As we continue with our selection of Americana-themed reader polls this month, it’s only appropriate that we square off the most iconic American V8s against each other. We’ve gathered up ten different V8s engines which span several different brands and over 80 years of automotive history.
Which will rise to the top? That’s for you to decide.
A proper place to start is with the Ford Flathead V8. Originally introduced in 1932, the Flathead was a groundbreaking piece of engineering. It’s considered the world’s first affordable eight cylinder engine andwas in production for more than 20 years. It also became the engine of choice for early hot rodders and it’s cult following continues to this day.
The 303 cubic inch Oldsmobile Rocket V8 was introduced in 1949 and is considered the first mass-produced overhead valve V8 engine. It was a powerful piece by 1949 standards, and was idolized in the early rock ‘n roll song “Rocket 88″. The introduction of the Rocket also helped to fuel the horsepower war that would unfold in the years and decades to follow.
Small Block Chevy
What needs to said about the small block Chevy? It was (and is) one of the most popular engines of all time. The first iteration of the long-running SBC was the 265, which was introduced in 1955. The venerable small block would be continually updated and was available in GM cars and trucks through the early 2000s. Not only that, but enthusiasts have dropped SBCs into just about every sort of vehicle imaginable.
The Hemi. While it’s not nearly as common as the small block Chevy, it’s reputation is just as strong. These hemispherical induction chamber motors first appeared in the early 1950s, but it was in the ’60s with the introduction of the 426 that the Hemi truly came into its own. Besides being available in a number of Mopar muscle cars, the Hemi also established itself as competition powerhouse – both in NASCAR and on the drag strip. Chrysler continued the lineage with the reintroduction of the new “Hemi” V8 in the early 2000s.
Small Block Ford
Ford’s small block contribution is not to be overlooked. In the 1960s the 260 and 289 cubic inch V8s appeared not only in standard Ford vehicles, but also in competition-bred vehicles like Carroll Shelby’s Mustangs and Cobras. The small block Ford also made waves in the 1980s with the introduction of the fuel injected 5.0 HO, which helped launch the modern muscle car era.
Today it can be hard to fathom that GM’s brands once had their own unique powerplants completely different from each other. Of these, some of the greatest were Pontiac’s series of V8s in the 1960s. It was the 389 cubic inch motor that made history in 1964 when Pontiac decided to drop it in the mid-sized Tempest and create the first real “muscle car”.
Ford’s FE series big blocks could be found not only in hot street cars, but on the race track as well. The famous 427 powered winning drag cars, sports cars, stock cars, and was the heart of the Ford GT40 during its run at Le Mans. There was also the experimental SOHC “cammer” 427 that became a favorite among drag racers after it was outlawed for NASCAR use.
Big Block Chevy
While GM’s factory race presence in the ’60s paled in comparison to Ford , Chevy’s take on the big block was equally potent. On the street, these big displacement engines became the top dog choice for muscle cars like the Chevelle and Camaro, as well as the Corvette. Besides hot street cars, these motors could also be found in Can Am machines as well. To this day, the BBC is still a top choice for racers seeking outrageous amounts of power.
GM LS Series
In 1997, GM replaces the original SBC with the new all-aluminum LS1. In the following years, LS motors have only gotten better – increasing in displacement, technology, and also adding superchargers to the mix. With lightweight, high power, and proven reliability the LS series has redefined what’s possible with an OHV V8. There’s a reason why there are so popular with enthusiasts across the world.
While GM has stuck with the pushrod design for its V8s, Ford moved to overhead cams beginning in the mid 1990s. The latest in Ford’s line of DOHC V8s is the 5.0L “Coyote” that powers the current Mustang. With horsepower figures well above 400 and all the smoothness and drivability you could want, the Coyote is truly a symbol of just how far American V8s have advanced since the Flatheads of yore.
So, which of these all-American motors will it be?
Make your vote and discuss below.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Northstar yet. It's arguably the most "modern" V8 General Motors has produced, as it's (apparently) their only DOHC V8 design, except for the C4 ZR-1 engine from which the Northstar was derived. Impressive engine, even if you can't get the same kinds of power from it as the LS series.
