Early Muscle: 1961 Pontiac Ventura
It is hard to pin down the first actual muscle car; some have asserted that it is the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, which was built with speed in mind, with an overhead valve V8 placed in a mid-size car with a relatively lightweight body. A lot of observers cite the next big step in the evolution of the early muscle car to be the introduction of the 1955 Chrysler C-300 with its 300 horsepower Hemi engine that could go from zero to sixty in 9.8 seconds and reach a top speed of around 130 miles per hour.
A car that came along a few years later that is of note to many collectors and muscle car enthusiasts is the 1961 Pontiac Ventura 389. It was offered with the optional tri-power V8 that was rated at an eye popping 345 horsepower, and subsequently Pontiac offered a factory modification dubbed the “Super Duty” package that could be installed at some of their dealerships that ratcheted the horsepower up to 363. The Ventura got smaller in 1961 simultaneous to getting more powerful, losing 200 pounds of girth, four inches of length, and three inches worth of wheel base.
The 1961 Pontiac Ventura 389 with the standard 389 cubic inch OHV V8 and three two-barrels was capable of going from a standing position to sixty miles per hour in a brief 8.2 seconds, and it could get a quarter mile in 15.5 seconds and reach 93 miles per hour in the process. They were offered with the famed bubble-top body style and the eye catching Jeweltone Morrokide upholstery, and one could order the optional Borg Warner four-speed for an additional $306. The base price of the 1961 Pontiac Ventura 389 was $3,200, but these days a restored ’61 Ventura 389 bubble-top may carry a price tag in the vicinity of $60,000-$70,000.