Chevy’s Chevelle Laguna Reminds Us How Good We Have It
How is it possible to get so little horsepower out of an engine that big?
Motoring was bleak for enthusiasts after the oil crisis, with engines choked and neutered with rudimentary emissions control systems. American manufacturers felt the hardest hit, with larger V8 engines needing the most attention to fit new regulations.
By the time this one was made in 1975, the Chevelle had fallen from grace, and the Chevelle Laguna S-3 was only a stop-gap to add some sporty flair and aerodynamics to an otherwise malaise ride. Standard V8 power would come in the form of a 302, but a 350 V8 made an agonizing 145 horsepower, and embarrassing 250 pound-feet of torque. It seems as though Chevrolet had one ideology when it came to making cars at the time: Does it start? Sell it.
Performance was nothing to write home about. The Chevelle Laguna S-3 could reach 60 miles per hour, but by the time you finish this sentence, it would still be somewhere in the 50 mile per hour range. “Well over ten seconds,” was the stat used by MotorWeek’s Joe Ligo. To add insult to injury, the three-speed auto hurt performance even further.
Ligo states, “there’s this dead spot above 30 miles per hour where you stomp the pedal, and the car gets louder but you don’t go any faster. Then finally it triggers a downshift into 2nd gear and things pick up a little bit, but it’s still not a white knuckle, edge of your seat experience.”
Considering where we have come from to where we are now with models like the ZL1 1LE and the Corvette ZR1, we can be thankful that emissions are being met, while performance is picking up as well. With the Dodge Demon, ZR1 and GT500 as examples, we can see horsepower wars aren’t over, we simply experienced a temporary cease-fire.