Great Engines of Yesterday

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Modern car engines are hard to fault… objectively. They start immediately – even when it’s 15 degrees out. They rarely stall out – leaving you dead in the water in the middle of a busy intersection. Most require not much more from you than gas and oil for the first 100,000-plus miles from new.440 six pack pic

But when was the last time you turned off the stereo and rolled the window down just to listen to their music? Or proudly popped the hood for your friends?

Not much to see, is there?

You don’t need to be a gearhead to understand.

Ever been in a busy place, like a shopping mall parking lot, and heard the instantly recognizable sound of an old air-cooled VW? We turn to look – and smile, remembering. Anyone who was young in the ’60s knows the distinctive pitch made by a 289 Hi-Po Ford …the low bass rumpa rumpa rumpa of an idling big-block Chevy.

But not all the Great Ones died with the ’60s. Even during the dark days of the 1970s and early ’80s – when high performance cars had been beaten to the verge of extinction by emissions regs and general anti fun-car malaise, there were a few standouts that kept hope alive:

* 1972-79 L-82 Chevy 350:

While the solid lifter-cammed, high-compression LT-1 that powered the 1970 Z28 Camaro and Corvette has claimed much of the limelight and worship of muscle car afficionados, the hydraulic cammed L-82 small-block is equally deserving of applause.'74 L-82 engine

Unlike the LT-1, the L-82 was a survivor. It made it through the catalytic converter/unleaded gas gantlet, leaving the LT-1 to the history books.

Arguably, too, the L-82 was a better all-arounder than the powerful but temperamental LT-1 (which among other things needed to have its mechanical/solid lifter valvetrain adjusted every several thousand miles – or sooner). The L-81 had a no-maintenance hydraulic cam (still a performance grind, too) and a more reasonable compression ratio that tolerated the regular unleaded fuel an LT-1 simply could not abide.

The L-82 was a leas peaky engine, with excellent low and mid-range torque – so it worked well with an automatic transmission. The earlier LT-1, in contrast, came paired only with a manual transmission – and was a beast to live with in stop-and-go traffic'79 L-82 engine

But it had the critical essentials to become a beast, if you so desired – including high-flow cylinder heads similar to the LT-1s. It also always made at least 200 hp (and as much as 240 hp) even during the darkest days of the mid-1970s, when any engine that rated such numbers was a hero, especially when compared to emissions and mileage-neutered V8s that struggled to produce 120 hp. The L-82’s availability on the options sheet kept the Corvette credible after 1975 – when its standard engine, at low ebb, was a 165 hp wheezer unfit for Nova duty and a moral outrage in a car that claimed to be “America’s sports car.”

* 1973-74 Pontiac SD-455:

What made the ’67-’81 Firebirds and Trans-Ams special was their unique, Pontiac-built engines. Nothing wrong with Chevy V8s. They are excellent engines. But they are not Pontiac engines. Without their unique, Pontiac-built V8s, the ’82 and up Firebirds were – mechanically speaking – little more than rebadged Camaros with slightly different exterior panels and trim. But 1981 and earlier Trans-Ams had their own personality, due in large measure to the bigger-than-Chevy-V8s under their shaker scoops. 6.6 liter 400s (and – through 1976 – 7.4 liter 455s) rathe than the 5.7 liter 350s in the Camaro.'73 SD-455 engine

There were several memorable Pontiac V8s, but the ’73-’74 Super Duty (SD) 455 was arguably, the last true muscle car V8.

Though it shared its displacement with other Pontiac 455s, it was radically upgraded – beginning with a reinforced heavy duty block unique to the SD – onto which a pair of high-flow (“round port,” in Pontiac lingo) cylinder heads were perched, their big valves actuated by the most aggressive cam profile Pontiac engineers could get away with installing, the works fed by a specially calibrated (and also unique to the SD engines) 800-CFM Rochester 4-barrel carburetor on a medium-riser, dual plane intake. The combo netted 290-310 hp, depending on whose numbers you believe. And put a Trans-Am (or Formula Firebird) so equipped down the quarter mile in the very low 13s, on street tires. On slicks and with a little tuning, these cars could dip into the 12s.

* 1978-’79 Dodge ‘Lil Red Express 360:

Long before the Ram SRT-10 (or SVT Raptor) Dodge arguably created the ancestor of all modern muscle trucks – using a short bed flareside half-ton pick-up as the basis, powered by a stout police interceptor 360 that gave many of the fastest performance cars of the ’70s and ’80s a serious run for their money. The 360 used in the Lil’ Red Express – as the package was called – traced its origins all the way back to the old 340 Wedge small block of early ’70s AAR ‘Cuda days – and managed to produce 225 hp at a time when you were lucky to find 150 under the hood of the typical V8 powered passenger car.'79 Lil Red Express

Dodge added to the already pugnacious character of the truck by fitting it with a pair big rig chromed smokestack exhaust pipes behind the cab and slathering the works with a fire engine red paint job. But best of all – because it was a truck -the Lil’ Red Express was exempt from the emissions and noise regulations that crippled passenger cars. It did not have to have catalytic converters! Instead, the 360 breathed through twin Hemi mufflers with a crossover pipe. The result sounded like nothing else on the road. But the glory was short-lived and after ’79 the Lil Red Express was retired – supplanted by more “socially responsible” models, like the K-car.

* 1982-86 Ford 5.0 HO:

In 1982, “the Boss” returned.

No, not Springsteen. The five-oh Mustang GT (ad LX) with the first genuinely hot factory V8 in years. Though it started out with just a two barrel carburetor and initially produced a tepid-sounding (by today’s standards) 175 hp, that was Big Stuff in the early ’80s – when “high performance” meant lots of stripes and decals, fake hood scoops and whale tails – but not much action under the hood.'82 5.0 engine

Ford beavered away on the resurrected 302 as the years passed, adding first a four-barrel Holley carb (hello!), then a dual snorkel low-restriction air cleaner and, eventually, even tube headers. By mid-’85, the 5.0 was genuinely potent, now at the 225 hp mark and destined to rise higher. The best part was that most of the hot-rodding down and dirty that worked so well on 1960s-era Ford small block V8s was equally applicable to the 5.0 – which was after all a 302 (despite the new way of referring to engines in metric-ese).

Coaxing 300-plus hp out of a basically stockFord 302 was both easy and relatively cheap. Even law enforcement jumped on the bandwagon – using quiet-looking LX hatchbacks without all the GT’s flash, but with the one thing that mattered for pursuit work: That screaming Ford small block.

* 1984-87 Buick 3.8 turbo V6:

Lord Vader, your car has arrived.'87 GN engine pic

That was GM’s advertising copy for the Regal Grand National.

And not just because they were all painted black. Like Lord Vader, they were heavy breathers.

Or rather, breathed on.

