1966 Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code

24 Super Rare Muscle Cars You’ll Never See In Real Life

Throughout the 20th century, the American car industry was the largest in the world, and only recently did China take over the number one spot. One thing China doesn’t have is muscle cars, as those are almost unique to American manufacturers.

Muscle cars had their golden era in the 60s and 70s when multiple manufacturers seemingly churned out one iconic model after the other. Some of these cars were exclusive when they were new, with only single-digit production numbers. Others weren’t quite as rare, but the odds of seeing one driving on the road today are slim to none.

Today, we’ll look at 24 of the rarest muscle cars ever made. This list includes both muscle and pony cars, but we’ve excluded American sports cars, like the Chevrolet Corvette and Shelby Cobra.

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS 396 – 201 Cars

1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS 396
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Chevrolet wanted people to know about its newest engine, the 396 V8, so it created the 1965 Chevelle Malibu SS 396. Chevrolet only built 201 cars; the carmaker called it “the most potent and ‘fun’ car in the country.”

The Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS 396 produced 375 horsepower, which went to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. The SS396 also featured other upgrades, such as a stiffer frame, heavy-duty suspension, beefed-up anti-roll bars, bigger brakes, and quicker steering.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6 Convertible – Fewer Than 200 Cars

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6 Convertible
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The top-spec 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS was equipped with the 454 LS6 big block engine, and it was a beast! It would rev to 5,600 rpm and produce 450 wild horses, enough to send it down the quarter-mile in a mere 13.44 seconds.

The LS6-equipped Chevelle was undoubtedly a fast car, but something else makes the convertible version highly desirable today. Chevrolet built approximately 8,775 Chevelles with the SS badge and 454 engines. Of those, 4,475 had the more powerful LS6 454, and fewer than 200 LS6 cars were convertibles.

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt – 100 Cars

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In 1964, Ford built a limited production Fairlane Thunderbolt factory drag racer. The car had the “high rise” 427 V8 engine with dual 4-barrel Holley carburetors from the Galaxie. Power was rated at around 425 horsepower, but the actual power output was probably closer to 600 horses.

Ford only built 100 Fairlane Thunderbolts; 49 had the 4-speed manual transmission, and 51 came with the automatic.

1968 Dodge Hemi Dart Super Stock – 80 Cars

1968 Dodge Dart Hemi Super Stock
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Over the years, Dodge put some excellent engines under the hood of the compact Dart, but none were as special as the one fitted with the iconic 426 Hemi engine. 80 partially-assembled Dodge Dart GTS hardtop chassis were sent to Hurst Performance, where they made the car even lighter and dropped in the 426 Hemi.

Anything deemed unnecessary for the drag strip was left out, and while the 1968 Dodge Hemi Dart Super Stock was technically street legal, Dodge discouraged driving it on public roads. It would reach 130 mph in just 11 seconds, and the quarter-mile was dealt with in the low 10-second range. Many were wrecked in races, making it even rarer today.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 – 69 Cars

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

In the late ’60s, Chevy circumvented the GM engine size rules for midsize and smaller cars by creating Central Office Production Orders, or COPO. In 1969, gearheads could order the number 9561, which was a Camaro with the “standard” L72 427 engine, known as the COPO Camaro or the 9560, which was even more special.

The 9560 was the ZL-1 Camaro. It had a 427 V8 with an all-aluminum block made specifically for drag racing. Only 69 cars came with this option, making it one of the rarest Camaros ever.

1968 Dodge Charger 500 Hemi – 67 Cars

1968 Dodge Charger
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Before the Daytona and its massive wing, Dodge built another NASCAR homologation model—the Charger 500. It featured improved aerodynamics, such as an indented grille, recessed rear window, and a chin spoiler.

The Charger 500 was built to go toe-to-toe with the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II on the racetrack, but it didn’t live up to expectations. Dodge planned to build 500 cars, but only 392 were sold. Of those, 67 cars had the 426 Hemi engine, and only 27 were fitted with the four-speed manual transmission.

1966 Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code – 57 Cars

1966 Ford Fairlane 500 R-Code
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions

When the Ford Fairlane first arrived in 1955, it was a full-size model, but in 1962, it was converted into a midsize car. From there, it gradually became a muscle car before eventually turning into the base for Ford’s Torino and Cobra cars.

In 1966, Ford built the Fairlane 500 R-Code. It wasn’t as aggressive as the 1964 Thunderbolt drag racing version, but it was still pretty special. Ford only made 57 cars; all were race-ready straight from the factory, thanks to the powerful 7.0-liter Cobra engine, dual Holley carburetors, front disc brakes, a lift-off hood, and a radio delete. With 425 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, the 500 R-Code was a beast.

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11 – 57 Cars

1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions.

In 1963, the Impala was in its third generation, and Chevrolet introduced a high-performance version under what’s known as Regular Production Option (RPO) Z11. The Impala Z11 was only available as a two-door hardtop as it was based on the Sport Coupe version.

