Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson 4 years ago 380
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8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs

Whether it's because they're old, strangled by regulations or just poorly made, some engines really don't make the most of their displacement. We asked you to suggest engines that fit these criteria, and here are the results!

Remind me later

1. Dodge Viper 8.0-litre V10

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

Like all Dodge Vipers since, the first generation of this gloriously noisy slice of ‘Murica certainly isn’t wanting for displacement with an 8.0-litre V10 stuffed under the long bonnet. However, while the 400bhp it produces is a healthy figure, it’s not much considering the sheer size of the engine.

BHP/litre: 50

Suggested by Henric Af Trolle

2. Chrysler Powertech V8

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

Get yourself something like a Jeep Cherokee or Commander with this V8, and you won’t be going anywhere fast. Despite displacing 4.7-litres and being produced as recently as 2007, it manages a paltry 232bhp.

BHP/litre: 49.3

Suggested by Raphael Domenikos

3. BMC A-Series

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

The dinky 998cc version of the BMC ‘A’ engine may not have been a bad little unit in its day, but it was used right up until the beginning of the 1990s. By that time, its 38bhp seemed decidedly limp.

BHP/litre: 38

4. Rolls Royce 6.75-litre V8

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

It’s been around in one form or another since the 1950s, and this big, lazy V8 is still in production today, powering the Bentley Mulsanne. These days, it’s packing a pair of turbos which punch the power output over 500bhp, but before forced induction was added, it wasn’t quite so pokey. The ‘L410I’ version in the early 1990s Rolls Royce Corniche, for instance, made do with just 215bhp.

BHP/litre: 31.8

Suggested by Matthew Carnell

5. Chevrolet LG4

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

When it comes to early 1980s third-gen Camaros, it’s usually the ~90bhp 2.5-litre Iron Duke engines that get the bulk of the criticism. However, the 1982 Camaro with the worst specific output is the LG4 Small Block V8-powered Z/28. The result of its five litres of displacement? Just 143bhp.

BHP/litre: 28.6

Suggested by Jason Rivas

6. VW Beetle 1.6-litre flat-four

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

The People’s Car soldiered on right up until 2003, with the final models being produced in Mexico. The Beetle was known for being underpowered, and that was true until the end: the 1.6-litre flat-four the later models used still only produced 49bhp.

BHP/litre: 30.6

Suggested by Mieszko Tobolewski

7. Cadillac 500 V8

Image source: notoriousluxury.wordpress.com
Image source: notoriousluxury.wordpress.com

It started off so well for this 8.2-litre hulk, initially mustering up 400bhp, a decent figure in 1970. However, the 1973 oil crisis resulted in a dramatic curbing in power through reduced compression ratios. The final 1976 version of the engine ended up with just 187bhp to play with.

BHP/litre: 22.8

Suggested by Francisco Dias

8. General Motors Detroit diesel V8

8 Engines With Pathetically Low Specific Outputs - Blog

Despite displacing 6.2-litres, earlier versions of this engine - which have seen service in the Humvee - develop just 128bhp and 240lb ft of torque. The more recent 6.5-litre Detroit is better, but not by much: the lowest-powered example produces 153bhp. It may be an N/A diesel, but still, that ain’t much…

BHP/litre: 20.6

Suggested by Gianni Desmedt

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