The 100-millionth Chevy Small Block engine to be built in 2011

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 19, 2011

Chevrolet is expecting to reach another milestone this year: the production of its 100-millionth Chevy Small Block engine. The “Chevy V-8” was presented in 1955 and is known for its power, its affordability, plus the fact that it’s lightweight. When the Small Block debuted, it generated 195hp with an optional four-barrel carburetor and it was the best one in the market at the time.

But then, with the arrival of new technologies, the capabilities of vehicles went up and so did the horsepower. In 1957, the use of fuel injection raised output to 283hp. The Chevy V-8 family had grown by 1970, which was when it offered the 450hp, 454-cid Big Block.

Jim Campbell, vice president, GM Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, said that Chevrolet was transformed with the performance of the Small Block, which made the automaker as the “weapon of choice” for grassroots racers who were on the drag-racing and sports-car tracks throughout the U.S.

It was also used to power Chevrolet’s factory racing programs, resulting to wins in stock car, endurance, and Trans Am series. This racing experience paved the way for more powerful production cars, creating names such as the Corvette, Camaro, Impala, and Chevelle. Campbell said that Chevrolet currently records higher sales for the four-cylinder engines than the V-8s.

However, descendents of the original Chevy small block continue to power Chevrolet’s production and racing vehicles. The Small Block has pushed Chevrolet to become the most successful name in NASCAR history.

The Small Block had powered the Corvette Racing team to achieve seven class wins at Le Mans from 2001 to 2011. But on the roads, the modern Small Block is found in Chevrolet’s full-size trucks like the Silverado and Suburban and even performance cars like the Camaro and Corvette.

With its compact size, remarkable power and available aftermarket components, the Chevy V-8 became the industry’s most popular crate engine. In fact, the Chevy Small Block was the only engine Tammy Ray considered when her 1933 Ford Phaeton hot rod named “Gold Digger” was built before it won the 2010 Ridler Award.

Although her builder advised her that a Chevy provided more horsepower than a Ford, Ray based her decision purely on appearance, saying that the Chevy V-8 was “cleaner,” “more compact,” and more customisable due to the availability of many parts that allowed modification of every part of engine – “right down to the gold nuggets inlaid on valve covers.”

Currently, General Motors Performance Parts offers hot rodders a vast range of new Chevrolet V-8 crate engines. An ideal starter engine would be the classic 290hp 350-cid Small Block, which is affordable and easily customised. At the other end of the spectrum, drag racers might want the ground-shaking 572-cid ZZ572R Big Block which produces 720hp and 685 pound-feet of torque.

GMPP’s latest engine line is the E-ROD engine family, which notably became the industry’s first crate engine to comply with California emissions requirements. The E-ROD engine package is a complete set of components for maximising performance and minimising fuel consumption and CO2 emission of any hot rod. These are the GMPP engine wiring harness and engine control module; a petrol tank evaporative emissions canister; and the exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, oxygen and mass-airflow sensors.

Campbell said that compared to even all other engines combined, “more people do more things with a Small Block.” He adds that any hot rodder can find a suitable Small Block for anything from “a gold-plated hot rod, a 1,000-horsepower dragster, or an emissions-compliant project car.”

Constant Evolution of the Small Block

Nowadays, Chevrolet’s four-cylinder engines outsell their V-8s. However, the original Chevy Small Block has spawned successors that are still utilised in Chevrolet’s top performance production and racing automobiles. Like the original, the modern V-8s are compact and lightweight, as well as powerful and highly efficient.

Sam Winegarden, GM executive director for Global Engine Engineering, said that unquestionably, the 1955 small block is the ancestor of the modern Chevrolet V-8s, as these have the same 90-degree V-configured eight-cylinder configuration, overhead valve location and distinctive pushrod valve train. The main difference is the presence of current technology and materials, such as aluminium blocks, titanium connecting rods, Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing, which were only imaginable in science fiction five decades ago.

The Small Block has also helped Chevrolet achieve the status as NASCAR’s winningest name ever. It was also the engine used by the Corvette Racing team at Le Mans from 2001 to 2011, in which they had seven class wins.

Press Release

100 Millionth Chevy Small Block to be built in 2011

The 100-millionth Chevy Small Block engine will be produced in 2011, commemorating a defining chapter in Chevrolet’s 100-year history. Introduced in 1955, the “Chevy V-8” transformed the brand, and fueled American’s love of performance that continues today.

“The introduction of the Small Block changed everything,” said Jim Campbell, vice president, GM Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The Small Block was an instant success because it offered customers high performance and an affordable price, in a compact design that was very easy to modify. The Small Block also started a wave of innovation – and escalating performance – that transformed the cars Americans drove on the street and the track.”

The Small Block Redefines Chevy Performance

From 1929 and 1955, Chevrolet only offered six-cylinder engines. To address the burgeoning performance market, chief engineer Ed Cole set out to design a Chevrolet V-8 that was powerful, lightweight and affordable.

