Hooniverse Asks: What is the best V8 engine of all time?

I believe the V8 is the greatest of the combustion engines. It’s inherent balance produces wonderful noise. There’s lots of power to be produced with a good V8. You don’t need forced induction to help it go. It’s immediate. It’s wonderful. The V8 is great. But which V8 is greatest?

Now that is a tough question. It would be easy to point to the General Motors LS family of engines. There’s a reason the LS is used in every engine swap under the sun. Even Hollywood knows about the LS, because the LS3 is most often the engine of choice for your average on-screen stunt car. It’s durable, easily repaired, and makes over 400 horsepower right out of the box.

Mopar fans, we know. You have some seriously great powerplants providing juice for many a muscle machine. From the 60’s and 70’s, on up to modern day, it’s easy to make a case for a Mopar family member. Hellcat all things, after all, right?

Settle down Ford folk. Of course I know what you have on your side. Hell, you won at Le Mans right? More than once, in fact.

We haven’t even gotten into European or Japanese V8s. Because there are some heroes on both sides of both ponds.

What do you think is the greatest V8 of all time? Sound off below!

33 Comments

    1. Without necessarily wanting to take away from that, it’s only because the rules basically prevent the use of anything else.

      1. For the first couple decades of their development, that wasn’t the case. Other combinations took the win light less and less, and eventually anything beyond the default configurations became a handicap in the pits. How would you like to be the only one running a 392 or BBC, blow up your last good block, and not be able to borrow a spare one from any competition?

        1. That’s definitely true, but since what, mid-90’s-2000 or so they have banned anything else, I gather to put some sort of limit on spending

          1. It made things easier on the rulebook and the handicapping staff, too. Minimum car weight, maximum displacement, a mostly spec engine recipe…done. It used to be all kinds of weird variables like X number of pounds per cubic inch for splayed valve engines, and Y pounds per CID for true wedges, except the number would be changed to Z if there were two engines in the car, but those could run no more than 50% nitromethane…

            Here’s some inside baseball about the McGee quad cam dropping out of the circuit. http://www.draglist.com/artman2/publish/daily_stories/The_Real_Story_of_the_McGee_Quad-Cam_Engine.shtml

          2. Yes I was aware of the McGee engine, and there is a reason many racing categories are so tightly controlled. But at the same time not as interesting as when it was possible to innovate, eg Indy through to about the 1970s.

  1. The Ford FE. It’s a truck motor, a sedan motor, a bus motor, a boat motor, a muscle car motor, a dragster motor and yeah, it finished 1-2-3 at LeMans in 1966. It’s the motor in the freakin’ Batmobile, okay?

    Beginning production in 1958 and ending in the mid-seventies malaise that killed all the big blocks, this thing powered the 1960s motorsports scene while also keeping the wheels of commerce turning.

  2. The LS needs another 30 or so years. I’ll go with the original old school Chevy Small Block. Still going strong in the crate motor category.

    1. Not only that, the SBC is the people’s V8 (and certainly, in sheer numbers, must be the most common V8). Beyond excellence and racing pedigree (which it does have), it’s powered everything from work trucks, to common commuters, to limos (possibly even propelled heads of state?), to sports cars, to high-end exotics. There has been an SBC for nearly all purposes, which is admirable in its own right.

  3. your Great Grandmothers 1972 Caprice 327. She used to do unintentional burnouts. I stole that car a few times in high school. It was amazing!

  4. It’s almost impossible for the answer to be anything but the small block Chevy. 1954 – 2003 production, over 100 MILLION units, can make just about any amount of HP (including 120 for my grandma’s 1976 Caprice). Pretty much bulletproof reliability, parts available on every street corner… The fact that it was designed in the early ’50s and was still in production 50 years later says it all.

  5. I can’t pick a favorite, let alone a best, so I’ll go with cultural significance. Credit where credit is due, the Ford flathead popularized the notion of a V8. If you wanted power, you wanted a V8. That began with the flathead. The SBC changed the game, but the flathead wrote the book.

  6. I’ll make the case for the chevy big block. It’s not an all ’rounder, but in terms of being an accessible platform for Big Dumb Power, it has come through for half a century. The LS may be closing in on that measure, but my experience with the Pontiac V8 had me frequently checking what the equivalent would have been with a Chevy engine, both SBC and BBC and I kept coming to the conclusion that it was just stupid easy to go fast with those engines.

