Famous Engines

History of Chevrolet Small Block V8

August 20, 2011

Chevrolet Small Block V8From 1929 and 1955, Chevrolet only offered six-cylinder engines. To address the burgeoning performance market, chief engineer Ed Cole set out to design a Chevrolet V8 that was powerful, lightweight and affordable. His solution was elegantly simple: a compact, efficient 90-degree V8 engine, featuring overhead valves, pushrod valvetrain, and 4.4-inch on-center bore spacing. The Chevrolet Big Block follows the same formula, with the exception of a wider 4.8 inch bore spacing.

When it debuted, the Chevrolet Small Block delivered 195 horsepower with an optional four-barrel carburetor, and outperformed most anything then on the market. But that was just the beginning. New technologies rapidly increased horsepower. Just two years after the Small Block was introduced, the addition of fuel injection increased output to 283 horsepower – or one horsepower for every cubic inch of the 283 cid engine. By 1970, the Chevy V8 family grew to include a staggering 450 horsepower, 454-cid Big Block.

Today, Chevrolet sells more four-cylinder engines than V8s. But, descendents of the original Chevrolet small block still power Chevrolet’s most-capable production and racing vehicles. As per the original, the newer V8s are physically small and light – and extremely efficient at turning fuel into horsepower. On the street, the modern Small Block powers Chevrolet’s full-size trucks, such as Silverado and Suburban, as well as performance cars including the Camaro and Corvette.

The combination of compact dimensions, impressive power and available aftermarket parts made the Chevy V8 the most popular crate engine in the industry. Today, hot rodders can select from a wide range of new Chevrolet V8 crate engines from General Motors Performance Parts. For example, the classic 350 cid Small Block, with 290 horsepower, delivers affordable power and easy modification, making it ideal starting point for many project cars. The earth-shaking, 572-cid ZZ572R Big Block delivers 720 horsepower and 685 pound-feet of torque make it ideal for drag racing.

The newest addition to the GMPP line is the E-ROD engine family, the first crate engine in the industry to meet California emissions requirements. The E-ROD engine package includes everything customers need to get modern performance, emissions and fuel economy out of their hot rods, including: GMPP engine wiring harness and engine control module; exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, oxygen and mass-airflow sensors; and even a fuel-tank evaporative emissions canister.