20 March 2015

Top Small Block V-8 Cars

In a world where the phrase “there’s no replacement for displacement” is thrown around quite a bit, we tend to forget about some of the truly great small-block cars. While a big-block is preferred by most enthusiasts, there are a few out there who love a small-block because of its ability to make power at high RPM ranges and its relatively small size, which makes it an ideal engine for swapping into a large number of chassis configurations. Here are five particularly legendary cars powered by small-blocks that prove you don’t need a huge engine under the hood to be a good muscle car.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Sport Coupe 302/290

Hagerty Price Guide: $62,200-$130,000

When the Camaro was introduced in 1967, Chevrolet saw the need for a road-course-oriented version they called the Z/28. It featured the now-legendary 302 small-block, born out of the need for a 5.0-liter V-8 for Trans Am series racing. Known for its high RPM capability (just look at the 8,000 RPM tachometer), the 302 Chevy could be had with a single four-barrel carb or your local dealership could install a “cross ram” dual carb intake. With that in mind, the 290 factory horsepower rating seems like a blatant understatement. 

1970 Dodge Challenger T/A Hardtop Coupe 340/290

Hagerty Price Guide: $42,900-$97,300

Possibly one of Dodge’s most celebrated small-block powered cars is the Challenger T/A. Just like the Charger Daytona with NASCAR, the Challenger T/A was Dodge’s homologation special for Trans Am racing. The T/A’s 340 engine was topped off with Six Pack induction like the one found on the 440 big-block, with the exhaust exiting through giant chrome trumpets in front of the rear wheels. In true Mopar fashion you could add high-impact colors to accompany the already standard stripes and outrageous hood scoop. Add a heavy duty suspension to the package and you have a truly outrageous looking car that could actually perform.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 SportsRoof 302/290

Hagerty Price Guide: $43,300-$130,000

Like the Z/28 Camaro and Challenger T/A, the Boss 302 was another Tran Am series homologation car. The Boss used a strengthened version of Ford’s Windsor small-block topped off with a set of high-flowing cylinder heads. Much like Chevrolet’s 302, the Boss was characterized by having outrageous RPM capabilities and being rated at a conservative 290 horsepower by the factory. This is one of Ford’s most celebrated renditions of the Mustang and well deserved at that.

1970 Chevrolet Corvette LT1 Coupe 350/370

Hagerty Price Guide: $23,200-$74,400

The Chevrolet 350 is probably the most-produced V-8 in existence. With production spanning from 1967 to present (in crate motor applications), this particular engine is by far Chevrolet’s most successful engine. Perhaps the best use of this engine was the LT1 in the Corvette. With horsepower ratings matching some of the big-blocks offered that year but weighing far less, the LT1 was the perfect engine for the Corvette: plenty of power without the weight to throw off the balance of the car. This engine is legendary enough that the LT1 name was resurrected in the 1990s for the performance applications and again in 2014 for the C7 Corvette. 

1966 Shelby GT350 Fastback 289/306

Hagerty Price Guide: $118,000-$252,000

The GT350 is the car that really put Shelby’s road cars on the map. Equipped with Ford’s 289 Hi-Po small-block tweaked to make 306 hp, better braking and suspension, this is the car that solidified Shelby’s reputation as a master car builder both on and off of the track. While the GT350 hit the streets, production really came into stride for 1966. Not only were cars being built for private ownership, but the Hertz Corporation bought a handful for their Rent-a-Racer program.  This was the last year of Shelby’s full involvement of these juiced-up Mustangs, making the early GT350 a truly special car.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    clark denengelsen alberta can. April 25, 2015 at 20:13
    nice cars, I am a mustang follower, and owner, 1983 gt mustang 5.0
  • 2
    Gene Kennedy New York November 25, 2015 at 15:43
    Actually Shelby still made the small block GT350 in their original plant in L.A. California in 1967. They also made the GT500 in the same plant. I own an original only attended one show this year. 1967 GT500 which I have had for 45 years. I do not use it much it
  • 3
    yvonne davis littlestown pa October 5, 2016 at 18:21
    I think you have to add the Rallye 350 Olds that was only made for 1970. Only 3500 made and 0 to 60 in 7 seconds.
  • 4
    Darrell Reeves Carmichael, Ca. February 3, 2017 at 16:23
    I do not see any real icons of corvettes mentioned namely the 1957 fuel injected 283 that produced 313h.p. or the 63 split window with a 340 to 360 h.p. 327. What gives? I own a 63 split window and a 2007 Z06.
  • 5
    Dan Dixon Suffolk, Virginia April 27, 2017 at 02:09
    I agree with Darrell the 283 & 327 Chevrolet engines were very desirable engines to own during production. Especially the Fuel Injected models! Again, they were not necessary a street engine. But the HP to cubic inch was amazing in their day. And the naturally aspired engines were/are very reliable street engines. I own a 1967 Corvette e/w the 327/350 HP engine. It is a nice combination of high HP without the FI and is a very reliable car. I also own 93 @ 95 Corvettes with the 350 engines. Those engines are great street engines and the cars are wonderful (ahead of their time) vehicles. I don't understand why those era cars are not more desired as they are really GREAT cars!

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