In Sept. 27 Issue
By Ron Cowell, Columnist
Russell County News
Back when Chevy first started building automobiles they were powered by a 299 cubic inch six cylinder engine. They could reach a top speed of about 65mph and go from zero to 50 in 15 seconds. That's not too impressive by today's standards but back then Chevy was one of the fastest cars on the road.
Chevy released it's first V8 engine in 1917. The 90-degree overhead valve design debuted in the D series. That was the last of the original long wheel base cars. That eight cylinder would only last about 2 years when Chevy stopped making it to develop the 4 cylinder version. In 1929, the 6 cylinder reappeared and the V8 never came back in the picture until 1955.
During the early years, the 30's, a power struggle was developing between the major auto companies. Ford's V8 versus the six cylinder engines from Chevy, and Chrysler got the battle going even more. Chevy introduced a new high compression design called the Blue Flame six in 1934. Chevy would advertise 80 horsepower and 80 mph. This was the only time in History that Chevy would advertise the top speed of an auto.
Ford was filling the market with the V8 engine during this time and Chevy developed a new four-main-bearing six for it's 1937 cars and trucks. The Chevy engine would produce as much horsepower as the Ford V8 but with better economy, about 15 to 18 mpg.
Then in 1950 Chevy introduced an even more powerful Blue Flame Six, with 235 cubic inch and 300,000 Chevy cars were equipped with "Powerglide". A record production for Chevy that year was 2,108,273 Chevys built.
As most car enthusiasts know the 55 Chevy made a big impact on the automotive market when it showed up. Most of the impact came from the all new 265 cubic inch V8 engine that was under the hood. The small block almost instantly changed the slow, poky image the Chevy had earned with it's stovebolt six.
The new V8 was peppy, smooth, compact and unlike Ford and Chrysler, the engine was light. It became known as the mouse motor, jumping the horsepower from 180 to 211. Optional fuel injection in 1957 helped an even bigger 283 inch small block hit the magical, one horsepower per cubic inch mark.
In 1958 Chevy offered an all new engine, the W block, which would later turn into the 409. The SS Impala and it's optional 409 V8 quickly proved itself in the V8 performance circuit when it blew away the competition in the 1961 Winter Nationals Drag Racing Championships in Pomona, CA. In fact the 409 along with a four speed transmission and some handling extras placed the Impala SS among the fastest automobiles at that time. Then in 1962 the SS package could be combined with an even gutsier, dual quad 409 horse 409.
The 396 made it's debut in the 60's as well. The 396 came into the picture in 1965. And was a standout performer in Corvette trim, pumping out 425 hp.
That big block eventually grew to the 454 Cubic inches, and by 1970 cranked out 450 hp in a LS6 trim.
As the 70's rolled around and the gas crunch started all the automotive companies went back to smaller, more fuel-efficient engines. Yet they still offered the V8 motor on some vehicles.
Time and space limit how far we can go with the history of the Chevy engines, but I think most people who are into the muscle cars and the hot rods really lost a lot of interest when it went to smog control and smaller more efficient engines. Computers in cars and chips made it hard for the back yard mechanic to work on his own car. That's what makes the old classic cars what they are today to some.
To be able to get under the hood and turn a wrench and a screw driver and get that baby purring like a wildcat without the aid of a computer or some fancy tool.
Maybe down the road sometime we will look further into the History of the Chevy motor and bring us all up to date.
If your Car Club is having an event and you would like us to tell everyone about or someone who you would like to see featured in this article send all information to, email@example.com
All information on upcoming events needs to be in at least two weeks before the event.
If your Club or church or group is having an event and you would like to display some classic cars at that event let me know at least two weeks before the event.
I will put you in contact with one of the clubs that will gladly bring their cars out for display.
Until next time... Keep Cruisin !