The basis for the package was Buick’s mid-sized Regal, a “formal” hardtop coupe heretofore favored by business men Bob types. These were first sheepdipped in black – nothing except the chrome “3.8 liter SFI” badges on either side of the hood bulge wasn’t black – and fitted with a mucho turbocharged version of Buick’s own 3.8 liter V6, which had been around for many years prior but which – up to this moment – had never been tapped as a performance engine. But pressurized, injected and intercooled – the thing was transformed from young Skywalker to Sith Lord.'87 GNX engine

These cars were so ferocious the FBI bought a fleet of them for their own dark purposes.

Sadly, the line was culled when GM decided to nix most of its rear-wheel-drive platforms, which included the platform that served as the basis for the Regal, which served as the basis for the Regal Grand National (and the even fiercer Regal GNX). The then-rising front-wheel-drive platforms were not strong enough to deal with the epic power belted by the turbo’d 3.8, so it went away – not because it wasn’t wanted but because it had been effectively orphaned.

It was an engine without a car to put it in.

The last one rolled off the line in ’87.

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  1. Seen on this morning’s commute – and F150 emblazoned with the bumper sticker declaring “I’d rather be driving my Mopar Muscle Car.”
    Of course I was more partial to the other one, “Ron Paul Revolution.”

  2. Have not seen it mentioned, but it should be, 413 Max Wedge Chrysler. Mom’s boyfriend had one in an Imperial triple crown golden lion edition. Dear god, the tourqe!

  3. Automobiles are incredibly complex. You need aptitude, training, and specialized tools to create, understand, and maintain them.

    By comparison, females are fairly simple.

    Olivia Newton John. A Great Female of Yesterday.

    Rather than argue the finer points of various pointless exercises about equality. Consider what you see in the music video. All the technology she is using to record with. All the machinery that can mass produce and make widely available this song are created and maintained by men. As are her clothing, and beauty products. And nearly every other convenience she enjoys as a member of an advanced technological society.

    Also, only certain society’s males can create all this technological bounty. There were no xhosa tribesman involved in modern music or internet technology propagation. Some societies are so low on the socio-economic spectrum, that they are for all intents and purposes non-existent.

    You need only clear your mind of its considerable misconceptions to understand and maintain a female. The ability to create females naturally exists, no specialized knowledge is required.

    As to understanding them, just use your five sense and observe them. They have built in diagnostics, just pose an inquiry to them, and they will respond to you. Understanding and maintaining them is surprisingly easy.

    Should you have difficulties with a specific female, find an alternate one. Generally the lower they are on the socio-economic spectrum than you are, the easy they will be handle for you. In other words, find a poorer, less educated, less well-bred female, and your ease of use will increase proportionately.

    Surely this could be better written with a more civilized non-abrasive tone. But I thought I might better be of service to get this simple point across to the many of you here, who somehow feel victimized and of lower power than a female.

    Allowing a female to get the best of you and ruin your life, makes little or no sense. Any time you imagine this has occurred, check your premises and look more carefully. There must be some kind of man-made protocol or custom that is the actual cause. It is always other males that have defeated you, the female is just adhering to something you or another male previously indoctrinated within her.

    Females are superior to males in many ways, especially in the realm of self-deception and misdirection. But there are a great many things a female has little or no aptitude for whatsoever. Why not join the small handful of men who recognize this fact, and use this wisdom and vision to better act in your best interests.

  4. I’m currently attending the School Of Automotive Machinists and I’ve studied in depth the history of the American V-8. From heads to oil pan we’ve reviewed all the popular V-8’s from 1955-modern day. Here is a quick synopsis. This is strictly from a racing/performance perspective.

    Small Block Chevy: Amazing oiling system, thick, rigid blocks and Cylinder Heads that flow massive amounts of air. Cheap to build.

    BB Chevy: Same as the Small Blocks but better and more expensive to build.

    SB Ford: Decent oiling system, crap heads and very thin unstable block make it difficult to make more than 500+HP without splitting the block in half (literally).

    BB Ford: From heads to oil crap.

    Mopar: Decent heads but everything else is not. Blocks are unstable at higher RPM and oiling system needs tons of work to be adequate.

    Pontiac: Same as Big Block Fords.

    This is an extremely brief breakdown. I can elaborate for anyone that questions what I say. As far as the school I attend, here is an older video of our school project 430 inch Chevy LSX motor. 1100+ HP at 10K RPMS naturally aspirated.

    • These sort of posts amuse and annoy. What’s crap and what isn’t when it comes to big three V8s is entirely dictated by what people like. I’ve seen this same basic post written every different way. It’s entirely subjective.

      Anyway what makes a engine ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’ to build is aftermarket support and how little the manufacturer changed the engine over time. That’s it.

      • Me too, Brent.

        With regard to the disparagement of the Ford and Pontiac V8s: This arises, I suspect, out of ignorance… unfamiliarity with either engine. Pedro is probably in his 20s. The last new Pontiac V8 was made years before he was born. I doubt he’s ever worked on one and may never have seen one. Same goes for the Ford BB.

        Chevys are, of course, ubiquitous. The original design that dates back to 1955 continues to be made to this day (in crate engine form). Everyone who works on cars has worked on one. So they’re familiar with them, like them. Parts are easy to find, etc.

        Arguably, the Pontiac V8 (back in the day) was a better street performance engine than the small block Chevy. It made tremendous torque; far more than the same-era Chevy V8.

        On the other hand, the Chevy was better on the track, especially road racing. It was lighter, m,ore reliable at high RPM (in part because of a better oiling system; Pontiac dealt with this issue via dry sump, as in the ’73-’74 SD-455 program).

        • eric, are you comparing a 455 Pontiac with an SBC? For the most part I’d say they had two different uses. Each one into a pony car and one was a track car and often better drag car because of less front end weight. The other a stump-puller and compared to other big blocks, a better high rpm engine. Like the BBC, the 455 also had a firing order that lent it to making more all-out power unlike the Buick’s of the day with their even firing.

          I’d basically agree with Pedro. Mopar’s were known for the cheap iron in their castings, that being the reason they weren’t good truck engines like a BBC. Mopar was known for gross casting too. When Dodge tried to get back to stock car racing their engines were at least 40lbs too heavy to be competitive. Hell, when Ford got back into it they were allowed to redesign their engines since they had nothing that would rev and stay together. Both Ford and Dodge ended up with engines that were identical in bore, bore spacing and stroke along with cam to crank distances with the SBC. For years NASCAR denied Chevy using it’s current head(iron)because it was superior to the other two. Toyota couldn’t compete in NASCAR and they were allowed to build an engine from the ground up. Of course their first try was an engine not of any street design but one obviously built for the track. It was rejected so back to the drawing board. Wanta guess what their final engine that was accepted looked like on paper?

          From way back, Chevy and BMW both used a lost foam injection casting process that was far above everything else delivering strength where it was needed and without extra material.

          Remember any engine builders who tried to get 1500 hp out of a turbo’d Ford engine? Me neither.

