We don’t associate classic cars with being fast, normally, unless we are talking cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini, and other brands that have always been known for speed. But there are times that classic cars were way faster than we remember, mostly because they came before their time.
So sure, as compared to the fast cars of today, the classic cars may be pure guzzlers, but when it comes to acceleration, they do manage to keep up. And that’s quite a feat in itself given the old engines and the past-expiration tech in these cars. In those times, the cars in themselves were also heavier, given the sheet metal so we doff our hats to these automakers. Because they managed to make fast cars back then, which are still considered speedy as classics.
Here go ten classic cars that are way faster than we remember, and need to be in our garage, now.
1970 AMC Rebel Machine: Underappreciated Classic Car
While AMC brought out classic cars like the Pacer and the Javelin, it also brought out the Gremlin, and that’s what it’s most remembered for. But it also brought the AMC Eagle, a noteworthy car of its time, and more importantly a pure performance classic car, the AMC Rebel Machine.
The 6.4-liter V8 in it made it run the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds, and it zipped 0-60 MPH in 6.8 seconds. With some aftermarket performance mods, it could go faster. But its red, white, and blue looks did not sell all that well, and only 2000 were ever made. If you do get one of these classic cars, remember, they are way faster than you think.
1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt: Limited Edition Classic Car
When it comes to Ford in the ‘60s, all they were thinking about is how to go faster, way faster than a Ferrari. But while the GT40 stole all the spotlight, Ford was also working on another car, faster than the other Fords, in the form of the Fairlane Thunderbolt.
This classic car was specifically made for the drag strip, and for the NHRA homologation, 100 were built as stock for the public. With fiberglass body panels and plexiglass windows, the 7.0-liter V8 could zip the quarter-mile in 11.61 seconds, at top speeds of 124.8 MPH. With performance updates, it could do the same in under 10 seconds.
1966 Plymouth Satellite 426 Hemi: Sleeper Classic Car
When we think of Plymouth and Hemis, there’s the Hemi ‘Cuda that comes to mind. But there was another sleeper Hemi from Plymouth, in the form of the Satellite that also carried the 7.0-liter Hemi V8. The Satellite did not look like much but it drove like a bat out of hell.
Its simple looks belied the engine, which could take you 0-60 MPH in 5.3 seconds, and before you know it, you’d be top speeds of over 120 MPH. If you find this classic car, grab it, because it’s way faster than its competition back then, and could leave modern cars in its wake.
1986 Buick Regal Grand National: Super Classic Car
We call the Buick Regal Grand National a super classic car like we’d call Clark Kent superman. Because not only was it fast, it was faster than the super and sports cars of its time, like the Lamborghini Countach, Chevy Corvette, and even the Ferrari Testarossa and the GTO.
The Buick Regal Grand National, in all its black hulk, could zip 0-60 MPH in 4.9 seconds and basically could thumb its nose against all the so-called fast cars of the time. As a classic car today, it’s a desired one, and considering it can still beat a Mustang (base trim), we remain bowled over.
1963 Chevrolet Z11 Impala: Rare Classic Car
Chevy does love its Z cars, so move over, Nissan. In 1963, there was the Impala Z11, which is a lesser-known and lesser made classic car but carried a 7.0-liter V8 that let it fly the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds with a 0-60 MPH time of 4.3 seconds.
With mostly aluminum sheet metal, the car also threw out the weighty non-essentials like the radio, heater, and even the front sway bars. Only 60 of these were made, making it a very rare classic car today, considering not many have survived those blistering speeds.
1963 Iso Rivolta Grifo: Lost Classic Car
The first car that comes to mind when you think of automaker Iso Rivolta, is the Isetta, the funny little bubble car that BMW marketed. But they also had the Grifo, a GT-like sports car, that carried a 7.0-liter V8 from Chevrolet, making 435 horses.
With Italian styling powered by American muscle, this was a gorgeous car that ran 0-60 MPH in a zippy 6.2 seconds, at top speeds of 160 MPH. The Grifo has been lost in time, although this is one classic car that is way faster than its contemporaries and should be honored as such.
1964 Studebaker Super Lark R2 & R3: Cancelled Classic Cars
The Studebaker Lark was a fairly nice car until they decided to make it all about crazy performance, bringing in the Super Lark R1, R2, and finally the R3. The R2 carried a 4.7-liter, 289-ci V8 and made 289 horses as well.
But the R3 was ludicrous, as Tesla would like to say, supposedly making 400 horses, and doing 0-60 MPH in 6.0 seconds, with quarter-mile blasts of 12 seconds or so. The top speed was 150 MPH but could be boosted to 160 as well. Shame that the R3 classic car was canceled before it was made, with only one example sold.
1964 Pontiac Tempest GTO: GOAT Classic Car
When the first Pontiac GTO was launched, it was an option package on the Tempest that received a negative reception, because the GTO was a term better suited to the race track. But considered Pontiac also had a car called Le Mans, it’s no surprise.
But that’s before people saw the handsome car, or revved that powerful “Tri-Power” carburated, 6.4-liter V8, rated at 348 horsepower. With a 0-60 MPH run of 4.6 seconds, the rest of the naysayers were sold. This was a classic car way faster than the others bearing the GTO tag.
1971 De Tomaso Pantera: Supercar Classic
The De Tomaso Pantera arrived in the US because of a handshake between Alejandro De Tomaso and Lee Iacocca of Ford. And it arrived like automobile haute couture, with stunning looks and an engine that rumbled through your spine because of mid-car placement.
Sadly, by 1974, the handshake was over and the Pantera no longer came to the US. But it was good while it lasted with its Ford engine taking it 0-60 MPH in 5.5 seconds, at top speeds of 159 MPH. Like a classic car, it does need a bit of work but makes for a worthwhile project.
1949 Jaguar XK120: Vintage Classic Car
The Jaguar XK120 debuted as a concept in 1948 and was the first of Jags to carry the double-overhead-cam straight-six cylinder engine, which lasted in various updated forms till 1992. With a top speed of 124.6 MPH and a 0-60 MPH run of 10 seconds, this car was pretty fast for its time.
It may be more of a relic than a classic car today but was pretty cool for its time. And even now, its gorgeous and sleek looks make it quite an exotic addition to a multi-pronged garage.
Sources: autoevolution, DriveTribe, CarandDriver, TopSpeed
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