Under the hood, the Z11 had a 427 V8 that received multiple upgrades. The engine was based on the W-series 409 unit but had a longer stroke, a different compression ratio, a two-piece aluminum intake manifold, and dual Carter AFB carburetors. It produced 430 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque, making the Z11 a proper sleeper. Exterior-wise, it had aluminum body panels but not much else to hint that it was something special.

1967 Dodge Coronet WO23 / Plymouth Belvedere RO23 – 55 Cars

1967 Dodge Coronet WO23
Image Credit: Hemmings

In 1967, Mopar brands Dodge and Plymouth released a pair of road-legal drag racers. The Dodge Coronet WO23 and the Plymouth Belvedere RO23 were essentially the same car but with different badges and other minor details.

Both brands built 55 cars to meet the NHRA minimum requirement for drag racing homologation. Under the hood, it had a 426 Hemi engine with various upgrades, the battery was moved to the trunk, and anything deemed unnecessary to go fast down the drag strip was removed—some cars even came with a rear-seat delete from the factory.

1968 Plymouth Barracuda B029 Super Stock – Between 50 And 70 Cars

1968 Plymouth Barracuda B029 Super Stock
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions

In 1968, Plymouth released the Barracuda B029 Super Stock, a full-blown drag car owners could drive on the road; it was like a Dodge SRT Demon 170 of the ’60s. The B029 Super Stock was based on the second-generation Barracuda built on the A-Body platform.

The B023 Super Stock is another Mopar built with Hurst Performance’s help. It received a redesigned chassis, a lighter body, heavy-duty rear suspension, fiberglass fenders, acid-etched steel doors, and some modifications to the Hemi V8. The end result was a car that flew down the quarter-mile in just 10 seconds.

1971 AMC Matador Machine – 50 Cars

1971 AMC Matador Machine
Image Credit: AMC

In 1971, AMC introduced the “Machine” package for the Matador. It wasn’t the first car to be offered with this package, but it may have been the least successful, as AMC only sold 50 cars.

The Machine package included upgraded suspension, a new exhaust, and performance tires. For the engine, buyers could choose between the 360 or 401 V8, getting a maximum of 330 horsepower.

1968 Chevrolet Nova SS COPO – 50 Cars

1968 Chevy Nova SS COPO
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Another car that circumvented the GM engine size rules was the 1968 Chevrolet Nova SS COPO. The COPO system was originally intended for fleet orders, such as police vehicles or company trucks, but Vince Piggins used it as a loophole to order high-performance Chevy cars.

The 1968 Nova SS COPO had the L78 396 V8 engine that produced 375 horsepower. Chevrolet could only approve the COPO order if at least 50 cars were to be built. Out of those 50, only 12 are believed to still exist.

2009 Ford Mustang Lee Iacocca 45th Anniversary – 45 Cars

2009 Ford Mustang Lee Iacocca 45th Anniversary
Image Credit: Ford

Forty-five years after the Mustang made its debut, Ford celebrated two legends at once, the Mustang and Lee Iacocca, one of the most famous American automotive execs. All the 2009 Lee Iacocca 45th Anniversary Mustangs featured revised bodywork finished in silver paint.

The first of the 45 cars built was given to Iacocca, as he was a significant part of the Mustang’s development. Based on the GT model, it had a 4.6-liter V8 engine with a cold air intake.

1965 Shelby Mustang GT350R – 36 Cars

1965 Shelby Mustang GT350R
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

In 1965, Carroll Shelby got his hands on a batch of Ford Mustangs, and he went straight to work upgrading them with a 289 V8 engine and lots of other goodies. Shelby built 562 GT350s in 1965, but the GT350R is a bit more special.

Depending on the source, Shelby built between 34 and 37 GT350R Mustangs. These were race-spec cars built to compete under SCCA rules. All the GT350s were painted Wimbledon White with blue stripes, and the 350R had fender flares to accommodate the 15×7-inch wheels.

1971 Dodge Super Bee 426 Hemi – 22 Cars

1971 Dodge Super Bee 426 Hemi
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Rather cleverly, the Super Bee name comes from the B-body platform on which the car was built. The boldly styled muscle car was originally based on the Coronet and inspired by the Plymouth Road Runner’s healthy sales figures.

There are no points for guessing which engine powered the Dodge Super Bee 426 Hemi. By 1971, the Super Bee was marketed as a low-priced model built on the Charger platform, and of the 5,054 Super Bees made that year, only 22 were fitted with the Hemi engine.

1970-1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible – 21 Cars

1971 Plymouth Barracuda Hemi Convertible
Image Credit: MuscleCarOfTheWeek/Youtube.

Plymouth built plenty of Hemi Cudas over the years, but only 21 convertible models were sold in 1970 and 1971 combined. Fourteen of the cars were sold in 1970, and the remaining seven found new owners the following year.

