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

I personally think the 265 , 283, chevy motors along with the 260, & 289 ford motors have been put on the back burner for some time, meaning that they have become underappreciated. Lately the Ford Y block motors have come back into prominence just to be different for the most part but never the less they make a hot rod stand out from the crowd a little. Pontiac also made the 421 for a couple years in the early 60’s as well but you see very few if any of them anymore.

I have had several and loved them and their quirks were always amusing. My Grandparents had a 318 Volare. The atomizer plate was installed up-side-down at the factory so the gas would spray into the air cleaner and evaporate. On hot days the air cleaner would turn in to a block of ice.

mrmmkkpro, you are absolutely correct. I kept looking for someone to bring it up. One of the finest engines in modern times. People think they are difficult to work on, but they are not. Same with any 4 cam engine. Engine was way ahead of it’s time. LS bottom ends and the Cad Northstar all came from it. Smoothest engine I ever drove, 7000 rpm’s no problem. Just finished one, stock block except went to 4" pistons and flowed the heads, 510 HP at 6200 rpm, no problem. GM choked the engine. There are 645 hp engines running with stock blocks.

Dodge 318, heavy, tough workhorse.

I cannot believe there has not been any discussion about the flathead Ford V-8! This is virtually where it all began guys! Back in the day it was the monster fire-breathing engine that could not be beat and was the engine of choice for every hot rodder!

The Ford 260 when placed in the 63.5 Falcon Sprint, Merc Comets, and the British AC Cobra, Sunbeam Tiger, Griffith. Earlier version was the 221 found in Fairlane later version was the smooth 289. It also inspired, but heavy modified, Indianapolis 500 winning rear engine entry driven be Jimmy Clark, later the Lemans winning Cobra in the GT class and also the 1-2-3 win Ford GT 40s.

While not my favorite ( Ford guy) how about the Studebaker 289. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned ( perhaps I missed it) but that was supposedly a really good engine.

I’m a Mopar fan, but the 318 is not one of my favorite engines. Yes it ran fine, but it had one serious design flaw. The timing cover, made out of aluminum, was sandwiched between the water pump and the block, with coolant passages cast into it. It tended to corrode and allow coolant to get into the oil. It also had a plastic cam gear (granted, a lot of other engines did) and the teeth all sheared off the 318 in my 1970 Dart Swinger, destroying the engine.

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Chryslers Sm.Block has been a good workhorse since 1955 and still going strong.

I have always been a mopar lover and most of my cars have been Mopars, I have had just about all the engines mopar offered. I believe the 383 was the engine that made mopar pop to life in the everyday mans performance car, it had 335 hp in a light body weight package it gave you performance for a low price.

Didn’t see many mentions of Olds yet :slight_smile: Here’s the 330 out of my '64 Vista Cruiser I just bought. Awesome car, motor not so much. Guess they aren’t kidding about top end oiling/coking issues. Also aftermarket Olds 330 4BBL intake costs more than a 4BBL 350 Chevy intake with a used 350 Chevy still on it. Props to the guys who decide to keep these running.

Mine’s eventually to be replaced by a (wait for it…) LS, well LQ4.

The Y-Block had a unique sound (much as the Harley) due to it’s firing order. Don’t believe all that gaff from early small block Chevy owners. The thin-wall casting & bolt-on rocker assemblies made those motors disposable & easily destructible. They made more HP per c.i., but typically flew apart before they could finally catch the Y-Blocks that were usually way out in front due to their higher torque. Multiple rebuild-ability & a strong bottom end that allowed over 350 hp from a Paxton/McCulloch blown 312 in 1957 quite embarrassed the overrated 283 fuelies.

Was the DX block engine that you refer to reliable as compared to the earlier diesels that it produced? A friend had an Olds diesel and joined on the class action suit against GM. I think that she got about $500 for all her trouble. I’m aware of the story about the engine and all the difficulties that many had with them. I read that even its engineers tried to convince Olds that although the 350 was a good gas engine, it was terrible once converted to diesel. I’ve read that the transmissions often failed under the high low end torque, the 24V starter systems failed and that the engine itself often had failures. It was the classic mistake made by a company that wanted to compete but felt that if it waited for the engineers to perfect it, it would loose much money to the other guys. In the end, it lost the confidence that many of its customers had and which took many years to build. I guess even if it hadn’t made that blunder, GM still would have closed it down.

I’ve read that many still like the W engine and that numerous after market parts improve its reliability. It was a very good engine when used for what it was designed to do, that is to move heavy loads. Although Chevy’s decision to turn it into a race engine brought the engine some fame, it caused many to give it a reputation as unreliable due to valve train and low end parts breaking during races. if it had remained an engine for moving heavy loads, people would have had more respect for its engineering. However, it did allow engine designers to learn how to make engines more reliable and powerful. The 396, which replaced the W engine, was more like its predecessor than many realize. Although its heads had wedge combustion chambers and the tops of its banks were at the tradition 90 degree angle to the banks, its bottom shared a number of similarities with the W engine. So, I agree that it should be remembered for causing the other manufacturers, especially Pontiac and Chrysler, to build more powerful and reliable engines for racing. If it weren’t for the W engines at the drag strips, would Pontiac have developed its super duty 421 & Chrysler its high compression 413s for Plymouth & Dodge, for the little old lady from Pasadena?

