Some interesting automotive-history facts hide in plain sight before us. What was the last car Americans could buy with a three-speed automatic transmission? The last new four-on-the-floor manual we could buy? Three-on-the-tree manual? Three-on-the-floor? Tracking down those answers taught me that outdated automotive technology tends to hang on longer than we might expect, and that’s certainly the case with agonizingly low power levels in new cars. It’s tough these days to find a new car with under 100 horses, but how about 50? When did the era of the sub-50-hp car finally bite the dust here?
50 horsepower isn’t much, even when you discount advertising hype and the gross-versus-net differences of the pre-early-1970s era. The original Ford flathead V8s of the 1930s made 60 to 95 horsepower, and even the punitively underpowered four-cylinder Chevy Novas of the late 1960s had 90 hp (which,