Here’s a great way to start an argument: what year in the muscle car era had the best looking cars?
To me the answer is easy: 1969.
Before I explain why, it’s important to point out that every year is a compromise. I love the look of the 1967 Mustang, and I also love the 70 Cuda. Bu to pick a single year I’m talking about the overall class.
Let’s start my case for 1969 with two big reasons, the Camaro and the Mustang.
The 69 Camaro was the last of the first generation. While it was an evolution of the 68, it was different enough to stand out. It’s also proven to be a huge force in the collector market. More importantly it’s a great looking car. The lines that stretch down the side make it look fast while sitting still. There’s a reason Chevy used it as the design inspiration for the new Camaro.
The 69 Mustang was the second redesign in just five years. The fastback version was the ultimate evolution of that body style. Officially the fastback was called the SportsRoof. Like the Camaro design, the new sloping look just made the car look faster. Throw in simulated side scoops that were moved to the top of the fender and a great looking spoiler, and the Mustang just looked better.
The 69 Corvette was the second year of the Mako Shark styling. While the 63-67 Vettes have always brought the big bucks, the third generation was the car I lusted after as a kid. The 69 looks nearly identical to the 68, but I’ll give it credit for returning the Stingray emblem on the side.
While the beefy grille of the 70 Chevelle has made it a collector favorite, the 69 version is still a great looking car. Slightly lighter look and very modern styling.While I love the 70 Cuda, the 69 Barracuda is still a great looker. The fastback has aged well and earns its place in the muscle car book.
The 69 Olds 4-4-2 was very similar to the 68, but enough changes to give it a stronger look. The grill has a strong center section with the 4-4-2 logo and the hood scoops are nice and bold.
It was the second year of the GTO with the Endura bumper which I think is the best look for the Pontiac. The next year it would change to a more complex look.
Even American Motors had a great look with its AMX. Sure, it was the second year for that body, but AMC didn’t screw it up. The AMX was lightly redesigned the next year and not quite as nice.
The Super Bee still carried a pretty boxy look, but I always liked it more than the split grill version that came out in 70.
Oh, and did I mention the Dodge Daytona? Throw an aerodynamic shark nose and a tall tail on a Dodge Charger, and they created an iconic look that stood out from the crowd both at the race track, and the boulevard.
Now remember, I’m not saying that 1969 had the best looking cars ever for all models. I am saying that as a group, it was the high water mark for American muscle design.