Why, oh why, didn’t we run this question past Rick Spidel before we posted it on Facebook? As Rick suggested, and we were quick to learn, asking “Who makes the greatest engine?” is a call to arms.
By the time the dust settled, you had named nearly two dozen manufacturers of engines … big, small, and in between … V, flat, inline, and rotary ... 12, 10, eight, six, and four cylinders… gasoline, diesel, and electric. Engines for cars, engines for motorcycles, engines for tractors and boats and lawn mowers. You promoted aftermarket speed shops, praised race car builders, and gave a shout out to average Joes wrenching in their garage.
James McHenry looked at the big picture and suggested, “Shipbuilders, in terms of scale anyway.” Cody Winkler agreed with James’ reasoning and offered a one-word answer—Wärtsilä—immediately sending us to Google. Did you know that Wärtsilä is a Finnish company that builds large engines for cruise ships and ferries? We didn’t, either. Bon voyage!
The main propulsion engines (Wärtsilä) onboard the cruise ship Kristina Regina (Hervé Cozanet)
Which brings us back to our wise friend Rick, who let the debate simmer a mere 30 minutes before stepping in and stating what had already become painfully obvious. “You just opened up a big ol’ can of …” Worms! We get it, Rick.
There was plenty of Ford vs. Chevy banter, of course, which soon evolved into support for specific engines. The first salvo came from Chevrolet small-block supporters. Lyle Leiser called the small-block “the winningest motor ever.” Robert Jones added, “And that’s a fact, Jack … er, Lyle!” Papa Nedz praised the engine’s longevity and durability. Doug Patterson agreed. “Many 283 and 327 (engines) from the ’60s are still running today.”
Chevrolet small-block (GM)
Wait for it …
“Yeah, but those that are running have been rebuilt how many times?” Robert Watkins asked. And there it is. Ken Fritsch reacted with skepticism, too. “I don’t buy it. Fords come into my shop with twice the mileage of Chevys.”
Chevrolet supporters weren’t finished. “I remember going to a farm in Georgia when I was a kid,” Dave Harrill wrote. “My friend’s grandfather, who owned the farm, took us out to fire up the irrigation pumps. They were all powered by Chevrolet straight-six engines. Knocking and smoking, every one of them. Grandpa said, ‘Ya just can’t kill ’em.’ I’ve had several of my own in different vehicles, including a speed boat with a 165 inboard/outboard MerCruiser. That engine has been used for almost every application imaginable, including the race track.”
Gerry Larrivee loves “the good ol’ Chevy 350. It has seen and done it all.” Mark St. Armour added, “My two Chevrolet 250s and my 235 never needed more than a tune up and oil change. Pretty vanilla, but some of us like vanilla.” As for Monica Couturier O’Brien, father knows best. “My dad always says, ‘Chevy, of course,’ while building his 454 high-performance models.” Plenty of LS fans weighed in, too.
What about you, Ford peeps? Don’t worry, Kevin Torres has you covered. “Ford has made so many great engines: flat V-8, Lincoln flat V-12, Y-block, Indy DOHC V-8, 427 Cammer, Cobra Jet 428, Boss 302/351/429, DOHC 4.6/5.4, Coyote, Twin Turbo 3.5, and Voodoo. And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m starting to sound like Bubba talking about shrimp (in Forrest Gump)! I don’t know much about Ford’s four cylinders, but I do know you can get a bone-stock Focus RS with 350 horsepower and 350 lb. ft. torque.”
Ford Boss 302 engine (Ford)
After deciding that “greatest” refers to the combination of power and durability, Juan Carlos picked the 4.6-liter V-8 in the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. “You dog them all their life, and when they retire, taxi drivers dog them some more. I don’t know of another motor that has been abused more. It isn’t the most powerful, but it is pretty strong.” Noah Aragon chose “any Ford with a 300 straight six—baddest engine ever built.” Speaking of baddest, Ray Yates wrote that’s exactly how “Big Daddy” Don Garlitts once described the Ford “Elephant Hunter” 427.
Of course, there would be no elephant hunter without an elephant, and “elephant engine” was the nickname bestowed upon Chrysler’s large and powerful 426 Hemi, introduced in the 1960s. Sticking with Mopar, Blake Haley swears by the 225 six in his 1968 Dodge Dart. Earl Young also endorses the 225 slant-six in his “go-to-work 1966 Plymouth Valiant,” which is still going strong after more than 500,000 miles.
1963-65 Hemi engine (FCA)
BMW, Volvo, Porsche, Toyota, Cummins, and Briggs and Stratton received multiple nominations, as did another Japanese automaker that Justin Debord mentioned (apparently while looking over his shoulder). “Probably Honda, but I will never admit it.”
Eric Desforges marveled at the “insane power/displacement ratios” in motorcycle engines. Jeff McKinney added, “Everybody knows that on the 8th day, God created Harley-Davidson.”
The last word, however, goes to Albert Anderson, who tackled the lightning-rod question with the political correctness of a Christmahanakwanzika greeting card. “In the way-back time machine, Ford. In the early ’60s, Chevy. Mid-’60s to 2005, the gen II Hemi. Today, the GM LS.”
What, no Lockheed Martin?