17 June 2016

Not so fast: Cars with engines that can’t catch up to their looks

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck … right? Not so fast, my friend. When it comes to cars, what you see isn’t always what you get. We asked our Facebook followers for automobiles that look faster when parked than they actually are on the road. We also brainstormed a few of our own.

Kit cars of all kinds certainly fit the mold – the sleek 1960s Devin Model D, for example, looked fast but could be mated to a Volkswagen chassis and low-horsepower VW engine. But we leaned toward production vehicles when finalizing our list. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are our top five:

1984 Pontiac Fiero – Dressed as a sports car but given an economy car’s heart, the first-year Fiero flamed out with a 92-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. By the time its many shortcomings had been shaken out and the Fiero reached its high-water mark in the form of the 1988 GT, General Motors killed it.

1981-82 DeLorean DMC-12 – One of most recognizable cars of all time – thanks to its stainless steel body, gull-wing doors and a starring role in the blockbuster trilogy “Back to the Future” – the DMC-12’s wedge design screamed power. But with a 2.85-liter V-6 engine that generated only 130 hp, it hardly lived up to its image.

1975 Chevrolet Corvette – Three years ago, Edmunds.com named the 1975 base-model Vette “The Slowest Corvette of All-Time.” Most Corvettes that year came with a 350-cid V-8, which (thanks to less compression and the addition of a catalytic converter) generated a measly 165 hp. As Edmunds pointed out, that’s only 15 more horsepower than the 1953 Corvette’s Blue Flame Six engine produced … and that car weighed 827 pounds less.

1997 Plymouth Prowler – With its open, Indy racecar-style front wheels, the Prowler looked like a modern day hot rod. But Plymouth was only teasing us. Powered by a V-6, the Prowler wasn’t quite as fast as it looked – a sprint from 0-60 mph took 6-7 seconds. Definitely a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Plymouth tried to make amends with its 1999 Howler concept car, which featured a 4.7-liter PowerTech V-8 and a lot more torque. But the car never went into production.

1991 Acura NSX – There’s no doubt that the first-gen Acura NSX is collectible and was certainly ahead of its time, but putting a six-cylinder, 270-horse engine in what appears to be a “supercar” didn’t exactly hit the nail on the head. Even Road and Track wrote: “NSXs were never about power, but the car’s V-6 is now so far down in the plebeian zone that even Accord drivers scoff.”

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