Home Cars Bigger Isn’t Better: Massive Engines That Somehow Have Low Power
Cars

Bigger Isn’t Better: Massive Engines That Somehow Have Low Power

Vukasin Herbez March 23, 2023

Photo Credit: Mecum

Pontiac 301 Turbo

When somebody says “V8 turbo,” you know they are talking about an immensely powerful motor. Eight cylinders with the help of forced induction is a sure recipe for big power and performance. That is if we’re talking about modern engines. In 1979, this wasn’t the case. The days of big cube motors and high horsepower ratings were gone, so Pontiac decided to invest in new technology to generate power. That new technology was turbocharging. So in late 1979, Pontiac introduced the Trans Am Turbo (via Pontiac V8).

Photo Credit: GM

The engine in question was the 301 V8 with a Garrett turbocharger bolted onto it. The power output was modest at 200 to 210 HP, but the torque number was high at 340 lb.-ft. This resulted in a hint of performance that was still far from anything substantial.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Windsor 302

Ford introduced the Windsor family of V8 engines in the early ’60s. Very soon, it became the “go-to” engine on Mustangs and Shelbys. With its lightweight casting, the 260 and later 289 V8 were very successful on the street and the track. However, in 1968, Ford introduced the 302 aimed at the middle-of-the-road V8 used in numerous vehicles (via Vehicle History).

Photo Credit: Ford

In 1975, the Mustang II gained the V8 option in the form of a 302 engine. Mustang fans were very enthusiastic about this but were also very disappointed soon after the spec sheet was released. The low-compression V8 had just 140 HP on tap, which is nothing in terms of performance and character. The result was seen as disgraceful for a once-powerful unit that won races. Just compare that to the modern-day Mustang’s 5.0-liter engine. The 2023 5.0 Coyote has over three times as much power.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Chevrolet L83

The Chevrolet small-block V8 family of engines has been around since 1955. It is still a relevant powerplant used in numerous GM models. Of course, during the 1970s and ’80s, it was affected by tightening emissions regulations. The 5.7-liter produced terrible figures and not-so-convincing performance (via Old Car Memories).

Photo Credit: GM

In 1984, Chevrolet was proud to show a brand new advanced Corvette C4. It was all-new apart from the engine, which was an anemic 5.7-liter V8 strangled by emissions regulations and delivering just 200 HP. Yes, it was amongst the fastest sports cars on the road in the mid-’80s, but its power is ridiculous nowadays.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Bentley 8-Litre

The pre-war car industry was full of massive engines with relatively low power figures. Development limitations were the reason. But sometimes manufacturers deliberately made massive units with low power so they could have smooth driving dynamics thanks to enormous torque. One such example is Bentley’s 8-Litre unit (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

With almost 500 cubic inches of displacement, this was only a six-cylinder unit with pistons diameter of sewage drains. The power output was 220 HP, an astonishing number for its day but diminutive today. Interestingly, such a massive engine was bound to be heavy, but Bentley used modern and lightweight materials to keep it reasonably light. Only 100 cars left the factory in late ’30.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Rolls Royce 6 ¾ -Liter V8

For the better part of the late 20th century, Rolls Royce models were powered by an in-house V8 engine designed to be smooth, quiet, and refined. In those days, Rolls Royce was notorious for deliberately not stating the engine’s power and torque figures and instead only mentioning that the power was “adequate.” In a world of spec sheets and customers wanting to know every detail, calling something “adequate” is not enough (via Which Car).

Photo Credit: Mecum

That was because Rolls knew that their “six and three-quarters” V8 wasn’t exactly a powerhouse. With outdated construction, low compression, and conservative intake, this big V8 produced only about 215 to 240 HP depending on the model year. However, it was enough for cruising in style.

Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet LG4 V8

Chevrolet’s small-block V8 in Camaro or Corvette was always a recipe for a fun muscle car with enough power to keep you smiling for days. However, you may have an early ’80s C3 ‘Vette or F-Series Camaro. In that period, Chevrolet produced the 305 cid V8 with 180 HP, which had automatic transmission (via Corv Sport).

Photo Credit: GM

Of course, those models didn’t perform very well, and GM was criticized for producing low-performance engines and putting them into cars that symbolized performance.

Photo Credit: GM

GM Diesel V8

Oldsmobile was at the forefront of this new trend with the introduction of the diesel engine in passenger cars. In those days, American buyers were largely unaware that you could use diesel fuel for your vehicle. European customers already had a couple of diesel cars on the market, but in the US this was new. Oldsmobile introduced the 4.3-liter V8 diesel engine as an option for the Cutlass line. And very soon, this model was subject to an enormous amount of recalls and engine swaps. Simply, the 4.3-liter tended to explode and shatter during everyday driving. It had only about 85 HP (via Diesel World Mag).

Photo Credit: GM

Passengers didn’t get hurt, but the car was unusable and suitable only for scrap. Oldsmobile later introduced a bigger 5.7-liter diesel. Which was somewhat better but the 4.3-liter is considered the worst diesel engine in history. The 5.7-liter was also very underpowered with only 122 HP on tap.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

AMC 4.2-Liter

The venerable AMC six-cylinder was in production for an unbelievable 50 years and has outlived its parent company. It started as an economic engine with smaller displacement and decent power and managed to be the best engine option in numerous AMC and Jeep models (via Jeep Tech).

Photo Credit: AMC

The 4.2-liter had outdated construction, but it was an insanely dependable motor. Overall, it required low maintenance and could run on low-octane fuel. During the ’70s, it was common on AMC models. But with low compression, it had only about 120 HP, which was a ridiculously underpowered figure.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Please wait 5 sec.