Fastest Muscle Cars In The 90s

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Even though the muscle car era is often thought of as the 60s and 70s, there was still plenty of power to brag about when muscle made a resurgence in the 90s.

The fastest muscle cars of the 1990s are listed below, with descriptions of each.

  • 1997 Dodge Viper
  • 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
  • 1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
  • 1993 Camaro Z28
  • 1995 Pontiac SLP Formula Firehawk
  • 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
  • 1996 Mosler Raptor
  • 1999 Pontiac Trans Am (30th Anniversary)

After a decade of underperforming cars that were more focused on fuel and emissions, the auto industry began to redefine itself in the 90s. While smaller-sized boxy imports grabbed much of the attention, automakers began to return to their muscle car roots with new designs and more powerful engines. Americans began to embrace the new sports cars, feeling a new speed dormant for far too long. The decade would drastically change car safety and efficiency, with car companies carving out performance niches to woo affluent consumers. For some owners, it was an age of pure automotive pleasure, the sweet spot of power, performance, and perfection. This article will examine some of the best performance muscle cars of the 1990s and what made them so loved by the owners who drove them. Let’s explore this great decade where Americans rediscovered their muscle car roots and laid a foundation for high performance for decades.

Table of Contents


What Are The Fastest Cars In The 90s?

Many contenders could have made our list of the fastest muscle car in the 90s. (If we left your favorite off the list, we understand your frustration because it was difficult for us to choose, too).

1997 Dodge Viper GTS

1997 Dodge Viper GTS
1997 Dodge Viper GTS

Frankly, any of the Dodge Vipers built during the nineties could have made the list of best muscle cars because they were all as quick as you know what. When Dodge introduced the Viper R/T, it turned heads with its impressive 8.0L V10, sleek body contour, and a general lack of amenities like air conditioning, door handles, or key cylinders. The car was built for speed, and Dodge made no bones about it. The only trouble is that many owners had trouble handling the sports car at high speeds, and early Gen 1 tended to be unsafe if drivers weren’t careful.

After five years of tweaking, the second generation of the Dodge Viper gained added safety measures (like airbags) and other amenities like air conditioning, power windows, and power locks. In addition, much of the Dodge Viper was revamped to aid stability to the rear wheels and structure, with improved aluminum suspension components. The car’s ability to hold the road was drastically enhanced, and the Vipers gained a more efficient rear exhaust that quieted down the V10’s rumble, which delighted owners to no end. The engine performance was pushed to 450 hp, with a 0 - 60 mph track time of 4.1 seconds. The Viper’s top speed was over 193 mph (GTS model).

During the ‘97 MY, Dodge made 1,671 GTS Coupes and 117 of the RT/10 convertible. In 1997, if you had $66,700 before taxes, you could walk into a Dodge dealership and drive one home (assuming they had one or could find one). Today, a well-maintained ‘97 Dodge Viper is worth around $80,000 - 100,000.

1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

As auto companies staked out their territories for performance cars, GM introduced the Corvette ZR-1 in 1990, with some help from the newly acquired Lotus. The collaboration resulted in an all-new Corvette with an all-aluminum 5.7L V8, new suspension and air intake systems, and an even more expensive price tag. The LT5 engine nearly doubled the price of a base Corvette, but owners with money to burn in their wallets gladly paid it.

Paired with a new 6-speed ZF transmission, the ZR-1 would set seven international speed records in 1990 because it was blisteringly fast, with a 4.4-second track time of 0 - 60 mph. The car was capable of a top speed of 180. The LT5 produced 375 hp, and in ‘93, it was tweaked even further to 405 hp.

GM sold over 3,049 ZR-1s the first year, which made up almost 13% of the total Corvette production. The package would be a part of Corvette's legacy for five years, when a lack of sales (only 648 units in 1995), high production costs, and the upcoming introduction of the C5 Corvette.

