It's been around since 1954 and is as American as country music and apple pie: General Motors' small-block V8. His future should now be secured by an investment of almost one billion US dollars.
Small Block, Turbo-Fire, Crossfire, LT, LS, Vortec - the all-American all-purpose V8 from General Motors knows countless names and has been used in even more different passenger cars, pick-ups, vans since its debut in 1954 , trucks, muscle cars and sports cars installed. It has even been used in sporty motor boats.
To keep it that way, GM has now invested around 918 billion US dollars (currently the equivalent of around 845.5 million euros) in equipping the engine plants in Flint and Bay City (Michigan), Rochester (New York) and Defiance (Ohio) invested. New stamping and casting tooling lines at the Rochester and Defiance plants also include the manufacture of electric car components.
Widespread and easy to repair
The extremely wide distribution of the engine family is the main reason for the further development to the meanwhile sixth generation of the small-block V8. The need for the production of commercial vehicles of all kinds alone requires several million engines every year. Consequently, the supply of spare parts throughout North America works more closely than in almost any other example of use. The old truism that says any village blacksmith from New York to Los Angeles can repair a Chevy V8 applies here.
Various measures have contributed to improving the economy of the eight-cylinder in the past. Cylinder deactivation was implemented by interventions in the valve train and the injection system, as were variable control times or different displacements. Since the 1970s, the most modern types of exhaust aftertreatment have been used throughout; since the early 1980s, carburetors have also given way to injection systems. Since only a fraction of all small blocks are charged using turbochargers or compressors, the emission of fine particles such as soot also remains low. In the current versions, the 5.3 Vortec, currently the most frequently built GM V8, has a consumption of almost eleven liters per 100 km - and that in pick-ups and SUVs that roughly take up the footprint of a Mercedes Sprinter. Camaro and Corvette drivers sometimes achieve eight to nine liters per 100 km with the most economical driving style.
The basic design has not changed for 70 years
The basic design of the engine has actually not changed since 1954. Of course, every component from the engine block to the spark plug has been optimized and newly developed countless times. But just like back then, it's a V8 with a 60-degree bank angle and a central camshaft that controls the valves via pushrods and rocker arms. Even the layout of the ancillary units such as the servo pump or generator is almost identical.
Nothing more precise is known about the technical details of the latest engine generation. What is certain, however, is that GM is also planning to use large-volume combustion engines in the long term. "The investment and hard work and dedication of our colleagues in Flint, Bay City, Rochester and Defiance allows us to build world-class products for our customers while ensuring job security at the plants for years to come," said the GM -Vice President of Manufacturing and Sustainability, Gerald Johnson.
The current small block of the fifth generation has been installed in different variations since 2013. While most engines are used in the technically largely identical pick-ups and full-size SUVs from Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac, there are also performance-optimized variants in Corvette, Camaro and Co. A normal car application, as it has been for decades in large US sedans, but has been missing for several years. Here only the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing remained, which in turn carries the 6.2-liter supercharged engine from the earlier Corvette Z06 as a conventional four-door.
Is the V8 still contemporary? If you don't think of it as a romantic vice of muscle car enthusiasts, yes. For use in light commercial vehicles, the blend of performance and efficiency is hard to beat for the American usage profile. There are now also downsized turbo petrol engines with just 2.7 liters displacement and almost the same performance, but they often consume more than the V8 archetype, for example when towing a trailer. Efficiency knows many sides.