In the time since the first sports cars’ wheels were turned in anger, few engines have made a greater contribution to vehicle performance thanCorp.’s small-block OHV V-8.
Introduced in 1955 for the then-new Chevrolet Corvette and Bel Air sedan, the compact and tunable 265-cu.-in. (4.3L) “mouse” quickly outpacedMotor Co.’s flat-head V-8 of the day, becoming one of the preferred means of laying down rubber in a hot rod or muscle car.
Millions of these lumps of iron and aluminum have been built over the years, with family sedans, pickup trucks and NASCAR- and at Le Mans-winning racecars all having made the characteristic small-block rumble.
Now in its fourth generation, GM’s OHV V-8 enters the 21st century true to the original cam-in-block formula, yet is vastly superior to its ancestors.
Modern tire-screeching variants, such as the 7.0L LS7 in the Corvette Z06, have 505 hp on tap and sport electronic throttles, plastic intakes and dry-sump oiling systems.
Others, such as the 2008 Ward’s 10 Best Engines-winning 6.0L Vortec LFA in the GMC Yukon Hybrid SUV, bring the small block into the digital age with sophisticated valvetrains, cylinder deactivation and assistance from advanced hybrid-electric transmissions.
Ultimately, it was the Vortec’s integration with the new Two-Mode gearbox and the polish of the overall package that won over the Ward’s judges this year. However, none could refute the corruptive power of GM’s other new V-8 entry: the 6.2L LS3 in the ’08 Corvette.
With the optional butterfly exhaust clearing its throat under a heavy foot, the LS3 churns out 436 hp and a hard-hitting 428 lb.-ft. (580 Nm) of torque. In the lightweight Corvette, the result is a startling amount of thrust, along with impressive refinement and fuel economy, for less than $50,000.
The technical achievement of the hybridized LFA is notable in this modern era of energy conservation. But the LS3 also deserves its recognition for the world-class performance it gives America’s sports car, as well as for continuing the lineage of GM’s most legendary powertrain.
Ward’s 10 Best Engines is copyright Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the program and/or awards are prohibited without prior permission of Ward’s Automotive Group.