          • Hi Eight,

            Not directly!

            Horses for courses.

            In my opinion (having owned/worked on both) the Pontiac V8 (389/400, 428/455) was the better street performance engine because it made tremendous torque in mild tune. It’s not at all hard to build one that will put a Firebird down the quarter mile in the high 12s and still be very wife drivable. Harder to do that with the small block Chevy. The Pontiac (especially the 428/455) has the advantage (for street performance) of displacement and long stroke. It’s an easygoing, low-revving linebacker of an engine.

            Dunno about Pedro’s observation in re the Mopar big blocks, especially the 440. They were used extensively for police work (as you know) and were famous for being tough – and brutally powerful. (Until the 1990s, the fastest all-out cop car was the ’69 Polara 440).

            Some 305/350 blocks are made of not-so-great materials and iffy for performance use. With the exception of the 301 (which was a new-design engine) traditional Pontiac V8s were pretty strong. The chief weakness was oil starvation and resultant failure during high load cornering. But that’s a track issue!

        • I could argue that the pontiac motors are superior to the SBC/as good as the BBC at the dragstrip too. 550 streetable hp on unported stock iron heads from a 428 that doesn’t see more than 6k rpm is hard to argue with. Sometimes what they teach you in school is not reflected in the real world….

          • Exactly, Bob!

            The 455 in my TA hasn’t been apart since circa ’96… it’s never once broken down or had any mechanical issues. Pulls good vacuum, idles well. Operates the power accessories without a hitch…. a very strong/fun to drive street performance engine (my car runs mid-low 13s) with a great bottom end and mid-range. I can do a rolling burnout at 25 MPH!

            • Yup!

              Of course, the key to making really big power with the traditional Pontiac is to use the aftermarket heads on a stock block.

              I am pretty sure (being a “Pontiac” guy for ages now) that getting past 450 hp with stock block/heads and remaining reliable and reasonably street drivable was a big challenge. But big hp numbers weren’t what you really wanted, anyhow. The thing that mattered was torque. And a 455 made a lot of it, without getting overly radical. 450-500-plus ft.-lbs. of torque will move a 3,400 lb. Firebird very nicely!

              • The heads are always key to making power, FWIW properly ported factory heads will produce some impresive numbers as well.
                820 HP @ 6800 RPM- 650 ft.lbs. of torque from 499 cubic inches using ported RA IV heads, single 1150 cfm dominator carb.

                • Most definitely!

                  But – and this is from personal experience – those round port RA IV heads (the factory cast iron ones) are terrible on the street. Too much flow at low RPM; a big lift/duration cam makes it worse. The extremely high compression (10.75:1 or more) is also impossible on pump gas. The engine will detonate to death. (For those not hip to Pontiacs, it was the heads/chamber design that determined CR rather than piston type.) Helluva bracket car and great on the dyno… but they suck in stop and go.

                  Now, I gather the updated (aftermarket) alloy versions of the old round port style are much better. They flow more air but maintain a decent vacuum signal and make lots of power without destroying wife drivability… they are also set for IIRC appx. 9.5:1 CR.

                  I’m po’ right now or I’d try them myself and report back…. one of these days, maybe!

        • I well recall seeing a Chevy Nova, about a 1966 or so, fitted with a 350 SB, fastback coupe…. retired Daytona car, if memory serves, for sale in San Francisco for some pittance…. some monstrously large number before the BHP placeholder….. it seems one of the advantages of the SB engines IS their lightweight and compact nature. Sunbeam fitted first the 260 then a couple years later the 289 to what had been their Alpine, a sedate rather snoozy 1600 cc OHV four…. main issue was front to rear weight balance. I drove a 260 Tiger once… more than half throttle under about 50 MPH the tail became as skittish as that of a real tiger at high alert. “Driving with the right foot” developed a new meaning. Problem with many of the big cube engines is sheer weight. The Ford 390’s, particularly the T-Bird and Lincoln versions, had HUGE ports and valves…. but that engine was developed for medium trucks, and tipped the scales accordingly. Build it, put it back into the one ton F series, and you have a real workhorse but a hungry one at that.

          Two of my all time favourite engines for performance are the early Porsche 2 litre boxers (race tune redline of around 12K, and will last forever), and the inline DOHC six from Jag starting about 1848 and through about 88. The 4.3 block with 3.8 head, HC pistons, lightened, can easily produce some 340+ HP naturally aspirated at 8500 RPM, and still last.

          For all time reliability and long service in cars and smaller boats, nothing has ever come close to the garden variety Volvo B 18 and B 20 (same block, bigger holes), particularly if the B 20 injection head were fitted… larger ports and valves. Good to at least 8K with stock valve gear, I’ve known these to hold together for a full race season with NO work beyond setting the points and valve lash. I’ve owned a number of these cars (1965 through 1973) in various fuel feed configurations, and all of them with the (oft-dreaded) SU carburetters when well tuned would deliver a cruise speed of 80-85 MPH and 40-42 miles per gallon on cheap regular grade fuel. Thousands of miles have proven it repeatedly. Nothing I’ve ever worked with has come close to the utility AND performance combination of these things.

    • Hi Pedro,

      Most engines have their strengths and weaknesses. A very few are “total crap.” The Ford BB and Pontiac V8 are not “total crap” – and anyone who says so is clearly not familiar with either engine.

      Another point: Your list generalizes. There were scores of small block Chevys – and some were much better than others, especially as regards the quality of the blocks (and the air flow capability of the heads) among other things. Compare, for example, an early ’70s LT1 or L82 350 with a late ’70s early ’80s 267 (or a 305). All are “small blocks,” look the same on the outside and many parts interchange. But some are more likely to break – and sooner – than others!

      Last point: Comparing modern GM LS series V8s (and Ford V8s, etc.) with classic era V8s designed 60 years ago is kind of like expecting Bruce Jenner (today) to win the next Olympic decathalon. Modern V8s routinely make 450-plus hp in completely docile, street drivable, production car trim. Because they have the advantages of superior airflow, roller-type camshafts, direct port (and direct) injection, among other things. It was very hard to get a classic-era muscle car V8 to make comparable power without being nearly undrivable in traffic.

      • eric, are you saying the old V-8’s were gay? Just had to throw that in now that Bruce is all in the news.

        I think it’s fairly wild that the engine of choice of the largest automaker in the world is a 60 year old design. It gives you time to work the bugs out. And that’s the easy part. Just the fact the design dates from when many others were using babbitt bearings sorta blows my mind.

        I once was asked by a Ford guy who drove a Chevy(his BIL practically gave him the full time Blazer he drove the wheels off for decades and rarely had problems, none major), why the Chevy engine has such little oil pressure while his Ford pickup had so much. He was grinning like the cat who swallowed the canary. Proof, to him, the Ford was a much better engine. Then I explained to him an oil pump was a parasitic device so the less pressure one needed to accomplish sufficient oiling, the more power went to doing things such as propelling the vehicle, hence needing less fuel to do so. So, how many miles you got on that Blazer? Oh, a couple hundred thou. Ever had a Ford go that long? No answer. Think that Blazer just happened to have low oil pressure(by his standards)and you got lucky it’s gone that far?

