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7 of the Rarest American Cars Ever Built

Here are 7 American cars that truly define rare. They range from a nondescript Hemi-powered four-door Dodge sedan to a trio of Corvettes with Can Am motors.

1971 Pontiac GTO Judge – 17 Produced
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In response to losing market share to other muscle cars, the good folks at Pontiac took action, but unfortunately a little too late. In 1971 every GTO Judge was fitted with the 455 HO engine. This motor was rated at 335 hp, lower than many competitors, but with a stump-pulling 480 lb-ft of torque, on a single four-barrel carburetor. 1971 was the last year of the real muscle cars and few orders were placed for The Judge, and only 17 for the convertible version.

1954 Oldsmobile F-88 – 5 Produced

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The Oldsmobile F-88 was a fiberglass-bodied “Dream Car” built on an unmodified Corvette chassis. It was actually fitted with a 324 Olds V-8 while the Corvette came only a straight six. The console was derived from a 1953 Oldsmobile console with a tachometer added and customizing the fascia of the gauges. Two complete cars were constructed, with only one remaining. Components for two to three additional  cars were also made, which may or may not have been assembled. This is how many historians have arrived at the 5 examples.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi Four Door – 4 Produced

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To satisfy NASCAR that their Hemi engine was available to the general public, and thus eligible to be used in competition, Chrysler allowed the 426 CID brute to be ordered in any 1966 Dodge Coronet. Perhaps it was an oversight or perhaps Chrysler wanted to prove the engine’s availability, but some of these nearly full-race motors ended up in 136 1966 Coronets, including four, four-door sedans. While it was possible to have ordered a Hemi in a Coronet wagon, no one did so. For 1967 Chrysler limited the availability of the Hemi to its top-of-the-line performance models.

1954 Packard Panther – 4 Produced

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The 1954 Packard Panther was built to showcase some of the more radical ideas Packard was considering for its production models in the mid- and late-1950s. The Panther was a fiberglass-bodied, two-seat sporting convertible, with a total of four Panthers built, of which only two survive.  Although Packard had already launched its V-8, the Panther used the 327 CID flathead inline eight, supercharged to produce 275 HP, in an effort to help push sales of Packards sitting on dealer lots with the old engine.

1970 Ford Torino King Cobra – 3 Produced

237446_a91fe20db2_low_resIn response to the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird Ford developed the 1970 Ford Torino King Cobra.  It had a sloped front end with dual headlamps located in cut-outs on the front fenders. Intake air came in under the bumper. Parking lamps were located between the headlamps, molded into the front fascia. But then NASCAR increased the minimum number of cars required to be produced for public sale from 500 to 3,000, the project was abandoned. Only three prototype cars were produced: one each with the Boss 429 engine, one 429 SCJ, and one 429 CJ.

1969 Chevrolet Corvette ZL-1 – 3 Produced

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Surprisingly, the all-aluminum ZL-1 engine block was factory-installed in just three Corvettes in 1969. One of the workers at Chevrolet’s St. Louis, Missouri plant, where Corvettes were then built, recognized that a Corvette could be ordered with the “Can-am” motor. Two other Chevrolet employees caught on to the idea and placed an order for themselves as well. The all-aluminum L88 Special Turbo Jet 427 cubic inch engine produced 500 horsepower. While it seems like a no-brainer today, the up-charge for the motor added almost 40% to the cost of the Corvette.

1967 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible – 2 Produced

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Dodge installed 487 Coronet R/Ts with its 426 Hemi V-8 engines. Of those, only four convertibles were ever made. Two were made in 1967 and two in 1970. “R/T” stands for “Road and Track”. 1967 was the first year Dodge offered R/T models of the Coronet, and the Hemi was available on in that model. The Coronet styling was updated in 1970 and by then the big Hemi was capable of producing 425 horsepower.

Categories: Gear Grinding

Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.