Can You Still Enjoy a Slow Car In This High-Horsepower Climate?

1988 Pontiac Firebird 7 photos
Photo: Calin Iosif
1988 Pontiac Firebird1988 Pontiac Firebird1988 Pontiac Firebird1988 Pontiac Firebird1988 Pontiac Firebird1988 Pontiac Firebird
Social media has led us to believe that we, as car enthusiasts, need a minimum of 500 hp to enjoy the car community and feel like we are a part of it. But I don't think that's the case, so let's take a deeper look at why social media entertains this misconception and if "slow" cars can be just as, or even more enjoyable.
This all started when a friend of mine, who has a 1992 Toyota Celica with a 1.6-liter (98 ci) four-banger under the hood and a little over 100 hp, told me that he went to a car meet, and no one batted an eye at his car, even more so acting snobby around it - and that made me wonder, why is that so? It's an arguably cool car, especially where I'm from - Eastern Europe, where the norm is smoky diesel BMWs driving too fast for their and others' safety.

I have to blame this happening on social media. Just open Instagram or YouTube, and everything is filled with high horsepower builds with better bodywork than new cars. In that landscape, where the show factor is the main concern, JDM cars with turbos the size of the Grand Canyon and muscle cars with cams more aggressive than a caged gorilla shine - of course, it's pretty rare you'll get clout in your 90 hp (91 ps) Civic.

But that's not my concern. My concern is that people look down on less powerful and flashier builds in real life. First, you need a boatload of money to make something "clout-worthy." These influencers have those funds - you and I (regular folks) generally don't. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't feel appreciated or left out in this dire passion for cars.

1988 Pontiac Firebird
Photo: Calin Iosif
Most of us can afford regular cars. Yes, I would love to own a 600 hp (608 ps) R34, but I need to catch up. Let's see if low-horsepower cars can be enjoyed. In the photo gallery of this article, you'll see a 1988 Pontiac Firebird with a V6 under the hood - a big car with a not-so-powerful engine. Yes, it moves out of its way, but it's not fast by today's and tuner car culture standards, so that's the main reason I chose it. The other reason is that it's an exciting and cool car. It's loud, red, and has T-Tops - it's a cruiser, bringing me to my next point.

It's not all about going mach-Jesus all the time or shredding the tires to pieces. Now and then, slowing down, putting on some music, and enjoying the wind in your hair is just as satisfying as spooling up a turbo that sucks in small wildlife.

Truth be told, it's pretty rare that you have enough open roads to fully enjoy the speed and power of these insane, high-horsepower cars. I drove an R35 Nissan GT-R, which felt like jumping into hyperspace. I can't even begin to fathom what a car with six or 700 hp (710 ps) feels like - and that brings me on to my next point: the saying that driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow.

1988 Pontiac Firebird
Photo: Calin Iosif
I drove a Miata for a couple of days with a 1.6 and 110 hp (112 ps), and banging gears while not going at a speed that deserved a felony was a lot of fun. There is a difference between going fast and the feeling of speed. A car that corners well is low and makes a racket when you floor it is pretty damn fun if you ask me.

Even more so, even my Dacia 1310 with 60 rampaging horses (61 ps) still gives me more joy than a new car with five times the power. I enjoy the way it looks, the fact that everything is up to me to make it drive well, the smell, the atrocious fuel consumption, and the fact that it's almost always broken. These are the things I, and others, enjoy as car enthusiasts. The fact that you want to feel like you turn the road into a rollercoaster ride every time you touch the gas is acceptable too, and it's up to you, but it doesn't give you the right to look down on others just because they have a slower car ore less-appreciated car.

Enjoy cruising, racing, and making a lot of noise while sweeping the floor with your oil pan - do whatever makes YOU happy. I sound like every motivational speaker, but it's the truth. I hope no one gets into cars or builds their car a certain way just because social media tells them to. Car culture is about creativity and expressing your style through your car. Let the haters hate, go out, have fun, and appreciate others.

1988 Pontiac Firebird
Photo: Calin Iosif
So, are slow cars fun? Yes, they are, but it depends on what you like. My advice is this - go out and try to get behind the wheel of as many cars as you can get your hands on - it doesn't matter what kind, be it slow or fast, a big SUV or playful roadster, JDM or German, go out, and see what you like, and do that. You might be surprised at how much enjoyment a regular car can bring you when set up correctly or the retro vibes it takes you in stock from.
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About the author: Călin Iosif
Călin Iosif profile photo

Călin’s origin story is being exposed to Top Gear when he was very young. Watching too much of Clarkson, Hammond and May argue on TV turned him into Petrolhead (an automotive journalist with a soft spot for old pieces of... cars, old cars).
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