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Thread: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    In the '70s, when cars were slow, you could drive fast - and mostly get away with it.

    You'd get a ticket if you got caught, yes- but speeding was just that - a relatively minor offense. You paid the fine, you went about your business. Rarely was your license at stake - let alone the possibility of the clink - for simply exceeding the limit. No drawn guns; no hyperventilating talk of the danger to saaaaafety you posed. There was an element of good humor in the cat and mouse game that has always existed between fast drivers and the police. They knew you weren't a criminal - assuming all you were doing was driving fast - and didn't, as a rule, treat you as if you'd just beaten and mugged someone's grandmother merely for going faster than a number on a sign.

    But wewere a lighter-hearted people then. "Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Blues Brothers" - both orgies of speed chock full of evadin' the law fun - were hit movies.

    Today, cars are more powerful and faster than they've ever been. But we hardly dare use them for fear of extreme repercussions, legally and otherwise.

    As an example, in many states, it's an automatic "reckless driving" beef the moment you get nabbed going faster than 20 mph over the posted limit. You're in danger of being cuffed and stuffed on the spot - and of losing your license for several months upon conviction - whenever the speedo creeps past 75 mph on a 55 mph highway. Several states have enacted "abuser fees" that can run to $1,000 or more - for what used to be simple speeding (and a $150 fine).

    Same deal on those absurdly under-posted secondary roads; you probably have one where you live - places where the speed limit is 35 but the flow of traffic is pushing 50. If you happen to be there on Quota Day - you'll end up with a fat fine (at the minimum) and "points" on your license that your insurance underwriter will duly note and use to jack up your premium to confiscatory levels for years to come. Even if you've never had an accident and are an impeccably safe driver. You're still an outlaw as far as the system is concerned - only one step removed from OJ Simpson (except he gets away with it).

    It's ridiculous - but it's the reality. And we all must live in fear of it, which sucks nearly all the joy of owning something like a 505 horsepower Z06 Corvette or BMW M5 straight down the crapper.

    It's a form of self-abuse, when you think about it, to purchase a 180-mph capable car that you're scared of even coming close to driving up to its potential.

    In a car like the '08 Corvette, fifth and sixth gears are mostyl useless from other than a fuel economy standpoint. Fourth gear and you're already well into the red zone - 80-90 mph. So making that next upshift is a lot like that scene in "The Deer Hunter" when the VC make DeNiro's character play Russian Roulette for his amusement.

    Go ahead, pull the trigger. But what if there's a round in the chamber? Or a cop around the bend?

    Game Over.

    Not only are almost all modern cars capable of tremendous speeds, unlike the muscle cars those of us of a certain age grew up with, today's performance machines feel deceptively comfortable at those speeds - adding to the temptation to drive fast. Eighty or 90 mph is almost boring in an M3 or Corvette - cars that don't begin to stretch their legs until you're up around 120. You need to visit the Land of Triple Digits just to get some sensory input.

    Back in the '70s and before, few cars had overdrives - so even in something with plenty of raw power, its top speed was mechanically limited to 130 or so - screaming at redline. By 75 or 80, you felt you were going really fast. The wind and tire noise was huge; the gear whine emanating from 3.42 and higher axles with no OD to cut the revs back in top gear was impossible to ignore.

    One-twenty was really something; 140 almost unreal - the province of ultra-exotic Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis. Now we have Altimas and Accords and Camrys that can do 130 with ease; a stone stock new Mustang GT - a mild performer by modern standards - could outrun almost any bigblock supercar of the '70s.

    Today's suspension systems, brakes and wheel and tire packages are so good you have to take freeway off-ramps posted at 35 at 20 over (or more) just to begin to sample the limits. Anything less and you might as well be riding a bus - because you're not really driving anyhow.

    Which begs the question - what's the point?

    Modern high-performance cars - and the current horsepower wars - are the automotive equivalent of body-building contests: It's all for show. Just as Arnold never used his massive biceps for anything more than celluloid flexing, today's bulked-up cars and trucks are all about posing, too.

    Never mind the steroids - or the rapidly dropping gas gauge. We look good, so we feel good. Function is becoming a matter of theoretical bragging rights, not actual experience.

    It almost makes you pine for the days of "Drive 55" - when doing 90-something felt hellaciously fast - and you could run the risk without worrying too much about ending up as an extra in your very own version of "Oz."


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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    It almost makes you pine for the days of "Drive 55" - when doing 90-something felt hellaciously fast - and you could run the risk without worrying too much about ending up as an extra in your very own version of "Oz."

    You must be kidding!!

    Despite how bad things are with respect to traffic laws in some states. (Florida is in the middle), I would never want to go back to the 1970s.

