How Much Performance is Too Much Performance?

It seems like a simple question. How much power is too much? Ask muscle car guys that question and you’ll get funny looks. Too much power? Does that even exist?

Sure, it seems simple. But it isn’t.

This past weekend was the annual Portland Roadster Show — a show that’s been held in the Rose City since 1955. This year, ACC’s booth included our Dodge 440 sedan. I drove the car to the event from our offices, which are about six miles away. Of course, since it’s still spring in Oregon, it rained on me. And thanks to the massive rear tires, spool, and 680-hp engine in the Dodge, the drive was an eye-opening experience.

After I got the Dodge all set up in the booth, I wandered the show and got to looking at what was on display — everything from original six-banger Novas to supercharged and Hilborn-injected Deuce coupes had made the trip, gleaming behind their evenly spaced velvet ropes. Of course, all this got me thinking about my own car, and what the next step for it ought to be.

I’ve had my big-block 1966 Caprice since I was 15 years old. It was my first car, and driving it on a daily basis taught me all sorts of things about mechanics, cause and effect, and how to avoid damaging something you’d have to fix yourself. I’ve had three engines (a 454, a 396, and a 468) and two transmissions (both TH400s) in that car, the most recent 468-ci setup featuring Edelbrock aluminum heads, 10:1 compression, a steel crank, LS6 rods, forged pistons, and a hydraulic roller cam.

The car got me into drag racing in high school, starting with 14-second runs at right around 100 mph. But it was always a street car first. It currently (and consistently) runs 12.30s at 110 mph, but I’ve always thought it would be a lot of fun to have a 4,000-lb car that ran 11s reliably – and without nitrous oxide. Easy to achieve – but it’d probably be expensive, both in terms of cash and in terms of lost streetability.

I’ve had other cars for years now (see my Blog on the Hemi Charger I bought back in December), so the Caprice isn’t a daily driver anymore. It’s much more usable than ACC’s Dodge 440, but it’s currently on the ragged edge of being comfortable in traffic. 3.73 gears buzz the big-block at 3,000 rpm on the highway, and since it’s a triple-black car with headers, it gets nice and warm inside on sunny days. I’m not afraid to drive it in the rain, but I almost never do anymore. Why get it dirty?

The question I’m wrestling with is this: Is it worth chasing down the 11-second barrier, or should I leave the car alone and build something else to go fast? I don’t want to make the car harder to drive, but those 11s are oh so close. Should I give up and just put it on the bottle? What do you think?