  7. I’ll go out on a limb and say the flathead Ford V8. It brought V8 power to the average car buyer. For it’s time it was truly revolutionary with a cast crankshaft, first mass production monoblock v8, high pressure lubrication system, etc. It is part of the foundation of the performance aftermarket industry, as well as instrumental in the growth and popularity of auto racing of all kinds in the U.S. Hemi heads (via Duntov) Roots Superchargers, fuel injection, all became into common use on the flathead Ford.

  8. Since I need to be different and not jump on the GM LSx bandwagon, I’ll say Mercedes M156. It’s the 6.2 liter v8 used in all the “6.3” badged AMG cars. It makes a glorious noise, pulls strong to fuel cut, and returns phenomenally badge fuel economy. What’s not to love?

  9. I like far too many V8s to choose the best. I’ve enjoyed Ford 390s and 289s and AMC 360s, but those are just personal favorites with which I have experience. The V8 in the current F-Type is impressive, and I was once very surprised by a Volvo V8 with a tuned exhaust. And while I don’t care for the sound of it, Ford’s Voodoo V8 is amazing. Honestly, other than the old Rover 3.5 and the Chevy 305, I’ve not really ever encountered any bad V8s.
    Edit: I will say that I strongly prefer V8s to be naturally aspirated.

      1. Thank you for bringing up both Moto Guzzi and Morbidelli for me, plus the RC40 that exists sole because the FIM banned V8s.

  10. I’ll go out on a limb and say the flathead Ford V8. It brought V8 power to the average car buyer. For it’s time it was truly revolutionary with a cast crankshaft, first mass production monoblock v8, high pressure lubrication system, etc. It is part of the foundation of the performance aftermarket industry, as well as instrumental in the growth and popularity of auto racing of all kinds in the U.S. Hemi heads (via Duntov) Roots Superchargers, fuel injection, all became into common use on the flathead Ford.

  11. Really, to say something that isn’t the Small Block Chevrolet family is the greatest V8, you have to prove why it’s greater than a SBC.

    I don’t think I can do that for any of the competing domestics. A case might be made for the Ford sidevalve V8s and their making V8 power accessible, but they were supplanted for a reason.

    You could make an argument for, say the Toyota UZ – extreme smoothness, the basis of Lexus’s launch, good enough to eat the Germans alive, and it certainly didn’t hurt Toyota’s durability reputation. There are, of course, complaints about serviceability in the Lexus LS application, but you could also find UZ engines in pickup trucks and SUVs.

    …but is it really greater than the LS engines? Hell, for the last year of the 2UZ-FE in the Tundra, a Silverado with the Vortec 4800 was more efficient and more powerful (although not as torquey – VVT probably helped), despite having one less gear in the transmission! (You could certainly say that it’s greater than the old Gen 1 SBCs that the 1UZ-FE competed against, though.)

    Someone might suggest a Ferrari V8 purely on character, to which I say… if we’re gonna play that game, I’ll nominate the Volkswagen W8 even though it’s technically not a pure V8. Terrible serviceability, not particularly impressive power, less efficient than the big V6 would’ve been, but holy shit, it has character. And noise.

    1. Admittedly, my familiarity with Chevrolet engines isn’t the greatest. However, I don’t consider the LS to be a “SBC”. Unlike the LT1 of the early 90s, the LS (to my understanding) wasn’t an evolution of the SBC, but a nearly all-new replacement for it. I thought it had little in common with the older engine except for bore spacing and a few other trivial parts (maybe lifters, considering the LS was OHV). From discussions I’ve had at car shows, the “SBC” ended in the mid-90s. I never thought of it as anything more than “Chevy’s V8”. Ubiquitous, reliable, and cheap, but not special.

      The LS is admittedly an impressive engine. It’s relatively inexpensive and makes great power, and manages to be competitive with much more modern designs. My only problem with it is that it’s so ridiculously common in swaps. When I see “LS-swapped [whatever]”, I move on, because everyone has been there and done that already.

      I think “best V8?” is an ambiguous question, really. “Best” could be interpreted as most reliable, most utilized, best engineered, best bang-for-buck, best sound, best torque… it’s all up to interpretation. I personally would put the LS into the “bang-for-buck” category, but would leave the original SBC out of the argument altogether.

  12. “She’s the last of the V-8s”

    “You can shut the gate on this one, Maxie. It’s The Duck’s guts!”

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