    The first time I had an encounter with the 55 mph speed limit was when I was about 10 years old (in November 1974). My dad was cruising at about 70 mph on I-91 near Springfield, Mass. He got through passing a car doing about 60 when the red lights came on. The cop came up to him and asked for the usual papers. I guess he did a crude license check (as they all were back in 1974) and came back with a warning for going 60 mph in a 55 mph zone. My dad explained that it was better than a ticket because he didn't have to pay a fine. The problem I had was the cop actually told my dad he had done something wrong.

    According to the letter of the laaaaaaaaaaw, he did something wrong, but , I remembered that a year earlier that the road was posted at 65 mph, so, why in heck was it posted at 55 mph today? He likely wouldn't have gotten pulled for doing 72 in a 65.

    You see, I have had a dog in this fight for quite some time. I never want to go back to even the conditions back in those days. About the only thing that was better was that the highways were a lot less crowded. The problem was that there were more cops per person and quiet a few per mile of roadway as well.

    As I'm sure that it did for a lot of people here, the 55 mph speed limit cost me substantial amounts of money during the 1980's. Until about 1992, every ticket I got was for speeding in a 55 mph zone. Most of them didn't appear on my license because I lived in Texas which back then was not a member of the Driver's License Compact. Most of my tickets were 10-15 mph over the limit It was only after the 55/65 mph limit was repealed that I began to ease up. Here in Florida, you are pretty much safe cruising our 70 mph zones at 80-85 without getting a ticket. That was impossible back then.

    It is true that the penalties for exceeding speed limits weren't as onerous today, but getting rid of the speed limits has substantially reduced the odds of getting caught for traveling something closer to reasonable speeds. I know. I have had a lot more ticketless years since 1996 than I did beforehand.

    I just hope that we don't go to some camera or GPS controlled future where selecting your speed will be impossible. We will be in the middle of a big, big fight if it begins to happen.


  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Hi Henry,

    Don't misunderstand me - I have no desire to see "55" return; I was trying to make a point about the way enforcement today is much more severe (esp. in terms of consequences) than it was back then... so much so that today's fast cars are - as a practical matter - less usable than the cars of the '70s...

    Traffic glut is a factor, too.

    When I live din the DC area (through 2004) it got to the point that I lost all interest in fast cars - because you could not use them; or at least, not often or for more than a quick burst. Mostly, you just sat in the bump-and-grind, staring at the minivan in front of you!

  4. #4

    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Good to know. I didn't realize the laws were so harsh some places. Also, I know what you mean about the speed not being noticeable. That's why I have to use cruise control on long trips. If I don't, I'll be cruising at 80 and feel like I'm doing 50.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew B.
    Good to know. I didn't realize the laws were so harsh some places. Also, I know what you mean about the speed not being noticeable. That's why I have to use cruise control on long trips. If I don't, I'll be cruising at 80 and feel like I'm doing 50.
    NJ and VA are two of the worst... you can get a $1,000 "abuser fee" (in addition to the actual fine for the offense itself) for doing more than 20 mph over the posted limit, for example 86 mph on the Interstate (when posted 65).

    That will also earn you a "reckless driving" cite in VA.

    Lots of incentive to just flee.... I've had to do it twice in the past year.

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Eric,

    Excellent article. The worst thing about the hefty fines in Virginia is that they only apply to Virginia residents. It's nothing but a big tax on Virginia residents who get nabbed speeding. The end result is that you have VA residents driving slower while out of state residents driving faster. Which in my opinion will probably cause more accidents.


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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Link to the article on the main page with pictures:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...3&Itemid=10857



  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    Eric,

    Excellent article. The worst thing about the hefty fines in Virginia is that they only apply to Virginia residents. It's nothing but a big tax on Virginia residents who get nabbed speeding. The end result is that you have VA residents driving slower while out of state residents driving faster. Which in my opinion will probably cause more accidents.

    Thanks!

    One thing I've commented on - and wonder about - is whether these "abuser fees" have encouraged more people to just run from the cop? Imagine you're an ordinary Joe - for whom a $1,000 fine is not something you can pay; it means the difference between making your mortgage or sending a check to the asshole government. What do you do? In that split second when you have a decision to make, it makes economic sense to try to get away.

    I'm not saying people should attempt to elude police; however, I do believe these laws are an incentive to do so...

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Eric,

    Very good point. It's a trend that I have noticed the last 10 years, this criminalizing of normal driver infractions. In a lot of jurisdictions the police have been made into a revenue generating department. This sets a very dangerous precedent, since politicians will criminalize more minor infractions in the future to generate income.

    In Mexico they put in jail their citizens and foreigners, who commit small offenses and then make them pay a large ransom of thousands of dollars to buy their way out of jail. This is where we are headed in this country, if this trend continues.

