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What are the best V8 engines ever made?



  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    It's kind of refreshing to hear from someone who doesn't worship at the Chevy altar.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    Well, Chevrolet is still considered a low-rent brand, correct?
  • timz58timz58 Posts: 44
    The simple answer to that is low cost, good power output, easy maintenance and excellent reliability. Auto developments are consumer driven. If you produce a cheaper, more reliable car than the competitors, you will sell more of your product. Chevrolet had some rough years through the late 60's, 70's and 80's but that engine reliability was still superior to most other domestic power plants. Doesn't make much sense to argue about it. Let the sales records and track records speak for themselves. The new generation V8s in the Silverado pickups look as if they will carry on the tradition. I have a motor home with a 454, throttle body and after market shift kit and banks power pack exhaust system. Wouldn't trade it for either a Ford or Diesel. Once again, good power, reliability and low maintenance cost. Next step up for me will be the "new" 8.1 litre with the Allison 5 Speed auto or the Duramax Diesel.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,851
    I just cleaned out the trunk of my Intrepid, to get ready for a trip I'm taking to Texas, and somehow, that carried over to cleaning out the trunk of my '67 Catalina. I found a sheet of paper, among a bunch of other stuff, that was probably up in the window at one time when it was for sale.

    It reads..."Original rebuilt 400 engine, rebuilt Turbo 400 transmission, dual exhaust, power steering, brakes, a/c, power top, tilt steering"

    "1000 miles on stock 400 rebuild. New pistons and rings; new rod, main, and cam bearings; new timing chain and gears; new water pump; new oil pump and screen; new Pontiac blueprint Ram Air cam and lifters; Rebuilt 4-bbl Rochester carb (original 2-bbl and intake included); heads rebuilt, block machined (all maching work done by NAPA)"

    Most of it sounds like it's just a typical rebuild, but I'm curious about the "blueprint Ram Air cam and lifters". Is that anything significant?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I have a very vague recollection that it's an amped up aftermarket version of a factory cam, in this case one of the Ram Air cams. I'm just guessing but maybe it has the same listed duration as stock but with steeper take-up ramps on the lobes--GM's long duration cams had gradual lobe ramps to cushion the first moments of valve lift. That prolongs valve train life by not slamming the valves open and closed, but it takes away some of the effective duration.

    If I'm right it'd have to be based on the Ram Air III cam, an excellent street cam with a "distinctive" but fairly smooth idle. The other Ram Air cams were definitely lumpy.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Posts: 2,240
    Yeah, I'm an Olds enthusiast. Not so much the new stuff, but the '60's and 70's. For durability, the Old's small block (330, 350) has to be ranked as one of the best. While doing some hobby research, I found out that lots of racing engines that were labled as other GM brands started with an Olds block because of the better metallurgy used in the "true" Olds designs. Higher nickel content and such. The really funny one I came across due to the overall reputation of the engine, was that one of the best blocks to base off of was the Olds diesel! While the overall engine did not have a good reputation, the author (some racing engine guru)said that the composition and casting of the later 350 diesel engine was one of the strongest ever manufactured by anyone. The one consistent characteristic of Olds V8's was the bucking of the high rpm trend in small blocks. I never saw a stock Olds V8 that was happy above 5500RPM. You could get valve float, even on the infamous W30 455 of 1970, at that speed. Another interesting note is that among professional engine tuners of the late 60's it was apparently common knowlege that Olds *never* published the true hp ratings on their performance engines. Always lowballed it. While I cannot site dyno numbers but only seat of the pants opinion, the 1970 W30 442 I got to drive had the most amazing low end torque I had ever seen. Just shift that sucker at 5K or it would go into wheeze mode. The other "true Olds" invention in the early '70s was the introduction of positive valve rotation. I mentioned this in another post months ago. It caused the valves to rotate something like 8deg on every opening. Virtually eliminated burned valves in Olds v8's and was later picked up by other GM lines. I saw the heads from a '72 350 that had been overheated. At 127K, the mechanic was showing the valves to the other guys in the shop. The seats in the head and the valves themselves looked like they had just been ground. Measurement showed they were still well within spec. I hope the person who came up with that idea retired happy and wealthy.
    I spoke to a shop owner just yesterday who is selling his daughters '84 Cutlass with 120+K miles. It has the 307 engine. He is a died in the wool Chevy guy but said he was amazed that all that had been done to the engine was a waterpump and maintenance.