Today, a 1990 ZR-1 is worth less than it cost in its day, which is surprising. (Hagerty lists this car at $23k). But if you like a sports car that is a killer on the straight, and one of the great American performance cars, you could do much worse than a Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.

1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

No list is acceptable without a reference to Ford Muscle in the 90s. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team developed a lightning-quick Mustang but felt it was too fast for release to the general public. They refused to sell this sports car to anyone who didn’t have a racing license or owned a racing team. The limited production of 250 models sold in five days.

The Cobra R cost about $32k and sported the SN-95 body Ford incorporated with the fourth generation in 1994. Even though the looks appealed to buyers, the real story was under the hood. The ‘95 Cobra R was powered by a re-engineered 5.8L 351W V8 producing 300 hp. The car was designed to be a street-legal performance car that needed to be raced (it had no back seat, power windows, or air conditioning, which helped minimize weight). MotorTrend tested the car for a review, posting a 5.2-second run 0 - 60 mph, a 13.8-second quarter mile, and a 160 mph top speed. Their conclusion sums up the general feeling of most Mustang lovers when they concluded, “We pushed hard on the Cobra R at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and never found the limits of its performance.”

While the car made a few owners happy, most of the 250 models ended up in collector’s hands. Unfortunately, the car is not an auction powerhouse, even with its limited numbers. (Hagerty values the car at $27,000).

1993 Camaro Z28

When Chevrolet introduced its fourth generation of Camaro, the Z28 hit the streets as a high-performance pony car version designed to become the Mustang killer. The dynamic styling of the Camaro instantly appealed to buyers who paid under $17k for the privilege of driving the high-powered sports car off dealers’ lots. More than 17,850 units of the Z28 were made in 1993.

The Camaro shared the 5.7L OHV LT1 V8 with the Corvette producing 275 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, making it a brute on the streets, posting 5.6 seconds and a quarter mile time of 14.0 seconds flat. With a 4-speed automatic transmission as standard, owners could opt for a 5-speed manual at no extra cost. The car had excellent torque from the rear wheels, which enabled it to lift off the starting line, which MotorTrend discovered when it pitted the Z28 against the ‘93 Cobra Mustang. During the test, the Camaro owned bragging rights in almost every area, which delighted Chevy lovers everywhere.

The Z28 would continue to be a part of the Camaro lineup until 2002, when GM decided to retire it for a short while (until it was reintroduced in a retro style in 2010). These early fourth-gen Camaros are perfect restoration projects because they are reasonably priced, easy to work on, with decent fuel economy. Many are still running on the streets today.

1995 Pontiac SLP Formula Firehawk

Even though the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am had gotten most of the glory, the Firehawk made a name for itself as a high-performance car. It had been in production for three years (1992) when the ‘95 rolled off the line. The popularity of the Firehawk was taking off, based on the modifications it received from the Street Legal Performance company in New Jersey. One of those modifications was the 5.7 V8 that produced 342 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque with the sports package. At the time, the car was the fastest production vehicle Pontiac had ever made, and with a top speed of 160 mph and a track time of 4.9 seconds 0 - 60 mph.

The goal for the Street Legal Performance company Pontiac was to try and recapture the glory of the muscle car from the 60s, and with over 1,000 Firehawks produced in 1995, owners were buying into the dream. This was the first year a convertible or T-top coupe was offered, which widened the appeal.

While the base price with the SLP upgrades pushed the price up to $40k, the car sold well and kept Pontiac in the game for a few more years until the financial collapse of 2008 forced it to shutter its doors at the end of the decade.

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS

Over the years, one car that has seen its share of muscle is the Impala SS. In its early days in the 1960s, it was one of the most prolific American muscle cars to grace the street, with over 243k units made in ‘65 alone. GM’s decision to bring the SS package back in the mid-nineties delighted Chevy car enthusiasts, and the company knew that to win Chevy owners over, the SS needed to have some serious power. The car was given retuned 5.7L V8 (LT1) as the standard engine and based the rest of the car on the Caprice police package Chevy had been producing for law enforcement agencies.

