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Comparing Older Domestic Engines



  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,637
    edited September 2010
    Babbitt means the bearings are POURED into the con rods. This works okay but babbitt tends to be soft and hence cannot withstand heavy duty use.

    That Olds engine is interesting because it is a split case, not a monobloc like the later Fords.

    Olds also made another V8 in 1929 (gee, bad timing).

    I think the 1917 was something like 40 HP, which, for 1917, was relatively powerful.

    Here's the Chevy V8 of 1917, but it looks like an OHV engine to me:

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    Re the Stovebolt: "If driven carefully, they would last a long time."

    I think that could be said of any of those old (post ~1932) engines.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    The flathead Olds and Pontiacs were available both in six cylinder models and eights. Tough engines that didn't cause many problems.

    Of course in those days a valve job was a 40,000 mile event and a total overhaul with a rebore usually happened around 80,000 miles.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    "Nothing sounded quite as nice as and old Chevy six with a split manifold."

    I heard one or two, and they did sound good. The Ford flathead V8 with glasspacks sounded really good too. The Fords seemed to rev more freely than the Chevy and Mopar 6s too.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    edited September 2010
    "They were lazy acceleration engines, though and they ran out of breath pretty quickly. Flatheads remind me of diesel engines in the way they behave."

    Overdrive was definitely helpful for highway cruising with those engines.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    " those days a valve job was a 40,000 mile event and a total overhaul with a rebore usually happened around 80,000 miles."

    I'm wondering whether that would be the case if modern synthetic oil and unleaded gas were used.
  • Good question. Of course, getting a cylinder head off was pretty easy---it was just a slab of steel over the pistons. Not much to a cylinder head. This presumes, of course, that the head bolts don't snap off, which they do with alarming regularity on a flathead.

    I doubt that carbonization would be much of a problem today, but babbit bearings are still babbit bearings, and fewer and fewer people are able to offer this service to hobbyists.

    Rebuilding a Ford Flathead is quite an expensive repair these days.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    "Oh I think pound for pound the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, America's first mass-produced OHV V-8, was the best of that particular era. Cadillac soon came out with an engine that is not internally related to the Olds Rocket, but which represented all the good things learned from Olds' first effort."

    Better than the '51 Chrysler Firepower hemi V8? The Chrysler and '51 Cadillac engines both displaced 331 c.i., but the Chrysler V8 out out 180 vs. 160 for the Caddy. Torque for both was identical, at 312 foot pounds.
  • Drag racers played with the Cadillac V8 and the Hemi and the Olds V8 but once the Chevy V8 came along, that was the end of the competition.

    I owned both a '56 Chevy with a 283 and a '55 Dodge Royal Lancer with the Hemi, and the Chevy was quite a bit faster and more responsive. Besides which, you could do more to it, and more easily.

    You can't argue with how things turned out. People embraced what worked the best.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    Excellent points.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,584
    I'm wondering whether that would be the case if modern synthetic oil and unleaded gas were used.

    Synthetic oil and unleaded gasoline will definitely help, but so will many other factors. Just about ANY fluid used in a car today is much improved over years ago. The oiling systems on cars are better, as well. Many cars back in the old days didn't even have an oil filter! On some, it was an extra-cost option. Then, there was that "oil bath" thing that I never really understood.

    Air intake systems are also better these days, and are better at filtering contaminants and keeping them out of the engine. And, the simple fact that most of America is paved these days, and as much as we might gripe about the roads, they're a VAST improvement over what they were in the old days. With everything being paved, it keeps a lot of dust out of the air, and out of the crank case.

    If you could go back in time and transport a 30's or 40's car to today, it would be much more reliable than it it was back in those days, simply because of the improved roads, fluids, etc. Similarly, if you took a modern car back in time, and subjected it to the roads, fluids, and conditions of the era, it wouldn't stand a chance.

    Another thing about those days, is that 40,000 miles, 80,000 miles, or whatever, was totally different from that kind of mileage today. Case in point...when my grandmother was a kid, she lived in Harrisburg PA, and would come down here to Maryland to visit relatives. She remembers it being an all-day drive. The road went through every blessed town between here and there, and I think they had to cut through downtown Baltimore, even. Lots of traffic lights, or even stop signs. And no doubt the grades going up and down the hills and mountains were much more strenuous.

