Hagerty.com

Chevy small-block: The little engine that did

Zora Arkus-Duntov “Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet.”

This right here. I try to remind my Ford Flathead bretheren of this when they dis the venerable SBC going into an early Ford. To me, using it vs a flatty, is the same “DNA” since Duntov and many others were on board with flathead development beforehand. There’s nothing in my opinion that will ever top the legendary 1st gen SBC. Of course it’s MK IV evil step brother made a mark too but that’s another story in and of itself.

How do you see the Corvair engine as a problem child? Oil leaks were its biggest issue but the design was sound and the engine lasted as long as their water cooled counterparts. I see your point on the Vega engine with its aluminum cylinder bores and the Wankel with it’s tendency to eat Apex seals and consume enough fuel to make today’s V8’s jealous. As a Corvair owner I have to stick my neck out on that one.

The article doesn’t say the Corvair engine was a problem child. It says the Corvair was a problem child. Considering the politics that came to plague it, one can not avoid the conclusion that the Corvair was a problem that GM would sooner forget. Not mentioned in the article was the SBC’s propensity to chew up factory cam shafts. Sometimes in as little as 25,000 miles. An issue that persisted right to the end of the life of the Gen I variant.

dcamcpuffin, you can’t lay the eating of factory camshafts at the feet of all first generation SBC’s. That problem was most prevalent in the 305 CID of the mid to late 70’s. As I think about it, I believe all of them I have replaced were in 1977 or 1978 Chevrolet vehicles. I don’t recall having replaced a camshaft in another GM brand for this same reason. I mention it because this is the time period when divisional engines started disappearing in favor of the GM “corporate” engines with the blue paint instead of the divisional engines painted in the division colors like Chevrolet orange or Pontiac blue. Anyway, the steel in the camshafts in question were too soft causing the lobes to be literally worn away until the lobe was simply round, not elliptical. It was not a design flaw in the motor itself. I have replaced many of these over the years on what would otherwise be considered healthy engines. And yes, most of them were low mileage, all under 100K, but most between 50-75K.

alphasud, the Corvair’s biggest problem was Ralph Nader. The car may have had an oversteering issue under certain conditions, but he LITERALLY made a Federal case out of it. That being said, GM fixed that issue, but the bad press killed a radically different and cool car. The last two years of the Corvair were quite right and tight with plenty of performance for a horizontally opposed six cylinder. I always thought the turbo convertibles were cool.

108 million x 575 lbs for a cast iron SBC = 62 BILLION pounds of cast iron dumped into junkyards!!!
Well, slightly less because you include the aluminum block LS engine in your article’s tally.

Yep…you have to love all the trolls on all the online forums. The only SBC cam I ever replaced due to flat spotting, had nearly 200k on it.

Too bad a bare SBC block only weighs around 150 lbs, and I would also imagine that the majority are still in use, and those that aren’t were recycled…BUT TROLL ON!

It’s pretty safe to say the majority of them have been recycled and not still in use. When you think of all the vehicles that came with them most would have ended their lives and met the crusher with their engine still there.
But there’s no argument that there have been more 350s and LS type engines pulled for use in other vehicles then any other engine.

The flathead 348 and the 396/427 all had there genesis in the GM big truck line before they
made the transition into cars.

Does the 108 million figure include the uber reliable SBC 350 based diesels?
Don’t wanna forget them do we?!

There were no SBC-based diesels… that was the low-deck Oldsmobile 350 v8. Then he 6.2 and 6.5 were clean-sheet designs… that weren’t any better than the Oldsmobile.

Talking to hot rodders from the early '60s. The 239 ci Ford was introduced in 1953, not 1954. Only you had to go to Canada to get one. 1954 was when it became available in the US market. They also knew the SBC to have originated from the design engineers at Ford. Ford rejected it as they had already committed to design of the 239.

Unfortunately for me, my 305 '77 El Camino (purchased new and babied) needed a cam at 50k due to flat spotting. I made it clear that I was very unhappy and the General paid half the cost.