A V8 engine is synonymous with speed and power. It has been that way from the era of muscle cars until today, and it is impressive how some small cars can turn into fantastic machines with a great V8 engine. Of course, the best engines still can’t run if the rest of the vehicle isn’t as good. From too heavy frames to other problems, a V8 can be downright wasted in some cars.
This is true of a lot of American vehicles, especially in these dark times when the era of unrest was taking hold. Today your average V8 engine is still good for at least 150 mph, but it’s amazing how slow some V8 cars can be, showing that eight cylinders don’t always mean high performance.
ten 1971 Imperial LeBaron (Top speed: 117 MPH)
Too many cars have impressive names but not the performance to match. It was the LeBaron in a nutshell. It still looked like a luxury car with an average appearance, but by the 1970s the engine had deteriorated.
The 7.2-liter V8 couldn’t handle the massive size of the car, especially the larger rear end, and the interiors also got pretty sticky. Rather than flex for the muscle era, the LeBaron withered in regal pain of once good behavior.
9 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel (Top speed: 116 MPH)
The 1980s suffered from many once good cars, and the cutlass was no different. Rushed production resulted in a 5.7-liter 105-horsepower V8 that was far from ready to handle the heavy chassis.
The car took almost 14 seconds to reach 60 mph and added to dozens of breakdown problems. It was the epitome of the malaise of the time and almost killed Oldsmobile as a brand. Calling it “Supreme” was laughable.
8 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage (Top speed: 116 MPH)
There’s a good reason this car was offered only for one year. The Monza Mirage may look like a fun sportster in its colorful design, but make no mistake about it. The only reason he got a V8 was that plans for a better engine failed at the last minute.
Chevy therefore offered a “sports car” that produced 145 hp and could be overtaken by some sedans of the time. This led to its quick shutdown. At least it lived up to its name as a mirage of a fast race.
seven 1974 Mercury Cougar (Top speed: 112 MPH)
It hardly ever works well when a company is trying to turn a longtime sports car or pony car into a “luxury” vehicle. Case in point, the 1974 Mercury Cougar. As other cars downsized, the Cougar got bigger, resulting in slight commercial success but a decline in quality.
There were two options, the standard 350 V8 and the optional “Cobra Jet” V8, both mated to a now standard automatic gearbox. But neither could hit 115mph and little surprise just two years later a new model arrived, but the Cougar’s roar was gentle on the road.
6 1979 Dodge Magnum (top speed: 111 mph)
You’d think something called Magnum would be fast, but that doesn’t quite fit. There’s a good reason this model only lasted two years because it looked impressive like a 3,800 pound beast with a glossy black exterior.
Too bad the 5.9-liter V8, despite 195 hp, could only go from 0 to 60 in 11 seconds and more to reach the hundred. He was also difficult to handle and seemed even slower than he was moving. The Magnum nameplate has been used several times since, but this early entry was a huge dud.
5 1976 Cadillac Eldorado (top speed: 109 mph)
The Eldorado has always been remarkable as a huge car, and that’s part of its appeal. However, a car weighing around 5,000 pounds needs a serious engine to keep it at a good speed. For this model, it had a massive 8.2 liter engine… but unfortunately that was still not enough to reach zero to 60 in less than 13 seconds.
The size hurts because it is so big that it cannot take corners quickly and is more like driving a boat than a car. It has its appeal, but it’s not like a speed machine.
4 1977 Camaro Z28 (top speed: 105 mph)
How can such a beautiful car be so slow? The 1977 Z28 is one of the most beautiful Camaros ever made with a sleek design, great finishes and vibrant colors. It’s a car that should tear up any road with ease… and instead, it takes almost nine seconds to hit zero to 60, despite a 5.7-liter V8.
The car was an example of how the muscle car era was starting to crumble in the late 1970s, and too bad such a cool car couldn’t live up to its potential.
3 1980-82 Ford Thunderbird (top speed: 100 MPH)
When you get a Thunderbird, you expect speed and power. Unfortunately, the 1980-82 models provided neither. Not only did the 4.2-liter V8 handle a pitiful 120 horsepower, but also a paltry 209 lb-ft of torque.
It would be bad in any car, let alone one weighing two tons. It’s no wonder the entire Thunderbird label suffered because, despite good design, the weight and awful engine made it a waste of a V8 engine.
2 Hummer H2 (Top speed: 100 MPH)
No one has ever bought a Hummer for its speed. They were more about power, cross country abilities, or just a status symbol. Still, the fact that a 400bhp V8 can still barely reach triple speed is something. The main reason, of course, is the three ton weight and the fact that the thing handles more like a tank.
The Hummer remains a “love it or hate it” type of vehicle, and maybe the coming renaissance can change that. But its horribly slow speeds are another addition to the list of things not to like about this gas guzzler.
1 1981 Cadillac Seville Diesel (Top speed: 98 MPH)
There are slow diesel engines … and then there is the 1981 Cadillac Seville. Combining a bad 5.7-liter V8 with a 4,200-pound car meant it took twenty seconds to hit 60 mph. And even after that, it could never crack at 100mph at all.
It has been cleverly promoted as a “luxury” car and not as a muscle car, given the absolute lack of muscle. No matter how awesome it might have been on the inside, that doesn’t excuse how painfully slow this car was and why mixing diesel with the V8 was a mess for many manufacturers.
As one of the most beloved powertrains, the V8 has to be as reliable as the engines it faces. Here are 10 that will never let you down.
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