Top 10 American Classic Cars are Underrated in Terms of Quality And Style, No One Seems To Care

Before John DeLorean invented the time-traveling car we all know from Back to the Future, he created the modern muscle car with the Pontiac GTO. But even before the GTO, he helped develop something equally powerful but larger and more upscale, the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Grand Prix debuted in 1962 as something of a large gentlemen’s sporty personal luxury coupe to compete with Ford’s Thunderbird. It was available with Pontiac’s most potent V-8 engines and offered clean looks, comfort, and ample performance for its size. In 196,3 it received a facelift, as did all Pontiacs. One can begin to see in the 1963 Grand Prix the styling that would evolve into the famous and beloved loved 1965-1967 GTO. The twin stacked headlights, the split grille, and body lines all evoke that later GTO styling, but on a larger platform. Pontiac offered these cars with V8s ranging in size from 389 (6.4L) to 421(7.4L) cubic inches, producing up to 376 horsepower. Compared to the later GTO they resemble, the Grand Prix is equipped with more ornate wood-trimmed interiors and offers a more refined and comfortable ride. While the GTO was aimed at the young blue-collar man looking for some speed at a reasonable price, the Grand Prix was marketed more towards the white-collar buyer looking for power and luxury.

1964-1966 Ford Thunderbird

The Ford Thunderbird is an interesting car amongst collectors. Some generations of this iconic automobile are adored by collectors, some ignored, and some appear to be downright hated. The fourth-generation Thunderbird is largely ignored by collectors and is a bargain on the classic car market today. But why? Many experts point to the styling, which was more of an evolution of the previous “bullet bird” third-generation than a brand new car. While they sold very well when new, with approximately 92,000 purchased in 1964, the styling has not maintained popularity amongst collectors today. While equipped with strong Ford FE series big block engines, the performance and handling of these personal luxury cars are lacking compared to offerings from General Motors such as the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Riviera. They do not corner as well and are too softly sprung. Still, they offer excellent cruising comfort and unique features such as tilt-away steering and swivel bucket seats to make entering and exiting the car more effortless for the driver. Sold in hardtop, town sedan (1966 only), and convertible packages, this generation of Ford Thunderbird offers some variety in styling for those interested in cruising the boulevards in something a little different.

1965-1968 Buick LeSabre

When it comes to the General Motors B body platform of this era, the Chevrolet Impala gets almost all the attention versus its Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick stablemates. There is a reason for this; the Chevrolet Impala outsold the others by many orders of magnitude. Chevrolet also focused on high performance with the SS package Impalas which offered muscle car power and vibes, but in a full-size format. The Buick LeSabre is probably the most ignored among the oft-forgotten GM B bodies. Parking a third-generation LeSabre next to an Impala, one can see the family resemblance but will notice that the Buick has unique and appealing features and styling not found in the cheaper Impala. Buick interiors are more ornate and comfortable, and cars feature more elegant and refined styling, whereas the Impalas are more functional and pragmatic. All B-body GM cars received updated styling in 1967, and Buick introduced a sweep-spear body line it would move down to the popular Skylark series a year later. These well-built and appointed full-size GM cars were available with 300 (4.9L) and 340 (5.6L) cubic inch “baby nailhead” V8s designed for low-end torque for a smooth driving experience.

1965-1966 AMC Rambler Classic

Anyone but die-hard AMC fanatics have almost completely forgotten the 1965 to 1966 AMC Rambler Classic. When an average classic car enthusiast is asked to name an AMC from 1965 or 1966, they will almost always bring up the AMC Marlin. The Marlin, a popular AMC halo car with collectors, was based on the much ignored Rambler Classic. The Marlin took the 1965 Rambler Classic and added a sweeping fastback roofline and a wide array of standard equipment, which overshadowed almost every other AMC of those years in the eyes of the public. These handsome cars come in a variety of two and four-door configurations, including a convertible and station wagon. While AMC engines of the era are not particularly stout performers, they are well built and robust, providing good durability and adequate power. Driving into a car show with a Rambler Classic in any trim will undoubtedly turn heads as few remain.

