Counting my own ponies

As a followup to the question of “How much horsepower is too much?” I decided to sit down and determine just how much I’ve had over the years. Here are the numbers:

  • Susannah (1966 Chevrolet Nova): 3.8L OHV inline-6, 140 hp
  • Dymphna (1975 Toyota Celica): 2.2L SOHC inline-4, 96 hp
  • Deirdre (1984 Mercury Cougar): 3.8L OHV V-6, 120 hp
  • Molly (1993 Mazda 626): 2.0L DOHC inline-4, 118 hp
  • Sandy (2000 Mazda 626): 2.0L DOHC inline-4, 130 hp
  • Gwendolyn (2000 Infiniti I30): 3.0L DOHC V-6, 227 hp

Only the first two had actual carburetors; the Mercury had something called “central fuel injection,” which used one injector for the entire intake, and everything afterwards had port fuel injection. The two Mazda engines were basically identical, though the newer engine had distributorless ignition, and Mazda had moved away from hydraulic valve lifters in favor of something manually adjustable.

When I got married, my wife was driving that Toyota; we got rid of my old Nova and bought a newer one, which I didn’t include here because she ended up driving it and eventually owning it. Unsurprisingly, it went unnamed. The powerplant was your basic small-block Chevy V-8, in 5.0L displacement (305), with 140 hp.

If you happened to notice that those two distinctly-different Chevrolets got the same number of horsepower, well, they didn’t really: the ’66 was rated by the SAE gross method, which was measured at the flywheel with nothing but the bare minimum of attachments. The newer SAE net measurement included everything you could reasonably expect to be running off the engine, including exhaust components, the alternator, and emissions gear; it was adopted in 1971. I’m guessing Susannah actually put out about 110 hp by the newer standard. (SAE recently tightened up its standards; as with the gross-to-net change, there is no specific conversion factor.)







2 comments

  1. Tam »

    9 March 2008 · 12:07 pm

    Under the old method, BHP referred to “Horsepower measured at the brochure.” ;)

    Incidentally, this measurement is still used in the world of two-wheeled vehicles.

  2. CGHill »

    9 March 2008 · 12:28 pm

    There has been rather a lot of, shall we say, optimistic rating over the years.

    And anyway, even the stricter standard fails to take into account driveline losses: however much power you have at the flywheel, you won’t have quite that much turning the actual roadwheels.

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