Yes, most Americans see muscle only having the speed of a supercharger. The idea of a turbocharged vehicle seems wholely European, but why? Turbos are quite amazing, and they’ve definitely gone overlooked in American muscle car history. Here are some of the rawest classic muscle cars produced in the US that seem to be forgotten, or shaded by the sheer power of the supercharger.
To be quiet honest, there a lot more of the well-known American muscle cars that blasted turbo engines than most people realize. The 1980s were the best time for turbochargers according to Jalopnik, although we will see a few outside of this decade.
The Chevrolet Corvette B2K Callaway Twin Turbo was available from 1987 to 1991. Often known as the “Sledgehammer,” this beast came with 898 HP and peaked at a speed of 254 MPH. The twin turbo system almost cost the same as the car on its own, but with it you got 382 HP and 562 lb-ft torque from its 5.7 liter V8. Talk about balls to the wall power!
The 1965 Turbo charged Corvair’s air-cooled, turbo charged flat six engine, which was mounted in the rear, added some extra speed with 150 HP, according to Road and Track. The hard top models had up to 180 HP.
In 1987, Buick released one of the most underrated turbo charged vehicles known to man. The GNX had the power of 276 HP with a 3.8 liter V6, which had even put the B2K Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette to shame.
Pontiac decided to introduce the 20th Anniversary Firebird Turbo Trans-Am in 1989. Referred to as the “TTA,” this baby’s power came from the previously mentioned Buick’s 3.8 liter V6 combined with an intercooled turbo charger that pumped out 16.5 PSI. With a rating of 250 HP and 340 lb-ft of torque, some even believed that the TTA had more boost than the Buick GNX.
In 1979, the first turbo charged Mustang (before it was known as the Special Vehicle Operations or SVO), appeared with a 135 HP with a 2.3 liter I4 instead of the 4.2 liter V8 engine. Once the SVO was introduced, it could reach 175 HP with a Hurst shifter, Koni adjustable shocks and disc brakes, and a limited slip differential. Uniquely, the SVO also gave drivers the ability to flip a switch mounted to the dash that could fluctuate between fuel grades if they had poor gas quality.
With the 3.5 liter V8 engine, the 1962 Oldsmobile F85 Jetfire came in with 215 HP and a turbo gauge on the shifter. The rocket turbo engine had to be given alcohol and water in order to avoid issues with detonation. Pretty badass for 1962!
In 1983, the Thunderbird was given a much-needed makeover. With that came the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, with a vented hood representing a forced induction 2.3 liter inline-four. Between 1987 and 1988, the Thunderbird was at its best, with manual transmissions available and 190 HP, four wheel disc brakes, and a limited-slip rear differential.
Although the turbo is not as prevalent in regards to sustainable power and strength in muscle cars as the supercharger, it is definitely something to have considered in the 1980s when car companies were trying to be daring and make their cars more European. Now, many of these models can be modified for even more speed.