How old does a car have to be to be considered a classic?
Can a muscle car have four doors? I guess it’s possible.
I mean I don’t think anyone has an issue referring to the current Dodge Charger as a muscle car. But is it really?
According to Merriam-Webster, the term muscle car came to parlance in 1966 to describe a group of American-made two-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high performance driving.
Indeed, the muscle car landscape is full of Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers – all two door rides that support the notion that the basics of hot rodding is to put the most powerful engine into the lightest car.
Shoving a big powerplant into a big barge isn’t a hugely popular move.
Getting back to the question of what makes a classic car, the phrase classic car conjures up images of high-performance vehicles with powerful engines from the 1960s and 70s.
So, that’s the era of cars we’re going to look at in this list of what we’ll (for the sake of argument) call four door classic muscle cars.
1. Pontiac Bonneville (1958-2005)
The Bonneville was born before the muscle car era began. The nameplate first appeared in 1958 as a trim level of the Star Chief lineup.
In the same year, Pontiac reintroduced the Bonneville as a personal luxury coupe and sedans featuring plenty of rocket ship elements to appeal to the excitement of the space race.
Between 1958 and 1960 it earned the reputation of being a blue-collar hero of affordable speed within GM.
Pontiac raced through the Bonneville generations. And by 1965 they introduced the 4th generation which lasted until 1970.
Although the platform was largely unchanged, this new generation saw drastic restyling.
It was fitted with a range of V8 engines with an upgrade to a larger 6.6-liter V8 now as the standard replacing the 389.
The big 6.9-liter option was replaced by a mightier 7.0-liter engine, producing 390 horsepower.
The luxurious interiors carried over from previous models. Sales were high and so was the popularity of the Bonneville.
2. Ford Galaxie (1958-1974)
Like the Bonneville, the Galaxie name was used for the top models in Ford’s full-size lineup.
Produced from 1958 to 1961 it was also designed to appeal to the excitement of the Space Race.
The Galaxie was Ford’s most important series.
The Ford Galaxie was a full-sized sedan built to compete against the likes of the Chevrolet Impala. It received high production numbers and wide appeal.
The only problem was Ford was behind on styling still featuring the heavily chromed out styling of the late 50s well into 1964.
That is until 1965 when Ford introduced an all new Galaxie.
It featured stacked headlights, fresh sheet metal and even more versions and options than ever before.
In the same year Ford also offered the 427 V8 engine as an option.
It came from the Thunderbird with an underrated 345 horsepower and 460 pounds feet of torque that helped the Galaxie overcome its large weight.
3. Chevrolet Impala (1958-2020)
The Impala is synonymous with low-riding and cruising.
But even the two-door version had a hard time of being inducted into the muscle car hall of fame.
The Impala was introduced in 1958 offering the traditional styling of 1950s cars.
But just one year later the design changed to its more familiar wider lower stance and a rear end shaped like a gliding bird.
The 4th generation Impala was introduced in 1965 with updated styling.
Along with convertibles, hardtops, coupes and wagons, Chevy offered a wide range of V8s alongside the 4.1 liter inline six.
In 1963, the Impala got the 409 engine, making 425 horsepower helping it enter the realm of the muscle car for the first time.
The second and last time the Impala reached muscle car status was with 1996 Impala SS. This is my favorite four door muscle car of all time.
It got an LT1 V8, beefy suspension and brakes, a limited slip differential and dual exhaust.
4. Dodge Monaco (1965-1978)
The Monaco was a sports edition of the entry-level full-size Dodge Polara and midline Dodge Custom 880.
You could get it as either a full-sized sedan or station wagon.
Although it never properly reached muscle car status it had enough presence to get the attention of muscle car gearheads.
It had a 440 V8 that was more than capable of producing muscle car power.
The external oil pumps and forged crankshafts not only made maintenance easy, but it made these cars incredibly reliable.
The first generation came with a 6.2-liter V8 making 325 horsepower, standard. Or you could upgrade to a 7.2-liter V8 engine.
The second generation kept the 7.2 liter but now buyers could get a 383 with a four-barrel carburetor instead of two, increasing horsepower numbers to 330.
Buyers also had options between a manual and automatic transmission.
It competed against the Ford Galaxie and Chevrolet Impala neither of which classified as a muscle car either.
5. AMC Rambler Rebel (1957-1970)
Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson came together to become AMC, the underdog that went up against Detroit’s big three.
Although the four-door styling sets it apart from traditional muscle cars, the 1957 Rambler Rebel may have been the world’s first muscle car.
You could get it as a sedan, station wagon, coupe and convertible.
It debuted as a special model in the Rambler line showcasing AMC’s big new V8 engine.
And it was considered among Detroit’s super-stocks or performance models.
In spite of the four doors, the 1957 Rambler Rebel followed the muscle car recipe shoving a modest 327-inch V8 making 255h from the full-size Nash and Hudson cars into the engine bay.
You could get it with a manual transmission with overdrive. Or the Flashaway Hydra-Matic automatic.
Even though it was a four door, it had better performance than most cars on the market at the time.
It even won races against the Chevrolet Corvette C1!