Antiques Collectibles: Muscle cars show muscle in the collectible market

Stevan Miner and his 1971 Plymouth GTX.

There's not much that can beat the rumble of a Dodge, Chrysler or Plymouth muscle car.

Those Mopars are legendary because they had horsepower to spare. From the legendary 426 hemi crate engines to the 440 big block, Mopar had them all beat.

So what is a muscle car? One book, "Muscle Cars" by J.G. Newberry, says they can be high-performance automobiles, but not often with flashy sporty styling because some started out as ordinary looking sedans.

So what is the difference between a classic sports car and a muscle car? A sports car is designed to perform on the get-go in acceleration, handling and braking. A muscle car is one that operates with a larger and more powerful engine. That’s why muscle car enthusiasts talk respectfully of zero to 60 mph acceleration times, quarter-mile times and trap speeds. Many muscle cars were capable of 130 mph or more straight off the showroom floor.

Muscle car sales were good in the '60s with a number of vehicles such as the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Road Runner Superbird. Their appearance added to their street appeal.


Stevan Miner of Winnebago has a collection that any Mopar collector could have, with a few extras: a 1965 Plymouth Satellite with a 426 wedge engine, a 1971 Plymouth GTX with a 440 six-pack engine (one of 62 built) and a 1976 Dodge Charger.

But "probably my favorite Mopar collectible," he said, "is a dealership Rapid Transit lighted sign. Back in the early '70s, Plymouth called their muscle car offerings the Rapid Transit System, and this sign would have hung in the local Chrysler dealerships to advertise these cars."

Going to car shows and exchanging items with fellow Mopar lovers is a good place to pick up items, as are car shows, swaps, cruises, and websites.

It's important for buyers to do their research and know what they are looking for.

"Buying a car sight unseen is never a good idea, regardless of what type of car it is," Miner says. "Paying for a professional inspector is always a good idea, especially if the car is real expensive. Making sure the car has the correct matching drivetrain numbers and the option codes is very important if you want your investment to hold its value. There are quite a few 'clone' or 'tribute' cars on the market right now. That’s where someone will take a regular car and outfit it with the performance engine and options to make it appear to be a much higher end car."

Muscle cars and the things that go with them are collectible today. 

"There are a lot of baby boomers out there who remember these cars, and now that their kids are gone, they want to relive those days by collecting these items," Miner says.

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