Have American muscle cars hit a new golden age?

The 580-horsepower 2014 Camaro ZL1 will be a The 580-horsepower 2014 Camaro ZL1 will be a future collectible. Photo Credit: General Motors

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When the older car guys go on about the high-powered days of the late 1960s and early '70s - the era of Ford Boss 429 Mustangs and Plymouth Hemicudas and 427 Corvettes - ruling the streets, there's only one problem: as beloved as the Vietnam-era warhorses are in our memories, the truth is that what you can buy today from the U.S. Big Three is light years ahead.

And there's a strong chance that the 2013/'14 model years may well go down in history as being the kind of high-water mark that the 1969 and '70 model years represent to today's muscle-car collectors.

Of course, there is one huge difference: the modern classics do most everything better than the old cars do. Yes, everything: accelerate; corner; and stop. And they have airbags, get decent fuel economy and can be driven in the rain.

While one can argue about aesthetics - which looks better, a '67 Corvette or a 2014? - there's no doubt that some of today's best and baddest born-in-the-United States hot rods will be highly collectible 40 years from now.
So what American iron will be most valuable in the future? Here's one man's prognostication.

2014 CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY

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The fact that NASCAR team owner and mega-Chevrolet dealer Rick Hendrick paid $1 million for the first 2014 Corvette Stingray speaks volumes. The latest edition of Chevrolet's fabled two-seater is an instant classic, delivering world-class performance and style in a bold new design. The so-called "C7" (as in seventh-generation) Corvette has the potential to go down in history with the 1963 split-window Corvette Sting Ray as one of the most iconic designs of all-time. Photos don't fully do the new 'Vette justice. It is jaw dropping in every respect.

2013 SRT VIPER

The redesigned 2013 SRT Viper is a huge step up for Chrysler's SRT brand on several levels: it's 100 pounds lighter than the old model with a stiffer chassis and a 640-horsepower V10 that will push the Viper to a mathematical top speed of 206 mph. Zero to 60 mph comes in just 3.3 seconds. Spiritually, the new Viper is analogous to the old Shelby Cobra that debuted more than 60 years ago. Not surprisingly, SRT - Chrysler's high-performance division - will race the Viper at the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event in France this June.

2013 FORD SHELBY GT500

Truth is, for a pure driving experience, the Ford Boss 302 Mustang is much more fun than the Shelby GT500, but with 662 horsepower, the Shelby GT500 is simply insane, but in a good way. Hard to imagine that Ford will ever build something faster or more powerful than this. Zero to 60 mph takes just 3.5 seconds, and a quarter mile can be decimated in about 11.8 seconds, by which time the strongest Mustang ever built will reach 125 mph. Plus, you can get the Shelby as a convertible, which you can't do with the Boss 302.

2013 CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 CONVERTIBLE

That Chevrolet even managed to get the brutish ZL1 built after General Motors' bankruptcy and the Obama fuel regs is a minor miracle. With 580 horsepower and a superbly tuned suspension, the ZL1 is a joy to drive hard. And unlike the original 1969 ZL1, it stops on a dime and corners tenaciously. The next-generation Camaro will be smaller and built on the Cadillac ATS platform, so if you wanted a ZL1, don't wait. If you are looking for maximum long-term investment potential, buy a black convertible with a manual transmission and never drive it.

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2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE SRT8

Truthfully, any of the SRT8 models produced by Chrysler in recent years - the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum wagon, Charger and Challenger - ought to be safe choices as future collectibles. All are equipped with Chrysler's latest-generation "Hemi" V8 engines and all look good and go fast. But there's something special about the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, which will hang with a Porsche Cayenne GTS on the track, but costs less than half as much.
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MARTIN . . . ASTON MARTIN: The fourth and final Aston-Martin built for James Bond movies of the mid-1960s is up for sale in England with an asking price of three million pounds, roughly US $4.73 million. This particular car was used to promote Thunderball, but never appeared on screen. The original Goldfinger movie car sold in 2010 for $4.1 million.

C7 DOES ALL THE TALKING: General Motors chose not to advertise in this year's Super Bowl XLVII, but still got plenty of press attention by giving game most valuable player Joe Flacco a new 2014 Corvette for leading the Baltimore Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

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BETTER LATER THAN . . .: British luxury automaker Bentley, which is a division of Volkswagen, apparently has the green light to build a luxury tall wagon, internally known by the code name Falcon. Expect a price tag of around $300,000 when it debuts in three years. 

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