The European car industry is not really known for producing muscle cars, however sometimes one does crop up. During the golden age of the American muscle car, Europe was still recovering from the Second World War, the Cold War was still raging in the East and the European auto industry was focused on small, cheap, and efficient cars aimed at the everyday man.
This soon changed as many companies decided that their cars didn’t have to be so bland, and they started copying the fun-loving Americans across the Pond. Britain created the British roadster, Germany the ultimate sports car, and France the best suspension for the next few decades. What also emerged was the European muscle car, mostly disguised as a grand tourer or saloon car. These included the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Ford of Britain’s attempt at making a Mustang – the Ford Capri.
In more modern times, the Germans have taken over as the producers of the European muscle car with AMG stuffing a V8 in everything it could, leading to some of the greatest cars ever produced. So without giving too much away, here are 10 European muscle cars we’d rather drive over the new Dodge Challenger Hellcat.
10 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage was launched back in 1977 and was intended to be a luxurious grand tourer to conquer continents in, however for gearheads, it can be considered one of the first proper European muscle cars. The V8 Vantage had a massive V8 under the hood, which started out at 5.3 liters but could be upgraded to 6.3 liters, producing in excess of 450 hp.
The V8 Vantage is a fantastic car that was a hit when it was being manufactured but became even more iconic thanks to the James Bond movies, where it featured as the British secret agent’s spy car in The Living Daylights. The car also made a reappearance in the most recent Bond adventure, No Time To Die. Due to this impressive history, we’d drive the V8 Vantage over a Challenger Hellcat any day.
9 Ford Capri
The Ford Capri was Ford of Britain’s answer to the Mustang but designed for a more compact country. As a result, the Capri was based on the Ford Cortina platform and featured many of the same engines and general parts as the sedan.
These parts and engine sharing meant that whilst the Mustang in the US had a big burly V8, the Capri in Britain had a choice of 4-cylinder engines, including a tiny 1.3-liter. Luckily, Ford put the 3.1-liter V6 in it as well, boosting power, but a small racing company in South Africa created the Capri Perana, which had the Windsor V8 from the Mustang in it. The Perana made the Capri highly desirable and immeasurably cooler than any of its rivals.
8 Jensen Interceptor
The Jensen Interceptor was a British car built in the 1960s and 1970s which has become one of the coolest cars from that era. It had the underpinnings from American muscle cars, which included Chrysler V8s ranging up to a massive 7.2 liters.
The Jensen Interceptor was technically a grand tourer as muscle cars were not marketed as such in Europe, but it had all the hallmarks. The Jensen has a reputation as being quite terrible to drive, but thankfully many companies have been set up to fix and restore the Interceptor to what it was supposed to be, making it one of the coolest European cars – much more interesting than a Challenger Hellcat.
7 Mercedes-Benz AMG ‘Hammer’
The Mercedes-Benz AMG ‘Hammer’ has one of the best names in automotive history, which fits its ‘blunt instrument of performance’ stance perfectly. The AMG Hammer started out life as a Mercedes-Benz 300E or 300CE, which Mercedes’ tuning division then got a hold of.
The resultant Mercedes-Benz 300CE 6.0 AMG Hammer, just called the AMG Hammer, produced 381 hp from its 6.0-liter V8 and had a top speed of around 186 mph. The AMG Hammer was a brute of a car, which quickly became famous thanks to its slightly sinister look. The AMG Hammer – and AMG in general – helped start the unofficial German muscle car segment, a trend that continues to this day.
6 De Tomaso Longchamp
The De Tomaso Longchamp is not a car often thought of. It was built during the same time as the legendary Pantera, but can be considered as a more relaxed grand tourer compared to the mid-engine supercar. The Longchamp shared its platform with the Maserati Kyalami, but where the Kyalami had proper Italian V8s, the Longchamp was fitted with the same 5.8-liter Cleveland V8 as the Pantera had.
With De Tomaso being an Argentinian-Italian automotive company, the engines sourced from Ford went to Switzerland to be tuned, ending up at the De Tomaso factory in Modena with either 270, 300, or 330 hp – depending on the specification chosen. Unfortunately, only around 409 Longchamps were produced in the car’s 17-year run, making them quite rare.
5 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series
The W204 C-Class was one of the best Mercedes-Benz models in modern times. The best of the best was the C63 AMG Black Series, which was a specially modified C63 AMG coupé. The Black Series still featured the same 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 as the standard C63, but with power and torque upped to 510 hp and 457 lb-ft.
The Black Series also featured a wide-body kit to immediately differentiate it from the standard C63, with an optional carbon-fiber rear wing, front splitter, and extra canards for when using the car on track. The drivetrain was also upgraded with sharper handling and quicker throttle response and faster shifts from the transmission. It is one of the coolest AMG models in recent history and still commands interest wherever the car is spotted.
4 Jaguar F-Type R
The Jaguar F-Type R is, without a doubt, a sports car. However, thanks to Jaguar’s more American approach to how it was built, the F-Type R can be considered a muscle car. It features a powerful supercharged 5.0-liter V8 up front, drive going to the rear via an 8-speed automatic, and can be optioned as a 2-door coupé – the same formula as that of an American muscle car.
The F-Type is just prettier than any muscle car, especially since the facelifted version went on sale for the 2021 model year. The F-Type is also available with all-wheel-drive and as a roadster, adding to the appeal and opening up the market to more potential customers. The F-Type R also has better-built quality than something like the Challenger Hellcat, due to performing in a more premium segment.
3 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
The last Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG was one of the best super saloons ever created. It was one of the last cars fitted with Mercedes’ 5.4-liter supercharged V8, which had all its issues ironed out, resulting in a really reliable and tunable German V8.
In addition to the incredible engine, the W211 E55 AMG was also one of the best-looking E-Class Mercedes models in its history. It actually still looks relevant today. Whilst the E55 AMG is a saloon, it does not really follow the classic muscle car philosophy, however, it easily behaves like one. The E55 AMG is another German brute that can still give modern performance cars a run for their money.
2 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Another Mercedes, but a slightly different one. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG was the first car solely designed and built by AMG. It used a tuned version of their magnificent 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 which, when the car was launched in 2009, was the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 production engine in the world – until the Ferrari 458 Speciale came along. Luckily, the SLS Black Series regained that title and has held on to it until now, as the accolade was bestowed upon the Chevrolet Corvette C8 Z06.
The SLS AMG is an amazing car, designed to look like a grand tourer but can easily pass as a very expensive European muscle car with its uncanny ability to go everywhere sideways – as proven by Jeremy Clarkson during a trip to the USA. The SLS AMG is then definitely preferable to a Challenger Hellcat.
1 Aston Martin Vantage V600
The Aston Martin Vantage V600 is probably the closest any European car has ever come to being a proper muscle car. The Vantage was a continuation of the original from the 1970s, still featuring a big V8, and was available as a convertible Volante.
Aston Martin decided to turn it up to eleven and as a send-off to that model Vantage, they bolted not one, but two superchargers to the 5.3-liter V8, resulting in 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. The Vantage V600 was only available with a 6-speed manual transmission and could do an astonishing top speed of nearly 190 mph. It is then definitely a car to drive over the Dodge Challenger Hellcat – in fact, it is a car to choose over any other muscle car in history.