Chevy’s Small Block to Hit the 100 Million Mark!

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by John Coyle
Corvette Forum

It’s been over half a century since Chevrolet released its first V8 small block. And while I’m certain he had high hopes, I don’t think legendary lead engineer Ed Cole could have predicted the impact his baby would have on the automotive world. As the Bow Tie’s venerable workhorse prepares to hit the 100-million mark, it’s interesting to note that it’s far and away the most popular crate engine in the world, and?um, not to rub it in or anything? there are plenty of old Fords running around with Chevy motors under the hood.  The Lingerfelter Collection actually owns Chevy’s very first V8, and in this video they fire it up. Crank your speakers, and check out the official statement from the General below.

What would a 100 million small blocks look like together? End to end, would they stretch to the moon? Discuss this and other burning questions in the Forum!

Press Release:

DETROIT ? The 100-millionth Chevy Small Block engine will be
produced in 2011, commemorating a defining chapter in Chevrolet’s
100-year history. Introduced in 1955, the ?Chevy V-8? transformed the
brand, and fueled American’s love of performance that continues today.

?The introduction of the Small Block changed everything,? said Jim
Campbell, vice president, GM Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. ?The
Small Block was an instant success because it offered customers high
performance and an affordable price, in a compact design that was very
easy to modify. The Small Block also started a wave of innovation ? and
escalating performance ? that transformed the cars Americans drove on
the street and the track.?

The Small Block Redefines Chevy Performance

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 V-8 that was powerful, lightweight and

His solution was elegantly simple: a compact, efficient 90-degree V-8
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 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 V-8 family grew to include a staggering 450
horsepower, 454-cid Big Block.

?The performance of the Small Block transformed Chevrolet,? said
Campbell. ?The Small Block made Chevrolet the weapon of choice for
grassroots racers on the drag-racing and sports-car tracks across
America. It also powered Chevrolet’s factory racing programs, leading to
wins in stock car, endurance, and Trans Am series. Chevrolet’s racing
experience in turn led to more potent production cars, creating
legendary names like Corvette, Camaro, Impala, and Chevelle.?

The Culture of Small Block Performance

The combination of compact dimensions, impressive power and available
aftermarket parts made the Chevy V-8 the most popular crate engine in
the industry. For example, Tammy Ray never considered anything but a
Chevy Small Block when building ?Gold Digger,? her 1933 Ford Phaeton hot
rod that won the 2010 Ridler Award:

?My builder will say you can get more horsepower out of a Chevy than a
Ford,? she said. ?For me, the decision was based solely on appearance.
The Chevy V-8 is much cleaner, more compact, and with so many parts
available, I could customize every part of engine ? right down to the
gold nuggets inlaid on valve covers.?

Today, hot rodders can select from a wide range of new Chevrolet V-8
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.

?More people do more things with a Small Block than any other engine,
and probably more than all other engine platforms combined,? said
Campbell. ?There’s a Small Block to fit almost any hot rodder’s needs,
whether they are building a gold-plated hot rod, a 1,000-horsepower
dragster, or an emissions-compliant project car.?

The Continued Evolution of the Small Block

Today, Chevrolet sells more four-cylinder engines than V-8s. But,
descendents of the original Chevy small block still power Chevrolet’s
most-capable production and racing vehicles. As per the original, the
newer V-8s are physically small and light ? and extremely efficient at
turning fuel into horsepower.

?Without question, the current Chevrolet V-8s are lineal descendants
of the 1955 small block,? said Sam Winegarden, GM executive director for
Global Engine Engineering. ?They retain the 90-degree V-configured
eight-cylinder layout, overhead valve placement and characteristic
pushrod valve train. Where they differ are the modern technologies that
would have sounded like science fiction 50 years ago, such as
all-aluminum blocks, titanium connecting rods, Active Fuel Management,
and variable valve timing.?

On the track, the Small Block has made Chevrolet the most-winning
name in NASCAR history, and it powered the Corvette Racing team to seven
class wins at Le Mans between 2001 and 2011.

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. These modern engines deliver levels
of power, durability, and efficiency that were inconceivable 50 years
ago. For example, the 6.2L Small Block in 2012 Corvette delivers 436
horsepower, up to 26 miles per gallon, and is backed by General Motors?
five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. 

?Constant innovation and evolution have made the Small Block relevant
for more than 50 years,? said Winegarden. ?We are actively working on
the fifth generation of the Small Block, which we believe will be the
best V-8 engines ever made. By adding new technologies, such as direct
injection, we will continue to improve the performance, durability, and
efficiency of the iconic Chevy V-8.?

About Chevrolet

Founded in Detroit in 1911, Chevrolet celebrates its centennial as a
global automotive brand with annual sales of about 4.25 million vehicles
in more than 130 countries. Chevrolet provides consumers with
fuel-efficient, safe and reliable vehicles that deliver high quality,
expressive design, spirited performance and value. The Chevrolet
portfolio includes iconic performance cars such as Corvette and Camaro;
dependable, long-lasting pickups and SUVs such as Silverado and
Suburban; and award-winning passenger cars and crossovers such as Spark,
Cruze, Malibu, Equinox and Traverse. Chevrolet also offers
?gas-friendly to gas-free” solutions including Cruze Eco and Volt. Cruze
Eco offers 42 mpg highway while Volt offers 35 miles of electric,
gasoline-free driving and an additional 344 miles of extended range.
Most new Chevrolet models offer OnStar safety, security and convenience
technologies including OnStar Hands-Free Calling, Automatic Crash
Response and Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. More information regarding
Chevrolet models can be found at

John Coyle is a longtime auto journalist and editor who contributes to Corvette Forum and LS1Tech, among many other sites.

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