The late '60s and early '70s were a high water mark for automotive performance, at least looking back from my time in high school. Safety regulations had piled on weight while emissions and fuel economy standards had sapped horsepower to the point that early '80s "performance" cars were shadows of their former selves; decal-and-spoiler performance packages wrapped around asthmatic powerplants without enough torque to yank a greased string out of a cat's ass.
This was forcefully brought home to me one day some years back when I was able to show the taillights of my Porsche 924S to a late '70s Ferrari 308GTB through Atlanta's "Spaghetti Junction". The 924S was a Porsche, yes, but the junior car in the Porsche lineup; it was sporty, but no threat to any Ferraris, unless they are disco-era Ferraris with EPA-mandated potatoes stuffed up their tailpipes and leaky Weber carburettors stingily dripping fuel into the manifold.
With the advent of the microchip, manufacturers found their way out of the mess, as computer-controlled ignition and fuel-delivery systems allowed them to wring out more performance from every drop of fuel-air mixture. If '74-'84 were the dark ages of automobile performance, then on average, we are living in the New Golden Age. There are V-6 family buses sporting an honest-to-Duntov 300 net horsepower; sedans that will kick sand in the face of a smog motor Corvette.
Car & Driver tested a '79 L-82 'Vette with a 4-speed manual and it turned in a 6.6 second 0-60 sprint and ran the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 95mph, and the slushbox-equipped ones were even slower. That's barely enough to stay ahead of a Nissan Altima Hybrid (7.1/15.6@91) and would get gutted by a V-6 Altima (5.8/14.4@101). My '98 Z3 is a whisker quicker than that 'Vette and I know that I've found myself staring in bafflement at the receding taillights of some plain-vanilla sedan or SUV more than once.
I wonder what the government will do to end this Golden Age?