Muscle Car Horsepower Ratings: Where Does Your Car Rank?

January 27, 2012

If you are questioning the power of your vehicle, it may be wise to review some muscle car horsepower ratings to see where you stand. Sometimes all it takes is a quick comparison to make you proud of the horsepower coming from your vehicle. Below is a breakdown of different horsepower ranges so you can see what kind of cars you fall in line with.

Understanding Rear Wheel Versus Fly Wheel Horsepower

Rear wheel horsepower (rwhp) is what your car is putting down to the tires. It is the actual horsepower that your car is performing at. Fly wheel horsepower is what your cars engine can produce without any lag that may occur. When it comes to numbers, it's more important to look at the rear wheel horsepower of your car than the fly wheel because that is what you actually feel while you drive. The same terms apply to torque. For the most part, your rwhp will be 80% of your fly wheel horsepower, depending on what you have done to your car. You can run your car on a dyno to test these numbers for sure.

100 rwhp - 200 rwhp

Most modern day import can produce in the 100s for rear wheel horsepower. Sports cars also fall into this category because they lack the massive engines found in muscle cars. While there are some older models of vehicles may fall into this range, that isn't usually the case. If you want to get your car out of this range, a simple turbo or supercharger should do the trick.

200 rwhp - 300 rwhp

This number represents a lot of old and new muscle cars with little done to the engines. Stock cars might put down 250 horsepower to the ground with nothing added to them, depending on the make and model. This range represents the mediocre muscle cars--the ones that are faster than a lot of things on the road but still inferior to many others. A 1999 Mutang GT falls in this range, for comparison.

300 rwhp - 400 rwhp

This is where the stars start to shine. The 1966 Mustang Cobra, 1967 Chevy Chevelle and the 1967 Pontiac GTO al fal into this range, as well as many other founders of the muscle car era. There is a strong pull in every one of these cars, and it is within this range that you might see the spinning tires and loss of traction that is associated with true power. Many of these vehicles may have power additives on them, but mainly it is the powerful engines that keep them hitting these high horsepower ratings.

400+ rwhp

There are muscle cars out there pushing over 1000 horsepower to the ground, but not until they have undergone some serious overhauls. Some of the classics that came out of the factory in this range, however, were the 1970 Chevelle LS6, the 1970 Pontiac GTO, and the 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee.


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