In a period of months, the word “Hellcat” has come to define the new benchmark of the muscle car world. Then again, 707-horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque in the form of a road-going production car has that effect. But the Charger and Challenger Hellcat duo weren’t the first to wield the obscene horsepower card.
The annals of history have produced hundreds of high-powered cars, many with a serious bend on big displacement. Here are a few of the most notable entries from across the ages (minus supercars). Let us know which you would add. Think big, brash, and shouty.
Shelby Mustang GT500
Immediately before the reign of the Hellcat, there was the GT500. Ford pulled the veil off its uprated Shelby Mustang GT500 in 2013, at the time, the most powerful V8 American production road car ever.
Sadly for Mustang fans, its reign was short-lived. Underneath its bulging hood rests a 5.8-liter supercharged V8, good for 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph took just 3.5 seconds, and it retailed for as low as $55,000. Not bad.
TVR Cerbera Speed 12
New Millennium Falcon
TVR was known for making its fair share of nutty cars, from the zippy TVR Cerbera Speed Eight to the absolutely knife-edged Sagaris. But as if 420 horsepower and 185 mph from the Cerbera wasn’t enough, TVR combined two straight-sixes to yield a massive 7.7-liter V12, and called it the Speed 12.
TVR’s Peter Wheeler famously took one home for the night and pronounced it was too extreme for the road. However in 2003, Wheeler personally sold one Cerbera Speed 12 road car to a private buyer. It was officially quoted at 800 horsepower, though it is generally considered to generate much, much more.
Aston Martin Virage 6.3 Works
’90s Luxury Sledgehammer
In 1989, Aston Martin debuted the Virage, widely regarded to be its first ‘new’ car in years, but despite its aggressive styling and 5.3-liter V8, it was considerably heavy and apparently didn’t give AM buyers the thrill they had hoped for in exchange for their $200,000.
So in 1992, Aston’s Works Service set to work, gave it a widebody kit, and eked the engine out to 6.3-liters and 456 horsepower. Big, heavy fisted, but somehow very desirable.
Buick Regal GNX
Darth Vader’s ’80s Transport
Though it could handle a corner, Buick’s ’80s GNX smash hit was intended for more straight-line acceleration than lateral… and it surely had the get-up-and-go to make it happen.
Buick took the NASCAR manufacturer’s championship in 1981 and ’82, and subsequently created its limited run ‘Grand National’ cars to celebrate. The culmination of that breed was the 1987 GNX – packing a Mustang-and-Camaro-swallowing 3.8-liter turbo V6 with 245hp and 355 lb-ft of torque on tap.
Those figures are claimed to be substantially underrated too.
Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda
’70s Muscle King
It’s hard to crown a ‘Hellcat’ from amongst the swathe of unbelievable ’60s and ’70s muscle cars, but fittingly the HEMI ‘Cuda rises to the top of the pile. Plymouth hauled its big 426ci HEMI underneath the hood of the Barracuda, resulting in a legendary 425 horsepower output and tire-searing performance.
Rivals like the ’69 Camaro ZL1 might have pipped overall power output, but don’t forget – before the 2015 Challenger Hellcat was announced, many thought it was actually an SRT Barracuda.
’60s Front-Drive Demon
The superbly styled Oldsmobile Toronado has the somewhat unsavory claim to fame of being the first mass-produced American front-wheel drive car since the 1930s.
But as plebeian as small displacement front-wheel drive cars are today, Oldsmobile saw it differently… and they hauled the massive 7.5-liter Rocket V8 underneath its hood. A burly 400 horsepower was machine gunned straight to the front wheels. Those looks though…
Shelby Cobra 427
‘60s Big Engine Icon
It’s a story that deserves retelling. Carroll Shelby wanted to put his name on a world-beating sports car and found a worthy chassis in the form of the AC Ace. He made a few calls, and thanks to a new compact Ford V8, Shelby had his sports car. He called it the ‘Cobra’, and it has captivated the automotive world since thanks to its heady 425 horsepower and legendary looks.
’50s HEMI Hustler
The 1950s saw hot rod culture booming across the US, Chevrolet had introduced its now legendary small block V8, but Chrysler was busy turning up the tune on its goliath FirePower V8.
For 1958, the Chrysler 300D came with a sizable 392ci V8 and boasted 380 horsepower, which helped a 300D run the Bonneville Salt Flats up to 156 miles per hour.
The FirePower disappeared on the ’59 model, but the even larger 413ci V8 kept the 380hp figure intact.
Duesenberg Model SJ
’30s Supercharged Fury
In a game of automotive top trumps circa the 1930s, the Duesenberg ‘SJ’ would win handily. The Model J appeared in 1928 sporting a 6.9-liter Lycoming straight-eight, good for a heady 265 horsepower.
But as with any high-performance luxury car, more is better. Duesenberg subsequently fitted a centrifugal supercharger and ended up with an incredible 320 horsepower.
A later modification – the “ram’s horn” manifold – revealed a tremendous 400 horsepower. Bear in mind, these are the 1930s we’re talking about.
Fiat S76 ‘Beast of Turin’
Teens Land Speed Chaser
In the early part of the 20th century, the limits of automotive speed were unproven and setting a land-speed record was simply the most impressive thing to do on four wheels.
Fiat’s historic 1910 entry was the S76, nicknamed the ‘Beast of Turin’ due to its monstrous 28.5-liter, 300 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Two were constructed and surviving parts from both were recently united to create this running and driving hulk.