Hagerty.com

Question of the Week: What are the most underappreciated V-8s?

When it comes to V-8s, a few classic mills always pop to the front of the conversation–hemi, small-block Chevrolet, LS-series, Ford 302. Yet in the background are hundreds of engines that put in the work but, in the words of Mr. Dangerfield, “can’t get no respect.”

Olds%20V-8
Photo: Oldsmobile

From smaller displacement models that may not pack the power of their larger siblings to early engines that feature elements far ahead of their time, the automotive industry is rife with underappreciated V-8 designs. The 440 Mopar will always live in the elephant-sized shadow of the Hemi, and the hard-working 283 Chevy seems to always get sidelined for its 350-cube brother.

We love all V-8s here, from the lowly industrial workhorses to the fire-breathing NHRA top fuel machines, so tell us about your favorite V-8 charity case below.

Toyota UZ series V8s. The 1UZ-FE in particular. These engines are regularly good for well over 300k miles with the proper scheduled services. They make good power for their size and age, and are becoming popular swaps in lots of different platforms.

2 Likes

Two engines within a popular platform come to mind. The 307 and 400 Chevy small block. I have had one of each and think that they are much better than the credit they got. The 307 is a better feeling engine to drive than the 305 because of the same stroke as a 327. The 400 got a bad reputation for overheating for some reason. I never had an issue with mine. No, they’re not rev happy engines, but they has very good low end torque for a SBC.

The Cleveland (not all 335’s, but the 351).

5 Likes

How about the Cadillac 500, one of my favorites.

7 Likes

The 5.3L GM V8 found in Hummer H3 and Chevy trucks. They are workhorses which also have some get up and go even in stock and slightly modified versions.

3 Likes

The 318 v8 in my 1966 Dodge Dart GT convertible seems pretty bullet-proof, and moves that “mid-size” car along just fine. And, yes, you are correct that the original engine to that vehicle was the 273 v8, which is probably another fine Mopar engine, but I can’t say from experience on that one.

5 Likes

Rambler 327/270hp. pretty good power back in the early 60’s

2 Likes

Daimler 2.5L Hemi V8. Had they stuck it in an MG or Triumph instead of the SP250 Dart (and yes, I know those companies weren’t related at the time), it’d have quite a following.

3 Likes

The hemi in the Daimler SP250 had alloy heads, iron block and was placed in a f’glas body that NOBODY loved.

3 Likes

Buick aluminum block VB 215 CI. Ahead of it’s time. First saw one used in a mid-engine sand rail in the 60s.

7 Likes

Really loved the 283 I had in my 64 impala ss. Didn’t lose many races back in the day, and had enough torque to bust the lugs off the rear wheels.

1 Like

All IHC SV series V8s, the ones that came in Scouts and light trucks. So ridiculously overbuilt for their application. When the Big 3 built trucks, they scaled up car platforms. When IH built trucks, they scaled DOWN heavy trucks. High-nickel, fully-skirted blocks, forged cranks, timing gears (not chains), and even sodium-filled valves on the 392s. It’s sad to think how many of these ended up in junkyards because ham-fisted shadetree mechanics didn’t bother to read the valve cover that they time off the #8 cylinder. And the 152 4-cyl is half of a 345, the 196 half of a 392, including the same sodium-filled valves and just a cover plate where the other cylinder bank once was.

1 Like

Any of the MEL engines from the 50’s to mid 60’s. The 430 and the 462 from the 60’s Lincolns come to mind. The 462 put out 340hp with lots of torque. Could pull a grove of trees out of the forest and virtually bullet proof. Although it is tough to get replacement parts and there are no aftermarket performance parts available. .

3 Likes

The Typhoon 343 in my '67 AMC Marlin pulls itself along pretty well…and very smoothly…

1 Like

The Buick/Oldsmobile Aluminum 215 CI V8 found new life in Olde England as the 3.5. 3.9 and 4.0 powering MG’s, Rovers, Triumphs, Landy’s right up until the last decade. American design perfected by the Brits… go figure.

5 Likes

I agree. The Mopar 318 was smaller displacement and less HP than the 440 or Hemi, but it weighed less so gave the car better handling.

The 92-97 LT1. I get soooo tired of hearing know it all young guys talking $h1t about my Firehawk at Cars and Coffee, because they think the LS is so superior. Everyone seems to forget, that at the time they were impressive performers, and without them, their precious LS and new LT series may not even exist today. Also, an LS equipped Firehawk is only a few tenths quicker to 60, and in the quarter (not majorly faster).

2 Likes

Being the owner of a classic car business, I’ve experienced almost all of them, and hands down the greatest engine that isn’t universally thought of in that way is the Chrysler LA block in the form of the 340 V8. This was a little monster, and virtually indestructible. I experienced this motor in a 1969 Barracuda 340 Formula S notchback, backed with a 4-speed and sure-grip rear end. I could LITERALLY rip the knobs off the radio with the power and torque that engine produced. I took it to the drag strip and regularly beat other 383 big block mopars, and I drove the car from Kansas City to Detroit and back for the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise in August with no issues. Just an incredible motor in every way.

5 Likes