8 Used Cars Under $10K Faster Than a ’69 L78 396 Chevelle

All Of These Cars Can Go Faster Than An L78 396 Chevelle – And At An Affordable Price!

Updated September 29, 2018

It’s no surprise that today’s Muscle Cars can outrun those from the ’60s, but there’s actually used cars available for less than $10K that can do so as well.

We selected the ’69 L78 Chevelle (more later) as our point of comparison as it’s a popular mid-level muscle car with strong performance . We then compare its 0-60 times to those of some used cars available for $10,000 or less (based on online pricing calculators)

1969 Chevy Chevelle SS 396 Coupe


1969 Chevelle SS L78 396
We chose the 1969 Chevelle SS with the L78 396 CID motor as our baseline for several reasons. One, we felt it was a great example of what a Muscle car was all about in the 1960s. Sure there were bigger engines, faster cars, but the Chevelle seemed to fit nicely in the top of the middle category, and it’s always been a crowd pleaser (someone told me once the Chevelle is the Chevy that Ford lovers hate the least).

Moreover it was a real performance car. The L78 big block was rated at 375 hp at 5600 rpm and 415 lb-ft of toque at 3600 rpm (although later analysis determined the engine produced closer to 400 hp). The engine was built like a race motor with four-bolt mains, a forged crankshaft, high-lift camshaft with mechanical lifters, and a four-barrel Holley carburetor. There was a choice of automatic and three manual transmissions: wide ratio, close ratio, and heavy-duty close ratio, as well as several final drive ratios. Suspension was upgraded with the included F41 package.

Performance was very respectable for its day. 0-60 test results range from 6.0 to 6.5 seconds, so we’ll give the Chevelle the benefit of the doubt and use 6.0 as our basis. While the comparison is based on 0-60 times, we’ve also included 1/4 mile ET, the lowest we could find for a new (in 1969) Chevelle SS 396 L78 was 14.07 seconds.



2004 Acura TL

The Acura TL was a four-door sedan built by Honda for its Acura brand for the model years 2002 – 2006. It’s powered by a 3.2 L V6 that produces 270 hp (SAE net). In 2004, a TL of that model year was tested and delivered a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds, 0.1 seconds below the best Chevelle time. In the quarter mile, the Chevelle nipped the Acura by less than a second 14.07 versus 14.2 for the Japanese sedan.

2004 Acura TL -  Faster Chevelle?


2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

In an effort to make inroads into the youth performance market, Chevy upgraded its dreary Cobalt with some serious firepower. The car was equipped with the 2.0 L, turbocharged, direct injected, VVT Ecotec engine, producing 260 hp  at 5300 rpm and 260 lb·ft at 2000 rpm, both surprisingly low engine speeds for a small-displacement four cylinder engine. GM also installed the German F35 5-speed manual transmission from Opel. One of the coolest features was the “no-lift-shift” feature which allows the driver to maintain turbocharger boost during upshifts. During a no-lift-shift, the driver shifts normally by depressing the clutch, but the accelerator is automatically  held wide open, no doubt helping the Cobalt SS hit 60 in 5.7 seconds, 3/10ths faster than the Chevelle. No-lift-shift definitely came into play on the strip, the Cobalt SS clocking a 13.8 versus the Chevelle’s 14.07.

Chevy Cobalt - Faster Chevelle?


2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4

The Dodge Caliber SRT4  featured a 2.4 L DOHC 16V turbocharged inline four cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing. Dodge claimed an output of  285 hp at 6,400 rpm, and 265 lb·ft  of torque at 5,600 rpm. The car put down a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, 3/10ths faster than the Chevelle, and an ET of 14.2, landing right on to of the Chevelle’s 14.07.

Dodge Caliber SRT4 - Faster Chevelle?


2004 Subaru Forester XT

In 2004 Subaru added a turbocharged version of the Forester SUV branded the XT. While other models feature a 2.5 L SOHC engine,  the XT model came with  a 2.5 L turbocharged DOHC engine. Not only does the Forester XT model use the same turbocharger as the Subaru Impreza WRX.,  The ’04 and ’05 engines were essentially the same engine as those used in the Impreza WRX STi, with a few differences, including cylinder heads. With 225 hp driving through all four wheels, the Forester set down a smokin’ 0-60 run of 5.2 seconds for such a lumpy little SUV. In the quarter it clipped the Chevelle by nearly half a second.

Subaru Forester - Faster Chevelle?


2006 Honda Accord EX

When you think about a BMW 3 series and then image a sedan about as far away from a 3 series as possible, no doubt your mind will land on the Honda Accord (and I’ll bet the Accord you just envisioned was white as well). The only thing that’s helped Honda maintain any sort of credibility for the Accord is that they’ve not sold them to the car rental companies. And while the 2006 Accord EX is about as arousing as Lunesta, it’s got a great motor under the hood: a 3.0 L V6 pushing out 244 hp. That’s good enough to launch the Accord to 60 in 5.8 seconds and complete the quarter in 14.3. Dream on.

Honda Accord - Faster Chevelle?


2002 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

Looks like it’s turned into a three-way contest all of a sudden. The Chevelle versus the two sleepy sedans: the Honda Accord EX and now the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE. Like the Honda, the formula for the Altima is the same: take a boring sedan and stuff a big motor under the hood. In the case of the Altima it’s Nissan‘s fantastic V6, punched out to 3.5 L and producing an impressive 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds, and 14.4 in the quarter.

Nissan Altima - Faster Chevelle?


2007 Saturn Aura

Based on the GM Epsilom platform (along with the Chevy Malibu, Fiat Chroma, Opel Vectra, Pontiac G6, and Saab 9.3) the Saturn Aura (isn’t that what Harry Potter wanted to be? No, wait, that’s an Auror) was an easily forgettable sedan that blended in with so many others available at that time. The engine was a 252 hp version of the motor that powered the Caddy CTS and STS . The Aura posted 0-60 times of 5.8 seconds, and a quarter mile of 14.3, not doubt assisted by the brand new 6T70 six-speed automatic transmission.

Saturn Aura - Faster Chevelle?


2004 Volvo S60 R AWD

If your goal is to make a statement, as well as engage in a little intended acceleration, the Volvo S60 R might just be the car for you. While several of the cars on this list can best be described as bland (exterior, interior, handling, etc.) the Volvo makes a clean break from those cars. First introduced in 2004, Volvo’s S60 R is powered by a 296 hp inline turbo five cylinder backed by a 6-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic driving through a Haldex AWD system. Other cool bits are Brembo brakes and a semi-active suspension systems co-developed with Ohlins. The Volvo sits at the top of our podium with 0-60 of 5.4 seconds and a quarter mile time of 13.8 seconds.

Volvo S60 - Faster Chevelle?


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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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