Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Automotive Engine, Ever?

Engineering has been the rule of thumb this week, and we’ve gathered your opinions on examples both good and bad, but there’s no more important mechanical part of any car than the one that makes it go. The earliest were tiny one-lungs, while the biggest can make the thumps of Paul Bunyan’s axe seem like a kitten’s fart by comparison. Engines, internal combustion for the most part, but also encompassing steam-driven and even electric, are the single most important factor in defining the personality and capability of most any car.
And each is as individualistic and unique as a Terrance Malik film.
Where does your allegiance lie? Do you like V8s, or do your proclivities run more to the high-revving fours  favored in places like Italy and Japan? Maybe the progeny of the suicidal Felix Wankel really gets your triangle spinning, or perhaps you prefer aircooled boxers to briefs?
In the 100-plus years of the auto age, seemingly every form of engine has been tried, from air-cooled radial to ubiquitous ohc inline four, and even instant-torque electric. Some have proven more successful than others, while some barely cause a blip on Wikipedia’s stream of consciousness. Out of all those, there must be one that stands head and shoulders – or at least valve covers and headers – above the rest?
Image source: [bdmotorsports.com]

94 Comments

    1. If you refer to it being just a bigger small block Chevy then you would be wrong. The heads are VERY different in design and valve layout. The engine only shares a common transmission mounting flange and distributor with small block Chevys and nothing else that is usually engine specific interchanges. Some people do use BBC oil pumps on SBC's and 348/409's, but they are different.

      1. Whoever deleted that comment I posted earlier, thanks.
        Vented for no reason and took it out on Jim. Apologies. Going to find a corner and a cold beer to calm myself further. No reason to take a moment of anger from my daily life and carry it to this place.

  1. The straight six. Works so well in almost anything it is put in.
    <img src=http://image.streetrodderweb.com/f/29448251+w750+st0/1012sr_02_o+1931_ford_coupe+1956_chevry_235_straight_six.jpg>

    1. Let's take a moment to glower in the general direction of Mercedes for switching to V6 in 1995.

    1. It would be interesting to see what could be done with a modern straight 8 based on the Dusey. It would be a shame to take an existing one and hack it to shreds to find out, though.

  2. I agree. We used to get about half a million miles out of the Caprices we used when I was a cab driver. With the original SBC. Maybe the trans would have to be rebuilt, maybe the rear end, but the engines soldiered on.

  3. For "most improved" engine, I'd have to go with the GM 3800. It started out as the rough and gutless Buick 231 V6 when they bought it back from Jeep in 1974. It ended up as a smooth, torquey, economical, and nearly-indestructible workhorse engine for GM.

    1. Riding on that cylinder would be the most fun roller coaster ever…until the exploding part.

  4. Why, the air-cooled V8 in the back of a Tatra 603.
    Also, I must give props to the worst engine ever, the HT4100. That damn thing was with us in some form until recently.

  5. For me it's a tough call between the BMW S54, BMW S85 or Honda F20C. I love me some revs.

  6. The Pontiac V8, of course. Simple and bulletproof, the Pontiac V8 pioneered stamped rocker arms (with zero lash lifters), which were then adopted for the Small Block Chevy. They also used stout cranks with large main journals, and just ten beefy bolts per head. Also a dual plane intake manifold with separate valley cover, and D-shaped exhaust ports.
    <img src="IMAGE URL" width="600">
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5a/Pontiac_Tripower.jpg"&gt;

    1. This is also my pick. I love the way they sound, look, and make power in the midrange where it's the most fun. Plus, no matter how much you spend making one pretty, the paint's gonna burn off those heads in no time and it's going to look like a working man. Just like the one in this pic.

    1. The golden part of that video for me is hearing Keith Duckworth talk about building engines.

    1. The 12V version gets my vote simply because I've never heard a 24V.
      It's the greatest sounding engine I've ever heard. Between the fact that 4000 rpms sounds like 8000, and the sound changing pitch at least 4 times as it goes through the revs, it's incredibly addictive.
      I've had a 84 3.0 GTV6 for 11 years and I've been threatening to sell it for the last 6. That idea only lasts until about the 3rd or 4th run though the gears every spring.

  7. I'm going to go in a different direction and nominate a couple of truck engines:
    The Detriot Diesel Series 60 and the Navistar DT466 (now known as the MaxxForce 7).
    Why? The Series 60 was the first diesel to be computer controlled and the DT has been used for years with the same basic design! I've even seen a few used un Unlimited tractor pulling comps!

  8. Ive always liked the "Sprint" package for the Pontiac OHC-6, shame Chevrolet did`nt do anything like that for the 250.

  9. I read on Allpar, that Chrysler tinkered with the idea of a twin-cam, slant 6. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

  10. Volkswagen 1600DP. Despite the type-4 being superior; the ubiquity, robustness, interchangeability and aftermarket support makes the type-1 my favorite.

