo brakes.

Lotus Elise

Possibly the most head-turning ride on this list, the Elise may be old enough to buy alcohol, but it still gets lots of looks. The mid-mounted Toyota sourced 1.8-liter inline four cylinder isn’t all that impressive at 189 horsepower, until you realize it only has to push 1,900 pounds. That’s less than half a Dodge Challenger. The lack of weight makes the Elise quick, especially around corners. If you can swing Toyota Camry money for a reliable and fun two-seat roadster, get this one.

Porsche 911

Porsche 911

Yes, even legends depreciate. Under $30K used to mean you were stuck looking at a less desirable 996 model. While they are smokin’ bargains right now, the 997 series (2005–2012) is better looking and more capable. The 3.8-liter flat six is up to 355 horsepower, and the engine sound from behind you is absolutely perfect. The interior is refined and modern, but not busy with extra tech. If it has all its service records, a 911 can even be reliable. You won’t get a GT3 for this price, but the Carrera S is just as nice if you squint.

While these depreciated dream rides do have some miles on them, they can usually serve as daily drivers if you keep up on the maintenance. That’s a small price to pay for a vehicle that will put a smile on your face every time you see it.

Thinking of buying your dream ride? Let us know what you’re searching for in the comments below.

Our First Cars: Three Revs For High School Cars

Your first car is special. It’s your first time driving on the road alone; your first grownup date with your sweetheart; and really, your first true form of independence. It may not have been the newest or most luxurious, but your high school car represented something more than just a vehicle—it kindled the pioneer spirit that Model T drivers had when they were able to expand their world. Your first car allowed you to explore the long roads ahead of you.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

The Cars That Taught Us (Some) Responsibility

But let’s not get too sappy here. High school cars came with first speeding tickets, first flat tires, and first repair bills. It wasn’t until years later, though, that we could look back and truly appreciate our first rides. We learned how to drive on them, but more importantly, we learned responsibility from owning them. A new set of tires cost us a whole summer job’s pay. Not having washer fluid when we were stuck behind a muddy construction truck meant we started regularly checking the fluid reservoir. In hindsight, we probably all wish that we had treated our high school cars better, because they gave us more than we ever returned.

A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license.

So with junior and senior year starting this September for new drivers across the country, let’s leave our first cars with an overdue parting gift, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat vehicle. Call it an ode to our first cars. Let’s share the best and the worst parts. To get the party started, a few of us at Advance have volunteered our high school car stories!

Ode to First Cars

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1972 Plymouth SCAMP. I started saving for the car when I was 14, and bought the car shortly after getting my first real job right after I got my driver’s license at 16. A member at our church had posted the car for sale, and I begged him to sell me the car, even though I didn’t have the money or a driver’s license. He finally agreed and I gave him a token $50 deposit. It was a 2-door hardtop, Gloss Red with a 318hp eight-cylinder engine, with lots of rust and I still paid $900 for it. My friends nick-named it the ‘Red Rocket,’ but it was a rocket that I never knew how fast I was going in because I could never get the speedometer to work. Nevertheless, it served me well through my high school years and I didn’t get a single speeding ticket, although I got stopped four times. I just told the officer my speedometer cable broke, and they let me off with warnings.” -Greg M.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1991 Chevy Corsica. I got it in the fall of 1995 when I was a junior. I could often be seen driving around with three hubcaps because they were plastic and fell off a lot. It didn’t run the greatest, only had an AM/FM radio, and there were NO automatic features. But that’s ok, its unreliability helped me get my very first cell phone in case I broke down on my way home from college.” – Lorie P.

“I got my first car, a 1980 Chevy Camaro, when I was 17 with a loan from my dad. My mom actually found the car in our small town newspaper. We bought it from a widow who was selling her late husband’s car. Her husband was the original owner and had only put 36,000 miles on it. I actually got to take the car for a short test drive down the street. When my dad and I got home after looking at the car I remember rationalizing the price to him. The Camaro was my daily driver for the next 13 years.” – Byron N.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was a 1988 Toyota Camry—a hand-me-down from my stepdad that had the automatic sliding seat belts that forced you into safety mode once you shut the door. Everything about this car was gray. Gray paint, gray upholstery, gray carpet. I named him Steely Dan and drove him back and forth from Virginia to Tennessee for college until he finally kicked the bucket my junior year.” – Sarah M.

“My first car I ever drove in high school was a 1986 CJ7 Jeep with a manual transmission. I was so excited and relentlessly begged my parents to buy it for me even though I had never driven a manual before. My parents didn’t think it was a good idea, but I insisted. After all, how hard is it to learn to drive a stick shift on an old Jeep? About a week after they bought me the Jeep, I was begging them to sell it. I quickly realized that I was too afraid to actually drive it on the road. I have been driving an automatic ever since.” – Whitney S.

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

“My first car was one that I had no business driving as a teen in the Midwest: a green 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider. It was loud, occasionally started in winter with an oil pan electric heater, super fun in the spring and fall, sweaty in the summer. Some people never learn, like me, so now I have a blue ’74 Spider.” – Richard M.

