10 Iconic Engines Every Muscle Car Enthusiast Should Know About
Car Throttle has recently made a video about iconic engines everyone should know about. While watching it, I noticed the severe lack of American engines; so I decided to make a list of my own. Here are some engines that all muscle car enthusiasts should be aware of.
One: Ford Flathead V8
There are very few things as old school in the car world as a Ford Flathead V8. These engines were made in the 30’s up to the early 50’s and they have played an important role in hot rodding culture since it’s inception. What these engines lack in performance they make up for in retro style and authenticity. Interesting fact; the intake and exhaust valves of a Flathead V8 are inside the engine block, not the cylinder heads.
Two: Ford 302 cubic inch V8
The 302 cubic inch Ford V8 is one of the longest running engines in American car culture. Born in the late 60’s, Ford 302 V8’s can still be found in modern Fords today, such as the Mustang and the F-150. This V8 may not be very big by American standards, but it’s still a formidable engine given the right modifications. There aren’t many car companies with a “base” motor with such a solid reputation as the Ford 302.
Three: Dodge 426 Hemi
How can I make a list like this and NOT mention this engine? This just may be one of the most famous engines to ever sit under the hood of a muscle car. You’d be hard pressed to find another engine as much an animal during the muscle car heyday as the 426 Hemi. Built from 1965 to 1971, finding a Dodge car with a 426 Hemi under the hood is going to be a hard task. The 440 V8 of the same era was more popular, pushing out the 426 Hemi because it was cheaper and more reliable while still making similar power figures. This hasn’t tampered the reputation of the 426 Hemi, which still lives in the hearts of many with visions of six pack carburetors dancing in their heads.
Four: Chevrolet LS V8
There aren’t many engines out there that are engine swapped into as many vehicles as the General Motors LS V8. These motors are a dime a dozen in the United States, are compact and light for a V8 of it’s engine displacement, and offer great power. The compact size and lightweight are due to a pushrod design and for non truck engines an aluminum engine block. People may say that using this for an engine swap is un-creative, but they really work. Not everyone has the time and money to swap a Buick Nailhead into a Buick Roadmaster anyway.
Five: 6.2 liter Hellcat V8
This is the most powerful engine to ever sit under the hood of an American production car. 707 horsepower and 650 lb feet of torque to be exact. What used to be a 6.4 liter Hemi was destroked so the engine wouldn’t self implode under high boost. It has two intercoolers near the supercharger and a high capacity oil cooler to cool an engine that produces a lot of heat. Unfortunately, this engine sits in cars that are rather heavy and don’t have much mechanical grip. Perhaps a ‘68 Charger with drag slicks could solve that problem (cough General Mayhem cough).
Six: 5.2 liter Ford Voodoo flat plane crank V8
Unless there’s something I’m not aware of, the Voodoo V8 in the new Shelby GT350 is the only American production V8 with a flat plane crankshaft. For the uninitiated, a cross plane crankshaft which sits in almost all other American V8’s. A flat plane crank V8 has a lighter crankshaft, smaller crankcase and a lower center of gravity compared to a cross plane crank V8. Flat plane crank V8’s are more responsive and can rev higher, making it almost perfect for driving where a lot of time is spent near redline. This engine produces a lot of power for it’s size considering it’s naturally aspirated, and it also sounds out of this world. If you love high revving horsepower, this is the engine for you.
Seven: Oldsmobile Rocket 88 V8
This is arguably the first performance V8 ever put into an American car. This engine first came around in the early 50’s, a time when hot rodding culture was really starting to get up and go. First available as a 303 cubic inch V8, it grew larger to 324 cubic inches and all the way up to 394 cubic inches at the end of it’s lifespan. The Rocket 88 would go on to race in the early days of NASCAR, where they were racing in the dirt as well as the pavement. Heck, the Rocket 88 V8 may be the whole reason we have so many great muscle cars today, so count your lucky stars if you ever see one.
Eight: Chevrolet 454 cubic inch big block V8
For those that live by the mantra that bigger is better, the Chevrolet 454 big block is for you. The Oldsmobile 455 isn’t as highly praised and the Ford 460 was only put into pickup trucks. These engines may not make a lot of horsepower, but they make mountains of torque. You can find 454 V8’s in not only old GM muscle cars, you can also find them in later model pickup trucks, even though they aren’t as potent. You can still buy big block Chevy V8’s today from Chevrolet performance, whether it’s a plain Jane HO or a high end LSX 454. Strap some turbos onto this thing and you might make enough power to stop the orbit of the Earth.
Nine: Turbo Buick V6
This engine is quite an oddball in the muscle car world. Although the Oldsmobile Jetfire was the first turbocharged production car, the turbo V6 in 80’s and 90’s GM performance models was the first turbocharged American engine that REALLY put itself on the map. This engine found it’s way into the Buick Grand National, GMC Syclone and GMC Typhoon; the Syclone and Typhoon engines were slightly larger than the Grand National engines. If you like oddballs, you can give this motor a try.
Ten: Chevrolet 265 CI V8
If the Nazis invading Poland started World War 2, then the inception of the 265 CI Chevy V8 started the reign of the small block Chevy V8. This engine was originally designed to be fitted in the then new Corvette, a much needed power upgrade over the Stovebolt inline 6. The 265 CI V8 is the grandfather of the LS3, and it looks like the 265 CI V8 has a lot to be proud of.
This list isn’t all inclusive. There are many other great engines out there worthy of mention. The Ford Trinity V8, Boss 429 V8, 440 Dodge Magnum V8, Chevy LS9 V8, and so on and so forth. What engine do you think should have made the list? Comment below