American Race Cars Are Low-Revving And Lazy, Right?

High-performance sports cars from Europe and Japan rev to the moon while American performance cars are all low-revving lumps. That’s the stereotype anyway and here’s a 1958 Chevy gasser taking off at 10,000 RPM to prove it wrong.


Gassers are fun because the format almost forces you into building a weird and interesting car. Straight axle and the nose in the air, all to help press the back into the ground and get off the line. They’re typically old, and it’s not surprising to find them still with manual transmissions.

No surprise then that this gasser dude is running not-a-tri-five and is a gear jammer as well. Listen to those shifts!

That and appreciate how he is staring at the sky as he launches with more revs than a Ferrari, a Honda S2000, the rotary guy down the street from you, etc.

You can see what a run like this looks like from the outside, sending this thing bunny hopping down the quarter-mile:

Let us enjoy some more:

I do just generally appreciate really high-RPM American race car builds. They seem like they stand against reason.

Obviously, perception is not reality. NASCAR has been running high RPM engines for a while, and teams were over the 10,000 RPM mark back in the mid-2000s, as USA Today reported at the time. It’s cool because it meant almost unbelievably high piston speeds. These pistons were traveling at 27.5 m/s, or about 61 miles per hour, as noted in this article comparing F1 and NASCAR engine loads and performance at their 2000s peaks.

I like that it all sort of undercuts the idea that American engines get away with low tech because they’re allowed to be large. But they are large, and they have pushrods like on trucks, but they are still expertly engineered and extremely high-performance designs. That and they sound incredible.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


Mark Tucker

4 cylinder twin cam. Revved to the moon. Dominated its class for 40 years, starting in the 1930s. 1000 hp at 10,000 RPM in its final form.


Large pushrod V8s are only part of the “American engine” story.