As a kid bench racing, hp numbers were king. As a grown man ease of installation, fuel system, and ignition are just as important because those are real headaches. For those reasons I choose the SBF. The 302/5.0 is small, light, plentiful, and cheap. The SBC has more aftermarket but the lack of a cheap and easy manual transmission and the early head design make me choose ford. That being said I still want to buy a scoggy dickens lower and a junkyard TPI for the Vortec in my tahoe.
I watched a stock ZL1 Camaro run 12 flats and an 11.98 at Atco yesterday so those LS's are popular for a reason. The two GT500's couldn't touch it.
why is the LS series so popular? their large amount of litres with small horsepower makes me sad. I voted for the flathead because it is the one that made the legendary v8 platform so popular. although my Favourite is the Ford 351, used in so many of my favourite cars, such as the XY GTHO Falcon.
not even gonna vote on this one due to american v8's being horribly inefficient N/A engines....... a 6.0 liter ls2 only making 400 horse power out of the box is terrible........
Some of this engines look like were from some agricultural appliance's or some sort of tractors. Were they?
Surprised no Buick motors made the mix! No love for the Nail Head V8s of the 60s, or the 500ft lbs making stump pullers like the GS Stage 1 and 2 455s or even the MONSTER GSX Stage 1&2 455s?
There is a reason the American 60s-early 70s cars and engines just won't die when it comes to enthusiast. Every GM mark has it's own V8s. from small displacement aluminum turbocharged oddities (the FIRST production turbo engine [1962 Oldmobile F85/cutlass]), to sliky smooth 500c.i. Cadillac V8s in the Eldorado. Every brand had it's own flair and take on how a proper V8 should be built and run. From Frenzied and high revving (Chevy small block, and on occasion the Big blocks as well) to lazy and effortless power like Mopar 440s or the Oldmosbiles and Buicks.
And many where in another league all together, like the 409,427,396, and 402 Chevy Rat motors, or the King Kong high winding 426 Hemi, which had NO business being run on the street.
But if I was honest; the King of all American V8s is the motor which was passed the torch from it's grand father of yore; LS Engines for the win! NOTHING packs the same amount of power, compactness, light weight, efficiency, reliability, adaptability, and even tech into such an affordable package as the Gen 4 small block! Now I'm curious to see what this new LT has to offer.
Definitely LS series. Thing is used in muscle cars and all the way to the Le Mans Prototype Challenge cars!
I love y'all's poles! However I would like to make one suggestion, clarify the question. Fore example, is this asking "what's the most iconic American built V8" or "what classic American V8 would I like to have" or "Which of these American V8's is the most aesthically pleasing" or "which of these represents America the best"? Thanks again y'all and keep up the great work!!
where is the BOSS 302? An engine that dominated Trans Am in its prime. Or the 427 Cobra Jet!!! The engine that beat Ferrari at its own game in LeMans in the absolutely legendary GT40 Mk2s, not to mention being the motor that put Carroll Shelby and his Shelby Cobra in the history books. Why no ford love? SBF? is that a 289, 302, 351 Windsor or 351 Cleveland u guys are talking about... all very different motor in very different cars. Just because its cheapest to buy and swap an LS motor into a drift car doesnt make it a great engine.
Grew up under Ford thanks to my grandfather and dabbled with Chevy's before Honda's started fartin up the streets. Gotta love real American muscle.
Hi, little s13 nuthuggers. LS engines have been destroying the track/drag/street WAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY before poor kids started shoving them into drift buckets.kthnxbye
Small block ford for my vote what engine revived performance in the 1980s the sbf.So many options for cid cheap parts are every where thanks to the 5.0.
LS series no contest as far as performance and reliability in concerned. 2nd is Small Block Chevy (SBC). I love how universal they made SBC parts, where pretty much ANY SBC part will bolt directly to ANY SBC motor.
Even though the GM LS-series is lightweight and able to fit into almost anything, the Coyote got my vote because some real effort went into making it an efficient engine. All that effort is worth something; I can't find an American production V8 with a better specific output (hp/litre)... Probably because most of them resort to such a barbaric way of valve actuation as pushrods.
The fact that the Flathead is so far behind is both sad and depressing. The LS is a very good engine, but it's nowhere near as iconic or groundbreaking as the Flathead. You can sure tell this is a drifting fanboy site.