“I had a white 1977 Malibu Classic that my dad gave me. I bought chrome hubcaps and had someone in town paint it red for me. Then I took it to the new car wash and the high pressure water peeled off huge strips of paint! I was near tears because I had saved all of the money from my summer job to get the car painted. I had to drive it around with big strips of white paint showing through for quite some time.” – Dave K.

“My first car was a 2001 Dodge Neon R/T, handed down to me from my father. It was a neat little car, all black with a five-speed manual transmission and a decent engine. I did my share of stupid stuff until I got older and wiser, like fishtailing wet turns using my e-brake, burning my clutch disc and tires by popping into first gear at 6,000 RPMs, and going 8,000 miles without an oil change on conventional (gulp…sorry, car!).” – Neil B.

Share Your High School Car Story

What was your first car? Were you parking a block from school so no one could see it or were you washing and waxing it every week? Share your stories and photos on our Facebook page or reply in the comments.

Our Favorite American Muscle Cars of Each Decade

The fireworks may be shooting off this weekend in celebration of our nation’s birthday, but it always sounds like the 4th of July to us when we hear the rumble and exhaust of a 650 hp V8 engine. What better way to honor the holiday than to pay homage to the beasts on four wheels that have come out of Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio over the years.

American muscle cars have evolved throughout the decades as technology improved and styling cues shifted, but they have always stayed true to their powerhouse DNA. The result is a legacy of over 60 years that has made for one heck of a ride. Read on to find out which muscle cars we picked as our favorites from each decade.

The “First” Muscle Car: 1940s

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 | Photo via Barrett-Jackson

After the first American-made car appeared in 1893, plenty of other high-revving vehicles began popping up on our roads (think early race cars and gangster getaway cars). But it wasn’t until Oldsmobile’s 1949 Rocket 88 that the first true American muscle car arrived. Designed with a revolutionary overhead valve concept V8 engine, the Rocket 88 output 135 horsepower and 283 lb·ft torque on a light and nimble chassis, boasting more power and better fuel economy than its peers.

The Rocket dominated NASCAR that year and into the early ’50s, taking on the moniker, “King of NASCAR,” and paving the way for all muscle cars to come.

 The “Fabulous” Muscle Cars: 1950s

1955 Chevy Classic V8

1955 Chevy Bel Air V8

The muscle cars of the fabulous ’50s were all about pastel colors, whitewall tires, front bench seats, and convertible roof options. But make no mistake, these pioneer muscle cars had plenty of power under their long hoods. Thanks to a post-war boom in automotive sales, car manufacturers began loading up the horsepower and stretching cars’ limits. The most notable muscle car of this decade was the 1955 Chevy Classic V8.

The ’55 Chevy’s success came from it’s small-block 265 cu V8 engine, which was so reliable that it would become the foundation of Chevrolet’s muscle cars for the decades to come. Able to hit 195 horsepower, the ’55 Chevy found a place in the garages of millions of auto enthusiasts, accounting for nearly 23% of all car sales that year. This was the car that turned us onto muscle cars. And we’ve never looked back.

Runners-Up:

  • 1956 Mercury Montclair
    The Montclair featured a 260 hp V8 engine that put out plenty of power and had the 1950s classic look.
  • 1958 Packard Hawk
    Long wing panels, a hood scoop, and a supercharged 275 hp engine makes this Hawk a true ’50s muscle car.
  • 1959 Chrysler 300E
    Maybe ahead of its time, the 300E fell flat on sales, but has now become a rare gem among collectors. The 300E could belt out 380 horsepower—incredible for its time!

The ’55 Chevy found a place in the garages of millions of auto enthusiasts, accounting for nearly 23% of all car sales that year.

The Pony Cars: 1960s

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

The Ford Mustang hit the market in 1964, ushering in the era of pony cars—powerful compact cars—and creating a wave of competition that unleashed many of the muscle cars that we’ve come to love. It was the golden age for auto enthusiasts.

The Mustang looked fiercest with fastback rear-end styling, made famous in 1968’s action film Bullit. The “Boss 9” Mustang takes home the prize as our favorite Mustang with its hood scoop and 429 cu, 375 hp V8 engine. Ford has played around with different Mustang bodies and styles throughout the years, but a recurring theme is that they always wind up going back to this generation of Mustangs for inspiration. A true testament to the original pony car.

Runners-Up:

  • 1968 Dodge Charger R/T
    A true muscle car if there ever was one. The second-generation Charger was introduced for 1968 and ran through 1970, and gained fame via the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” (1969 Charger) and the first Fast and Furious movie (1970 Charger).
  • 1969 Plymouth Road Runner 426 Hemi
    The working man or woman’s muscle car. It didn’t have the flashy looks or steep price tag, but its engine was pure Hemi power.
  • 1969 Chevy Nova SS
    Quick and balanced. The Nova was ahead of its time in weight distribution during a period when muscle cars were getting longer and heavier. The Nova proved bigger isn’t always better.

End of the Golden Age: 1970s

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A

At the turn of the decade, muscle cars weren’t just becoming more powerful, they were downright menacing on the streets. Dodge launched the Challenger in 1970, a late addition to the party, but it epitomized the golden era of muscle cars with its balance of a big, bold design and high-performing engine and suspension. The 1970s Dodge Challenger R/T came to fame as the getaway car in 1971’s film Vanishing Point; however, its 440 c.i. V8 engine, which unleashed 375 hp (considered a conservative rating), was the real show stealer.