The 5.7L V8 used in the Impala had cast iron cylinder heads and two bolt main bearing caps (The LT1 on the Corvette and Camaro were 4s). While it only produced 260 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, it had a decent track time of seven seconds (which was excellent for a four-door sedan).

For an additional $26k, owners could opt for a Callaway Supernatural SS that bored out the LT1 to 383 Stroker V8 with over 404 hp. Only 20 Supernatural SSs were made, but boy, could they fly down the straight with a 5.9 second 0 - 60 time.

GM took a chance trying to market a high-performance four-door sedan, thinking that offering a plainclothes cop car would appeal to the masses. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The car had production troubles during the first year, and after three years on the market, only about 70k units were sold. (Compounding the lack of sales was the realization that GM had built faulty transmissions that tended to fail around the 100k mile mark). GM cut its losses with large sedans and canceled the Impala SS, Roadmaster, and Caprice, to make room for the growing SUV demand.

The fortunate few lucky enough to purchase a Chevy Impala SS got a quality family sedan that could fly on the highway while still being comfortable enough to take the family to church on Sunday. A Supernatural SS is a rare beast today, but typical SS models from those three years can be found for $25k - 30k in pristine condition. This makes the Impala a fantastic way to obtain a piece of American muscle.

1996 Mosler Raptor

If you are looking for a high-performance muscle car that was the fastest thing in the 90s, you might have to name a car nobody’s heard of. The 1996 Mosler Raptor had a split windshield, an ugly, flat Ferrari-like design, and an incredibly high price tag ($160,000). Mosler Automotive had made only about 70 of its Consulier GTPs between 1985 and 1996. When Consulier Industries became Mosler Automotive in 1993, it rebranded and updated the high-performance GTP naming it first the Intruder and later the Raptor.

The Raptor won several racing events, and when the car was tested in 1998 by Car and Driver, the Raptor had a highly modified 383 ci small block V8 that put out 446 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The Mosler product was a light car, weighing only 2,773 lbs, which enabled it to smoke down the track, posting a 3.9 second 0-60 and a 12.3 quarter mile. (Top speed of 163 mph).

The Raptor was not liked by everybody. A public feud with Car and Driver, in which Mossler had challenged anyone to beat his Consulier GTP, worsened matters. The car’s split windshield blocked visibility, and the interior left a lot to be desired. Mosler Automotive folded in 2013 but experimented with several racing cars like the MT900 (2001).

Today, any collector can purchase a Mosler Consulier GTP for around 50 - 70k (check out this one that sold last month for much less - it needed some work).

1999 Pontiac Trans Am (30th Anniversary Edition)

Even though the original Trans Am came out in 1967, it was designated for 1969 MY, so what better way to celebrate its 30th birthday than make an anniversary edition of the famous car? The sales brochure proudly announced that the “Muscle Car Lives,” and with the ‘99 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, that was about as true a statement as any car company ever made.

Pontiac knew they had to create a monster muscle car to woo Trans Am lovers, so they equipped the ‘99 with a 5.7L SFI V8. The powerplant produced 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque. While this might not seem like much, the car's low profile helped channel the air flow, reduce the drag coefficient, and produce a 5.1 second 0 - 60 mph. (The quarter-mile time was 13.4 seconds, and the top speed was 163 mph). The 30th Anniversary Pontiac was no slouch. Owners soon discovered it was the kind of muscle car deserving to wear the Trans Am nameplate.

Only 1600 units were made (535 of which were convertibles). The standard transmission was a 4-speed automatic, but 175 models had a 5-speed manual. Every car was white with blue racing stripes, white leather seats, and 30th-anniversary decals planted everywhere. PBS’s automotive show MotorWeek described the thrill of driving one as “delivering more thrills per mile.”

Today, manual transmission Trans Ams are rare but reasonably priced at around $30 - 35,000. While any owner will tell you the white leather interior has to be protected, as a muscle car from the 90s, it doesn’t get any better than the Trans Am.