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What are the best V8 engines ever made?



  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Best: Chevy 350, Chrysler 440
    Worst: Cadillac HT4100 and all its spin-offs
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    ...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: 23,040
    ...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: 2,242
    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.
  • "....but I think maybe I'd trade the 455 HO for a 400 Ram Air III." - speedshift.

    Why? The 455 Super Duty was an outstanding engine, especially given the national conversion to lower octane fuel (and corresponding compression ratios) and new smog reduction regulations.

    The SD Firebirds were the last of the truly fast old fashioned muscle cars - for this reason I believe the 455SD should be on any "best engine" list.

    gmengine - I had a Ford Torino with a 351C4V and a four speed manual. The sounds that car made at high rpm were intoxicating.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    He said 455 HO, not 455 SD.

    They're similar but the SD was beefed up to rev to over 6000 rpm, and only about 1238 SDs were made. The 455 HO maxed out around 5200 rpm. Both have better heads and manifolding (from the old Ram Air IV) than the Ram Air III 400 but have a much longer stroke than the 400.

    The 455 HO engineman mentioned and 400 RA III I like use the same "068" cam. There isn't much difference in net horsepower between the 400 RA III, 455 HO and 455 SD--they're all making around 300 net. What makes the 455 SD special (not the 455 HO) is first, it came out in '73-74 when no one was making hi-perf big blocks and second, it had a lot of potential because it could rev.

    As a Pontiac fan I still prefer the 400s, especially the 400 HO which later became the 400 RA III. They sold lots of them and they were fantastic street engines. I know from experience that they were the equal of the 440/375. Pontiac went to the long-stroke 455 only after smog controls and low compression ratios started killing the 400's output.
  • I have to say oldsmobile 350 you cant kill them they last for ever

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,559

    @olds88 said:
    I have to say oldsmobile 350 you cant kill them they last for ever

    With those Olds and Pontiac engines it's a good thing to change the timing gears and chain around 70,000 miles BEFORE the plastic tipped gear falls apart. Other than that, very good engines!

  • oldbearcatoldbearcat WVPosts: 197

    I've owned Olds with the 350, 400, and 403 V8s in them. Liked them all. However my all-time favorite V8 was in a 2006 Jaguar S-Type. The AJ series V8 at 4.2L making 300 HP with a flat torque curve gave the S-Type excellent performance and fuel economy.


  • Since you limit it to V-8's I would just have two, both Mopars, 440', & the26 hemi's. No, if you will open it up to the V-10's there would be the Chrysler SRT engines, and when we get to V-12's we can get back into the Aston Martins & Ferrari's. But my all time automotive favorite is the V-16 Cadillacs. No replacement for displacement, and all of this silly worrying about fuel economy, complicated by the "Gas Guzzler" taxes have ruined most of the competition. Last decent high performance American Sedans are the SRT-8 Chryslers and the Cadillac CTS-V (and that is stretching it since we now all "Mid-Size" cars "Full-Size", which is worse than when the USDA downgraded meats years ago and what we now call "Prime" was barely "Choice" and generally just "Good+". My favorite car that I ever owned (& having sold it while heading off to Vietnam is one of my great car regrets was a Chrysler 300 Convertible with a 440 that had been balanced and blueprinted and fitted swith dual 4bbl carbs. 12mpg on the highway with $0.25/gal gas, and if I could find it and afford to buy it back I'd drive it everyday, even on $3.50/gal gas.

  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 9,633
    edited January 2015
    Big Three buffs will sniff, but check out March's "Hemmings Classic Car". A columnist there, who has wrenched on all, says that the Studebaker V8 can take the most beating with maintenance being ignored, of all of them, and he gives hard specifics, not warm-fuzzy stuff. He does say the Chevy smallblock is versatile and lightweight and gives it props, but the article is a full page worth of Studebaker-specifics. Worth a look.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,624
    I saw that article, but I also remember that Studebaker's had a reputation for using or burning oil including their 289?
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 9,633
    edited February 2015
    I had one 289 and a 259. Bought the first with 86K and the second with 103K. Both would smoke a little at start up then quickly stop. Neither was 'restored' when I bought them. They do drip oil though. The joke in our club is that if you don't have oil underneath your car in the garage, it's out of oil. ;)
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