Things were getting good when the global oil crisis and stricter emission laws forced car manufacturers to abruptly abandon large gas-hungry engines and turn their focus on developing more economical cars. The Challenger’s production halted in 1974, along with many other muscle cars of the golden era.

Runners-Up:

  • 1970 Chevrolet LS6 Chevelle
    At 450 hp and 500 lb·ft torque, it was the king of the streets. It’s cousin, the Camaro, went on to achieve greater success, but the Chevelle will always be a legend in its own right.
  • 1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda
    The first Barracuda came to market two weeks before the Mustang—it just could never surpass its junior competitor in sales and was stopped in 1974, never to return. This lost muscle car is still talked about by auto enthusiasts to this day.
  • 1971 AMC Javelin AMX
    The Javelin AMX didn’t have the biggest engine block, but it could hold its own thanks to its race-inspired design (its racing model won the 1971 and 1972 Trans Am Series championships). It was also the first pony car to be used by law enforcement agencies for highway patrol.

Diamonds in the Rough: 1980s

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The ’80s were not kind to domestic car manufacturers. Detroit’s technology hadn’t caught up fast enough to deal with the new emission and safety laws, allowing European and Asian manufacturers to outperform most American cars in the market. Thankfully there were a few diamonds in the rough: muscle cars engineered by teams who adapted to the times, allowing US cars to go neck and neck with the sporty BMWs and Nissans that were hitting the streets.

The 1985 Camaro IROC-Z was one of these cars. With stunningly sleek good looks, race-tuned handling and suspension, and a five-liter tuned port injection V8 engine rated at 215 hp, the Camaro proved that American muscle cars were able to incorporate new technology and market demands while still retaining their historic roots.

Runners-Up:

  • 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
    Redesigned for 1982, the Firebird Trans Am became an icon of the “sexy” ’80s culture with its low, sleek lines, pop-up headlights and blacked-out taillights. It also starred as KITT in Knight Rider.
  • 1987 Buick Regal GNX
    What was lost in the early ’70s was found in the late ’80s with the Regal GNX. Brute power that could beat Porches and Ferraris on the strip. Its boxy looks on the other hand, couldn’t quite match up.
  • 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
    This street-legal version of NASCAR’s famed model was a success among racing fans. Its aero-influenced styling tweaks and “High Output” (for the time), 305 c.i. 180-hp V8, made it feel like it was always race day.

Back To Muscle: 1990s

1996 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe

1996 Dodge Viper GTS Coupe

American muscle cars regained some pep to their step in the ’90s, going back to the ’60s playbook in style and power but with the added bonus of engineering advancements. The Dodge Viper debuted in 1992 and instantly became the muscle car. Featuring an aluminum 8L V10 engine that output 400 hp and 465 lb·ft torque, this lightweight roadster could withstand 1 lateral g-force on turns.

The Viper’s most endearing factor, however, was its simplicity. There was no traction control or anti-lock brakes—the early models didn’t even feature airbags or air conditioning. The driver was connected with the car, without any electronics or modern aids to interfere, and it made for a pureness that only early muscle cars could match. Novice drivers were often bit by the Viper on high speeds, but those who could charm the snake were in for an exhilarating ride.

Dodge released the second generation Viper in 1996, offering a GTS Coupe model with a “double bubble” roof that made the car famous. This Viper had 50 more horsepower and a few concessions including airbags, air conditioning, and even power windows.

There was no traction control or anti-lock brakes—the early models didn’t even feature airbags or air conditioning.

Runners-Up:

  • 1992 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
    This was the car that got our hearts racing, and not always in the good way. With a 4.6L V8 engine that output 210 hp, this rear-wheel drive sedan could catch speeding cars faster than you could say, “Miranda Rights.”
  • 1991 Chevrolet Camaro 5.7 V8 Z28
    While import cars were still lapping most domestics, the Camaro held true in the ’90s and reminded the world that American muscle cars could go with the best of them. This ’91 model rewards the Camaro with a second listing.
  • 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra
    Sporting a 32-valve, DOHC V8 making 305 horsepower, the 1996 Cobra signaled a new sophistication and performance level for Ford’s iconic pony car.

Millennial Refinement: 2000s

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Like we could forget the Vette. Launched in 1953 from Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Chevrolet Corvette has been a legendary American muscle car throughout the decades. From its sleek and sophisticated Stingray styling to its powerful and balanced V8 engine, the Vette is the definition of the cool muscle car. In 2009, it somehow became even better with the release of the ZR1.

The ZR1 was given a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that output 638 hp and 604 lb·ft torque—the most powerful engine ever put into a sports car by GM at the time. With a top speed of 205 mph, 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 7.6 seconds, the ZR1 could chop contemporary Porsche 911 Turbo and Ferrari F430 imports on any given day. Our favorite feature on this Vette was the clear carbon-fiber hood panel that gave onlookers a glimpse of the beastly engine inside.

The 2000s refined American muscle cars, adding a layer of technological sophistication. The end products were things of beauty.

