15 July 2016

Cancel your dinner plans, this V-8 engine debate may go all night

Simmer down, people. This is supposed to be a family show. No need to get so revved up over engines.

We asked our social community to name the greatest V-8 of all time, and it seems that many of you took that question personally. From funny to fiercely loyal to slightly off base to just plain rude, you defended your choices and criticized others’ opinions, too.

Some of you were initially confused by the question, claiming it was too vague. The best V-8? Using what criteria? Most dependable? Greatest power? Lasting impact? Yes – or no – to all. Define it as you like, we told you, and defend your position. In hind sight, that was kind of like giving George Carlin permission to use four-letter words. Time to leave the room, kids.

Honestly, most of you were cool. Many of you were humorous. A tip of the cap to Roger Metz, who read the question and immediately thought: “I think the original V-8 is the best – the tomato cocktail vegetable juice.” Tony Pecena quickly followed suit: “The best V-8 I ever had was about three years ago – very cold with a splash of vodka. Best breakfast ever.”

Some of you nominated six-cylinder engines, a misstep for sure but not worthy of name calling. Still, the internet crowd chewed you up and spit you out. Our apologies.

Others posted videos to make their case (thanks, Conner Mattert) or listed five different engines as the single greatest or simply threw up your hands in frustration, like Will Arnett, who wrote: “That’s an impossible question.”

Most of you gave it the old college try. Take Dave Harrill, who made sure to give credit where credit was due, praising the Chevrolet 350, Ford Flathead and Chrysler 318 before ultimately choosing what he considers the greatest: “Antoinette ... the first one ever built” – a reference to the French-built V-8 of the early 1900s.

France wasn’t the only European country represented. The Brits received a couple of nods with nominations for Rolls-Royce/Bentley and Aston Martin, while the Italians were represented by Ferrari and the Germans by Mercedes-Benz. Chuck Dortenzio staunchly supported Mercedes’ M119 engine, which he claims is “bulletproof.”

In the end, it was a three-engine race between the Chevy Small-Block, Ford Flathead and Chrysler Hemi. Hugh Ashburn made a definitive choice … sort of. “Small-Block Chevy is first. Flathead Ford would rank second… maybe the other way around?” Roger Olson seemed perplexed too: “Ford Flathead V-8 was ahead of its time, but a 426 Hemi was the most powerful ’til the modern-day engines.” Jim Horn claims “there are TWO greatest V-8s: the Gen-1 Small-Block Chevy and the Mopar Hemi family.” Doug Campbell expanded the list and debated the worthiness of V-8s from Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler before finally admitting, “Personally, I’m rather fond of the Chevy six-cylinder boxer.” Sigh.

Without further ado, here are your top five greatest V-8 engines of all time:

Chevy Small-Block – Introduced in the fall of 1954 for use in 1955 models, Chevrolet’s Small-Block V-8 is now an automotive icon known for its durability, versatility and value. Built through 2003 in a variety of cubic-inch / horsepower configurations, the best-known small block of the bunch is the 350-ci version.

Ruben Ramirez called the Small-Block “one of the best engines ever built. It doesn't take a million dollars to build one and they are reliable.”

Allan Bacon said the engine “revolutionized the hot rod and racing world.”

Conner Mattert called the Small-Block “extremely reliable” and the “best bang for your buck,” and he applauded its adaptability. “Let's face it, with sizes from 262 all the way to 400, the Small-Block Chevy will be a legend for years to come.”

Dominic Barile: “I’m a Ford guy, but I gotta say Chevy Small-Block 350. People put them in everything. They make good power and are cheap as hell to build.”

Bud Legg claimed, “The 426 Hemi gets the wow factor, but the Small-Block Chevy is the king. Long live the King.”

Ford Flathead – No, Henry Ford didn’t invent the V-8. But when he introduced the “en block” (one-piece) V-8 engine in 1932, it fed the automotive masses, and many of you nominated the Flathead from that historical perspective. Built through 1953 for the U.S. market, the Flatty is still popular among classic car enthusiasts, particularly hot rodders.

It even transcended the first Ford model that carried it. “It was so successful that the car it debuted in was often called the ‘V-8’ rather than the Model 18,” Jason Harmon wrote. “Hot rodding started with this engine. (And) because of its success, all the other companies decided to make their own.”

James Howard described the Flathead as “almost indestructible, very dependable and easy to maintain and work on.” Robb Carr added: “It was small, lightweight, high-revving, easily modified. Way ahead of its time.” And Matthew von Hobe said in addition to being quiet, “it just won't quit.”

Chrysler Hemi – The hefty Hemi, short for hemispherical combustion chamber, was known as the FirePower engine when it was rolled out in the early 1950s. The second-generation 426-ci is the best-known Hemi engine and can be found in Mopar muscle from 1966-71, including the Dodge Coronet, Charger, Dart SS, Super Bee, Charger Daytona and Challenger, and the Plymouth Belvedere, Satellite, GTX, Barracuda, Road Runner, Superbird and Fury GT.

“Take this from a Chevy guy,” Kyle Campbell wrote. “(The greatest V-8 is a) 426 Hemi.”

Robert Watkins got technical: “It was virtually built by hand, and was initially intended for stock car racing… Factory ratings were 615 hp at 7000 rpm with a single four-barrel, and 657 hp at 7500 with dual carburetors. The engines weigh 680 pounds.”

James Skrzycki was short and to the point: “Nothing like a Hemi.”

Buick 455 – We enjoyed Michael Dewolfe’s well-played nomination, which likely sent more than a few people to Google. “One of the greatest is the ‘Hemi Killer,’” he wrote. “You know if you’re a fan of this engine.”

Michael was speaking of the massive 455-ci V-8 in the 1970 Buick GS Stage 1, which in 1984 was named the third-fastest muscle car of all time by Muscle Car Review magazine. Placing the Buick – listed behind a 1966 427 Cobra and 1966 427 Corvette – ahead of anything from Chrysler caused an uproar among Mopar fans. To settle the score, a race was staged between a ’70 Buick GS Stage 1 and a Hemi-powered Plymouth GTX from the same year. The Buick won easily, but some claimed the showdown was more about driving skill than the quality of the engines. Thirty years after the race, there are still plenty of Buick believers.

Oldsmobile Rocket – There’s something cool about driving a car powered by a “Rocket” engine. Although not in the same league, popularity-wise, as the V-8 engines mentioned above, the Rocket still has a loyal following. First-gen Rockets were built from 1949-64, and the engine so caught the public’s attention that Oldsmobile’s Super 88 models were often referred to as Rocket 88s. The song “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1951.

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