2. 1974 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
New pedestrian safety laws ruined a lot of American sports cars as they had to introduce new crash structures that just looked awful. Somehow, they helped turn the 1974 Pontiac Firebird into one of the finest looking 70s muscle cars ever made.
The 1971 car was curvaceous, but it was also monumentally ugly with one of the weirdest front ends in automotive history. Mandatory 5-mph telescoping bumpers at the front resulted in the legendary shovel nose hitting the market for the first time. It became the car’s calling card for decades.
It’s a unique style and this car isn’t for everyone. The starring role in Smokey and The Bandit turned it into a cult hero, but that came at the cost of credibility as a serious piece of automotive history at the same time. It’s a novelty in some respects and too many of the 1976 models ended up with a tribute eagle on the hood.
So, if you’re looking for a classic American sports car, then stick to the pre-Smokey 1974 vintage. $25,000 buys an honest car, but you can always spend more.
The 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am gained a lot of weight due to the new regulations and it was born at the height of the oil crisis. So, you could get a 100 hp version that just feels slow by today’s standards. The 7.5-liter, 250 hp version is the one you really want, though. The Lightweight Super Duty, meanwhile, is rare enough to command an outsized premium that only serious collectors will want to pay.
It’s a feel-good car that any car nut grew up with on TV. It isn’t actually that fast, but it is one of the most famous muscle cars in America and it will put a smile on your face. Don’t go nuts, stay at the bottom of the price range and this classic American muscle car is a bargain.