    Fast forward to today, and I can make the same trip, roughly 110 miles, in less than two hours without even trying. And there are all of 9 traffic lights on the route...all of them in the ~5.5 miles between my house and where I get on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway!

    Needless to say, those 110 miles of almost pure highway driving are a lot gentler on the car, any car, than 110 or so miles of constant city-type and back-road driving.

    By the same token though, I don't know that I'd want to make the same trip in, say, a Model A! I've seen people do it though, especially when I go up for the Hershey show. It's actually a bit scary seeing those old Model A's and such puttering around at 40-45 mph, or less, on I-83!
  • wevkwevk Posts: 178
    "But the McMeekin Brothers are running in the XO/GALT class, a category for naturally aspirated vintage engines , so at first glance what looks to be and L-28 from an old Datsun turns out to be a classic Buick Straight 8, figures for these blue oval" boys.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    The oil wouldn't even have to be synthetic. All modern oils are so much better now than in the old days. Modern cars run hotter now and warm up much quicker.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,584
    I owned both a '56 Chevy with a 283 and a '55 Dodge Royal Lancer with the Hemi, and the Chevy was quite a bit faster and more responsive. Besides which, you could do more to it, and more easily.

    I didn't think the 283 came out until 1957? Anyway, there are other factors at play here. For one thing, a '55 Dodge probably weighs around 300-400 lb more than a '56 Chevy. And, which Hemi did you have? Dodge offered two of them in 1955, 270 CID units that put out 183 hp standard, 193 optional. And which 283 did you have?

    Back when I was in college I worked part time as a waiter at Denny's. I started talking cars with the store manager, and mentioned that I wanted to get a '57 DeSoto. He said that he had one back in 1965. It was his first car as a teenager. He paid $500 for it. Fireflite 4-door hardtop, pink and white, with the 341 4-bbl. 295 hp. People made fun of him because he drove an orphan, but he said that orphan used to embarrass many much cooler cars!

    He sold the DeSoto and bought a '57 Bel Air convertible with a 283. However, I don't know WHICH 283. But, he said it was a total dog compared to the DeSoto. But, being a 1957 Chevy, and especially a convertible, the coolness factor more than made up for the fact that it was a dog.

    Now, okay, maybe in this example, it's not fair to compare a 341 to a 283, because of the extra torque. But when you consider a '57 DeSoto is a LOT heavier than a '57 Chevy, that should also even things out.

    The one road test I've found of a 1957 DeSoto was of a Firedome convertible, which used the weaker 341-2bbl, rated at 270 hp. 0-60 in around 9.7 seconds, with the Torqueflite automatic. I remember Consumer Reports testing a 1957 Chevy with the 220 hp 283, and I think they got 0-60 in around 11.5 seconds. However, I can't remember if it had the Powerglide or Turboglide. While at Mopar, the 3-speed Torqueflite improved acceleration over the 2-speed, I think with Chevy, the Turboglide actually hurt performance a bit?

    FWIW, in 1957 Consumer Reports bitched about the DeSoto Hemi for being TOO powerful! Damn whiners! :P I think they picked on them because that year's Firedome and Fireflite had the best combination of hp-CID-overall weight in their respective classes, and the Torqueflite probably put that power to the ground better than the DynaFlow, or GM's 4-speed Hydramatic, or whatever automatic that Mercury was using that year.

    But yeah, the Chevy smallblock is great for hopping up. It's small, so it can fit in a lot of places a Hemi or Caddy V-8 can't. And while it's heavy for a smallblock (it outweighs the Ford smallblock and the Mopar smallblock...even the older poly-head Mopar smallblock), it's still lighter than those other engines.

    And the low reciprocating mass is good...great for hopping up. As long as you beef up the block accordingly. And the best thing about the Chevy smallblock? It's cheap! That's the reason it lasted so long; it was a lot cheaper to build than the Buick, Olds, or Pontiac engines. That's probably also the reason there's such an aftermarket for it...since it was cheap, it was common, and since it was common, there was a huge market for performance mods.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    When I was in high school, I had a buddy who had his heart set on buying a 55-57 Bel Air. Instead he saved a ton of money when he bought a 1957 Dodge. It was a 4 door and it was gold and white.

    It had a little D-500 emblem on the back that we didn't know anything about.

