Journal: These Are The Ten Best Classic Eight Cylinders

These Are The Ten Best Classic Eight Cylinders

By Yoav Gilad
September 26, 2014
13 comments

Earlier this week we asked you to help figure out the ten best pre-1990 eight-cylinder engines of all time. Before we get to that though, we should point out that some people have asked why 1989 is our cut-off and that’s due to the fact that in many states in the US a car isn’t considered a classic until it’s twenty-five years old. We got some interesting answers including one that seemed to be as reliable as a cellphone that’s gone for a swim.

Following are our top ten choices based on your answers for the greatest eight cylinders (pre-’90) ever made. They span decades, beginning in 1928, and over 100,000,000 (!) examples of another were built. As always, let us know what you think in the comments!

#10 Duesenberg DOHC Supercharged Straight 8–Designed by Duesenberg, but actually built by Lycoming, it was first introduced in 1928 and then supercharged in 1932. The engine was special for its time due to its dual overhead-cam layout. Which isn’t to say that others weren’t doing it too; however, equipped with a supercharger, it produced the still-impressive sum of over four hundred horsepower (!), with two carburetors, at a time when most engines made a degree of magnitude less.

#9 Mercedes-Benz M100 6.3L V8–Initially used to power Mercedes’s limousines, someone at Mercedes decided to stuff one under the hood of their 300SEL (until then powered by a I6) sedan. The result was a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds, on par with many sports cars at the time, from a car that weighed nearly two tons. As if this wasn’t enough, AMG messed with it further increasing displacement to 6.8L and horsepower to 420hp!

Photography by John Whitney Jr. for Petrolicious

#8 Alfa Romeo 2.0L V8–While this little engine certainly doesn’t match the output of the Duesenberg or Benz, its output per liter is still amazing today: about 135hp/L in race trim! And this from a naturally aspirated mill.

#7 Ford Flathead V8–There were other, more powerful eight cylinders in production long before the flathead was introduced (see the Duesenberg above, for instance). But, this is the engine that democratized V8 power in the US. Its importance to the American automotive scene cannot be overstated.

#6 Chrysler 426ci Hemi V8–Initially a racing engine only, outcry from competitors essentially required Chrysler to put its second-generation “Elephant” engine (so called because of its weight, power output, and torque) in production cars. While the design was innovative and its numbers impressive, it was produced in relatively low numbers due to cost (only about 11,000 were ever built for consumer use).

#5 Ferrari Dino V8–Manufactured since 1962, the flat-plane crank V8 remained in service, with varying displacements and heads, until 2004. One of its most interesting incarnations was as the powerplant in the F40 (the F120C) where the 2.9L twin-turbo made about 470hp.

Photography by Yoav Gilad for Petrolicious

#4 Buick/Oldsmobile/Rover 215ci Aluminum V8–Introduced in 1961 (and under development since 1956) it was the lightest V8 being mass-produced, due to its aluminum block. It also has the rare distinction of being the only American stock block ever used to win an F1 championship (Mr. Jack Brabham used engines built by Australian firm Repco that were based on surplus Oldsmobile blocks to win the championship in 1966). Rover then bought the rights to the American design where they were used in British passenger cars for another thirty-nine years essentially becoming British hot-rodders’ engine of choice, as they were reliable, potent, and very flexible.

#3 Cosworth DFV V8–Named Double Four Valve, as it had four valves per cylinder and had double the cylinders as its four-banger predecessor. Cosworth developed the DFV specifically for Formula One racing. What makes it such an amazing engine is how dominant it was and for how long. Sponsored by Ford for Team Lotus, it won every single World Championship race between 1969 and ’73. Every single race! Additionally, the engine was also used in Formula 3000, CART, and sportscar racing. It was so good that it managed to hang on until the 1985 F1 season!

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious

#2 Ford Windsor V8–First introduced in 1962, equipped in passenger cars until 2001, and still in production today (as a crate engine), Ford’s amazing little V8 grew from a 3.6L to 5.8L engine and along the way managed to win titles as the 4.7L, better known as the legendary 289ci engine that powered Shelby’s Cobras and Daytona Coupes and initially, the GT40. Additionally, it was installed in countless Mustangs such as the one below.

And finally, #1… Chevy Small Block V8–Like the Windsor block, but introduced a bit earlier (1955) and also still in production today (available as a crate engine too), it isn’t the most sophisticated V8, but it has been refined for over sixty years and is the ubiquitous hot-rodder’s engine. How ubiquitous? Over 100,000,000 have built over its life span. In its max-spec production guise it made close to four-hundred horsepower, but reportedly has a lot of room to go much higher. And did we mention over 100,000,000 have been built? The people have spoken.

