1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88
Arguably the world’s first muscle car, the Rocket 88 was unique because it capitalized on an automotive trend that’s as American as apple pie – hot-rodding. After WWII, it wasn’t uncommon for idle former military engineers to buy up luxurious old automobiles, strip away the weighty interior and stick in a ferocious new V8, leaving them with a ridiculously powerful machine for its relative weight. Somewhere along the line the team at Olds realized they could cash in on this practice by offering a store-bought version to customers who couldn’t build their own hot-rod. The result was the world’s first factory-made muscle car.
1955 Chrysler C-300
Based on the New Yorker and named for its horsepower rating, it is also the spiritual progenitor of today’s Chrysler 300. When introduced, the C-300 was a world-beater, producing a whopping 300hp at a time when most cars made less than 200. Also, its 331 cubic inch (5.4L) engine had a revolutionary hemispherical combustion chamber, which is where Chrysler’s trademark “Hemi” name came from. It dominated racing in the U.S., despite its two-ton weight, and Tom McCahill (the father of the magazine road test) called it “a hardboiled, magnificent piece of semi-competition transportation.”