        I re-read Pedro’s post. It made me think back to what I had seen 455 Poncho engines do. I do recall them running like stink but can’t remember any running year after year. But back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for people to simply not service engines or keep driving them when the temp gauge had already thrown in the towel or just park them when anything but a spark plug or wire made them miss. Wrecked cars were common(cars were cheap) too.

        While I realize this isn’t common to everywhere in the country, I can’t count the cars and pickups of any and all brands that were running great when the headlights briefly showed that big, black bovine you hit before you could touch your brakes…..and that was always the end of the car and sometimes the occupants.

        I recall when payments on a new car lasted a couple years instead of these days when they’re more like a mortgage payment. I also recall you might “own” a few cars by the time you could “legally” buy one. But you could go off and die in Vietnam 4 years before you could buy a car(or take a drink), 5 years if a parent would sign. I recall lots of guys coming home from Vietnam and buying a new muscle car somebody else had to “own” and proceed to wreck it right away since the only wheel they’d had any contact with in a couple years was the Wheel of Fortune……or mostly, the Wheel of Misfortune.

        This was really sad. I had a friend who got back from ‘Nam, went out and bought a barely used version of the Le Mans with GTO credentials. He totaled it that evening…..with no insurance. SBT.

        • Hi Eight,

          Well, I think we should be careful to remember that the current LS generation Chevy V8 is a completely different design; no major parts interchange between it and the traditional SBC. They share a general layout (90 degree V8, OHV) and that’s pretty much it… right?

          On Pontiacs:

          These have been out of production since 1978, a long time ago. Closing in on 40 years ago. The remaining inventory is – understandably – now mostly devoted to preservation rather than all-out performance efforts. It’s one thing to grenade a 350 at the brackets. Throw it away, go get a new one. But 455s are getting hard to find…

          • eric, I can’t tell you a lot about the LS engines but I think they’re cylinder spacing, crank to cam distance is the same. Of course those engines had a much different block such as room for more rod throw, width and size of the main bearing saddles and 6 bolt mains. They’re also of the reverse coolant school too. I don’t have a clue as to how a 5.3 compares to the old 327 as far as bore and stroke. Seems like most of their engines are strokers and not oversquare as some of the older ones were.

            I do know a buddy built an old type engine about a decade ago and used some late 90’s Chevy aluminum cylinder heads that he said flowed about the same as the aftermarket aluminum heads. He had TBI on it and it was really stout.

          • eric, I’d tend to agree with Pedro if he’s speaking of the first 460 engines Ford made. They had very weak main bearings(small)and didn’t last long. Ford did fix that though.

            GM would hate to be judged by it’s 307 I’m sure. Those were vac truck engines, they sucked ha ha.

          • Heh, I know a guy with quite a stash of old Poncho motors. Was BSing with him one day and he gets a phone call from Arnie Beswick – he’s looking for a 455. My friend told Arnie no, wonder what he’ll tell me when I try to sweet talk him out of one?

            • Idiot that I am, I sold off most of my inventory… including a complete, numbers matching ’69 GTO RA III 400 (#48 heads)… doh!

        • Oil pressure… Ford often uses an oil pressure ‘gauge’ that is simply a switch. GM held on to real oil pressure gauges longer. The logic behind it, at least what circulates as the story, is that people would see the oil pressure fluctuate and then think something was wrong because they don’t understand how oil pressure varies with temp.

          Also GM hasn’t been the biggest automaker in the world for a long time.

          • You’re correct although for a long time is relative. Toyota outsold GM and VW starting in about ’09 and then fell behind in 2011, then regained the #1 position in 2012 where it remains a close number for Toyota, GM and VW group.

            Speaking of Ford oil pressure gauges, they used an electric gauge for decades. My old ’82 Chevy pickup has a steel line to the gauge. Not a clue when that went away. It’s always been a mixmatch for GM as long as I’ve known. Nothing but idiot lights for some vehicles for 40 years. I’ve installed real oil gauges on various GM products for decades, the reason I still have one of their old sockets for removing the electric sending unit. I always stuck a T in there and continued to use the light along with a gauge. I always threatened to use a cross and install a buzzer too but they used to be nearly impossible to find.

            Don’t know if you could find a fuel pressure gauge but for people with any mechanical sense, that could save a lot of fuel pumps and troubleshooting.

            • The ford idiot light oil pressure gauge can be made real with a hack in at least some cars. Add a proper sender and then some simple circuit work.

              On modern cars just use the fuel trims reported by OBD2 to see if there is a fuel delivery issue.

          • I never got too concerned about oil pressure at a hot idle, just verify that you’re getting oil up thru the pushrods and the lifters are rotating (if hydraulic).

      • Eric,

        My answer was extremely limited due to time constraints. I have ZERO emotional attachment to any brand. As a performance engine builder, they are just air pumps with badges on them. Allow me to elaborate my original post.

        I was comparing stock blocks/heads in a pure racing environment (600+ Horsepower high RPM applications). You are correct….very few engines are/were total crap. Most of the factory V-8 engines from GM, Ford and Mopar make great hot rod street engines. Once you get above the basic bolt-ons, cams and head porting is when my previous post becomes more evident.

        Ford was ahead of the game in 1962 when they released the 221 small block. Ford engineers figured out how to cast engine blocks with very little variance a.k.a. core shift. This allowed them to reduce the block size yet maintain high rigidity. From 1962-1968 Ford simply increased bore and stroke to achieve 302 cubic inches. This made for a very lightweight, powerful and compact V-8 but its engine block had the bare minimum thickness which is bad for racing. The oiling systems were very good but these blocks literally split down the middle past 500 horsepower like a clamshell. This was partially remedied by the thicker Boss Blocks. Also, the factory heads did not flow anywhere near as much as a factory SBC.

        GM had to cast their blocks much thicker and machine them down to allowable tolerances. If you find a good SBC or BBC without too much core shift, it can make a reliable 700+HP high RPM race motor due to its thick walls, very good heads and great oiling system.

        Mopars, Pontiacs, Big Block Fords and Olds motors were never great race platforms due to many factors. Some versions had great heads capable of very high power levels but the blocks flexed so much that they would grenade before the heads had a chance to make the power. Other engines (such as the Dodge 440) had horrible factory oiling systems. The oiling system on the 440 was so bad that if you ran it hard for a few minutes, it would suck the pan dry because it wouldn’t flow through the block fast enough.

        Keep in mind that all of the issues with the engines listed above can be fixed via Aftermarket Heads/Blocks. 20-30 years ago there were very few aftermarket blocks available.

