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Question of the (Sun)Day: How Much Horsepower is “Enough” For You?

Question of the (Sun)Day: How Much Horsepower is “Enough” For You?

I have occasionally taken the side that “mild” engined Pro Street cars were OK and not lame. I basically marched into a hail of heavy fire on that one and got my ass kicked all over the place more than once. Despite my best efforts, Stevie Wonder could have seen that coming. I did get to thinking though, if mild HP is lame and inappropriate, what is good enough? I think we all have a different number in our heads for what “real” horsepower is and I suspect that it is very much relative to our gearhead experiences.

If you are a hard core drag race guy, 400hp isn’t enough to wipe your nose with. Meanwhile, if you are a road racing type dude, 400hp may be the magic number in a car with a good chassis that can put it all to the ground and make it stick in the corners. Meanwhile, diesel truck guys basically eschew HP numbers as dyno glory and go straight to the torque figures to rank their bad assed-ness among their peers.

What is your ideal horsepower number? As we’ve said multiple times, the plan for Buford is a 600hp pump gas big block engine which will probably be overkill by a few hundo in the pony department, but that’s kind of what we’re into. That may get you thinking that we’re weak sauce because 800hp is totally in the cards with the right parts or perhaps you are thinking that we’re idiots for stuffing even that much snot under the hood. You tell us .What’s the magic number?

Question: how much horsepower is enough for you?


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14 thoughts on “Question of the (Sun)Day: How Much Horsepower is “Enough” For You?

  1. MGBChuck

    That Arias is one beautiful engine. Too much is about right, I have approx. 500hp in my 2300lbs. MGB street car, way fun.

  2. David Beard

    How much horsepower is enough? ALL OF IT.

    Or at least as much as I can afford, which is almost none of it.

  3. DanStokes

    It depends, of course, on what you REALLY plan to do with it. It’s long been my contention that more than 500-600HP or so is about bragging and not about using the vehicle. The truth is that you can’t really hook up more than that on the street and 600 should be adequate to break the tires loose at normal highway speeds so what more do you need?

    If, however, your idea of a “street” car is say, Drag Week, that’s a whole different deal. Then the “street” part is simply a way of getting the car to the track where you’ll actually use that 1,000 HP+ with non-street-worthy tires, suspension biased toward drag racing, etc. – this is not my definition of a street driven car.

    I’d say 600 is probably more than adequate for Buford. However, I think the ol’ boy should be running a BBF (say, a 460 or more) so that the “ford” in BuFORD actually fits! And it would properly annoy the purists.


  4. jerry z

    Back in the 90’s, my Nova had about 400hp. It was way too much fun to drive without getting out of control. I’ve driven a car with 500hp and you can lose control real easy if not paying attention.

  5. Len Chase

    I am a good old boy when 400 hp was the balls. Now lame 6 cyls make over 300 hp. with the new tech , 500 hp is marginally streetable

  6. Bob J

    Well this one falls into the category of “How high is UP?”, Of course everyone has their own interpretation of what constitutes a real street car.

    For some, it’s a daily driver, probably with limited mileage to/from their daily commutes. For some, it’s a “Saturday Night Special”, and while fully street legal, really only gets used as a weekend cruiser (limited at that), and see some track time as well. Finally, for some, it’s king of the street, with essentially a nearly continuous maintenance schedule and for practical purposes, no budget limitations.

    It also depend on whether or not, the vehicle is naturally aspirated or supercharged (Nitrous/turbo/blower).

    For a N/A Real Street car, probably 450 HP is about the practical limit for reliable transportation.

    For a Supercharged Real Street car, probably 550 HP is realistic

    For a Saturday Night Special, probably 650 HP is about the limit (N/A)
    For a supercharged SNS, probably 750-800 HP

    For a KOTS, probably 1100-1400 HP (supercharged) is most probably the desired configuration, to minimize breakage.

    Note that above a certain HP level, breakage is almost a certainty, nobody’s stuff is bulletproof

    Bear in mind, that in my experience (older, I grant you) anything beyond 600 HP, regardless of methodology employed requires substantial chassis prep and a highly competent driver.

    To each his own, but for myself, I’m shooting for a N/A 650 SNS as I have other rides that I’d use for a daily driver (granted, HP also)..

    Just some thoughts…

    Bob J

  7. BeaverMartin

    Depends on what it’s in of course. 350-400 is about what I need in one of my normal street cars (usually malaise era junk) 100 or so is a hoot in my Austin Mini, 1000 ft-lbs is required in my Cummins truck.

    1. Bob J


      It’s theoretically possible to bring a 225 CI slant-six up to about 260 CI with a .100 overbore and a welded or custom crankshaft and some block notching (the usual stuff). Were I to attempt such a thing, I would contemplate at least a partial block-fill. I think the larger issue would be the available cylinder heads to support that displacement with the requisite flow (a Hemi-head would be just the ticket, if such a thing exists). At 600 HP (I’m presuming N/A) you’re talking about 2.3 HP per CI, which is pretty aggressive. Camshaft would also be an area of potential limitations (roller camshaft seems a pre-requisite). I’d also contemplate creating a bottom-end stud girdle. When I worked at Banning CP/Dodge, it wasn’t uncommon to have a slant-six break a crank in stock applications.

      You’ll have to be pretty creative to accomplish it (and will likely have to have pretty deep pockets), but I think it is doable. If you plan to turbocharge it, I think you’ll have more success for less $, but the block-prep will still need to support 600 HP.

      I wish you well (sincerely), but while neat, I wonder if the money would be well spent relative to a V8 (BTW, I like the Slant-six). Your call. Let us know if you succeed.

      Bob J

  8. D'Arcy French

    1000hp weekender for long crusies, blowing the tirres off at 100 while passing and generally been a fuckwit
    500hp daily, fast but not stupid so you can plant it every day and know your just gonna have fun, must run a 10 sec 1/4
    10,000hp race car cos nitro, whatelse

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