    1. Yes. There is no other engine I can think of that is quite as "customizable" or as "unique" or even as "stout" as the dual port. The single may be a bit better for turbo/super charging but there is just something about the DP. Plenty of low end torques for dune buggies and rail cars. Enough top end to pass people without having to drop gears(dropping gears in most cases would overrev/kill engine). I loved my DP. The only reason I sold that car was for rust issues.

  11. Bit surprised it hasn't been mentioned, but I will always have a soft spot for the Ford Flathead V8. Partly because of the history, but also because it's just damned pretty.
    <img src="http://www.hotrodscustomstuff.com/OLD_SITE/Cars/Culton-32/Culton32-02-02.jpg&quot; width="600">
    And, by extension, I've got love for the Lincoln Flathead V12. Sure, it was a largely crap engine, but it fills me with "what if?" and wondering what we could do with that engine, properly hot-rodded today.
    <img src="http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/jalopnik/2009/03/Ford_Zephster.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. With a good running Flathead V8 you should be able to count off the cylinders as they fire , there is a 90 Lb flywheel spinning behind the motor

    1. The wikis are your friend, but it's mostly head design. The Cleveland has humongous ports and valves, which made it a great engine for higher-rpm applications.

      1. The Windsor is a small block like a 302 and the Cleveland was actually built for marine purposes with heavier casting and totally different water passages for marine use , it belongs to the 335 family which included the 351M and 400M there were also some 302 Cleveland produced .

  12. I like different engines for different reasons. One of my all time favorites has to be the Nissan KA24DE. I really love reliability and modestly maintained KA's are damn near indestructible. My old Frontier has 362,000 city miles on it's original KA24DE and the only reason I parked it in my back yard is because I can no longer afford to drive a vehicle that only gets 21 mpg city. I also like that they are nearly a bolt in swap for the old Nissan L series engines as they are an evolution of them. Thus they can be bolted in place of, say an L16 in a PL510 with oil pan mods.
    I also like the Suzuki G10 for practical reasons. Most cars they come (Swifts, Metros and clones)in get 40-55 mpg without being hybrids. As an added bonus, you can actually lift the engine out of the engine bay BY HAND because it only weighs 137 lbs. They are also great engines to swap into lightweight cars like the Mini to make a practical classic car that is easy to get parts for at any local parts store.
    For fun, nothing beats the budget friendly nature of the small block Chevy. Newer designs like the LSX may be capable of more than the 56 year old SBC, but they can't do it on the budget that the SBC can. It is not without it's flaws (low nickel engine blocks, for example) but all in all it has been the way to go fast on a budget for generations and that makes it worthy of love.

  13. Hmmm…Favorite to own, drive, or just appreciate from afar?
    Hard to beat the ownership experience of a small block Ford or an AMC/Jeep I-6. Generally speaking, you're not gonna do better for power per unit volume (at a given reliability) than an LS-series engine.
    Favorite to bring up for no good reason? Buick/Old Turbo-Jetfire 215 V8. An all-aluminum, small-displacement, turbocharged, methanol-injected motor from GM. In 1962.
    <img src="http://forums.pelicanparts.com/uploads16/F851265410528.jpg"&gt;

    1. The funny thing is that it was only rated 15 hp more than the top N/A variant of this engine used in the Buick Special. The heads were different on the Olds vs the Buick, but it is still sort of funny that the turbo added so little.

      1. I'd be very curious to see actual dyno torque curves from both. (Remember that both were rated in the SAE gross system, which bore only a nodding resemblance to as-installed developed output.)
        The Jetfire was not designed for maximum peak output — Olds was very concerned with low-speed drivability, and they were trying to avoid the off-boost lethargy that tends to afflict high-boost turbo systems. As I recall, a manual-shift Jetfire (which was relatively rare) was faster than a manual 200 hp Skylark, although certainly from a cost standpoint, the latter made a lot more sense.

        1. That would certainly be interesting to see. I know that the Jetfire used a very high compression ratio (10.25:1?) to make up for the lag that early turbo had and that it produced very little boost (5 psi if memory serves). That boost probably did not come on until high up in the power curve due to the lag and as such likely did not come in to play during most driving conditions. I often wonder how much power could be made with that engine using a modern turbo, like the Garrett GT series or even the undersized unit off the VW 1.8T and fuel injection.

    1. I wanted to click on your thumbs up, but it was at +6, so I couldn't change it. Consider this a metaphorical thumbs up instead.

