It's a Friday, and it's the week before our most patriotic of U.S. holidays. What better time to take a look back at the best of American muscle machinery? Aha, but there's a catch: We're only going to go back 30 years. That's right, 1978. The Malaise era was striking back with a new breed of muscle cars. While not as legendary as some of the "true" muscle iron of the '60s, these creations traded raw power for cocaine-fueled, taped-on vinyl style. In the middle of an infamous era, we give you three cars that represented the best of red-blooded American spirit. But only one will be declared most awesome, and that's for you to decide.

AMC Concord AMX

Powered by an optional 5.0-liter V8, the '78 AMX was based on the otherwise boring new-for-'78 AMC Concord. You could get the 4.2-liter straight-six with a 4-speed manual, but if you wanted the macho V8, you were stuck with a 3-speed slushbox. For those wanting to rebel against the empire of Detroit's big three, while still buying American, this was the way to go. Besides, who else was gonna offer you authentic Levi's denim seats?

Ford Mustang King Cobra

With the new fox-body Mustangs right around the corner, the '78 King Cobra was a last hurrah for the old Mustang II. The Cobra-adorned hood featured a new reverse hood scoop, and tucked underneath was a 5.0-liter V8. That mill wheezed out about 140 HP, and was connected to a 4-speed manual or an optional automatic. Really, not much was mechanically different from the previous Cobra II, but if you wanted a bitchin' snake on your hood, this was the car for you.

Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am

Starring in the previous year's film Smokey And The Bandit, the T/A went mostly unchanged for '78. However, GM did make changes where it counted, as 1978 actually saw an increase in the 6.6-liter V8's compression ratio — to 8.1:1. Of course, output was still only 188 HP, but that was still more than you got in a base '78 Corvette. Plus, if you were a real bandit, you could order a special high-altitude model that used an Oldsmobile 403 CI V8 rather than the Pontiac 400 CI lump...and somehow lose 8 HP in the process. Either way, you were lucky sure to outrun any smokey.
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