Last year, the Dodge Challenger rose to the top of the muscle-car sales heap like fat congealing atop a homemade stock. After years of dominance from the Mustang and Camaro, the news came as a shock — one that sparked debate within the Jalopnik Slack channel. Did the Challenger really deserve the honor? Was it really the best muscle car built in 2021, or did chip shortages and supply chain issues allow the worst of the bunch to flourish?
This spiraled, as conversations do, into a broader topic: What was (or is) the worst muscle car ever built?
Many will tell you the worst muscle car ever to grace American streets was the Ford Mustang II. It was smaller than the outgoing Mustang, worse-looking, and packed an anemic 140 horsepower under that long hood. These people are wrong, however: The Mustang II is the coward’s choice, and here’s why.
The Mustang II was a product of its time, a malaise-era American response to the oil crisis of the early 1970s. While the results may not have been ideal, the concept of downsizing the Mustang from its bloated 1973 dimensions (longer than even the 2022 Mustang, with all its crumple zones and crash safety) is a good one.
No, the worst muscle car to grace the streets of the United States is the fifth-generation Pontiac GTO. I’ll temper the spice on that take by saying that the contemporary Holden Monaro on which the GTO is based is an incredibly cool vehicle — but that’s sort of the problem.
The Pontiac GTO is a storied nameplate, one instantly recognizable to many even outside car enthusiast circles. To bring that badge back in the 2000s, General Motors simply took the best coupe Holden had to offer, priced it too high, and made it look worse. The Monaro was such an interesting vehicle, but for GM to nerf it in making the GTO only seems to reaffirm the company’s mid-aughts commitment to not making Pontiac all it could be.
But, that’s just my opinion. What do you think the worst muscle car is? Do you hate the Dodge Demon with some incredible fury, or do you think I’m wrong about the Mustang II? Leave your responses down below, and we’ll collect the best for a slideshow later today.