  14. SHO V6, because it's pretty and I'm a Yamaha fanboi.
    <img src="http://www.britishv8.org/Other/NormanRest/NormanRest-AJ.JPG&quot; width="480">
    Fiat 8V, just because it's a rare and exotic, tiny Italian V8.
    <img src="http://www.velocetoday.com/images/april06/8v-6.jpg"&gt;
    And finally, if we can pretend it's Tuesday for a moment: Honda RC166.
    <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ao3uUOVmQo8/SO8WSBqIXrI/AAAAAAAACaw/Ri3VkDrt4ss/s400/rc166-2.jpg"&gt;

    1. I've wanted a SHO V6 swapped into something that isn't a taurus for a long time. Like a fiero or some other ill-advised platform.

  15. I love the engine in the Apollo-STS Crawler Transporter .
    <img src=http://members.optushome.com.au/paylward/images/crawler/ctengine.jpg>

  16. Well I’m with you guys:
    anything flat – 2cv 602 flat twin indestructable; Citroen GS flat four – revs to 8000 and sounds great; Scoobie flat four – all that Citroeny goodness but with added power and reliability – just listen to the warble
    anything else aircooled. Porsche? Nah. Did someone say Tatra? And if a 3.4 litre aircooled V8 hung out the tail isn’t good enough try the aircooled truck diesels
    Best of all – gotta be that Alfa V6. Mine did 99000 and was still fully on song
    Engines are good if they sound good – now pass me that Maserati…

    1. I'll drink to that, but because of the engine itself — I'm biased against anything that only has to run for an hour before it's thrown out. No, it's the fact that they cast the intake arm into the damned chassis mount that impresses me most. It's weight reducing, wheelbase-shortening genius!

  17. The Mercedes W196: Inline layout, fuel injected, desmodromic, and dominant in everything from Formula One to Le Mans to the Autobahn.

  18. I'm amazed, I know 6cyl has been mentioned but I figure a quick shout out to a couple of the greats is deserved.
    2JZGTE
    <img src="http://i.ytimg.com/vi/HuI30KP61P4/hqdefault.jpg&quot; width="500">
    RB26DETT
    <img src="http://image05.webshots.com/5/5/49/22/71754922uYKeQJ_ph.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Lastly, with all the 1000hp Lancer Evo motors out there no one has given a shout out to them.
    <img src="http://lh6.ggpht.com/_NRSDCBt4i-U/SwFDSLP0S1I/AAAAAAAADvg/0kEb6HYl5Dg/AMs EVO X engine.jpg" width="500">

  19. I was just (this morning) reading about the Porsche F1 engine in the latest edition of evo magazine. Looks so insane compared to the BMW above.

  20. I agree. We used to get about half a million miles out of the Caprices we used when I was a cab driver. With the original SBC. Maybe the trans would have to be rebuilt, maybe the rear end, but the engines soldiered on.

    1. Weird. I posted this reply to P161911's comment this morning, and it disappeared when I checked back on it tonight. Hoonibles is in a bad mood. If I remember correctly, there were also other completely relevant responses to his writing.

  21. I know I posted my affinity to the Pontiac V8 earlier, but that's really just my favorite car engine. I think the Honda NR 750 V4 is the coolest engine ever. Oval-shaped pistons, people!

  22. I've only owned two cars, so I'm going with the engine in the first, the Nissan VQ30. Very underappreciated because it was only found in the Maxima. What a nice engine: revs easily, fabulous midrange torque, good grumbly sound when you want it, 200k+ expected without any major work – besides replacing every sensor, like, five times. The VQ35 has been in more or less everything Nissan makes for the last eight or nine years, so the VQ30's legacy is carried on nicely.
    I'm sure there are better engines out there, but the VQ is the best one I've owned. (There's not a lot of competition.)

  23. If you cut me I bleed blue so im going to say the Ford Windsor , it started out as a 221 CID motor and grew to 351 CID . Production of the Windsor ran from 1962 all the way to 2001 when the last 5.0 went into an Explorer . The Windsor is a bullet proof motor that has turned many drivers into champs because of it's reliability .

  24. The true Mac Daddy of Big Blocks needs a mention here too , the 427 SOHC ( Cammer ) . The story goes that engineers threw the motor together in less than 100 days in 1964 and It shit all over the HEMI 426 until 1968 when Ford went with the 385 series block . In crate form the 427 was producing over 700HP , that's over 100HP per liter in 1964 Honda fans . It didn't take long and
    NASCAR forever banned the use of big blocks in racing .

  25. I love a lot of those already mentioned, especially the Duesenberg DOHC/4-valve-per-cylinder straight-eight. It was a true marvel in its time. I also love the Jaguar V8 in my Land Rover LR3. However, my personal favorite has to be the venerable Jaguar DOHC in-line six that powered all the Jags from the XK-120 through the E-Type and beyond. I had an XK-150 for seven years and never got tired of driving it or polishing the aluminum cam covers and other engine bits or simply staring at it!

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