GM 100 million small block enginesA lot has happened in the last 56 years... mankind landed on the moon, the Cold War ended and General Motors managed to build 100 million small-block V8 engines.

First launched in 1955 with 265 cubic inches of displacement, the small block V8 has seen duty in nearly every memorable machine produced by Chevrolet in the last five decades. In addition to being the bread-and-butter engine in GM's bread-and-butter brand, the small block has also been widely seen in the engine bays of various Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models in the States, as well as in Vauxhalls in the UK, Opels in the rest of Europe and Holdens in Australia.

While the current fourth-generation small-black V8 engine from GM doesn't share much at all in common with its forebears, it's still a tribute to a solid basic design architecture (4.4-inch bore centers, eight cylinders and overhead valves) that has remained a stalwart in power, affordability and efficiency.

The actual 100,000,000 engine will be a supercharged LS9 V8 that would normally be found in the engine bay of a Chevy Corvette ZR1, but this milestone powerplant will be kept and preserved by GM as part of its historical collection. Fittingly, the LS9, with 638 horsepower, is the most powerful engine ever offered by the automaker in a production vehicle.

In related news, GM has announced that its fifth-generation small block, due in the "near future" (perhaps the C7 Corvette?), will be blessed with a new direct-injection combustion system for enhanced efficiency. Naturally, it will still have 4.4-inch bore centers.

There's plenty of cool statistical information in the press release and video after the break, so we suggest you check it out for yourself... especially if you belong to the camp that believes pushrods automatically equal antiquated technology.





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GM Builds 100-Millionth Small-Block Engine
Milestone LS9 assembly at Performance Build Center comes 56 years after introduction


WIXOM, Mich. – General Motors today will build its 100-millionth small-block engine – 56 years after the first production small block – representing an engineering legacy that continues to deliver greater performance and efficiency through advanced technology.

Chevrolet introduced the small-block in 1955 and the production milestone comes in the same month the brand marked its 100th anniversary. The small-block engine has been used in GM vehicles around the world and is currently found in global Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, as well as Vauxhall in the United Kingdom and Holden in Australia.

"The small block is the engine that brought high-performance to the people," said David Cole, founder and emeritus chairman of Center for Automotive Research – and whose father, the late Ed Cole, was the chief engineer at Chevrolet and oversaw development of the original small block engine. "There is an elegant simplicity in its design that made it instantly great when new and enables it to thrive almost six decades later."

The milestone engine is a 638-horsepower supercharged LS9 small block – the power behind the 205-mph Corvette ZR1 – which is hand-built at GM's Performance Build Center, northwest of Detroit. It represents the fourth generation of the small block and is the most powerful engine ever built by GM for a regular-production car. GM will preserve the engine as part of its historical collection.

The small block has been adapted in almost innumerable ways throughout the auto industry and beyond. Updated versions of the original Gen I engine are still in production for marine and industrial applications, while "crate engine" versions offered by Chevrolet Performance are used by thousands of enthusiasts every year to build hot rods. The 4.3L V-6 used in some Chevrolet and GMC full-size trucks and vans is based on the small-block, too, but with two fewer cylinders. All of these versions contribute to the small block's 100-million production milestone.

"This tremendous achievement celebrates an engineering triumph that has reached around the globe and created an industrial icon," said Sam Winegarden, executive director and group global functional leader - Engine Engineering. "And while the small-block's enduring design has proven adaptable to meet performance, emissions and refinement challenges over the years, it has more importantly delivered them with greater efficiency."

Current small blocks engines feature all-aluminum cylinder block and heads in car and many truck applications to help save weight and contribute to greater fuel economy. Many applications feature fuel-saving technologies such as Active Fuel Management – which shuts down four cylinders in certain light-load driving conditions – and camshaft phasing, which continuously alters valve timing to optimize performance, efficiency and emissions.

