The Best Cars of ‘69

Muscle cars, luxury sedans, and funny-looking European and Japanese novelties—1969 was a wild year for the American car market!
Written by Jasmine Kanter
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
It's the end of the sixties, and major events dominate the headlines while all-American icons like the Camaro, Road Runner, F-100, and Continental dominate the streets. Add a few new imports, like the Beetle and Corolla, and you have the unforgettable year of 1969.
If you got your hands on a time machine, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more seminal moment in car history than 1969. It was the peak of the American muscle car era and Camaros, Chargers, and Firebirds were strutting their stuff in the streets. 
The world’s most ingenious and sophisticated supercars were brewing in Europe—do the names Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Alfa Romeo ring a bell? Meanwhile, the ancestors of today’s best-selling Toyotas, Hondas, and Volkswagens had just landed on American soil. Plus,
car insurance
was insanely cheap!
Are you excited yet? Groovy! Grab your rose-colored glasses and a fringed suede jacket for a drive into the past!
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The best cars of ‘69

We’re kicking things off with the best of the best before we move on to the luxurious, the athletic, and the totallyfab. Some of these cars went on to achieve record-breaking sales, while others were so rare they became myths as soon as they left the lot. Don’t blink or you’ll miss ‘em!

The best car of 1969: Plymouth Road Runner 426 Hemi

HAGERTY average market value: $31,679
Powertrain: 425-horsepower 7.0L Hemi V8 engine with a four-speed manual or automatic transmission 
What makes it special: 
There’s no question: the best car of 1969 is a muscle car—with so many contenders, the next question is, which one? Fondly-remembered, highly sought-after, and unmistakably American, it’s the
Road Runner 426 Hemi by a mile (or more).
Our top pick comes pre-recommended:
Motortrend’s 1969 Car of the Year
featured tongue-in-cheek cartoon graphics and enough devilish tricks up its sleeve to leave competitors in the dust—literally! Its hemispherical “Coyote Duster” V8 engine could rev up to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and leave the start line a quarter-mile behind in 13.54 seconds flat. 
With a top speed of 142 mph, you don’t want anything to weigh you down—extra options were all about transmission, a heavy-duty Sure-Grip differential, and more cartoon stickers. Get out of the way! Beep-beep!

The best luxury car of 1969: Lincoln Continental MkIII

HAGERTY average market value: $22,595
Powertrain: 365-horsepower 7.5L V8 engine with three-speed C6 automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
The hottest features of 1969 were plush carpets, power steering, air conditioning, and plenty of chrome accents. Since then, many of these goodies have fallen out of fashion or into lower trim levels. Others, like quilted leather seating and a top-of-the-line sound system, remain hallmarks of the luxury personal vehicle—the
Continental Mark III had them all.
Conceived as a competitor for the
Cadillac Eldorado
, the Mark III went on to
define the Lincoln brand
in the minds of the public for years to come. It remains a highly collectible model. And, as the ill-fated choice of model for President Kennedy in ‘61, it’s an instantly-recognizable part of American history.

The most iconic car of 1969: Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle

HAGERTY average market value: $12,965 
Powertrain: 34-horsepower 1.5L opposed-four engine with four-speed manual transmission
What makes it special:
Among the boxy designs of the ’60s, the Type 1
Volkswagen Beetle
was the curviest and bubbliest car on the market. Nicknames like slug bug (in the States), coccinelle (“ladybug” in France), peta (“turtle” in Bolivia), and kodok (“frog” in Indonesia) reflect a near-universal fondness for this practical and affordable car. In the
1997 Car of the Century
competition, it came in fourth place (the Model T took the top prize if you were wondering).
The Beetle’s design was more than eye-catching—it was also light, space-efficient, and easily repaired, all of which cemented it as a favorite in post-war Europe. Volkswagen eventually decided to share the love overseas and the rest is history. The Beetle and the Type 2 van became fixtures of the hippie counterculture of the ’60s and soon appeared on the silver screen, most notably in Herbie the Love Bug
If you want more proof of the Beetle’s iconic status, look no further than the
many eulogies
that emerged in the wake of its cancellation in 2003.