Runners-Up:

  • 2007 Dodge Charger SRT-8 Super Bee
    Dodge rediscovered its muscle roots in the 2000s, bringing back famed muscle cars such as the Charger and Super Bee. Built as a Charger but modified as a limited-edition Super Bee version, this blast from the past output 425 hp from its V8 Hemi engine.
  • 2005 Ford GT
    What started as a concept car based off Ford’s 1960s GT40 race cars, became a reality in 2005. This mid-engine, retro-inspired supercar put out blazing fast speeds.
  • 2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS-6
    Making our list a second time, the Firebird Trans Am was at the peak of its powers by this time, its last year of production. Able to hit 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat and run the quarter-mile in the mid-13s, this bird could certainly fly.

Modern Technology Meets Raw Power: 2010s

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

Like the 2000s, this current generation of muscle cars has benefited from evolving automotive technology. Instead of fighting a losing battle against emission standards circa the ’70s and ’80s, engineers now battle against each other on making the most powerful yet efficient engine. This age of technology has produced supercars that have broken every track record on the books.

And so, for this decade’s American muscle car, we’ve chosen a brand that used to be associated with quiet sophistication rather than high-octane performance. The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V may come from the makers of the DeVille, the steady sedan for well-to-do professionals for generations, but the 640 hp engine under the CTS-V’s hood is anything but retirement-age friendly. The CTS models have become progressively faster each year since introduced in 2002—as if the engineers were trying to sneak the horsepower numbers by the bosses—until finally, the 2009–2016 CTS-V generation appeared, muscles flexing.

The ’16 CTS-V sprints to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 200 mph. The Eaton-supercharged 6.2L V8 engine outputs 630 lb·ft torque on top of the 640 hp. Built with track days in mind, Brembo brakes, race-tuned suspension, carbon fiber hood and panels, and a quad exhaust make the CTS-V a force to be reckoned with. It may not have the spartan and reckless qualities of earlier muscle cars, but the numbers don’t lie. This is a muscle car that will roar down the highway, it just so happens to come in a luxurious package.

Not since the ’60s and ’70s have we seen so many rumbling, high-throttle cars in a single decade. Best of all, many of them are faster versions of models from our favorite bygone era. We can’t wait to see what the 2020s will bring.

Built with track days in mind, Brembo brakes, race-tuned suspension, carbon fiber hood and panels, and a quad exhaust make the CTS-V a force to be reckoned with.

Runners-Up:

  • 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
    707 horsepower. Need we say more? This monster has the most horsepower available on a production car to date thanks to its 6.2L V8 Hemi engine. The Challenger SRT Hellcat looks, sounds, and drives mean.
  • 2015 EQUUS BASS770
    If you took the best qualities from each of the ’60s pony cars and built them into one car, you’d get the EQUUS BASS770. Handcrafted by American engineers, this vehicle pays homage to that golden era while adding a supercharged V8 engine to make sure it can giddy-up with the modern-day guys.
  • 2016 Corvette Z06
    Like the Mustang, Camaro, Charger, and Challenger, the Vette deserves a second listing. The ’16 Z06 outputs 650 hp and can run 0-60 mph in only 2.95 seconds. We don’t take it lightly when saying this model is their best looking yet.

Tell us, do you agree with our choices? Which favorite muscle car did we miss? For more muscle car fun, take this short quiz to find out which decade of American muscle cars best fits your style!

Crucial Cars: Chevrolet Camaro

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, Gearhead’s Garage puts the spotlight on Chevrolet’s iconic sport coupe, the Camaro.

1969 Camaro SS350 with RS package

1969 Camaro SS350 with RS package

Back when the Chevrolet Camaro debuted, the Beatles were making albums, color TV was a new novelty and the Vietnam war was escalating. Chevy’s sleek new number, an answer to Ford’s super successful Mustang launched a few years prior, came onto the groovy scene to get its slice of the “pony car” pie. In the nearly half century since, the Camaro has stayed true to its roots by providing enthusiasts with an abundance of styling and performance at an affordable price.

Right back at you Ford
Ford’s Mustang, launched in the spring of 1964, was an immediate smash success. It introduced a new automotive segment that became known as the pony car — an affordable, relatively compact sporty coupe with long hood and short rear deck proportions. Loosely based on Chevrolet’s compact Nova, the Camaro was introduced for 1967. And so began a rivalry that continues to this day, one as fierce as the Yankees versus the Red Sox, or Coke versus Pepsi.

Available in both coupe and convertible body styles, the Camaro could be had with a wide array of powertrains. One could have anything from a 230 cubic-inch, 140-horsepower straight six on up to a storming 396 cube V8 cranking out 375 hp. Transmissions consisted of two- and three-speed automatics as well as three- and four-speed manuals.

The trim levels similarly ran the gamut and included the base Camaro, the fancy RS (Rally Sport) with its hidden headlights and added interior/exterior garnishment, the muscular SS that could be had in either SS350 or SS396 guise, and then there was the Z/28. Getting its name from the actual option code, the Z/28 was a street-legal road race machine sporting a firmer suspension and a high-output 302 cube V8 matched exclusively to a four-speed stick. Seriously underrated at 290 hp, the high-revving 302 made more like 350-375 horses. The Z/28 was a rare sight for that first year, as only 602 were built.