The 430-horsepower (476 kW) LS3 version of the Gen-IV small-block helps the 2012 Corvette accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about four seconds, run the quarter-mile in just over 12 seconds and achieve a top speed of more than 180 mph – all while achieving EPA-estimated highway fuel economy of 26 mpg. That compares favorably against many sports and performance cars:

The 2012 Audi R8 is EPA-rated at 21 mpg on the highway with a V-8 engine
The 2012 BMW 650i coupe is EPA-rated at 23 mpg on the highway with a V-8 engine
The 2012 Nissan GT-R is EP-rated at 23 mpg on the highway with a turbo V-6 engine.
It also compares favorably against many vehicles known more for soccer practice drop-offs – and fuel economy – than quick lap times on a road course:

The 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan is EPA-rated at 24 mpg with a four-cylinder engine
The 2012 Subaru Legacy sedan is EPA-rated at 25 mpg with a flat-6 engine
The 2012 Nissan Maxima sedan is EPA-rated at 26 mpg with a V-6 engine.
"The small-block engine delivers guilt-free performance," said Winegarden. "It is the quintessential V-8 engine and a living legend that is more relevant than ever."

GM also announced Tuesday that the fifth-generation small-block under development will feature a new direct-injection combustion system that will help enhance efficiency over the current-generation engine.

"The small-block architecture has continued to prove its relevance in a fast-evolving industry and the fifth-generation engine will build on the performance legacy with a significant advance in efficiency," said Winegarden.

GM is investing more than $1 billion in manufacturing facilities associated with producing new small-block engines, resulting in 1,711 jobs that have been created or retained. The Gen V engine is expected in the near future and is guaranteed to have 4.4-inch bore centers – the center-to-center distance between cylinders that has been part of the small-block's architecture from the beginning.

In the beginning

GM didn't invent the V-8 engine, but interpreted it in a way that made performance accessible to millions of new customers. It got its start in the years following World War II, after Chief Engineer Ed Cole transferred to Chevrolet from Cadillac, where he oversaw the development of its premium V-8 engine.

Cole's team retained the basic overhead valve design that was a staple of Chevrolet's inline-six engine – affectionately called the Stovebolt. It was seen as one of the Chevrolet car line's selling points, reinforcing a message of simplicity and reliability. Cole challenged his engineers to tighten the new engine package to make it more compact, less costly and easier to manufacture.

Upon its debut in the 1955 Chevy lineup, the new V-8 engine was physically smaller, 50 pounds lighter and more powerful than the Stovebolt six. It was not only a better engine for Chevrolet cars, it represented a better way of building engines, with a minimalist design that took advantage of streamlined production techniques.

After only two years on the market, the small-block began a steady march upward in displacement, power and technological advancement. In 1957, a version equipped with mechanical fuel injection was introduced, dubbed Ramjet. The only other high-volume manufacturer to offer fuel injection at the time was Mercedes-Benz.

Mechanical fuel injection was discontinued in the mid-Sixties, but the small-block debuted electronically controlled fuel injection in the 1980s and established a benchmark with the 1985 launch of Tuned Port Injection. This electronically controlled port fuel injection system was advanced in its day and its basic design is still used on most passenger cars and light-duty trucks more than 25 years later.

The small-block's 4.4-inch bore centers – the distance from the center of one cylinder to the next – would come to symbolize the compact, balanced performance of the small-block. It was the dimension around which the Gen III small-block was designed in 1997. In 2011, the small-block is in its fourth generation, powering Chevrolet's full-size trucks, SUVs and vans, midsize trucks and the Camaro and Corvette performance cars.

