Since 1955, the Chevrolet Corvette has been powered by the Chevrolet V8 engine. Technological advancements have increased output from 195 hp in 1955 to 638 hp in 2012, but the fundamental architecture of the Chevrolet Small Block have remained the same; a 90-degree V8, with overhead valves actuated by pushrods, and a 4.4-inch on-center bore spacing.
From 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.
In 1959 a V8 engine was introduced and fitted to the Bentley S2 models. Despite its additional two cylinders and 27.5 per cent increase in swept volume over the straight six, the new 6.23-litre was 30lb lighter thanks to its cast alloy block and cylinder heads. The oversquare – 104.1mm bore x 91.4mm stroke – engine featured a conventional five-bearing crankshaft and a gear-driven single camshaft in the centre of the vee. The overhead valves were operated by self-adjusting hydraulic tappets.
The Ford V8 flathead can take a lion’s share of credit for the revival of U.S. road racing after the Great Depression, primarily because Ford V8 cars were relatively lightweight, maneuverable as well as powerful … and also inexpensive. On August 26, 1933, Fred Frame won the Elgin, Ill., road race in a Ford V8 “stock car.” The event was the first Elgin race run since 1920, and the last ever run. Ford V8 cars swept the top seven finishing positions. Six months later, on Feb. 24, 1934, Stubby Stubblefield won the Gilmore Gold Cup road race at Mines Field — an airport circuit in Long Beach, Calif. Of the 26 cars entered, 22 were Ford V8s, and Ford cars finished first through 10th.