The next year saw minimal changes. Visually, the easiest way to tell a ’68 from a ’67 is the lack of the triangular vent windows which gave a slightly sleeker look to the ’68. The 1969 Camaro is for many enthusiasts the one to have. Although essentially the same as its other first-generation brothers under the skin, the ’69’s more aggressive styling boasted flared character lines that came off the front and rear wheel wells, giving an impression of speed and power that the upper versions could easily back up.

Throughout this first generation there were also several rare, ultra high performance versions. Specially ordered through the COPO (Central Office Production Order) program via dealers such as Yenko and Berger, these Camaros had beefy 427 V8s rated at a conservative 425 horsepower. The top dog was the Camaro ZL1, of which just 69 were built for 1969. A ZL1 also featured a 427 V8, but in this case it was of exotic all-aluminum construction, yielding a big block brute that barely weighed any more than a 327 V8.

Following a tough act

The second-generation Camaro debuted as a 1970 ½ model. Taking the long hood/short deck aesthetic to a new level, Chevy definitely had the looks nailed. Initially available in base, RS, SS and Z/28 versions, this Camaro could be packed with power, as the Z/28 came with a high-output 350 rated at 360 hp, while the top SS 396 (actually now displacing 402 cubes) again made 375.

Sadly, as with all other car makers, Chevrolet’s engine output started to slide as the mid-’70s hit due to tightening emissions standards. Indeed, the SS was dropped from the lineup after ’72 while the Z/28 went on hiatus for ’75 and ’76 seemingly out of shame, to return in mid-’77 with just 170 hp from its 350 V8. Still, these cars provided some driving fun by way of their quick, relatively agile handling and rumbling exhausts. Thankfully, engine output started to creep up as the 1980s hit, with the ’80 Z28 making 190 hp. Styling got increasingly flashy, culminating in the ’80 (and ’81) Z28 which seemed inspired by its Pontiac Trans Am cousin, what with bigger graphics, an Air Induction hood scoop, functional fender vents and wheel flares.

Less weight, more power

1981 Camaro Z28

1981 Camaro Z28

The third generation of the Camaro spanned 1982 through 1992. Through these years, one could choose a base Camaro, a luxury-themed Berlinetta (later the LT) or the performance-oriented Z28 and later, IROC-Z. Downsized, this Camaro was also up to 500 pounds lighter than the one before, and also heralded the debut of fuel injection and a four-speed automatic transmission.

Now that technology and engineering savvy allowed engines to efficiently meet emissions standards, output climbed through the decade. The 1982 Camaro’s power lineup started with an anemic, 90-hp four-cylinder engine, moved up through a 2.8-liter, 112-hp V6 and topped out with a 5.0-liter (305 cubic-inch) V8, rated at 145 hp, or with available Cross-fire fuel injection, 165 hp. Midway through 1983, a 190 hp “High Output” 5.0 liter became available, while two years later a 5.0-liter with Tuned Port Injection debuted, making 215 hp. Named for the International Race of Champions (which used identically-prepped Camaros), the Camaro IROC-Z also debuted for 1985 sporting huge for the time 16-inch wheels, a track-tuned suspension and, unlike the Z28, a monotone paint scheme along with tasteful “IROC-Z” bodyside graphics.

1988 Camaro IROC-Z

1988 Camaro IROC-Z

Literally big news came around for 1987, when a 5.7-liter (350 for you old-schoolers) V8 once again became available in a Camaro, now with tuned port injection and 225 horses. Sadly, it could only be hooked up to the automatic gearbox, but by now the 5.0 TPI engine could be had with a five-speed manual, the latter being the enthusiasts’ choice. The next year, the Z28 was dropped, essentially being replaced by the IROC-Z due to the latter’s massive popularity.

Other than the V6 growing from 2.8- to 3.1 liters (now at a respectable 140 hp) and the debut of a driver side airbag, not much changed until 1991, when the IROC-Z was dropped due to Dodge getting the race contract. And so, the Z28 returned once again to the lineup, now with an IROC-Z-like monochrome body treatment, color-keyed alloy wheels and taller rear deck spoiler. The 5.7-liter TPI engine now thumped out a stout 245 horsepower. Although 1992 marked the 25th anniversary of the Camaro, celebration was limited to a badge on the dash and the availability of a commemorative package consisting chiefly of dual hood/deck stripes.

With Part Two of this installment, we’ll cover the fourth-, fifth- and upcoming sixth-generation Camaros.

A number of Camaro enthusiast sites provide advice as well as classifieds for cars and parts for sale. You may want to check out Camaro Forums and Camaro Source. Furthermore, acceleration times can be found on zeroto60times.com.

Whether you want to maintain an original Camaro in factory-spec condition or modify one from the power-starved era into a true muscle machine, Advance Auto Parts is here to help with plenty of high quality parts.

Crucial Cars: Chevy Tahoe

Red Chevy Tahoe 1

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, the Mechanic Next Door takes on the feature-rich Chevy Tahoe.

Kelly Blue Book voted the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe The Best Buy of the Year among full-size SUVs. ALG awarded it first place in the full-size SUV category. Car and Driver named it the Editors Choice in Full-Size Crossovers/SUVs, and the Texas Auto Writers Association selected Tahoe as the Full-Size SUV of Texas (doesn’t it go without saying that everything in Texas is full-size?) at the Texas Truck Rodeo.