1968-1969 Ford Ranchero

When the average gearhead thinks of a car with a truck bed, one’s mind will almost always conjure the words “El Camino.” While the Chevrolet El Camino sold exceptionally well and took the popularity crown, it was not the first to come up with such a layout. Debuting a full two years before the El Camino, the Ford Ranchero hit the market in 1957. The fourth generation Ranchero has seen some more interest in recent years due to its appearance on YouTube and later MotorTrend show

‘Roadkill’. However, it remains a relatively uncommon sight at many car shows. While the El Camino of this era had its SS performance package, the Torino-based Ranchero countered with the GT package. The GT package offered powerful Ford Big Block FE series engines in either 390 (6.4L) or 428 (7.0L) cubic inch displacements, generating up to 335 advertised horsepower. This generation of Ranchero deserves more appreciation than it currently gets.

1967-1969 Ford Thunderbird

Another Thunderbird? Yes indeed. The fifth generation of Thunderbird debuted in 1967 and was a massive departure from the more conservative evolution of the preceding generation. The debut of “pony cars” such as the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda eroded Thunderbird sales in late 1964. In response, the management at Ford decided the fifth generation would emphasize luxury over performance. While larger and heavier than the previous generation, the new Thunderbird possessed muscle car-styling elements such as a giant “jet intake” style grille reminiscent of fighter planes of the era and the “coke bottle” body lines common on many cars at that time. The new Thunderbird sought to eliminate vibrations and road noise by doing away with unibody construction for the traditional body-on-frame method. The interiors were well appointed and close in quality to the upscale Lincolns of the era. While larger and heavier than ever before, these Thunderbirds had ample cruising power thanks to Ford’s big block powerplants ranging from 390 (6.4L) to 429 (7.4L) cubic inches.

1962-1965 Dodge Custom 880

A short-lived model, Dodge produced the Custom 800 as a mid-priced and mid-sized offering from 1962 to 1965. Chrysler, having scrapped their DeSoto division a year earlier, lacked a car to fill that niche in the market and rushed to create the 880. Meant to compete with rumored smaller Chevrolets that did not materialize until 1964, the Custom 880 instead found itself fighting against the Ford Fairlane and Mercury Meteor for customers when it initially hit the sales floor. Design changes happened with every model year, with a significant redesign in 1964. The Custom 880 never caught on, being outsold by the Ford Fairlane and new intermediate Chevrolet Chevelle that debuted in 1964. Dodge discontinued the 880 following the 1965 model year. These quirky but unique cars stand out at a car show, with the 1964 and 1965 models being particularly well styled.

1965-1967 Cadillac DeVille

Cadillacs are much like the Ford Thunderbird. Some years are highly sought after and command a small fortune on the classic car market, and others are purchased at bargain prices. While the first and second-generation (1959-1964) Cadillac DeVilles are highly prized by collectors, the third generation has yet to catch on. The third generation DeVille features some radical styling departures from its predecessor. The transition from horizontal to vertically stacked headlights allowed a wider grille and made for a generally larger-looking front end. The body lines changed from rounded and soft to harsh and rigid. The more angular appearance slowly shifted as in 1967, the front end was changed to lean forward when viewed from the side, and the body lines became bolder. This subtle redesign was the pinnacle of the generation. The 1965-67 DeVilles are handsome cars offered in various two-door and four-door configurations, including a convertible. Fans of Pontiac styling will no doubt appreciate the front-end styling queues. While many have yet to find and appreciate this generation of the DeVille, many experts feel that it is only a matter of time before that changes.

1974-1978 AMC Matador Coupe

If you are a fan of classic James Bond movies, you will recognize this car from the 1974 movie “The Man With the Golden Gun.” In a brilliant piece of product placement, AMC paid the studio to use their cars extensively in the movie. The film’s villain, arch assassin Francisco Scaramanga, drives a brand new 1974 Matador Coupe. The marketing campaign worked as the car sold well for AMC in its first year before increasing fuel prices and competition from imports eroded sales. Nearly three-quarters of the approximately 100,000 Matador coupes were sold in the first model year. Featuring aggressive fastback styling, the Matador Coupe stood in stark contrast to the standard Matadors offered by the company and proved popular with consumers. In the post-muscle car era, with V8 performance in the doldrums, its aggressive styling gave the appearance and feel of speed. These interesting cars have gone largely unnoticed since their discontinuation, but some builders have produced some great examples of resto-moded Matador coupes

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