        Quick fun fact…did you know that there is technically no such thing as engine vacuum? In a race engine you want to open the exhaust valve roughly halfway into the power stroke while the piston is travelling downwards to make the most power.

        • Hi Pedro,

          Good stuff!

          My earlier post – and the objections made – was premised on street performance rather than extreme/race conditions.

          In the former context (street) my experience with Pontiacs has been nothing but positive. Never had an engine fail or even a major problem. They can be hard to start sometimes when hot – but that’s it. What I like about them most is their tremendous torque output, even the low compression “smog” versions of the mid-late 1970s. How low was the compression? How about 7.6:1! Really… and yet, the the ’76 455 still made close to 350 ft.-lbs. of torque at about 2,000 RPM. IIRC, the same-year SBC 350 made something like 270 ft. lbs.And this was the weakest factory 455 Pontiac ever produced (just 200 hp, SAE net).

          With bit more CR (9.0:1 or so) a mild cam and a good tune, a 455 Pontiac can make 450-plus ft.-lbs. of torque and an honest (and very reliable/drivable) 300-320 hp or so. This makes for a fantastic (and fun!) street performance engine in a classic muscle car like my Trans Am!

        • I love the sound of a huge amount of valve overlap. It’s just an aural thing though.

          I can remember when some engine builders who used SBC’s would got through as many blocks as was necessary to find the best in regards to true spec’s. They preferred a used engine. I don’t even remember who it was that used an engine from a school bus for Indy. The desired specs were simply closer to perfect than any other block they could find.

          Back in the old days, some people would drive as many cars of a certain style as a dealer had to find the best running one. It was a good idea and one that wored well when there was a great deal of variance in production engines.

  5. The mention that “earlier LT-1s only came paired with a manual transmission” is incorrect. I owned an original ’70 1/2 Camaro Z28 that was factory equipped with an LT-1 backed by a Turbo 400 and a 12 bolt rear.

  6. The 455 rocket that powered my 69′ Toronado could smoke the front tires and bury the 130 mph speedometer. The big block olds knew how to make power.

      • Eric, there are a few supercharged 3.8s in the late model holdens down under. They are really powerful and fuel efficient. I drove my nephew’s car for a few weeks and at 100 km/hr it consumed 5 L per 100 km of 91 octane petrol.

        Those 3.8s are some of the best engines ever made.

      • I like the early Toronado, esp. the 66-67. too. When they brought out the Aurora, I found the styling ‘reminiscent.’
        Those Rivieras were okay too, but I couldn’t help but think ‘overgrown Stingray.’

      • eric, the wife and I were watching this old movie where some actors got their start who later became famous. The Road Killers is the title I think. They used that old pink Caddy convertible you see in lots of movies, an Eldo about 30 feet long(FWD, 80’s something). One scene they’re on the uphill side of a hill and nail it. Smoke boils off the front tires like it was on fire. When they let off and the tires began to get some traction with zero throttle, it shakes the cowl like it’s going to implode. I have never seen anything else shake like that.

        After graduation, a friend came up with a ’68 Toronado with a 455. It would boil the front tires and choke you out. Don’t think he drove it two years before something major happened to it driveline wise. Seems like it was a transmission problem.

        Things were so much fun in the 60’s younger people can’t imagine what we took for granted. Just outside of town we had a quarter mile measured off on a farm to market road. It was always covered in burnt tire marks.

        • Love it!

          My Trans Am’s like that… it can lay twin greasy slathers of melted rubber for 50 yard, on command. Goes through tires real fast….

  7. come on Eric the old motors were junk. ate spark plugs at 6000 miles started smoking at 50, 000 carbeurators the worse invention in history for an engine. the only thing good about new cars is the engines. they will go to almost 300,000 need plugs every 100,000 and do not smoke at all. fuel injection the best there is

      • That’s very true………I love my 08 Tundra for work each day. I love my ES 350 for long trips and my wife to drive around. But it takes zero fingers to count the people who notice either vehicle and have ever asked to look under the hood. My 73 Toronado is a completely different story. No one requests to look under the hood to see a computer. They look at that every day.

          • I pull a 7200 lb skid steer and 12000 lb mini-ex often. It’s the doublecab with the 8 ft box. I have a fuel tank and truck box in it too. What kind of work don’t I do with it?

    • A lot of the wear issues with the older issues came from the properties of the motor oil of the day. With modern motor oil and attention to their very short maintenance intervals they would last a good long time. Of course the better materials in modern engines better control of fuel, and modern lubricants, hands down better.

      • I’ve not had the 455 in my Trans-Am apart since the last rebuild circa 1996. Now, granted, I don’t drive it very often (or very far). But it’s not tired at all (I need some excuse to mess with it, actually). I attribute most of this to the exclusive use of very high-end synthetic oil.

      • BrentP, better materials and manufacturing processes. Not much comparison of internal parts now and then. Even TBI would toast everything inside a cylinder. I saw a guy try it on an early 90’s Chevy pickup. He used a standard piston like an old 350 would use and corresponding rings. it was a very short experiment.

          • Hi Ramrod,

            Inside a cylinder there’s just open space!

            But, seriously….

            Materials (cast iron, aluminum) are important, but the design of the block/heads is, too. The infamous aluminum Chevy Vega four used advanced materials and an interesting design (no liners) but failed because of vibration-induced head gasket failure that let coolant into the cylinders… with not-good results!

            • You pointed out that the Chevy Vega should have been tested longer before selling “not-good results”.

              With today’s virtual engineering, I expect that to happen more frequently.

              • Hi Ramrod,

                In my opinion, the chief worry about today’s cars is their sheer complexity. There’s simply more to potentially go awry. And because there’s so much going on, it can be harder to isolate a problem – especially an intermittent fault that’s electronic in nature.

          • ramrod, pistons and skirts are now made of very sophisticated alloys and for the most part, have some sort of coating that is more heat resistant and has less friction. The same goes for rings that are made from materials that don’t expand or contract from hot to cold as much and are made to reduce drag and seal better as well. I can remember not long ago using a gap gauge made just for measuring end gap of rings installed so you could adjust the gap closer to what you desired for an engine. That’s nearly a thing of the past except for pure race engines now. And more engines are showing up with 4 ring sets now. Bearings are made of much better material now and can last for hundreds of thousands of miles easily with good engine oil, filters and change intervals even without synthetic lubricants. And now more and more engines are coming from the factory with synthetic oil(as well as the entire driveline)mandatory.

            Fewer cars every year can be serviced at JiffyLube and supposedly free dealership engine service for years is common. Of course nothing is free but it doesn’t cost you at the time of service since they already have your money once you purchase the car. I haven’t attempted to negotiate a lower price to not have this option since they’ll all tell you not doing so will void your warranty, a total lie but one most people don’t want to fight.

            If you don’t want to use their service and tell them you’ll do it yourself since you’re a died in the wool Amsoil guy, they’ll come back with the old You’ll void your warranty. That’s when you get on the phone and call Amsoil to which they’ll say Put the service manager on and then read him the riot act(the actual law) and he’ll be forced to concede it won’t violate the warranty.