The first 4.3L (265 cu. in.) engine in 1955 produced up to 195 hp with an optional four-barrel carburetor. Today, the LS9 6.2L (376 cu. in.) supercharged small-block in the Corvette ZR1 is rated at 638 hp (476 kW), making it the most powerful engine ever installed in a regular-production Chevrolet or GM vehicle.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 53 Comments
      L14t
      • 3 Years Ago
      Proud to say I'm an owner of one. 350 with 240,000 miles and never had a problem with the engine. Long live the Chevy small block!!
      Jim
      • 3 Years Ago
      "especially if you belong to the camp that believes pushrods automatically equal antiquated technology." the funniest thing about that notion is that the overhead camshaft concept is actually *older* than overhead valves. The Duesenberg Straight-8 was OHC in 1921. The 1949 Olds "Rocket" V8 led the mass-market introduction of OHV.
        Kris
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jim
        Actually the first OHC engines were build in 1912 by Fiat for racing purposes.
          lasertekk
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Kris
          Which was used in the same year in the first Grand Prix hosted in America. The driver was one Louis Chevrolet.
          Jim
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Kris
          I didn't say the Duesenberg was the first, you know.
      GreaseMonkeySRT
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is it just me, or does it seem like the most depressed negative minded people always seem to flock to Autoblog? What enthusiast doesn't love a V8, pushrod or not? For God's sake people go take some Prozac.
        evannever
        • 3 Years Ago
        @GreaseMonkeySRT
        Honestly it's why I read Autoblog. At least the cast of characters keep it car related. I've had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with GM, but I respect how versatile this engine is.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @GreaseMonkeySRT
        [blocked]
          Jim
          • 3 Years Ago
          some people overestimate their own intelligence. Like Dan here.
      J
      • 3 Years Ago
      Congrats GM! Despite the numerous misteps and stumbles GM may have made, the constant bright spot has been the stalwart small block V8 - and for those who say it uses dated technology, this engine has benefited from 60 years of constant improvement, utlizing modern technological developments. I may be an import guy, but the small block V8 gains instant respect. Here's to a 100 million more small blocks.
      darkness
      • 3 Years Ago
      6.0 LS2 best engine ever period
      Ladson
      • 3 Years Ago
      The small block is a Icon of what has not been achieved by GM. Their poor attention to improvements to their engines are only exceeded by their inability to manage the company fiscal policies. Today we finally have companies seeking to improve the ICE engine. Direct injection, Variable valve timing, Fuel injection, Multiair direct valve inlet air control, Downsized engines with compressed inlet air. As we stand on the brink of mass production of the battery/electric driveline, one cannot but wonder where the ICE would have been had GM supported the idea of progress instead of maximum profits.
        Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        Um, you realize that GM sells engines with VVT, direct injection, turbocharging, right? And you listed "fuel injection?" are you retarded?
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        Oh, and I forgot to mention - the L99 variant of the small-block in the current Camaro does have VVT, along with cylinder deactivation - despite being an "antiquated pushrod design"
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        "Today we finally have companies seeking to improve the ICE engine. Direct injection, Variable valve timing, Fuel injection, Multiair direct valve inlet air control, Downsized engines with compressed inlet air." Just curious - where do you think GM is now? One of the Cruze's standard engines (1.4LT) is a "Downsized engines with compressed inlet air" GM's ubiquitous 3.6L V6 and 2.4L I4 both feature "Direct injection, Variable valve timing..." and have for years. The LNF-derivative 2.0T in the Regal Turbo and GS includes all 3. And the fact that GM can get out of the Corvette leading fuel efficiency with this purportedly antiquated engine (EPA 6.2L 6M: 16/26/19) as compared to an equal-output 911 Turbo (3.8T 6M: 16/24/19) - or even match the fuel economy of an Evo X while adding a hundred HP or so (2.0T 5M: 17/23/19) is remarkable.
        Danaon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        You're basically an idiot. The current Gen 4 LS motors are some of the best v8 engines in the world, but you don't know anything but what you've read in brochures. Displacement is unimportant when it comes to OHV engines because there is very little penalty for using more displacement up to about 10-13 L. Small blocks are lighter, more efficient (actual work efficiency, not pretend measures of "efficiency" like volumetric), simpler, more reliable, and have a much larger aftermarket and commonality of components than pretty much any other V8. They're so good they've been used in boats, RVs, race cars, and even light aircraft. But you can't see past "OHV" or your own ignorance, so you think they are unsophisticated. Hint: complexity doesn't equal sophistication, and complexity is a BAD thing when it comes to mechanical components.
        lasertekk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        I would go as far to say, that in traditional American business practices, the bean counters got most of the say in the life of that engine. If the basic tooling was paid for, and newer generations can be built with minimum tooling change and R&D, that means each one you build will make you a little extra dough. If your competitor is basically producing the same thing, and your customers don't know any better, why waste the money on change? As an engineer who heads my department, I don't have finance types looking over my shoulders. I'm free to innovate my designs and products away from past mediocrity. New and cutting edge is good, even if 'it ain't broke'.