    On another note (yes, I'm rambling) I alway thought that in the '60s Chrysler had good engines and ugly cars. Now I think they have some of the most beautiful cars on the road, but some of the worst engineering. If they could ever get it all together, GM, Ford, and a lot of the imports would be in for trouble. IMHO.

  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I went to Comp Cams site and typed in "blueprint" and here's what I got:

    It looks like I was sorta kinda right. The idea is to increase net lift by opening the valves more quickly than a stock cam, while still conforming to the stock cam specs because of a class racing restriction.

    I think these were also called "cheater cams" but it's been a while since this stuff was important. They must be a lot harder on the valve train than the stock cam--there isn't that gradual take-up of slack when the valves are opened and closed. Of course racing engines aren't expected to go 100k and if the entire valvetrain is HD aftermarket stuff maybe the durability is still there.

    Maybe that's why your Pontiac spins the tires going into second ;-).

  • This may be a little off the subject, but since there's been some previous posts about big motors in little cars.......Hot Rod Magazine really did this..put a 500 CID Cadillac V-8 in a Chevette, hard to believe, but they had pictures....

    This project car was refreshing because instead of just spending thousands and thousands of dollars on aftermarket parts and bolting them into a red Camaro, they instead went to the junkyard, took the smallest car the General ever made and dropped in the biggest engine the General ever made.

    The car was strictly low budget. The engine was so far back in the chassis that the carburetor was at about the base of the windshield. You drove from the back seat. The front suspension did not have to be modified due to favorable weight distrubution from the engine being so far back. The rear end was from a 4.3 powered S-10 pick up. The car ran about elevens in the quarter with the boneyard motor through single exhaust.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Not your typical driveway project but I like the idea. I'll bet traction was a bit of a problem, even with the good weight distribution.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,851
    ...thanks for the info and the link. I'm not planning on taking this thing racing anytime soon, so hopefully it'll last a good, long time! I've always kinda wondered though, what kind of 0-60 and 1/4 mile times it would do...
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    Best: Chevy 350, Chrysler 440
    Worst: Cadillac HT4100 and all its spin-offs
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,851
    ...anybody got any opinions of which is the best? Strong and weak points of each one?

    I always thought the Olds 350 was the best, but don't really have any solid proof to back it up. In our local junkyard though, it seems that if there's a '70's GM car in there with an Olds or Pontiac engine, it still has a good engine, but a Buick or Chevy engine, it's blown.

    Plus, the Olds engine was the one they used for the Cadillac Seville. Considering that was their flagship car at the time, I figured they'd only use their best for their best. Then there was the Olds Diesel. Sure it was a disaster, but I figured they'd picked the Olds block because it was already the strongest of them. As bad as that engine may have been, I wonder how much more self-destruct-prone it would've been had they used a Chevy 350 instead!

    Also, the Olds 350 was a cleaner-running engine than the Pontiac 350, I know that much. That's why it was used in stricter emissions areas like California and high-altitude areas. I don't know how it compared to the Chevy and Buick 350's, though, in those respects, but supposedly demand for the Olds 350 was much higher than the others. This is what caused the whole engine swap scandal back in the '70's, because Olds ended up running out of them for its own Delta 88's, and started using Chevy or other 350's.

    I've heard that Pontiac engines back then tended to run cool (although both of mine ran hot), which was part of the problem when it came to stricter emissions standards.

    As for the Buick 350...well, the V-6 engines that were derived from it were pretty unreliable back then, so I just figured that part of that problem may have been the source engine. Supposedly though, Buick engines were built-up more though. For example, weren't they a deep-skirt design?

