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Everything is relative. By 1981 standards, any car boasting 100 horsepower was doing pretty good. So good, in fact, that just seven Japanese-brand vehicles made that cut.
Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate the extent to which emissions equipment and low-octane unleaded fuel had impacted the power output of new-vehicle engines is to note the following:
We’ve looked at The Most-Powerful American Cars of 1980, and The Most-Powerful American Cars of 1986. Here we’ll skip ahead another half decade to 1991. Maybe we should say leap ahead. Compared to our top five 1986 cars, our 1991 most-muscular rides come in at an average 277 horsepower, a solid 58-horse bump. Credit improved fuel-injection systems, and a mighty (and seriously expensive) topline Corvette that shattered the 300-horsepower barrier.
What a difference a few years can make. We recently posted the “5 Most-Powerful American Cars of 1980,” a collection of rides boasting, on average, 199 horsepower. It’s worth noting that every vehicle on the list was carbureted. Jump ahead six model years…
In the movie Scarface, explaining how things work in America, would-be drug kingpin Tony Montana explains, “You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women.”
American muscle got the short shrift in 1980. As a result of the Summer Olympics embargo of 1980, America’s strongest athletes didn’t compete in Moscow, leaving most of the medals to be claimed by the Russians.
As the Sixties ended, Americans were busy stuffing huge engines into midsize cars. The result of that exercise was what we now fondly recall as the muscle-car era.
by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the June 2019 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
The 1993 Dodge Intrepid was one of Chrysler’s LH-platform front-wheel-drive large sedans that introduced trendsetting “cab-forward” styling and helped make the company one of the decade’s design leaders. A second-generation Intrepid wearing a more dramatic interpretation of the cab-forward look arrived for 1998, and a performance-flavored R/T version was added for 2000.
More than most brands, Plymouth was an automotive marque with many personalities. As a kid, I knew no one with an interesting Plymouth. I learned to drive on a Slant-Six-powered 1974 Valiant that had been repainted by Earl Scheib.