The Tahoe has impressive numbers to go along with those awards and accolades. Tahoe sales increased 88 percent in January of this year compared to the same time period last year, and in the large SUV category, Tahoe sales year-to-date in April were nearly double that of its closest competitor – second-place Chevy Suburban.

Clearly, the Chrvrolet Tahoe has what drivers want, especially when gas prices are low.

Tahoe was born in 1994 for the ’95 model year, springing from the Chevrolet Blazer and capturing MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year Award in just its second year. Shorter than its Suburban brother, Tahoe shared until 2000 the similar GMT400-series platform with Suburban, as did the Yukon, Escalade, Blazer and C/K trucks.

In the 20 years since Tahoe’s debut, consumer demands and tastes have evolved, as has vehicle technology – so much so that today’s Tahoe bears little resemblance to its first predecessor, other than its name.

A quick look inside Tahoe’s interior leaves little doubt what’s front and center on consumers’ wants and needs list, and it’s not just cup holders. We can’t live without our electronics, and Tahoe’s amenities ensure we don’t have to.

Available 4G LTE Wi-Fi Technology accommodates the simultaneous connection of up to seven devices so every passenger remains connected, even on the road. All those devices need power, which they’ll have no trouble finding, thanks to 13 charging stations (airport waiting area planners, take note) as well as the availability of wireless charging and a three-prong, 110-volt outlet for laptops and larger devices. Six of those 13 charging stations are USB ports and there’s Bluetooth capability that can also attach up to seven devices with Chevy’s MyLink system.

Controlling MyLink is accomplished with the swipe of a finger on an eight-inch, color touch screen that features customizable icon locations. Hidden behind the touch screen is a secret compartment for storing small items, accessible only by entering a password on the screen.

Yes, Tahoe has class and style, right down to its instrument cluster, which Chevy describes as being “designed after high-end watches.”

When Tahoe drivers need to haul something other than precious human cargo, there are 94.7 cubic feet of cargo space, and second and third-row seats that fold flat. Chevy also boasts that Tahoe has “the fastest power-release second-row and power-folding third-row seats of any competitor.” Because that’s important when you’re in a big hurry to…..remove or fold your seats?White Chevy Tahoe 1

In addition to a hands-free liftgate that opens with a gentle kicking motion thanks to a sensor hidden under the rear bumper, Tahoe also features keyless entry as well as starting, bringing the engine to life with just the push of a button. Passengers will have difficulty hearing that engine, or any other external noise for that matter, as Chevy claims this is “the quietest Tahoe ever.” Sound-dampening material has been added pretty much everywhere, including in the engine compartment, wheel liners, dash and floor, and there’s an “acoustic-laminated windshield” along with triple-sealed inlaid doors.

All this peace and quiet and style sit atop available 22-inch aluminum wheels with premium paint and chrome inserts, or 20 inchers or even 18’s on the LS and LT models.

Stepping up into a Tahoe – particularly one riding on 22’s – is made easier with the by retractable side assist steps with perimeter lighting. While that lighting is a nice touch, the heavy-duty illumination comes in the form of projector-beam headlamps and rear LED tail lamps that really light up the night, with high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps available on the LTZ model.

Even with gas prices being low, fuel economy is still top of mind for most drivers, and Tahoe delivers about what you’d expect for a vehicle of this size – EPA Estimated Fuel Economy of 16 MPG around town and 23 or 22 – depending if you’re piloting the two- or four-wheel drive version, respectively – on the open road.

That 26-gallon fuel tank is feeding a 5.3-liter EcoTech3 V-8 that features active fuel management which takes four cylinders offline when their power isn’t needed, direct injection for more power and fuel efficiency with reduced emissions, and variable valve timing for maximum power and efficiency. All this engine technology churns out an impressive 355 HP and 383 lb-ft torque that are capable of towing 8,500 lbs.

And, let’s not forget what’s most important – safety. Seven airbags, collision alerts, lane departure warnings, automatic front braking, side-blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, rear-vision camera, and a theft-protection package help protect and prevent.

Available in three models, an LS, LT, and LTZ, Chevy calls it, “the most advanced Tahoe ever,” and they’re not kidding. But first you’ll have to decide on what you need and what you can afford. MSRP is $46,300 and there is a list of add-on accessories – 58 to be exact – in nine categories covering everything from interior or exterior cargo management to electronics to security and protection.

Tahoe’s all grown up and has class and style, making it a perfect match for drivers with similar qualities.

Editor’s note: Stop by Advance Auto Parts for all you need to keep your Tahoe running right and looking sweet. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Crucial Cars: Chevy Cavalier

Chevrolet Cavalier pictureFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, Street Talk takes on one of the truly unsung heroes of the tuner scene. Promise you won’t laugh, because we’re talking about the Chevy Cavalier.

To driving enthusiasts of a certain age, the Chevrolet Cavalier inevitably brings to mind the movie Swingers, wherein Jon Favreau’s character has the following exchange with a smoking hot model:

Model: “What kind of car do you drive?”

JF: “Uh, Cavalier.”