Images Sources: hemmings.com, 35pickup.com, oldcaradvertising.com, roversd1.nl, formula1-dictionary.net, motorsportretro.com, oldcaradvertising.comoldcarbrochures.com

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Francois Cisco
Francois Cisco
6 years ago

All great for sure, tanks for that article… still can’t believe the greatest european V8 was forgotten.
The Maserati V8 began in 1957 nearly winning the world championship with the 450S, (last race in Venezuela ruined whal should have been) .
It was in the legendary 5000 GT with lots of modification all along the 34 exemplary.
Finally happened in a serial version with the quattroporte in 63/64 a new kind of car , equipped the Ghibli and last till the Quattroporte Royale end in 1990…
Nobility, power, torque, superb sound and reliability. 33 years of history… Give me that over a dino and as much as I admire the 2.0 V8 Alfa, over the Alfa too.
Just my 2 cents 🙂

TJMacs
TJMacs
8 years ago

Hmmm…A flop in NASCAR? You’re kidding, right? It seems to me like the small block Chevy ran in every GM bodied NASCAR race car that was ever in competition. That is after the standardization to 358 C.I.D. in that series. Ford took a long time to catch back up. Mopar was outclassed to the point of obsolescence in NASCAR by the ‘lowly’ SBC.
Pro Stock (most notably Bill Jenkins blowing off the Hemis) in drag racing, Dirt Modified and Sprint Cars, never mind hot rods (the high performance engine of choice for pretty much anything due to it’s bang for the buck) and muscle cars are just a few of the areas where this engine shines. It even ran at Indianapolis. Haven’t seen an actual Mercedes (not Ilmor) ever do that. The only thing that has made it ‘obsolete’ is another GM creation-the LS series engines

Andre L  Hulstaert
Andre L Hulstaert
8 years ago

Hello:
I was fortunate enough to own, and drive a lot both the Mercedes 6.3 (which was quite a handful) http://www.hulstaertphoto.us/mercedes-6-3/ and the ex-Buick powered Rover SD1 and SD2 of which I developed my personal body modifications http://www.hulstaertphoto.us/rover-sd1/
I had tons of pleasure with both of them. I had, at some point lots of other interesting cars such as the Maserati Ghibli which had beautiful lines and a marvelous DOC quad dual Weber engine. http://www.hulstaertphoto.us/maserati-ghibli/

Nuno Relha Vaz
Nuno Relha Vaz
8 years ago

You may didn’t select the Bugatti straight 8, but for it is the most beautiful engine…

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
8 years ago

My choice made it into the top ten so im happy about that. Concerning the Chevy small block while it did have a lot of success in Trans Am racing it did better in other places as well. The late 50’s and early 60’s Corvettes were powered by the small block and boasted a lot of victories in SCCA racing with that engine just check out the Purple People Corvette and the Gulf Racing Corvettes as well. The Scarab race cars had some victories with that engine as well. The Chaparral 2a won many road races and the 12 hours of Sebring with a small block as well. The Chaparral 2D won the Nurburgring with a small block Chevy. Last but certainly not least was the SEDCO Chevys also known as the Black Widows. Which won well over 59 NASCAR races more then any other car at that time. The Black widows also dominated the A/stock drag series also. The SEDCO Chevys are powered by…..you guessed it the small black Chevy.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
8 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Rittle

Edit the last part..should be small block Chevy:D

Chris Davis
Chris Davis
8 years ago

I think you meant to say “overstated” about the impact of the Flathead V8. Speaking of overstated, over 100,000,000 million small blocks? Over one hundred million million?

Dieter Roßbach
Dieter Roßbach
8 years ago

The 300sel never came with a V6, they had straight 6 engines

Dalto
Dalto
8 years ago

But they did come with V8s.

TJ Martin
TJ Martin
8 years ago

Hate to say this but y’all went for the blatantly predictable , over used and over homogenized obvious when choosing the Chevy small block as your #1 . Thats comparable to saying Vivaldi’s ” Four Seasons ” or worse yet Gershwin’s ” American in Paris ” the two most over played and beat to death pieces in the classical repertoire as the #1 Classical composition ever written .

Seriously ! As many a hot rod thats had a small block Chevy shoved into it [ due to a total lack of originality ] … how many actual victories outside of Trans Am did the Chevy small block ever attain ? And how many of those victories were on the International stage ? Answer ? ; Next to none ! Even in drag racing and NASCAR the thing was a flop for the most part .

But … to your credit and to my chagrin .. Kudos for the Mercedes inclusion . Shame on me for not remembering that gem when I came up with my list

But the Chevy small block ? As #1 ? A thousand shames upon your souls and may St GearHeaditis curse both you and yours for a thousand years to come and more and may he condemn you to a lifetime of nothing but Reliant Robin’s in your garage …. lol

Ian
Ian
8 years ago
Reply to  TJ Martin

I guess you missed when Team Corvette was mopping up at LeMans in GT1 a few years back, or Australian Supercars (Holden uses small block Chevys.) Then there are the Chaparrals Jim Hall ran in the 60’s, a few of which were eventually outlawed due to their dominance. Just because you don’t particularly care for an engine, doesn’t mean it didn’t have a huge impact. It’s still in use to this day, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. For the record, I’m much more of a Ford guy.

TJMacs
TJMacs
8 years ago
Reply to  TJ Martin

Hmmm…A flop in NASCAR? You’re kidding, right? It seems to me like the small block Chevy ran in every GM bodied NASCAR race car that was ever in competition. That is after the standardization to 358 C.I.D. in that series. Ford took a long time to catch back up. Mopar was outclassed to the point of obsolescence in NASCAR by the ‘lowly’ SBC.
Pro Stock (most notably Bill Jenkins blowing off the Hemis) in drag racing, Dirt Modified and Sprint Cars, never mind hot rods (the high performance engine of choice for pretty much anything due to it’s bang for the buck) and muscle cars are just a few of the areas where this engine shines. It even ran at Indianapolis. Haven’t seen an actual Mercedes (not Ilmor) ever do that. The only thing that has made it ‘obsolete’ is another GM creation-the LS series engines