            • Eightsouthman and Eric, the worse car that I have ever had in my life is the 2002 Buick Rendezvous; the best is the 2005 Pontiac Vibe. Because of my experience, I will not buy an American engineered car. What are your thoughts?

              • Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I still get by friends’ shops and they cuss every brand for some reason.

    • dry sleeve the blocks with steel equivalent to today’s block alloys, fit modern pressure forged pistons and chromed ring technology/metalurgy, fit with modern titanium bougies and silicone wires, fit high voltage ignition systems (60K+ volt spark), and feed with decent carbs– the Europeans developed a number of them that worked well…… and we’ll get the same service life out of them. The techies and engineers have brought things a long way forward. Also, use today’s vastly improved lubricating oils in place of the old Pennzoil parafin based junk with lousey (or no) detergent additives. It ain’t all the engine development, its the alloys, metallurgy, lubricants, ignition systems, fuel feeds, etc that make the difference today. Then you can have your flyer with heart that will last.

  8. Speaking of Olds, do you have any info on the Olds Quad 4’s? I saw one of the engines on display at the local automotive museum years ago, looked pretty slick. In the late 80’s-early 90’s Olds had a coupe with the Quad 4. If my memory is correct they labeled that model the Quad 4, and it was supposed to be a hot machine. I had the hots for one but married life put a crimp in that. Oh well. I have a ’69 Olds Cutlass with a 350/350TH, not running at this time, but the last time I fired it up I stood at the rear of the car, listening to the great rumble of the exhaust. Who needs a radio or stereo when you have that sound?

    As for bikes, I had 2 Triumphs in the early to mid 70’s, a TR6 and a Bonneville. They would shake you to pieces, but those British twins had such a great sound. Once in awhile I hear one and it really grabs my attention.

    • The Quad 4 has a reputation for being unreliable. I’ve seen enough of them pass through the old man’s repair shop to be leary of them though most of the issues stemmed from a certain amount of neglect.

    • The QUAD4 was Oldsmobile’s last attempt at relevance. I think it had it’s share of GM type issues but it did spread across GM so it was probably considered a successful engine it just wasn’t enough to save Oldsmobile.

  9. You’re mistaken about Chevy’s LT1 engine. Versions of them came back into vogue during the mid nineties in high-performance Camaros and Firebirds and in a slightly de-tuned version in Caprices (most notably 9C1 police cruisers) and the Impala SS. The Caprice/SS versions were cast iron with hydraulic roller lifters and a re-engineered head cooling system which allowed a compression ratio of 10 to 1 with an output of 260 HP and 300 pound feet of torque. I added cold air induction to my ’96 which according K&N gave it about 18 more HP at high rpm. They’re all stock equipped with automatic transmission (700 R4 in the ’94 and ’95; and 4L-60E in my low-mileage ’96). During their era they were some of the fastest cars on the road…both in the drags and top speed on the highway. These are great cars with great engines…not temperamental, at all and make a helluva neat roar at full throttle through the factory duals.

    • Hi DJ,

      Same designation- but not the same engine!

      The original LT-1 was a cast iron block/head design, with a solid lifter camshaft and a single four-barrel intake with a Holley carb.

      The modern LT1 is a distant cousin of the LT-1, sharing general layout (90 degree, OHV V8) but it’s a very different design, not an updated/modified version of the LT-1.

      It’s the difference between, say, a 1969 Z28 and a 2015 Z28.

      They’re both Z28s.

      But they’re not the same thing.

      • eric, let’s not leave out the ’67 375 HP 327([67 Corvette). Waaaay under-rated/reported. They often made 425 hp and the ’69 302 was an SCCA killer, commonly making 450 HP in track trim. With their light weight, high-rev(4.0″bore by 3.0″stroke) and new head style some compared them to 426 Hemi’s in power.

        While I never like Mopar cars, give credit where it’s due because the 426 was designed to be a race engine and it didn’t disappoint. And Chrysler made the 440 forever powering everything from Dusters to Class A motorhomes and boats of all sorts. It was a torque monster even if it was too heavy.

        What would be a list of great engines without the L-88, a pure race engine made for racing Sebring and Daytona. GM tried to keep dealers from ordering them and did so to a great degree for the 2 years they were made ’68-69. 550-570 HP in street “trim” but actually made 600 HP(well shy of the new Z0-6). Forged everything with 12.5/1 compression ratio the Corvette’s they came in had a sticker on the console warning buyers to use only racing fuel. That was most likely redundant since they were difficult to obtain made for racing only. No heater, no radio or anything else. They ran over 170 mph at Le Mans.

        I guess you could include the ubiquitous “409” and it had lots of torque back before many manufacturers made anything to equal them except Chrysler. They were hard to modify internally since the “combustion chamber” was the distance between the flat head and the top of the piston. They were fairly rank by 1961 standards, replaced by the Mystery Motor that became the 427 most people know although the 409 W style engine had its own 427.

        A mechanic I knew heard me pull up one day in my 3/4 T 4WD Chevy pickup and said “That don’t sound like a 6.2 to me” since it had originally been a 6.2 L diesel. I raised the hood and he said “Oh, a Forever engine(454) and then looked at the Turbo 400 transmission and said “and the forever transmission, you oughta have that a long time”. I still do.

        • My $.02, the 440 was a better performer for something that wasn’t a trailer queen. The 426 hemi didn’t start to outshine it until the build was too radical for street use.

          • DBB, good observation but the Hemi was designed ground up to be a race engine. The 440 was designed for everything else. I recall when they experimented with DOHC but the cubic inches of the Hemi lent itself to not only make some serious HP and even high rpm hp but a bunch of torque you couldn’t get with OHC.

            This is the reason the Ford engines they put in their light trucks have been losers since they abandoned OHV. Trucks get hammered constantly, A great many Toyota’s were sold here when they came out with the mid-size pickup. Lots of farmers bought them and tried to work them but they are rare now. They’d last about 3 years and the heat would make their iron/aluminum combo combined with OHC and “lighter” gears with heavy loads spelled their “working” demise.

            GM experimented with DOHC and the SBC and shelved the idea. They once made some 2 stroke versions and made huge power but could never get them to pass emissions. And that’s been the demise of a lot of great engines.

            A friend worked for a company that furnished him an 8.4L Chevy one ton to pull a big trailer. He said it would pass everything but a fuel station. I doubt they even make that big gas engine now.

              • DBB, the Chrysler 426 Hemi wasn’t designed to live long, just make gobs of power while doing so. I knew a few guys who ran one on the street. They never seemed to be remotely in tune and the run time/repair time ratio was close to Windows XP.

                • Wasn’t remarking on the 426’s durability per se, just the simple fact that nothing lives long at the 16 hp per c.i. mark.

