These Are The Ten Best Classic Eight Cylinders
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.