The best family car of 1969: Toyota Corolla E10

HAGERTY average market value: N/A 
Powertrain: 60-horsepower 1.1L inline-four engine with four-speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
Family cars aren’t the best collectibles—they’re usually driven hard, produced in huge quantities, and equipped with unremarkable technology. So, let’s review a classic with more history than collectibility: the
Toyota Corolla
The Corolla was introduced to the American market in 1969 and became the worldwide best-selling passenger car just five years later—2021 marked the 50 millionth unit sold over 12 generations. At the time, it was coveted for its features list (which included a center console, armrests, radio, and heater) and its promises of economy and practicality. The extremely petite 1.1L inline-four engine belied just how far the Corolla would eventually go in changing automotive history.

The best sports car of 1969: Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

HAGERTY average market value: $586, 215 
Powertrain: 425-horsepower 7.0L all-aluminum ZL1 V8 engine with three- or four-speed manual, automatic, or automatic Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission
What makes it special: 
Rumors abound about the
1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
—at the time of its release, some even doubted its existence. Others said it had reached a whopping 550-horsepower in factory tests. Everyone agrees, however, that it all started with the specially-modified batch of 50 ordered from the factory by Fred Gibb, a Chevy dealer in Illinois. 
Intended for racing, a total of 69 L78 Camaro SSs were retro-fitted with F41 heavy-duty suspensions, ZL1 all-aluminum engines (stolen from the Can-Am Chaparral), and heavy-duty springs. The beefy powertrain required further adjustments inside and out, resulting in a sky-high price tag that would never sell.
Gibb negotiated the return of 37 cars, which eventually made their way onto other dealer lots and into legend. With the ability to top 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, 100 mph in 12.4 seconds, and a quarter-mile in 13 seconds, they didn’t remain a secret for long. The
1969 Camaro ZL1 took first place
in a vote for the best Chevy of all time during the company’s centennial celebration.
Today, only a handful remain unaccounted for in the wild, a breed of supercar as rare and expensive as the day it was built.
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The best truck of 1969: Ford F-100

HAGERTY average market value: $19,500
Powertrain: 150-horsepower 6.4L inline-six engine with three-speed manual overdrive or Cruise-O-Matic transmission 
What makes it special: 
Another one for the history books: this was the year that sales of the F-Series first topped 500,000 units. Bucket seats, armrests, and power steering brought many comforts to a truck's cab for the first time without losing sight of the brand’s working man image. 
F-100 special packages like the Contractor, Farm & Ranch, and Heavy Duty offered useful upgrades like toolboxes, rear-step bumpers, and heavy-duty alternators. It's no wonder the F-Series has been the number one selling pickup truck in America since 1977.

What cars came out in 1969? 

If you're upset that your favorite didn't make the list, we're right there with you: there are just too many to choose from. Here are a few other models that were street staples of the late sixties, from cheapest to most expensive.
Vehicle type
HAGERTY average market value
Station wagon
6.3L or 7.2L V8
A modern family favorite with a long-running lineage
Muscle car
3.3L straight-six to 7.0L V8
Another iconic muscle car from the breed’s waning years
Full-size car
5.0L or 6.5L V8
Sold over 1,000,000 units in 1969
Pickup truck
An enduring model name and precursor to the modern SUV
Luxury car
7.7L V8
The seventh generation of one of America’s top-selling luxury models
Sports car
4.1L inline-six
Sibling to the Camaro, a racetrack contender
Luxury car
6.3L V8
One of American luxury buyer’s top three brands and Mercedes-Benz’s first V8 engine
Muscle car
2.8L inline-six to 7.2L V8
NASCAR champion, Dukes of Hazzard star, one of the strongest muscle cars in an era of top performers
Sports car
The first Japanese supercar, a head-turning debut for international automotive news
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Hard historical data is scant, but the General Motors Company certainly dominated
market shares in 1969
across its four brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. With over
1,000,000 units sold
, the Chevrolet Impala was definitely near the top of the best-sellers list.
Car and Driver’s historical testing records
show that the ‘69 Plymouth Road Runner 426 Hemi could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a blistering 5.1 seconds. Given 8.2 secondsmore, it could polish off a quarter-mile.
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