Dudes! If you stopped to consider the profound impact the small block Chevy had on the world - there would be no votes for anything else. Unless you were brainwashed toward another marque. Yes the LS family is the absolute winner by means of brilliant cam-in-block engineering. It is an outstanding testament to new American engineering refinement. Face it - the bottom end is crazy stiff and re-enforced - and dry sump for a street car! Hells hea! The LS hasn't yet had the impact to the car hobby/motorsprts its 265-400 small block has. Sorry.
The Coyote is my vote. Light weight with all modern tech, growing aftermarket, very high potential for power on stock internals, and still has the reliability of a standard American V8. All while being relatively inexpensive. Truly a step forward.
Could this in the future be done by some panel of experts? im sure you could combine this into a good interview too. That would be awesome.
And a lot more interesting than the average joe votes.
while I love the history of the older motors (the rocket in particular), I had to vote for the coyote.
No Buick love? The Stage 1 455 in the old GS had the highest torque in a production vehicle till the Dodge Viper came along. I guess we can't have EVERY engine up there though.
@envyxf Oh, let me help you out there.
LS2 - 400hp/400tq weighs 368 lbs
Ford Flathead 110hp/195tq weighs 525 lbs
Ford 351C in your falcon, rated at 300hp, people say it was underrated.. weighs 550lbs
For reference... a honda 4 cylinder engine weighs 290-330lbs
So, you can swap an LS into just about anything, and you generally will gain little to no weight (small engine car), good chance you will loose some weight.... and that 400/400 becomes more like 500hp/470tq with headers and a cam. And that is just opening it up to bring it on par with the uncorked 351C. 351C was made 246hp to meet 1972 US emissions.
@Paizuri_4g63 Excellent choice! but rarer still is the all aluminum 494 Ford Can-Am motor. Or a Flathead with Ardun heads... mmmm yummy.
@Roger_the_Engineer "I love y'all's poles!" I think you meant polls. I hope you meant polls...
@Roger_the_Engineer The simple answer to all of your questions is the ls...ha
like stated earlier the Boss 302 is certifiably BOSS, but the rest, while cool, tended to have more "potential" than performance when it mattered.
You probably meant the 428 Cobra Jet, which wasn't that great. From the Ford FE Series, the 390 and the 428 had major oil passages problems and they were not as strong as their competitors from Chrysler and GM. I have to agree for the BOSS 302 though ... and the BOSS 351 for that matter, they were absolutely great engines.
I think the best bang for the buck nowadays for street/strip performance is probably the 351 Windsor, not to be mistaken with the 351 Cleveland with HUUUUUGE ports.
My grand father used to street race back in the day, and he and his pals swear a Hemi couldn't hold a candle next to a nonchalantly tuned "Wedge" head Mopar on the street. The Hemi was just to temperamental and finicky for "non pro" use. Besides it didn't make power till it was over 5 grand. By then a Wedge Big block powered car was already long gone. At the track with short gears and slicks whole different story.
Which is ironic, because NASCAR pushrod V8 motors actually operate at roughly the same BMEP as F1 engines:
Read that and I bet you we don't see another comment from you about "barbaric pushrods."
hardly. I love the flat head V8, and yes it put the idea of American V8 motoring on the map. but other than being offered in the low priced market, there is nothing "revolutionary" about the Flat head V8. it was merely the same side valve operated design that everyone else had, except it was a V8.
Sure it's Iconic, but the OHV GM V8s ( especially the SBC) were the ground breaking upsets of performance motoring. And continue to be.
@MatsNorway Agreed. Most these are just so damn legendary as is, it's hard to decide!
@ssbeane agree too! no Nailhead no party. Well give my vote for good old Flathead!
@ssbeane I agree, no Buick? The nailhead is not the 455 but it is nice to look at.
@RcStreetSource haha, yes I meant polls, however I do like the Poles ladies as well! haha :)
Definitely meant 427, in the Cobra Mk3s it dominated GT racing around the world in the 60's. And I cant stress the importance of it being the first American V8 to win at LeMans in the GT40 Mk2. I agree about the 351W, great easily strokable engines, although I have always had a soft spot for the Cleveland because of how cool they look in a Pantera.
yet again, another "no nothing" getting side tracked by pushrods and failing to understand it's actually a far newer and elegant packaging solution to operating the valves.