Fitting the massively powerful V8 engine in the convertible body meant the body had to be strengthened to limit flex. The hardtop Hemi Cuda had a sticker price of nearly $4,000, which was almost double what the base model cost and the convertible was even more expensive, which is probably the main reason why so few were sold.

1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible – 17 Cars

1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible
Image Credit: Paul Balze/Flickr.

Pontiac also built a high-performance convertible in 1971, and it wasn’t exactly a bestseller either. The Pontiac GTO Judge was a popular model, so creating a drop-top version seemed like a good idea.

Pontiac installed its most powerful engine under the Judge’s hood. The 455 HO produced 335 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, and the Judge reached 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds. Only 357 GTOs with the 455 HO engine were sold, of which only 17 were convertibles.

1993 Ford Mustang Saleen SC – 5 Cars

1993 Ford Mustang Saleen SC
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Saleen rose to automotive superstardom through tuning Mustangs and eventually built its own supercar, the S7, from the ground up. However, we’ll focus on the Saleen SC Mustang. Clever readers may already have guessed that the SC part of its name stands for supercharged.

Saleen bolted a Vortech supercharger to the Mustang’s 5.0-liter engine, and this power package produced a very respectable 450 horsepower. As desirable as that sounds, Saleen only sold 5 of these cars in 1993.

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 ‘Hurst Sunshine Special’ – 3 Cars

1970 Hurst Sunshine Camaro
Image Credit: AJ Mueller / Chevrolet

Chevrolet introduced the second-gen Camaro in 1970, and it looked nothing like its predecessor. This was also the year they built one of the rarest Camaros ever, the Z/28 Hurst Sunshine Special.

These cars featured an experimental sunroof and a Hurst shifter, but Chevrolet decided against putting it into production. Chevrolet/Hurst made three cars, and only one is known to exist today.

1970 Ford Torino King Cobra – 3 Cars

1970 Ford Torino King Cobra
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Unlike the cars you see in NASCAR today, the race cars were originally based on actual vehicles customers could buy. For the 1969 and 1970 seasons, NASCAR allowed the so-called Aero Specials, such as the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona.

Another aero car that most people don’t know about is the 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra. Ford built three prototypes and fitted them with a Boss 429, a 429 Super Cobra Jet, and a 429 Cobra Jet engine. The cars smashed the 200 mph barrier but were downright dangerous to drive. Ford eventually sold the three cars to private owners.

1967 / 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi Convertible – 2 Cars Each Year

1970 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi Convertible
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions.

The Coronet WO23 wasn’t the only high-performance version Dodge built in 1967—there was also the Coronet R/T. Whereas the WO23 was drag-focused, the Road and Track (R/T) package was more well-rounded.

Buyers could spec the R/T with the 426 Hemi engine, but only a few did, and only two convertibles were built with that unit. In 1968, Dodge gave the Coronet a complete revamp, and in 1970, it received some minor updates. Once again, the Coronet R/T 426 Hemi convertible only sold two units that year.

1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake – 1 Car

1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions.

By 1965, only a year after the Mustang first appeared, Shelby had already begun modifying the popular pony car. By 1967, the GT350 and GT500 were well-known among American performance car enthusiasts. However, Shelby had another trick up his sleeve.

The 1967 GT500 Super Snake had the massive 428 V8 engine from the GT40 MkII race car, and it reached a top speed of 170 mph. Shelby built it to promote a new line of Goodyear tires and originally intended to make 50 cars. However, the car proved too costly, so only one of these excellent muscle cars was ever completed.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Convertible – 1 Car

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Convertible
Image Credit: WallpaperUp.

Vince Piggins, the man who used the COPO loophole to create the Nova SS COPO, custom-built a one-off 1968 Camaro Z728 convertible for Chevrolet general manager Pete Estes.

The car featured several special components, including a cross-ram intake manifold, cowl-induction hood, and disc brakes on all four wheels. The 1968 Camaro Z/28 was practically a race-ready package, so this unique Camaro was guaranteed to move.

1970 Plymouth Duster Rapid Transit – 1 Car

1970 Plymouth Duster Rapid Transit
Mecum Auctions

The Plymouth Duster is one of the more affordable classic Mopar muscle cars, but the Duster Rapid Transit certainly isn’t cheap. The unique car was built to promote the Rapid Transit System, Plymouth’s equivalent to the Dodge Scat Pack cars.

Plymouth built a 1970 Road Runner, a 1970 Barracuda, and a Duster to show them off at dealerships nationwide. Under the hood, the one-off Duster Rapid Transit had a 340 V8 with 275 horsepower.

Andre Nalin

Author: Andre Nalin

Title: Writer


Andre has worked as a writer and editor for multiple car and motorcycle publications over the last decade, but he has reverted to freelancing these days. He has accumulated a ton of seat time during his ridiculous road trips in highly unsuitable vehicles, and he’s built magazine-featured cars. He prefers it when his bikes and cars are fast and loud, but if he had to pick one, he’d go with loud.

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