8 Biggest V-8 Engines Detroit Ever Sold in a Car (We’d Bet You Didn’t Even Know About #1)

What Was The Biggest V8 Engine To Roll Out Of Detroit?

Updated September 28, 2018

When in doubt, bore it out. There’s no replacement for displacement. There’s no substitute for cubic inches. Here are 5 motors where Detroit did just that.

What’s interesting is that many of the largest engines weren’t intended for muscle cars – they were intended to go under the hoods of full-sized luxury cars. They’ve since become a source of cheap horsepower for drag racers and street rodders alike.

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Number Eight: Chrysler 440

The 440 CID engine was produced from 1965 until 1978, making it the last version of the Chrysler RB big block. From 1967 to 1970, the high-performance version was rated at 375 hp with a single four-barrel carburetor, and from 1969 to 1971, but with three two-barrel carburetors (“440 Six Pack” for Dodge, “440 6 Barrel” for Plymouth) the motor produced 390 hp.

For 1972 all engines, including the 440,  featured lowered compression, more conservative cam timing, and other changes to comply with tighter emissions regulations. The 1972 440 produced only 335 hp gross, and  225 hp under the new SAE net rating system.

Engine power dropped a bit each year until 1978, when it was rated at 255 hp (in police specification) and limited to large sedans and police packages.

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Number Five (tie): Pontiac 455, Oldsmobile 455, Buick 455

While these are three completely different engines, it’s difficult to discuss one without referencing the others.

The first to enter service was the Pontiac, dating back to 1955 (same year as the small block Chevy). The Pontiac engine maintained the same externally dimensions through its entire life (with the exception of deck height), the last Pontiac engines were produced in 1981. The only identifier used to differentiate the smaller displacement engines from the larger ones was by crankshaft journal size. The Pontiac 455 engine featured the larger 3.25″ journals. With a longer stroke than bore width, the engine was geared more to the production of low-speed torque than top end horsepower. The 1970 H.O. version of the 455 produced 370 hp but with a diesel-like 500 ft-lbs. of torque. To final installations were in 1976 when emissions hardware and unleaded fuel requirements sucked power down to a net of 200 hp.

Oldsmobile Generation II V8 was introduced in 1964. The “big block” version, was brought out in 1965, which shared the same dimensions as the “small block”, except for an increased deck height to accommodate a longer stroke. The ultimate version of the engine was installed in the 1968 – 1970 full-sized front wheel drive Toronado GT coupe, in its W34 form, and produced 400 hp gross. Production continued through 1976, which produced 275 hp net in its final form.

In 1967 Buick introduced a new “big block” design to replace the infamous “Nailhead” V8. In regards to bore:stroke ratio, it was the opposite of the Pontiac engine, an oversquare (large bore than stroke) design, which should be better suited to high revs and higher horsepower, usually the the expense of torque.. Oddly though, it generated 10 ft-lbs more than the comparable Pontiac and was the highest torque output of any engine in the first muscle car era. Horsepower seems strangely out wack as well, with the high-performance GSX Stage 1 package rated at just 360 hp for 1970. The last Buick 455s were manufactured in 1976, again the victim of ever-tightening regulations.

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Number Four: Lincoln 460

Designed as a replacement for the older MEL 462 V8, the 460 version of the Ford “385” family of motors was designed for smooth, quiet driving (unlike its “385” brother the Ford 429) as installed in the Lincoln Continental. The engine produced 365 hp (gross), limited by its relatively small carburetor. The 460 was phased out for use in passenger cars in the late 70s, but continued to be produced with minimal modifications in trucks, RVs, and boats until production ceased in 1997.

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Number Three: Lincoln 462

Despite near identical engine displacements, the Lincoln 460 and Lincoln 462 are completely different engines. The Lincoln 462 was based on the MEL engine block architecture (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln), first produced in 1958. The 462 engine produced 340 hp and was used only in Lincoln Continentals, from 1966 until mid-year in 1968 when it was replaced by the 385-series 460.

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Number Two: Vortec 8100

If you’ve been wondering where on our list the Big Block Chevy has been hiding, here it is. And since SUVs carry passenger car plates, the Vortec 8100  qualifies under our rules. Where Ford and Dodge turned to V10 designs to create gasoline-powered engines for their larger pickups, GM dusted off the 454 big block and almost completely redesigned it for Chevy and GMC trucks, vans, and Suburbans.

Chevy  retained the same bore diameter as the old 454 , but the stroke was upped by 0.37 in to reach 496 CID (8.1L). Power output was 340 hp, which compares favorably to the 1972 LS5 454 output of 270 hp (both SAE net, with the Vortec meeting even stricter emissions regulations than the LS5).

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Number One: Cadillac 500

The 1960s were a horsepower war not just among muscle cars, but luxury cars as well. Cadillac had its V8, but its design limited its displacement to 429 CID, less than Lincoln and Chrysler.  As a result Cadillac developed an all-new engine for 1968, a 375 hp V8 with a displacement of 472 CID. In 1970 Cadillac raised the displacement again by stroking the motor to 500 CID. It was rated at 400 hp with a truck-sized 550 lb·ft of torque.

As emissions and mileage regulations came into effect, each passing year took a toll on the engine’s output For 1971 compression was reduced from 10:1 to 8.5:1, which dropped power to 365 hp, or 235 horsepower under the new SAE net ratings. By 1976, its final year, power had fallen to 190 hp. There was a brief reprieve with the introduction of an option fuel injection system where power rose back up to 215 hp net, however the big motor’s days were numbered and it was dropped after the 1975 model year.

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Note: Ford did produce a Super Duty V8 (not to be confused with the Super Duty model of truck) from 1958 to 1981 for medium- to heavy-duty trucks in three displacements:  401, 477. and 534 cubic inches. These were heavy, slow-revving motors designed for buses, concrete mixers, and garbage truck applications. There’s no evidence these engines were installed in any passenger vehicles at the Ford factory.




Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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