    When the rule of law breaks down and the punishment does not fit the crime, results like people running/fleeing from the police begin to occur.




  10. #10
    Gareebee
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Interesting article, Eric. It's a thought that I have been thinking as well. At times, I think about finding me a '05 or '06 GTO, just to have that kick in the lower back one more time (they're fairly cheap and have lotsa horsies). But, then, I get to thinking about how impractical such a thought is for the reasons you mentioned as well as the cost of fuel. Then there is the fact that, at my age, my eye-hand coordination isn't what it used to be and that becomes apparent as I go into fast mountain curves. Regarding the cops and their handling of speeders, i wonder if it could also be traced to the fact that there is less of a likelihood that the cop is your neighbor down the street and knows a member of your family. As we become a less connected and more self-absorbed society, it becomes easier to demonize those whom we cannot relate to.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee
    Interesting article, Eric. It's a thought that I have been thinking as well. At times, I think about finding me a '05 or '06 GTO, just to have that kick in the lower back one more time (they're fairly cheap and have lotsa horsies). But, then, I get to thinking about how impractical such a thought is for the reasons you mentioned as well as the cost of fuel. Then there is the fact that, at my age, my eye-hand coordination isn't what it used to be and that becomes apparent as I go into fast mountain curves. Regarding the cops and their handling of speeders, i wonder if it could also be traced to the fact that there is less of a likelihood that the cop is your neighbor down the street and knows a member of your family. As we become a less connected and more self-absorbed society, it becomes easier to demonize those whom we cannot relate to.
    Amen to all of that... I sometimes think (in all seriousness)that a break-up of this country into independent states (as in the former Soviet Union) would be a not-bad thing at all...

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee
    Interesting article, Eric. It's a thought that I have been thinking as well. At times, I think about finding me a '05 or '06 GTO, just to have that kick in the lower back one more time (they're fairly cheap and have lotsa horsies). But, then, I get to thinking about how impractical such a thought is for the reasons you mentioned as well as the cost of fuel.
    Is that an LS1 or LS2 GTO?.
    These cars can do 13s with just with mild cams and would be a great fun car like Eric's GTO.

    That price is LOW for a 2-yr-old good GTO. and that engine surely is the most excellent piece of work (LS1-6-7-X) EVER inside a small budget.
    You can buy an LS-X shortblock or the very best cast iron equivalent for 2,000hp+ the parts are available. Very cheaply (dunno why)

    I have no relation to the US or anything but I am rebuilding an 2001 LS1 shortly heads/cam.

    Not sure what engines the US out in the box wikdedia 'LS1' or google 'GM LS series'.

    but get rid of those bonner scoops!

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee
    Interesting article, Eric. It's a thought that I have been thinking as well. At times, I think about finding me a '05 or '06 GTO, just to have that kick in the lower back one more time (they're fairly cheap and have lotsa horsies). But, then, I get to thinking about how impractical such a thought is for the reasons you mentioned as well as the cost of fuel. Then there is the fact that, at my age, my eye-hand coordination isn't what it used to be and that becomes apparent as I go into fast mountain curves. Regarding the cops and their handling of speeders, i wonder if it could also be traced to the fact that there is less of a likelihood that the cop is your neighbor down the street and knows a member of your family. As we become a less connected and more self-absorbed society, it becomes easier to demonize those whom we cannot relate to.
    Amen to all of that... I sometimes think (in all seriousness)that a break-up of this country into independent states (as in the former Soviet Union) would be a not-bad thing at all...
    Yeah, I agree, but I question how that could be done being that the states are so much alike. For instance, every state has Wal Marts, McDonalds, Interstate highways, strip malls, and on and on.

    Charles Kuralt said you can cross the country on an Interstate and see nothing at all. I have have to agree with him. Actually, to bring it up to date, it would be "you can cross the entire United States on an Interstate and run into the same thing, mile after mile after mile."

    That said, how can you break one continuous concrete strip of shopping malls, car dealers and the like. There really are no borders anymore.


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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry
    That said, how can you break one continuous concrete strip of shopping malls, car dealers and the like. There really are no borders anymore.
    It's called efficiency.

    Airlnes do the long stuff, cars do the local stuff. Truckers do well on interstates, constant war with RRs...

    I personally don't like sharing highways with trucks and prefer RRs to shift things over maybe 300 miles.

  15. #15
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars




    I have to wonder what would happen if the same energy went into increasing fuel economy rather than making more power. I mean, how much do we really need anyway? Yes, I've got and have had some really powerful equipment. On the other hand, I don't buy an absurdly powerful vehicle for a daily commute either. I'll bet none of the expensive high performance cars (300, 400, 500 and more hp) ever will be on a track 99% of the time.