        adrenalnjunky
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ladson
        did you basically just say "internal combustion engine engine"?
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 3 Years Ago
      Pushrods or not, GM small blocks have been working magic for 60yrs. There has never been anything so influential on the hot rod community as the Chevy small block. The modern LS engines can be found in everything from truck to supercars to Miatas, and everything in between. I am looking forward to the new one, and expect them to make even more power with fewer emissions and better fuel economy than all of their OHC competition.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @MONTEGOD7SS
        [blocked]
          Krishan Mistry
          • 3 Years Ago
          An LS3 Corvette can easily push high 20's mpg on highways, even seen one manage to lick 30 mpg. Not bad for a "massive" 6.2 with "archaic" pushrod tech
          Kevin Parker
          • 3 Years Ago
          I have personally managed 31 MPG without much effort in a 2010 Corvette LS3 6-speed on a trip from Dallas to Houston. Then I can take it to a track and run mid 12's easy. How many 'vettes have you driven?
          Jim
          • 3 Years Ago
          why do you guys keep feeding this troll?
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          DGthe3
          • 3 Years Ago
          You are comparing estimated highway mileage to an average. Highway FE is only 1 number that the EPA gives out. There is also city and combined (which is a 45/55 mix of the two). EPA says that the Cruze should be Look up the estimates for the combined city/highway fuel economy of the Equinox and the Cruze. EPA says the Cruze should get between high 20s and low 30s combined city/highway. In other words ... right around your claimed 30 mpg. The Equinox is around 20 combined for the V6 and 23 or 26 for the 4 banger, depending on whether you get AWD. So your '25 mpg' is actually a bit higher than the EPA estimate.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          The Cruze figures you give are right in line with the the rating. I think the Equinox is too (especially since few get the FWD version that has the high highway rating). My friend with a Corvette does a lot better than 15mpg and his car is 15 years old now. I don't know quite what to say. Have you see the disparities in results on the Nissan Juke between rated and real-world? Did the US government take over Nissan?
          adrenalnjunky
          • 3 Years Ago
          Kinda weird - my wife's G6 GT gets 29 highway, and was only 26 on the window sticker. Flipside - my Honda Pilot is coming in at a whopping 3mpg less than advertised, no matter what I do. If I can drive one car to get better mileage, I should be capable of maxing the other out too. Amazing that it is the domestic that underpromised and overdelivers.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      Kinda funny how GM spent a lot of time telling us the LS1 "wasn't a small block" because it was such a redesign. Now it's a small block to them again. Personally I considered it a small block all along mostly because the small block series has been so good for so long. Interesting to see about the bore centers remaining unchanged. I'm in a way saddened by this but also realize from a practical standpoint maybe it is the best move. I can't wait to see what comes from the new DI SBC.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        [blocked]
        Jim
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        "Interesting to see about the bore centers remaining unchanged. I'm in a way saddened by this but also realize from a practical standpoint maybe it is the best move." of all the things to get emo about, you pick *bore center?*
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          The SBC is compact, but one of the things keeping it from being more compact is that it has 4.4" bore centers. Take .4" off those and the engine gets over an inch shorter and that much lighter. It would limit max displacement, but I wonder if 7.0L displacement capability is really worth it anymore. I think a more compact engine would be more versatile even if it sacrificed max displacement configs for it.
          Jim
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jim
          "It would limit max displacement, but I wonder if 7.0L displacement capability is really worth it anymore. I think a more compact engine would be more versatile even if it sacrificed max displacement configs for it." a "more compact engine" is called a "V6."
      Big Bird
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't give a F about the pushrods! I just hope the 5 gen will be a bit lighter and higher revving and I'm sold!
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Big Bird
        Didn't think the aluminum-block LS engines were that heavy - after all, people are shoving them into Miatas on a regular basis.
          DrEvil
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Julius
          Julius: Weight is not the LS motor's only advantage, the engines are physically more compact than most large displacement V6s
          DGthe3
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Julius
          They aren't. The LS3 comes in at around 425 lbs. To put that into perspective, most DOHC V6s today are about 350 lbs, and any V8 that is less than 450 lbs is considered to be pretty light. Sure, some specialty manufactures or race engine builders might make something smaller & lighter ... but as far as I know, nobody that sells thousands upon thousands of cars per year does. That said ... they are planning on making the next gen rev a bit higher, allegedly based on what they've been learning from their NASCAR operations. Weight, I've heard that the truck engines are supposed to be switching to an aluminum block which should save 75 to 100 lbs, but I don't think there will be too big of a difference weight wise vs the current all aluminum engines.
      driestone
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is this old GM or new GM?
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