A muscle car might be defined as simply a high-performance two-door car made in the U.S., but to its fans it's much more than that. The muscle car is the basis for an entire subset of car fans, and movies such as "Bullitt" that have featured them prominently have helped create a lasting high-speed subculture.
Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of the online car review aggregator Total Car Score, is a self-described muscle car fanatic who characterizes these vehicles as his "primary passion." He provided CNBC.com with his list of 10 classic American muscle cars and some eye-popping estimates of their current market value.
"Vintage car collectors consider these must-have muscle cars, which is undoubtedly driving up the prices," Brauer said. He said that prices are likely to keep climbing, so if there's any time to buy a muscle car, it's now.
"The 1969-1970 Boss 429 Mustang, for instance, has skyrocketed in value over the past two years," he said. "If you're looking to buy you should act sooner rather than later. These vehicles will all likely cost more six to 12 months from now.
Read ahead to see the list of 10 classic American muscle cars.
1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30
Oldsmobile is not a name commonly associated with the muscle car era. Nevertheless, this company still made its contributions back then, which included the 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W-30.
"At the peak of the muscle car era, Oldsmobile offered a 455 cubic inch V-8 engine in the brand's 442 muscle car," Brauer said. "When equipped with the W-30 option the 1970 Oldsmobile 442 was rated at 370 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque, often while sporting such luxuries as air conditioning and power windows." Its current market value is $35,000.
1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455
According to Brauer and to many fans, the muscle car's golden age came to an end in 1971. However, a small but determined group of engineers at Pontiac remained undeterred, and created an evolved Ram Air IV engine, which turned up under the hood of the 1974 Firebird.
Despite its late vintage, Brauer called this Trans Am "a fully capable muscle car." The current market value of the 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD455 is $75,000.
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1
"Buick was a performance player back in the muscle car days, with 455 cubic inch V-8s offered in the company's Gran Sport (GS) models," Brauer said. "The top dog was the 1970 Buick GSX with the 455 Stage 1 engine rated at 370 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque."
Only 400 of these GSXs were produced, so its relatively limited production run has kept it somewhat valuable among collectors and enthusiasts. Its current market value is $75,000.