Anyone who has ever had an infatuation with power created by combustion engines will tell you, “you can never make enough horsepower”. But in this day-and-age where smaller engines and better technology takes us to astronomical performance levels, it seems like that thought process may not be so true anymore.
Normal-sized LS motors that already take in mass amounts of air and fuel by design leaves the car enthusiast with all kinds of options to upgrade other non-horsepower performance parts on their vehicle to perform better. A tubbed-out, roll cage-fitted vehicle with a massive supercharger sticking out of the hood may look fierce, but you might be surprised to watch a vehicle appearing to be mostly stock smoke the crap out of the wannabe race car.
When building a badass vehicle it should be more about taking the horsepower you plan on creating and making sure you can successfully get it to the wheels and then to the payment.
500 Horsepower Before 1990
Sure, 500-hp has been possible since guys started taking apart engines and putting them back together with the whole intent to go faster. But before the '90s, 500-hp in a daily cruiser in a 1980s Corvette, Camaro, Mustang, etc. just wasn't realistic.
Not to say that 500-hp in a daily driver before 1990 has never happened, but for the most part, that kind of horsepower was reserved for track use, short drives to the car show, or for trailer queens. Driving back-and-forth to work every day or taking long drives would have been pretty unusual for 500+ horsepower vehicles in the late '80s, '70s, '60s, etc.
The New Age: Right Off The Showroom Floor Vehicles Are Plenty Fast With Plenty Of Horsepower
Finding a sports car from this generation with over 300-hp is as easy as going to your local dealership. No upgrades needed, today's sports cars and muscle cars will leave any stock or upgraded '80s sports car trailing far behind.
The new Corvettes, Camaros, Hellcats, Chargers, and Mustangs that we see today can easily make big horsepower and awesome 1/4-mile times. Even Cadillac and many other unexpected auto divisions have poured more horsepower into their vehicles than one could have ever imaged in the mid-'80s and early '90s.
If you would have told me back in the '90s that there would be a six-cylinder Camaro in the 21 first century that would keep up with a '90s LT-1 Camaro and leave an '80s Z28 in its dust, I would have told you that you were crazy.
Well maybe not.
My Dad was a Pro-Buick guy, so I attended many Buick events watching my Dad race as I was growing up. The early '90s is when we started to notice V6 Buick turbos pulling the wheels off the ground and turning in 10-second timeslips - that's when we knew technology was going to start to change. But we never even bother to argue the point with the Ford Mustang Fox-Body lovers, they wanted to hear nothing of the sort. Ha. Ha.
How Much Horsepower Is Too Much
It really all depends on what your ambitions are. Let's face it, if you want to go fast on a race track, you can make more power than a top fuel dragster, but that does not mean you're going to dominate anything.
If you're doing it just for show, I think that's kind of silly, but to each his own. Sure, it's great to sit at the car show or the drag strip and say “yep, my baby puts out 1,200 ponies”.
But when a brand new sports car pulls up next to you at the light –quiet and stock looking – and he takes off on you like a rocketship, and your loud, monster setup is gasping for mass amounts of air while standing still trying to find just a little bit of traction just seems kind of embarrassing.
How Much Horsepower Is Just Enough
It all depends on what you are planning on doing with your vehicle. The perfect amount of horsepower to me would be being able to use and have fun with every bit of horsepower that I paid for. Sure, have there been times where I have wanted more horsepower for some of my vehicles? Absolutely, but I also like to eat as well.
Having an extra boatload of horsepower under my hood that I'll never use doesn't really seem worth it if my bank account is at zero. And on top of everything else, at one point or another, you're going to get curious and try to find out what your vehicle can do. If you find out that the car, you or both can't handle it, you might find yourself with a vehicle that is wrapped around a tree.