    Then the Chevy 350. It was lightweight, which may have been good for performance and fuel economy, but I'd think that'd make it more prone to wearing out quicker. Back in the '70's, I think they were prone to early camshaft (or was it crankshaft?) failure.

    I guess if I wanted to be obnoxious, I could also include the Mopar 350, a big block wedge-head that was only used for 1958. It was in the nicer Dodges, the cheaper DeSotos, and an option in the Plymouth Fury. But most people have probably forgotten about that one now ;-)
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The Buick 350 is kind of an interesting case, since it (and the V6) were based on the aluminum V8 that had a less-than-stellar reputation. I think it is a deep skirt design, although that's just a hangover from the aluminum engine--aluminum blocks need more material than iron to have the same rigidity. They actually removed some of the head bolts when they went to iron. The Buick small block was a very understressed design in the late '60s. They were tuned for low speed torque, not horsepower, in keeping with the generally conservative nature of a Buick buyer. They did have a funky oiling system with lots of right-angle corners.

    It's absolutely amazing when you realize that the GM 3800 and Land Rover V8 are directly based on the 1961 GM aluminum V8. That's quite an impact for an engine that was considered an embarassing failure when it was in production.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,851
    ...I remember someone in one of my Mopar clubs ragging on the old 231, saying that parts of it were practically "splash-lubricated" and if you wanted the thing lubricated properly you'd better find a bumpy enough road to splash it around ;-)
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The Pontiac 350 is also a little different. It's got the 400 stroke with a small bore, so it's an undersquare engine just like 1948. Valve size was good and the four barrel version had high compression and one of Pontiac's great street cams, but this engine never really caught on even in the Firebird.

    The Olds is the opposite, a short stroke engine and that would make me think it would run hot, like the Mopar 340. And like the 340 there was a hot version called the W-31 that was so overcammed it didn't have enough manifold vacuum to run a power brake booster. As far as it being a superior design, I don't know, but it was the newest design (dating from 1964) so probably had the latest engineering refinements. Both the Chevy and Pontiac were around since 1955.

    One more thing that might have enhanced the life of the Buick 350 was that they typically used very conservative gearing and that cut down on revs. Come to think of it, so did Pontiac--standard ratio with automatic was 2.56 as I recall.

    And there's one factor that I think might have had a significant effect on engine life. Most full size Chevies had small blocks and that's a lot of weight for a relatively small engine to haul around. The Impala I learned to drive on had 283 cubes to drag around almost 4000 pounds. Not only did it work harder but it needed shorter gears, probably 3.36s, so it saw more rpm. Although some of the full size BOP cars also used small blocks, proportionately more used engines of at least 400 CID with taller gearing somewhere in the 2s. The only BOP equivilent of a 283 Impala I can think of would be the '64-5 Buick LeSabre with 300.
  • lmihoklmihok Posts: 7
    I agree the Olds v-8 was a great engine. I worked in auto repair facilities in the 70's and 80's and a cutlass with even a 350 was a great performing car. But the facts are hard to deny. The small block chevy was lighter, easier to modify and as durable if not neglected. I have owned quite a few vehicles with this engine that have had over 100,000 miles and a few with close to 200,000 miles. You just can't beat them! They are the basis of the performance and racing industry.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Posts: 2,240
    I thought the Chevy 350 was the short stroke, and the Olds 350 was the long stroke.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Chevy 3.48"
    Olds 3.385
    Buick 3.85
    Pontiac 3.75
  • My choices are based on experience:
    1. Pontiac SD-421 (455 hp version)
    2. Chrysler 392 hemi w/ special manifold option.
    3. Ford 427 side oiler
    4. Buick Turbo 3.8 Grand National series
    5. Chev Corvette 427 L-88 engine
    6. Mopar 340 w/ six pak
    7. Ford 351 Cleveland HO series
    8. Olds 442 edition special powerplant
    9. Pontiac 455 HO engine in the Firebird
    10.Ford 428 CJ
    All of these are great performers and if blueprinted correctly hold together quite well.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    That's a bulletproof list. You won't get much argument from me but I think maybe I'd trade the 455 HO for a 400 Ram Air III.
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