In Detail: The Chevy Small Block Engine

TRANSLOGIC is all about breakthroughs and innovations. We're admittedly quick to embrace transportation evolution and adopt new technologies. That said, we have no trouble completing the phrase, "If it ain't broke..." A redesigned OS riddled with bugs, a new handset that somehow gets worse reception, or a browser update that removes a commonly used feature--we understand that *deep breath* not all change is good. That's why we were so intrigued by the story of the Chevy Small Block engine. 2011 will mark 56 years since the little V8 that could was introduced, and GM claims they will build their 100-millionth Small Block this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet brand. Clearly the Small Block's staying power is an accomplishment unto itself, but GM wasn't just resting on their laurels all those years. The Small Block was continually being revised, updated, and improved, while never straying too far from its original successful design. Perhaps some software companies could learn a thing or two from powertrain manufacturing.

What makes a Small Block a Small Block? Since 1955 this engine has featured 8-cylinders in a 90-degree "V" configuration, with overhead valves and pushrod valvetrain, all within a relatively compact design. That means you could lift the hood of a early-80's C3 Corvette and see something remarkably similar to the powerplant in the 1960 'Vette we drove in TRANSLOGIC 68, but still improved. "Constant innovation and evolution have made the Small Block relevant for more than 50 years," said Sam Winegarden, GM executive director for Global Engine Engineering.

The Small Block remains a favorite among hot rodders. Its simple design, compact size, and abundance of available aftermarket parts make the Small Block easy to work on and around. In fact, General Motors Performance Parts has continued this legacy by offering a range of new Chevy V8 crate engines, from the classic 350 cid Small Block to 720 hp "Big Blocks."

As for today, the Small Block's impact can still be seen in GM's current line of V8s. "Without question, the current Chevrolet V8s are lineal descendants of the 1955 small block," said Winegarden. "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."

Click the image below to watch TRANSLOGIC 68: Chevy Small-Block Evolution:

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