Model: [disdainful silence]

JF: “It’s red. I have a red…it’s a red Cavalier.”

Naturally, he doesn’t get the girl, and that’s largely how the Cavalier is viewed by the masses today — as a failure.

But if you’re into the tuner scene, you might be amused by the idea of tricking out a Cavalier to within an inch of its life. It’s certainly unexpected, and it’s bound to be relatively affordable, too. Could be a fun project, right? Let’s explore some of the possibilities.

Chevy Cavalier 1 pictureSupercharge It

The Cavalier’s successor, the Cobalt, came in a sporty SS trim level with a supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine cranking out 205 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph took about 7 seconds, and there was a lot of midrange passing power on the road.

The final-generation Cavalier’s humble 2.2-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder, on the other hand, most certainly did not have a supercharger.

But if only Favreau’s character had known the possibilities. Turns out you can grab the Eaton M62 supercharger off a Cobalt SS (or just buy a GM supercharger kit separately, supplies permitting) and bolt it right onto the 2.2-liter Cavalier motor. Give it a custom tune and you’ll be pushing 230 horses, easy peasy. That’s a lot of power in a lightweight sedan, and it just might be enough to convince you that a tuned Cavalier is worth the trouble.

Slam It

One of the Cavalier’s best qualities is that Chevy made about a billion of them, so there are a lot of owners out there who might want to add something extra to their rides. Predictably, the aftermarket has responded with a wide range of products, including plenty of lowering springs that’ll drop your Cavalier as far as you want to go.

You can go the eBay route, of course, but they call it “fleaBay” for a reason — there’s a lot of questionable stuff for sale up there. Here at Street Talk, we’re partial to established brands like Tokico, Eibach and Koni. If you opt for a known commodity, chances are you won’t be disappointed. In any case, dropped Cavaliers can look pretty mean, and Chevy’s simple suspension design means you can probably do most or all of the work yourself.

Lambo-Door It

If you haven’t looked into scissor-style Lambo doors before, you might be surprised by how simple they are to install. You actually get to keep your original doors; the difference lies in the hinges and gas shocks that take the place of the factory hinges. Just imagine how differently Swingers might have gone if that red Cavalier had Lambo doors that popped up on cue. A supercharged, slammed and Lambo’d Cavalier would be a real sight to see.

Of course, there are plenty of other visual enhancements on the market, including spoilers, aero kits, graphics kits, you name it. And we haven’t even talked about interior tweaks like metal pedals, custom shift knobs and racing seats. If you buy a used Cavalier, you’ll likely get a sweet deal on it, so with any luck there’ll be enough cash left over to fund some sweet mods.

Chevy Cavalier 2 pictureCavalier Attitude

Do you push a Cavalier with a little flavor? Any tips for our friends out there who might want to do the same? Let’s get a conversation started in the comments.

Editor’s note: Hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection—to keep your Chevy (or most anything else) running right. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Crucial Cars: Chevrolet Blazer

Chevrolet Blazer pictureFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, Ol’ Man Gearhead digs up some dirt on one of his favorite SUV’s—the iconic Chevy Blazer.

When you think about the Chevrolet Blazer, what comes to mind? These days, chances are it’s the Trailblazer, a short-lived SUV from the 2000s chiefly remembered for its quirky 4.2-liter inline-6 engine. Or maybe you’re thinking of the S-10 Blazer, a popular SUV from the ’90s based on Chevy’s compact pickup.

But those aren’t real Blazers.

If you want the real deal, you’ve got to go back in time to the so-called K5 Blazer, which debuted in 1969 as an SUV version of Chevy’s full-size C/K truck. That’s what a Blazer is supposed to be. Chevy calls it the Tahoe now, and there’s not much of that original rough-and-tumble character remaining. But back in the day, the Blazer had attitude like no other SUV on the road.

No-Nonsense Capabilities

If you look around today, it’s genuinely difficult to find a true SUV with body-on-frame construction. The Tahoe’s one of them, but between you and me, it’s tuned more for suburban shopping malls than off-roading. The Blazer, though, was all muscle, all the time. From ’69 until its demise after the 1994 model year (the final chassis actually continued on as the Tahoe through ’99), the Blazer rode atop a short-wheelbase version of GM’s full-size truck platform, and four-wheel drive with low-range gearing was always available. An off-road package added various beefed-up components for even more trail-busting ability. You could even get removable top until ’92, which meant the Blazer was kind of like a full-size Jeep Wrangler. They don’t make SUVs like this anymore, and that’s a shame.

Plenty of Power

The Blazer also came with plenty of motor. Right off the bat, Chevy offered the legendary small-block 5.7-liter V8, and that continued to be the featured engine throughout the Blazer’s run. With ample thrust across the powerband and an exhaust note that announces your presence from blocks away, the small-block is one of the great motors in automotive history. It’s also one of the easiest engines to work on yourself, and that’s one of the charms of owning a Blazer, even today. If you find a used one in decent condition, you can rest easy knowing that any engine work can be done by a decent shade-tree mechanic.Chevy Blazer picture

SUV Functionality

There’s a reason that real enthusiasts like body-on-frame SUVs so much: they’re as tough as the trucks they’re based on, yet the offer the interior accoutrements and passenger space of a wagon. True to form, the K5 Blazer always provided the most luxurious features available on the C/K trucks of the day, and the spacious backseat made it a viable family vehicle. These were do-it-all SUVs that could handle whatever you threw at them — and still can. If you’ve driven a K5 Blazer, you know what I’m talking about. For my money, you still can’t find a cooler all-around SUV than the original Blazer, no matter what era you’re talking about.