          • You are so right,I would take a 440(4 or 6 BBL) anyday.Hemi’s NEVER ran right,I was never impressed by them.The 440 on the other hand made tons of power and was fast.One of the fastest cars I ever raced was a 1970 440 4BBL Road runner,we were dead even .I was driving a 1988 mustang 5.0 lx that had run a best of 14.1 @ 99,which was fast for the time.I could count on one hand the cars I lost or tied and that Roadrunner was one.What a car too,Hemi orange and perfect, his father was the original owner and gave it to his son-what a car.

            • getch36, my first year in college had a guy down the hall in the dorm with a Hemi Charger. He would never run me. I had spanked everyone he knew and he wanted no part of it. His was one of those getting all the good out of that air-cooled starter every day. I couldn’t have stood it. I’d have found some tune of a sort that would light it off within a half dozen attempts anyway.

              Holley’s weren’t known for their great startability but mine was a 750 CFM GM parts # version. Seems like it was a 4352 or some such number with a hard to find kit. But when it got Holleyitis, I could kit it on the table and be nearly perfect after installing it back on the car. It’s automatic choke worked correctly so there was none of that crank, cough die crap.

              I lived out on the SW end of a small town and worked for the highway dept. a couple years that was as far away as you could get, probably a mile and a half. Everybody laughed about hearing that 327 light off in the morning and every gear change I made. It was a source of amusement to the older crowd.

              My parents lived on a FM road that wound through various curves to the SW, the prevailing wind direction. I’d sometimes remove my 3″ plugs I had installed where the 2 1/2″ exhaust pipes turned and go for a Sunday morning “drive”. My mother would be miffed and tell me she could hear that car 6 miles from town. Everybody else said the same so I guess it was so.

              When I’d come home from college I’d get to the outskirts of town and open the dumps and run it like that all the way home. It was fun watching the shadows from the flames out the exhaust. Every now and then I’d meet a DPS and although they had no radar back then to clock you, many would hit their brakes and turn around but I’d be long gone well before they could get to speed. Even using the mufflers city cops would commonly stop me for excessive noise. Some would do no more than look at the engine and ask about it. Others felt they had to write a ticket for something…..a holes.

              • Very cool story,Imagine the cops if you drove that now,you would arrested for sure.Did you ever see the shootouts in Muscle car Review Between lassiters 70 stage 1 gs and all the Hemi’s?Well,the hemi’s lost every time.The stage 1 was driven to the track from pretty far away(I forget exactly how far) and the Hemi cars were trailered and still lost every time.They were full of excuses every time,as usual.I never had much respect for Hemi’s after that,it was all myth as far as I was concerned.They should have brought a 440-6,now that would have been a race.

                • I could never understand the fascination of focusing on Fords and Mopars. Every year in the Fastest Street Car shoot-out a GM won…..most of the time, easily. Radical Fords and Mopars would inevitably not make the “street” portion and if they did, would be “hurt” by it according to owners, giving them an excuse to have a C Body GM hand them their lunch and take all the money. When they got to the top ten final races, it was almost always a plethora of C Bodies.

                  One year the Lubbock PD bought the baddest ‘Stang’ fastback there was and according to the sheriff’s son, a friend of mine, it was to have a fun and to somewhat try to figure out where I was going. It didn’t work. I could have saved them the trouble had they asked. They should have bought an LT-1 ‘Vette if that was their priority.

                  • give me a 4-2-7 corvette motor anyday.Those rocked ,made huge power,and revved.Unlike the 454,which was a torque motor,still ran good.But I don’t think it could compare.Nothing sound better than a big block chevy revving to close to 7 grand… dieing and going to heaven,what a sound.

    • The opti sparks were a the biggest downside to those, especially the non-vented early (pre-95 IIRC) ones. Who the hell wants to pull the water pump to access the distributor?
      Chevy nerfed all the F and B bodies compared to the Vette so they would be slower than each other respectively. Another case of keeping the Vette on top. F bodies had more restrictive exhaust and the B bodies had less cam and a more restictive intake in addition to less desirable rearend gears. My 95 roadmaster has 2.54s in the back….

      • DBB, I’d like to have one of the 350’s they had in the ’96 Roadmaster. They made a Limited Estate Wagon. I’d like to have one, old school so to speak. 24 mpg for a tug and 8 passenger seating with the Vista Roof, Bose sound system, self-leveling and lots of other whistles and bells. Cholley Jack would love one. He’s easy on interiors and doesn’t mind sleeping between two people in the front. I figure the wife and I could slide “under the radar” so to speak with the troopers and such just seeing Ma and Pa Kettle in their old Buick going a bit too fast. We’re blind, can’t see the speedo, not even sure how to read it.

      • I liked those Impala ss’s,never impressed by the performance though.Mid to low 15’s at the track.The Corvette’s/F-bodies were so much faster,not a shock as they were so much lighter /made more power and I never knew that about the gearing(which is a killer in a bi heavy car)

  10. There are still a lot of great engines coming off the production lines today. But they’re being installed only in certain vehicles.

    They’re called motorcycles.

    • Well-said, David!

      Though bikes are being anesthetized, too.

      ECUs, EFI, all of that. Yes, yes, I know… the power is better than ever… but when I fire up my old Kaw two-stroke triple or kick-start my air-cooled Zed’s big DOHC four fed by a rack of carbs without a got-damned computer being involved …. well, who cares whether they can run 9 second quarters and hit 200 on top? They are motorcycles – the real deal.

      • eric, I thought about your bike runs Wed. when I hauled 9 loads of base material the entire length of a stretch of highway known as the Devil’s Backbone, very aptly named. Something went agly on the computer on the KW from hell I have refused to drive before. That sumbitch went bonkers and not only didn’t stop on it’s speed limiter in 10th but was shoveling fuel and pulling like crazy. It’s so loud you can’t hear anything(I hear much better with earplugs driving it)so I can’t hear the engine nor much of anything else. It normally won’t rev above something just S of 1800 rpm that’s 75mph. I’m going along on these wicked curves and can’t figure out why I can’t hold it, look down at the tach and it’s showing 2100 rpm. Musta been doing about 100 with a big overload and I can see the trailer axles hopping up and down. I slowed down, a lot since this is a notorious stretch of road and there were fresh places where vehicles hadn’t made the curve(s). After about 3 runs that would total about 85 miles or so, it went back to its old self although it would pull a slightly higher rpm. That’s just the newest way it’s tried to kill me. I really do despise and fear that KW and that particular trailer(that’s been rolled).

        Everyone who ever drove it has tried to figure out how to burn it to the ground without getting caught. Still working on it.