    I like the full sized Ford products. I had a P71 Crown Victoria and now have a Town Car. I like the ride and the fuel mileage isn't too bad. I'm getting an overall average of 21.5 mpg and on highway trips I average 25. If Ford could build one of these cars with a little more mileage, they would fly off the lots.

    Self policing doesn't do any good if you have no self control. The nanny state will step in like it did in the 80's. Remembers the Porsche 911's with 85mph speedometers?
    Honk if you love Jesus.

    Text if you want to meet him.

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by grouch
    I like the full sized Ford products. I had a P71 Crown Victoria and now have a Town Car. I like the ride and the fuel mileage isn't too bad. I'm getting an overall average of 21.5 mpg and on highway trips I average 25. If Ford could build one of these cars with a little more mileage, they would fly off the lots.

    Self policing doesn't do any good if you have no self control. The nanny state will step in like it did in the 80's. Remembers the Porsche 911's with 85mph speedometers?
    Those largish cars and also a lot of SUVS etc don't go very well with less than many horses, IMHO.

    The Euros seem to have the lead in fuel-efficient everyday practical cars, encouraged by very high taxes on fuel mostly... and they have different design cities and mostly have public transport options, so... I dunno. I just can't see Americans buying small cars, and large cars making 21-25mpg , well Euro turbo-diesels in say Jaguars and Volvos make an easy 30+mpg AND go fast... With US fuel being very cheap by comparison I don't see much chance of anything but large vehicles in the US.
    As to the 55mph thing and the VA laws, well, I dunno what it is about US laws... (sigh) <g>

    Ron (NZ)

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg
    Quote Originally Posted by grouch
    I like the full sized Ford products. I had a P71 Crown Victoria and now have a Town Car. I like the ride and the fuel mileage isn't too bad. I'm getting an overall average of 21.5 mpg and on highway trips I average 25. If Ford could build one of these cars with a little more mileage, they would fly off the lots.

    Self policing doesn't do any good if you have no self control. The nanny state will step in like it did in the 80's. Remembers the Porsche 911's with 85mph speedometers?
    Those largish cars and also a lot of SUVS etc don't go very well with less than many horses, IMHO.

    The Euros seem to have the lead in fuel-efficient everyday practical cars, encouraged by very high taxes on fuel mostly... and they have different design cities and mostly have public transport options, so... I dunno. I just can't see Americans buying small cars, and large cars making 21-25mpg , well Euro turbo-diesels in say Jaguars and Volvos make an easy 30+mpg AND go fast... With US fuel being very cheap by comparison I don't see much chance of anything but large vehicles in the US.
    As to the 55mph thing and the VA laws, well, I dunno what it is about US laws... (sigh) <g>

    Ron (NZ)
    What I'd like to see is a family-priced large sedan like the Crown Vic - but with a diesel engine.

    The Mercedes E350 proves it's possible to have a large car that returns 40 mpg - with excellent performance. No reason it has to cost $50k, either.

  18. #18
    Gareebee
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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by robmcg
    Is that an LS1 or LS2 GTO?.
    These cars can do 13s with just with mild cams and would be a great fun car like Eric's GTO.
    I'm not sure which is which, but the '05 and '06 GTOs have the 6.0L 400 hp engines which I understand are a big improvement over the 5.7L. Yes, I have heard some stories regarding engine mods with impressive results. I also like the fact that it is an innocuous looking car that won't draw the attention of kids in their Japanese rice-rockets, allowing me to pick my fight. <G> It will be my weekend toy while I drive my Aptera around for my everyday excursions.

    It will be my pennence. <G>

    Good luck with your project. I won't have much time for mine.

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    Re: Thoughts on the Horsepower Wars

    Quote Originally Posted by Gareebee
    I'm not sure which is which, but the '05 and '06 GTOs have the 6.0L 400 hp engines which I understand are a big improvement over the 5.7L. Yes, I have heard some stories regarding engine mods with impressive results. I also like the fact that it is an innocuous looking car that won't draw the attention of kids in their Japanese rice-rockets, allowing me to pick my fight. <G> It will be my weekend toy while I drive my Aptera around for my everyday excursions.

    It will be my pennence. <G>

    Good luck with your project. I won't have much time for mine.
    Yes the 6.0 'normal' LS2 is better than the 5.7 LS1 by virtue of *slightly* bigger valves/capacity, longer cams slightly more lift, better exhaust and compression raised from 10.1:1 to 10.9:1 all with good computer management.
    All very similar to what BMC did with Minis.... slow changes/development...

    Thanks for the good wishes on my project. Mine will be a poor-man's LS2 ... LS1 with longer cams, higher lift, higher c/r, good assembly and a computer edit or 'chip'

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