    It would seriously make a 283 Chevy look like a Mo Ped. This Dodge would lay rubber for as long as you held the gas pedel down!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,584
    It had a little D-500 emblem on the back that we didn't know anything about.

    And that wasn't even the most brutal of the engines! The '57 D-500 used a 325 that was converted to Hemi-heads, and depending on configuration, put out either 285 or 310 hp. The regular 325 poly-head, for comparison, only put out 245 hp with a 2-bbl, 260 with a 4-bbl.

    The REALLY serious engine that year in a package known as the D-501. They took a Chrysler 354 and put a Hemi head on it, and got 340 hp out of it! That year, I think the only Chrysler Hemi was the 392, as the 354 had gone to poly-head, with 285 hp in the Windsor, 295 hp in the Saratoga. Chrysler did that for a couple of years, where they'd take the previous year's New Yorker Hemi, turn it into a poly-head, give it to the Windsor, and then the New Yorker would get a bigger Hemi.

    There's a guy who lives about a mile away, who has a '59 Coronet with the D-500 package. I forget though, if he has the 320 hp 383-4bbl, or the 345 hp 383-dual quad?

    Speaking of which, that same year, the 383-4bbl that the DeSoto Fireflite used was rated at 325 hp, while the Adventurer's 383-4bbl was rated at 350 hp. I wonder if there really was any difference in the engines versus Dodge, or if the marketing department just "gave" the DeSoto engines 5 more hp to make them look better. Not that 5 hp makes much difference.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,584
    to show just how bad cars got in the late 70's/early 80's. Consumer Reports did a test of a 1955 DeSoto Fireflite. 200 hp gross (probably 150 net), 291 4-bbl Hemi, and a car that weighed about two tons, and relied on a 2-speed automatic. 0-60 came up in around 13 seconds. I remember they also tested an Olds 98 and got 0-60 in around 11.5 seconds, and they also tested a big Nash in that episode with a big 6-cyl, and it came in around 15.4.

    In 1980, Motortrend did a domestic luxury car test, and Mopar's entry was a New Yorker 5th Ave, with a 318-2bbl. All of 120 hp net. Still probably weighed around two tons, but at least was aided by a 3-speed, rather than a 2-speed automatic. And it did have the benefit of about 9% greater displacement, so torque might've been a bit better. 0-60? 14.1 seconds.

    Progress, huh? The main reason, I guess, that this test pops into my mind is that it's a comparison of two cars that are very close in weight and displacement, and look what 25 years of supposed progress gets you! I guess I can cut the 1980 engine some slack though, as it had to contend with emissions restrictions.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    The 501's were extremely rare.

    I'm not sure what H.P. my buddy's 57 Dodge had but it sure surprised a lot of people. It didn't handle or stop well at all but could it ever blast off the line!

    When driven agressively it got about 7 MPG as I recall.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,584
    Yeah, I think the 501 was mainly a race engine. Y'know, 7 mpg, when driven aggressively, really doesn't sound that bad, given the performance and the fun you can have getting aggressive with it. I've managed to get the 360 in my '79 5th Ave down into the high 8's. :blush:
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,637
    edited September 2010
    When we were street racing in the 60s, I never, ever saw a Mopar beat a Chevy in a race, given stock engines and street cars. It simply never occurred to us that this was even possible. The 265/283/327 absolutely dominated the street scene. One BIG reason is that few Mopars came with stickshifts!!

    Yes, sure, there may have been certain lopsided theoretical matches one could make up---a Chrysler 300 vs. a Chevy powerglide station wagon? Absolutely, no contest. But in the "real world", the only kids who raced Mopars were the ones who got stuck with them for one reason or another. Drag racing with push-buttons or tiny levers sticking out of the dash? Oh, man.

    Oh wait, I take that back. I DID see a '53 Dodge Cranbrook with fluid drive beat a Mercedes 190 at Rockaway Beach....barely.....

    But more to your point---yes, the Chevy short block was cheap, small, light and for a couple hundred bucks you could build a giant-killer. Modifying a Hemi of the time (not the legendary "Hemi") was a PITA. Nobody made any *serious* aftermarket goodies for them, so only the pros could modify them for drags or those crazy road races in Mexico. (Chrysler did well in those long distance events).
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