          • I have a long history, a sordid one, just like other drivers have had with it. I’m THE only real trucker in the company so I don’t ruin tires or run engines out of oil or all those other things not paying attention can do. I was using it to haul “as much as the belly dump would hold” loads out of a quarry one day. I was doing my walk-around I do every few loads(not sure the other drivers can walk or bump a tire)when I noticed a big crack in the main support piece that holds both drive axle suspensions. I drove it to the site, unloaded, turned it off, got out and told everyone I’m done. The boss wants to know what the problem is so I show him. Wow, and you drove it back? Slowly, very slowly, 10 mph or less. So he asks how I found it. I looked at him and said Shit man, I’m a trucker, not a driver, I look for this shit all the time. Same thing with that trailer. How did you figure that out? Well, when one axle walks back and forth in front of the other something is broken. This ain’t rocket science. Get bofem fixed, sorta and another driver is driving it leaving a pit. Again, part of the main suspension(different part)just breaks in half and he nearly runs the rear drive axle over the front one climbing out of the pit. He gets out and walks away and refuses to even look at it again. Now you know why I won’t drive it I told him. When I got there he’s walking around and saying That sumbitch nearly killed me. Yep, says I, that’s its main mission evidently. Possessed? I’m guessing you’re right.

      • My 71 Norton Commando had a great engine. Originally designed as a 500, it was too much even as a 750. At least I did not have the “Combat” engine that self-destructed even faster than the standard did. But it had tons of grunt and a sound that was better than anything coming out of Japan; also was the fastest production motorcycle in those days. It was laughably crude if you got a close look at it – I could just imagine some old socialist mechanics sitting in the greasy Wolverhampton plant with their files and ball-peen hammers, cranking these things out after a pint or two at the corner pub. It’s a wonder I kept it running so long. That was a great machine but it is safely now a memory for me; I wouldn’t put up with the fuss of owning it these days. My Japanese bike an appliance? Yeah, but it’s still a motorcycle…

        • PJ, I was less than 24 hrs from buying an 850 when fate determined I’d spend that money on an attorney. I would have rather learned the Commando lesson the hard way instead of the one I learned. I wanted to avoid Harley problems not knowing the Norton main bearings were very temporary. Live and learn.

  11. Was the Studebaker 289 with the Paxton Supercharger “before your time”? In the Avanti, Hawk, and even the lowly Lark, it made the Corvette look like an old lady’s toy.

      • used to work on the wonky electricals of a Commander, about 1952 model, convertible with that wild and crazy engine. THAT were a monster……

    • First car (that I couldn’t legally drive) was a ’63 Paxton Lark hardtop with a bad rod. 25 bucks and a nice body and interior. You could get a new block from Newman-Altman for $125.00.

  12. No listing of great engines is complete without at least a passing mention of the 1968-76 Cadillac 472-500–the largest passenger car engine in the world at the time of its introduction. At its peak in the 1970 Eldorado, it produced 400 horsepower and 550 ft/lbs. of torque…a must for moving the 3-ton land barges it was installed in.

    • Bryce, GM probably counted on selling those Caddy’s out here in west Tx. Anything that is comfy and will hammer at triple digits for hundreds of miles is a winner here. All those big GM engined cars were and still are popular here. More than a few people still run big Mercedes that look like work trucks with all the dirt and caliche covering them.

      For a couple decades Suburbans dominated rural family transportation. Now it’s mainly Tahoes, Traverses, Exploders, Toys and Murano SUV’s. I was always and still am pissed GM wouldn’t diesel power those ‘burbans. I have seen one, from Mexico with a 6.5L Turbo but you can’t register it in the US. I think they make Duramax Suburbans in Mexico now, just not here.

      BTW, I spoke to a guy passing through last week about his ’07 Duramax. Asked him if he’d do anything different. Hell no he said. He had changed a bunch of stuff with PPE parts and installed 50% over Industrial Injection injectors. It makes 840 HP and 2,000 ft. lbs. torque. He was getting 28 mpg on the road bare pickup. Said he did no better mpg trailer pulling but it would pull a trailer faster than the trailer was capable of….any trailer.

  13. The Chrysler 225 six was a great engine, always thought it would be a great engine for a boat; one more item that will never be filled on my bucket list.

  14. The Ford 300 inline 6 is the best engine I’ve ever used. I had one in a 94 Econoline 250. I made it to 535,000 miles without a single issue and drove the rotting carcass of what once was a van to the junkyard, the 300 still purring like a kitten! I can’t see getting that kind of longevity out of the 5.4 8cyl in my 08 e350.. But only time will tell!

    • The big three all made stout inline sixes. Ford made two, a big block (of which the 300 was one) and a small block (120,170,200,250)

      • BrentP, indeed they did. I consider the best engine Ford ever made was the 300. A fuel eater for sure but most of the big sixes were. GM made the 292 that was a real workhorse. It and the 300 would run virtually forever and suffer lots of indignities doing so. I operated many larger trucks with the 292 and some with the 300. Check the rarely changed oil now and again and run them WOT nearly their entire lives. I can think of many of these engines that outlasted their owners.

        One of my dad’s friends who ran a lot of medium trucks was always on the lookout for a spare 292. He could tell you everything about one and why they lasted.

        Probably few people realize a great many trucks like the C 50 and C 60 often had 292’s and 409’s that just ran and ran. I notice nobody has mentioned an engine that was produced for 4 decades, a big block 366 Chevy used in medium trucks that just wouldn’t wear out. It was a tall deck big block with a long bore. Ford had a 342 that would pull big loads for hundreds of thousands of miles too. They were both truck-only engines. International Harvester also made some long lived engines, the 345 and 390, both hard pulling workhorses. They used both those engines in their Scouts and Cherokee’s and even, up to, Class 7 trucks. I drove a Binder(IH) semi(class 7) with a 390 for a long while.

  15. Let’s not forget a couple of others that had not only amazing longevity, but their own unique vibe.

    The AMC/Rambler 6 made it from ’64 to 2006 while delivering respectable mileage (wasn’t it 30mpg for a 232 in a ’76 Gremlin per EPA?) and obnoxious amounts of bottom end torque. The 242 (4.0 for metric fans) was probably the finest iteration of the marque with diesel like longevity – 300k on original rings and bearings is common. They also get extra cool points for having a sound that just screamed “Jeep” (even before AMC’s purchase of Jeep) as much as the Willys 4 banger of days gone by.

    The Ford/Navistar 6.9 IDI diesel changed the light duty diesel paradigm by focusing on power over fuel economy in 1983. Anyone even close to being a gearhead could recognize a Ford clatter over their GM counterparts.

  16. Great engines are largely unknown to the general public because they are truly great. Unnecessary to roll down the window just to listen because the sound is always the same beautiful music. And they enjoy a long manufacturing life. Famous engines, however, are usually short-lived garbage like the aluminum honker Chevy developed for the Vega. You HAD to roll down the window to get a better ear towards the mechanical clatter signalling self destruction.

      • chiph, they were a great source of pleasure boat anchors though. I knew plenty people who had half a crankshaft for an anchor. They dug in and worked well… crank, two anchors. That confirms my “no such thing as scrap iron” theory.


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