Chevy’s 6.6-Liter V-8 Is the SS 396 Send-off the Camaro Never Got
Late last year, Chevrolet Performance dipped into its bin of V-8 parts to whip up the L8P crate engine, which debuted with an impressive 523 hp at 5800 rpm and a gutsy 543 lb-ft of torque at 4600 rpm. As excited as we are that the engine is available to builders in crate form, we have a bone to pick with Chevrolet: The Camaro, which ended production in December, deserved to have this powerplant.
The iron-block engine is essentially the 401-hp 6.6-liter L8T V-8 that’s been offered in Chevrolet and GMC 3/4- and 1-ton pickups and vans starting in 2020, but with a camshaft that adds duration to extend power production higher in the rpm range. Chevrolet Performance says the camshaft was “based off the LT2,” the 495-hp 6.2-liter V-8 found in the C8 Corvette which has its intake and exhaust duration of 205/211 degrees at .050 inches of lift.
The 6.6-liter L8P, meanwhile, has 218/231 degrees of duration, up from the production truck engine’s 193/199-degree duration. The new camshaft is still very mild given the kinds of cams that are popular in the Corvette and Camaro aftermarket. The added displacement from the 6.6’s longer stroke would make that extra duration feel like an even milder cam than it would in a 6.2-liter V-8, and the broad torque curve also suggests that this 6.6-liter beast would be just as well-behaved as a stock LT1 or LT2.
With its iron block, tough forged crankshaft, and forged powder metal rods, the L8P looks to be ready for just about anything that you could throw at it, from daily-driver duty to dragstrip flogging, even if that means taking on boost to produce even more power. The only problem with the engine is that it didn’t come in an aluminum-block version for the sixth-gen Camaro. This V-8 would have been the perfect sendoff for the Camaro as an SS 396 rather than the lukewarm Collector’s Edition package that was all cosmetic.
We’d imagine a new SS 396 as an SS with the ZL1 hood and a few of the ZL1’s upgraded brake and suspension bits. The better-breathing LT2 intake manifold would fit just fine under the flat SS hood, but the shape of the one on the ZL1 sort of evokes the look of the C3 L88 Corvette, so it seems appropriate for an engine with big-block-like displacement. Yes, we know that the modern 6.6-liter displaces a bit over 400 cubic inches, but so did the 396 big-block starting in 1970. Just like the fifth-generation Camaro got an LS7, the Alpha platform Camaro could have had a 500-hp naturally aspirated V-8.
We know that it’s not as simple as just dropping an engine under the hood and calling it a day. There’s a slew of emission tests and red tape every time a new engine is installed in a vehicle. But this is the Camaro we’re talking about: It deserved the effort.