Blazer Fan Forum

Let’s hear from you, Blazer fans. You know that SUVs don’t get any better than this. What are your favorite K5 Blazer stories?

Editor’s note: To keep your Blazer and all other vehicles in check, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Crucial Cars: Chevrolet Silverado

Chevy SilveradoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our Mechanic Next Door explores one of the most stylish trucks on the block, the Chevy Silverado

 

Pickup trucks aren’t just for work anymore, and haven’t been for some time. That’s not to say they’re no longer being used for work – because they’re just as popular on the jobsite as ever. In modern pickups, however, drivers can be just as comfortable and stylish rolling up to valet parking wearing a black tie as they can pulling in to the jobsite in a hard hat, safety vest and steel toes.

This delicate balance of work and play, of style versus function, convenience or necessity is clearly evident in one of America’s best-selling trucks – the Chevy Silverado 1500.

First introduced in 1998 for the ’99 model year, the Chevy Silverado was a follow up to Chevy trucks’ successful C/K pickup line and built on GM’s long success with pickup trucks – dating back to its first model in 1930. 1998 wasn’t the Silverado name’s debut, however, as it had made an appearance previously. Chevy used Silverado as a trim line name for both its Suburban and C/K pickup truck models from ’75 through ’99.

The Silverado is now enjoying its third generation, and still building and improving on the success of generations one and two, which ran from 1999 – 2006 and 2007 – 2013, respectively. The 2015 model is hauling some exciting new additions, without losing many of the features responsible for Silverado’s nearly universal appeal.

Bragging rights are always a good place to begin, and the “firsts” or “mosts” that Chevy lays claim to with the new 2015 Silverado include:

• the most fuel-efficient gas V8 pickup truck ever (with the 5.3-liter engine)

• the most powerful engine available in a half-ton pickup

• the first truck to include 4G LTE WiFi connectivity

Power

Because it’s a truck, size matters, and Chevy’s able to make its “most powerful engine” claim thanks to the 6.2-liter V-8 option churning out 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque for a towing capacity of 12,000 pounds. Yeah, that’s six tons. If that’s too beefy for some drivers’ tastes, other available options include a 5.3-liter V-8 producing 355 HP and 383 lb.-ft. of torque or the base engine – a 4.3 liter V-6 with 285 HP and 305 lb.-ft. torque. Paired with these powerplants is a six-speed automatic transmission.

The mid-range 5.3-liter version is the engine that enables Chevy to make the “most fuel-efficient V-8” claim, delivering 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

Style

A big change that catches Chevy Silverado up with its competitors is the addition of the High Country trim line, which is now the top level available on the Silverado and places it in a similar class with other truck manufacturers’ trim lines, including F150’s King Ranch, Ram’s Laramie and GMC Sierra’s Denali (which as most truck aficionados know is a twin to Silverado, at least mechanically.)

Convenience

Pickups, whether they’re four-wheel drive or not, are getting taller, in part due to increased wheel sizes (which, by the way, are available in 17’s, 18’s and 20’s on the new Silverado). Drivers, however, aren’t experiencing a corresponding increase in body height, which makes Chevy’s addition of its CornerStep rear bumper a big convenience factor whether trying to grab something out of the bed or simply fasten a tonneau. And an available spray-in bedliner eliminates the need to secure this work in the aftermarket, protects the bed, and reduces the annoyance factor that comes with things sliding and banging around back there.

Up front, there are three available cab configurations – a regular two-door cab, a double cab featuring four forward-opening doors, and a crew cab. The double cab is available only with the standard six-and-a-half-foot bed (which still makes for a nearly 20-foot long vehicle) while the crew cabs come with either the standard or short (5.8 ft.) box and the regular cab is available with either a long bed at eight feet or the standard box.Chevy Silverado Truck

Safety

In the safety department, Silverado is the first pickup to receive the 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for Safety – the highest ranking – since NHTSA changed the program requirements in 2011. Helping deliver on that safety promise is a rear-vision camera, forward collision avoidance system, lane departure warning, six airbags, daytime running lights, ABS, and a “safety alert driver’s seat” that vibrates when an alert is generated by Silverado’s crash-avoidance systems.

All of this power, convenience, safety and style come with a price, however, and that price doesn’t look too painful when one considers that Chevy’s MSRP is $26,105 for a base model. Add on some “must-haves” however – including four-wheel drive and that High Country trim package – and tire kickers find themselves staring down a price of more than $54,000 the way that reviewers from Car and Driver did.

Because it’s been around for so long and there are still so many on the road, Silverado parts for repairs are readily available. At the same time, there are almost as many accessories for customizing a Silverado as there are color and option choices available on new ones.

And as a final thought, who can forget the song that has become synonymous with the Silverado, and all Chevy Trucks for that matter? Yes, Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” used in Chevy commercials for more than a decade – and guaranteed to be in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.