The Vintage Review of the 1979 AMC Spirit brought home just how badly strangled the American car engines were in the so-called Malaise Era. Its 304 (5.0 L) V8 engine wheezed out all of 125 net hp at…3200 rpm! Wow. To put that in perspective, that’s the same net hp power peak rpm as a 1947 Chevrolet’s 216 CID “stovebolt” six (83 net hp @3200 rpm).
So the question today is whether the AMC’s 3200 rpm is a record low, or whether there were even lower ones. And why.
Obviously, the “why” is because the American manufacturers had great difficulty in making their engines run properly (or at all) with the emission technology of the day. But what exactly caused such low power peaks? Retarded timing? That’s probably a key culprit, but can anyone shed more light on this dark period?
The 1980 Nissan 200SX we read about here the other day provides a stark counterpoint. It’s 2.0 L four, or less than half the AMC’s V8, made 100 hp @ 5200 rpm. If there had been a V8 version of it, it would have made 200 hp from 4.0 liters. A safe assumption is thta if it were bumped up to 5.0 liters, it would have made some 240 hp. Obviously, Nissan, Toyota, Honda and the other import manufacturers were spending some serious money and effort on ways to keep power (and economy) up while still meeting the ever-tightening emission regulations.
Maybe it’s unfair to pick on AMC, as they didn’t have the resources. But it was no different over at the Big Three. We’ve noted the very low power outputs here, when we looked for the lowest specific hp per cubic inch. And we also found the car with the lowest hp per pound. But now let’s find the slowest-revving engine. And don’t bother looking at the imports.
Update: we’re looking for low rpm (at the power peak) not what the hp level is. We’ve done that in the linked post above.