His solution was elegantly simple: a compact, efficient 90-degree V-8 engine, featuring overhead valves, pushrod valvetrain, and 4.4-inch on-center bore spacing. The Chevrolet Big Block follows the same formula, with the exception of a wider 4.8 inch bore spacing.

When it debuted, the Small Block delivered 195 horsepower with an optional four-barrel carburetor, and outperformed most anything then on the market. But that was just the beginning. New technologies rapidly increased horsepower. Just two years after the Small Block was introduced, the addition of fuel injection increased output to 283 horsepower – or one horsepower for every cubic inch of the 283 cid engine. By 1970, the Chevy V-8 family grew to include a staggering 450 horsepower, 454-cid Big Block.

“The performance of the Small Block transformed Chevrolet,” said Campbell. “The Small Block made Chevrolet the weapon of choice for grassroots racers on the drag-racing and sports-car tracks across America. It also powered Chevrolet’s factory racing programs, leading to wins in stock car, endurance, and Trans Am series. Chevrolet’s racing experience in turn led to more potent production cars, creating legendary names like Corvette, Camaro, Impala, and Chevelle.”

The Culture of Small Block Performance

The combination of compact dimensions, impressive power and available aftermarket parts made the Chevy V-8 the most popular crate engine in the industry. For example, Tammy Ray never considered anything but a Chevy Small Block when building “Gold Digger,” her 1933 Ford Phaeton hot rod that won the 2010 Ridler Award:

“My builder will say you can get more horsepower out of a Chevy than a Ford,” she said. “For me, the decision was based solely on appearance. The Chevy V-8 is much cleaner, more compact, and with so many parts available, I could customize every part of engine – right down to the gold nuggets inlaid on valve covers.”

Today, hot rodders can select from a wide range of new Chevrolet V-8 crate engines from General Motors Performance Parts. For example, the classic 350 cid Small Block, with 290 horsepower, delivers affordable power and easy modification, making it ideal starting point for many project cars. The earth-shaking, 572-cid ZZ572R Big Block delivers 720 horsepower and 685 pound-feet of torque make it ideal for drag racing.

The newest addition to the GMPP line is the E-ROD engine family, the first crate engine in the industry to meet California emissions requirements. The E-ROD engine package includes everything customers need to get modern performance, emissions and fuel economy out of their hot rods, including: GMPP engine wiring harness and engine control module; exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, oxygen and mass-airflow sensors; and even a fuel-tank evaporative emissions canister.

“More people do more things with a Small Block than any other engine, and probably more than all other engine platforms combined,” said Campbell. “There’s a Small Block to fit almost any hot rodder’s needs, whether they are building a gold-plated hot rod, a 1,000-horsepower dragster, or an emissions-compliant project car.”

The Continued Evolution of the Small Block

Today, Chevrolet sells more four-cylinder engines than V-8s. But, descendents of the original Chevy small block still power Chevrolet’s most-capable production and racing vehicles. As per the original, the newer V-8s are physically small and light – and extremely efficient at turning fuel into horsepower.

“Without question, the current Chevrolet V-8s are lineal descendants of the 1955 small block,” said Sam Winegarden, GM executive director for Global Engine Engineering. “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.”

On the track, the Small Block has made Chevrolet the most-winning name in NASCAR history, and it powered the Corvette Racing team to seven class wins at Le Mans between 2001 and 2011.

On the street, the modern Small Block powers Chevrolet’s full-size trucks, such as Silverado and Suburban, as well as performance cars including the Camaro and Corvette. These modern engines deliver levels of power, durability, and efficiency that were inconceivable 50 years ago. For example, the 6.2L Small Block in 2012 Corvette delivers 436 horsepower, up to 26 miles per gallon, and is backed by General Motors’ five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

“Constant innovation and evolution have made the Small Block relevant for more than 50 years,” said Winegarden. “We are actively working on the fifth generation of the Small Block, which we believe will be the best V-8 engines ever made. By adding new technologies, such as direct injection, we will continue to improve the performance, durability, and efficiency of the iconic Chevy V-8.”

About Chevrolet

Founded in Detroit in 1911, Chevrolet celebrates its centennial as a global automotive brand with annual sales of about 4.25 million vehicles in more than 130 countries. Chevrolet provides consumers with fuel-efficient, safe and reliable vehicles that deliver high quality, expressive design, spirited performance and value. The Chevrolet portfolio includes iconic performance cars such as Corvette and Camaro; dependable, long-lasting pickups and SUVs such as Silverado and Suburban; and award-winning passenger cars and crossovers such as Spark, Cruze, Malibu, Equinox and Traverse. Chevrolet also offers “gas-friendly to gas-free" solutions including Cruze Eco and Volt. Cruze Eco offers 42 mpg highway while Volt offers 35 miles of electric, gasoline-free driving and an additional 344 miles of extended range. Most new Chevrolet models offer OnStar safety, security and convenience technologies including OnStar Hands-Free Calling, Automatic Crash Response and Stolen Vehicle Slowdown.

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