The 289 HIPO has to be among the greats of small block engines. That small displacement motor had the inter workings of a monster. Steel forged crank, hefty connecting rods, 10 1/2 to 1 pistons topped by beefy screw in studded heads. Added to that a gigantic harmonic balancer and a mechanical advanced dual point distributor. By swapping out the OEM intake and carb with an over the counter Ford Parts Departmental Cobra aluminum intake, topped with a Holley 715 or a 780 double pumper and installing a Lemans cam (again from the Ford parts bin) that little motor was an absolute screamer. If it wasn’t, would it have found it’s way into say: a GT 350, or an AC Cobra, or the original Ford GTs?
I was fortunate to have one modified as described in a 65 Mustang and I promise you, my foot was buried into the floor most of the time and I never worried about that motor coming apart. I worried most about how it was abusing the T-10 and Detroit Locker it was coupled to.
Ah, my misspent youth… how lucky I was and how great the hipo is!

I had a ‘56 golden hawk, 3sp/od; met a guy who had a g.h. withthe patrician dual 4v with ultramatic --driving his parents’ car, that is! I got 30%+ better mileage. we never ran against each other, though.

I loved the 327 Vigilante in my 1967 Jeep Wagoneer that I bought in 1974.

I think you are talking about my 2000 Toyota Tundra. Double overhead cam, 32 valve, all aluminum hemi head, fuel injected w/individual coils mounted on each spark plub (no sparkplug wires !) Smooth with excellent torque (325 ft/lbs) for a relatively small engine, 4.7 litre or 283 Cubic inches. More sophisicated than most modern engines and entirely trouble free.

Not really sure where you people get this information and view about the W engine, many racers had excellent results racing them without problems. Maybe you should talk to a few of these racers, You might want to start with Hayden Proffett who holds many records running his 409`s,There are many other who raced these very successfully for many years ! Like I said earlier, many of the problems associated with the W engines were caused by driver error .

dq409: I don’t know anyone who raced them professionally. My views come from the few that I almost bought and what happened to a few who perhaps did over rev them. I was in the gas station of my dads friend when I saw that a guy, who had recently bought his sister’s 63 409-400 HP, and he had taken the heads off. The car was only about 3 years old and so the problem was certainly not due to age. He had to replace the valves and parts of the valve train. I didn’t ask him how it happened, but I suspect that he simply over reved it. The reputation of the engines was that they tended to break parts, probably because they were not as forgiving as many of the more conventional engines. As you say, this is driver error for assuming that they could be abused as much as other engines. I will admit that I unknowing abused one that I would have bought if I hadn’t mentioned what I did. It was a very nice looking 60 Chevy with a 348 and what I thought to be an odd transmission. When I saw the letters GR, where the letter L usually is, I assumed it to be simply a fancy designation for low. Of course when I dropped it down to ‘Low’ and then floored it, it seemed to be slipping. When I then shifted it to D, the tires gave a short churp. I tried it a second time and got the same result. When I reported this to the guy selling it, he told me that I would probably ruin the car and so he had better sell it to someone else. Of course, he was right, I would have ruined it. Maybe this is why many call the turboglide transmission the ‘ill fated transmission’ because of kids like me who ruined them. Anyway, the use of the Grade Retarder indicates that the engineers had towing loads, such as boats and camping trailers, in mind when they designed these cars. After being refused the sale of this car, a friend of my brother-in-law had a 59 with a 348 for sale. I didn’t know much about cars and so my dad asked his friend to look at it. As soon as he revved the engine, the smoke poured out the tailpipe. In addition, it was a convertible with a leaking top. The back floor had a huge hole in it. The car was a junker. The last one I saw was a nice looking 58 with 3 2 barrels. The seller claimed that someone left the key on and so he couldn’t start it. I was wise enough to know that he meant he didn’t want to start it. I did know a few who had the W engine. Two had 61s and I don’t think they ever raced them around, so they had no issues with them. I did know another who had a 59 and who had the engine apart. I don’t know what the problem was, but it was probably a broken part due to abuse. I also knew one who had a 64 that didn’t run. Again, I don’t know what happened to it. So, my experience is that a number of people broke parts in them and this confirmed the reputation that I had been told about the W. On the other hand, those who didn’t abuse them, had no difficulty with them. Now I see that the engine is popular with many who rebuild them with improved after market parts. I never found one that was in good condition, except for the one that I was refused, and therefore I didn’t get a chance to own one. So, I will admit that my knowledge of them does not come from first hand. However, they are a somewhat unique engine that did indeed cause many to appreciate a big block and which caused other manufacturers to turn their big blocks into high performance engines.