It’s on.

I thought we live in an enlightened society. More genteel. Mankind living in harmony, and all that crap.And then I went on the Internets Tubes. And then I was shocked and awed by this: the mis-named 650 hp 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

Mustang Shelby GT500
(source: Autoweek)

What. The. Fahrvergnügen?!

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
–Henry Ford (attributed, but he probably didn’t actually say it)

Chevrolet started this round of salvo with its shot across Ford’s bow, the 580 hp 2012 Camaro ZL1.

Now, I wasn’t old enough to ride in the Great Pony Car Wars from 1966-1972, but I’ve listened to stories from the veterans of that era, tales that their gas fume-soaked minds tried to relate. All things were apparently better back then, especially the size of carburetors and back seats.

The first time a car ever wowed me was probably when I saw a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1. The model is a guess, because it reminded me of James Bond’s Mustang in Diamonds Are Forever*. My family even owned a Mustang, a 1970 model that my dad bought for a few hundred dollars that was more “rust” than “bucket.”

*(Yes, I tried to find a picture of Bond’s Mustang with Jill St. John’s character Tiffany Case, but the Internets wouldn’t cooperate with me. Instead, I’ll throw in the following exchange from the movie.)

(Tiffany Case emerges from dressing room and has changed her wig from blonde to red.)

Bond: “Weren’t you a blonde a few moments ago?”

Case: “Do you not like red heads?”

Bond: “Of course– as long as the carpet match the drapes.”

On the other side of the fence, my aunt owned a 1969 Camaro that morphed into a white 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, the same year that Bandit drove into cinemas. I remember that my aunt would come over for a visit, and I would just spontaneously wash her car for her because I liked the car so much.

Bandit TA
And yet another chance for a 1970s reference

The fighting stopped for a while when one of the combatants would go MIA (1974-1978 Mustang II, 2003-2009 no Camaro), but now that they’re both back, the ferocity of the action hasn’t waned a bit. And it’s all good.

Now I’m generally opposed to war. Man killing fellow man is insane. But I have to admit that high tech weapons that go BOOM! can be pretty cool. These Mustang and Camaro are good examples of that.

Yes, that's a wimpy 553 hp Bugatti EB110 next to Big Mac
My favorite car of all time, the McLaren F1, had 618 hp

What I find even crazier is the number of cars sold within the last year that are over 600 hp. My non-inclusive list includes:

  • 600 hp Dodge Viper ACR (last sold in 2010)
  • 620 hp Porsche 911 GT2 RS
  • 638 hp Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
  • 651 hp Ferrari FF
  • 670 hp Mercedes SL 65 AMG (Black Series) / 621 hp S65 AMG
  • 690 hp Lamborghini Aventador

I’m even ignoring the 1001 hp Bugatti Veyron, the 806 hp Koenigseggisseggggnignigsegigisegggg CCX, or this announced whatever it is.

Wimpy cars that didn’t make the cut include the 556 hp Cadillac CTS-V, 592 hp McLaren MP4-12C, 562 hp Ferrari 458 Italia, and the aforementioned 580 hp Camaro ZL1.

Jason: To Hell and Back
And What Would Jason Drive (WWJD)? (source: Car and Driver)

The current Corvette ZR1 has more than three times the horsepower of the original fourth generation (C4) Corvette in 1984, which had a 205 hp V8. And I didn’t look this up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the current ZR1 gets better gas mileage than the original C4 [update: yup—C4 is 13/20 mpg, ZR-1 is 14/21 mpg]. The original Corvette ZR-1, which Car and Driver dubbed “The Corvette from Hell,” had 380 hp when it debuted it 1990. The current “base” C6 Corvette has 430 hp. I don’t know if Chevrolet/GM gets enough credit for this feat of technology.

2007 Chevrolet Corvette
Horsepower, for a lack of a better word, is good

It seems each era has its own golden age of cars, and each succeeding era is better than the previous. So is this the last golden era of cars? It would seem so, especially with proposed CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) mandates of 54.5 mph by 2025. But I’m not quite ready to write off the innovations of automotive engineers yet.

Whether this is the last golden age of cars or not, it will pass like other automotive golden ages of my time. I will probably not own any of these 600+ hp cars. But that doesn’t bother me. Just the fact that they exist gives me a good feeling inside. And I have a good reason to check out Craigslist or Auto Trader ten years from now.