The Chevy small block V8 was first released in 1954 in the 1955 model year Chevrolets, the company can’t possibly have known it at the time, but their new engine was about to revolutionize the American automotive industry.
Today the small block V8 is one of very few engines that even non-car people will typically recognize, largely thanks to the fact that it’s been a core staple of the American car world for 70 years and counting.
Fast Facts – The Chevy Small Block V8
- Chevrolet developed the small block V8 to compete with the popular Ford Y block V8 that had been released in 1953.
- The name “small block” is a bit of a misnomer, as some of the small blocks that were built had displacements up to 400 cubic inches (6.6 liters). The name had originally come about to differentiate the small block V8 from the larger Chevy “big block” V8s.
- With the release of the legendary flathead V8 in the 1932 Ford and the later Ford Y block V8 that had come to replace it in 1953, Ford was the undisputed king of building mass-market V8s. The Chevy small block V8 was designed specifically to take this title from Ford.
- The Ford flathead V8 had democratized V8 power for the masses when it was released in the 1930s, but it would be the Chevy small block that did the same in post-WWII America.
This 43 minute long documentary does a fantastic job of showcasing the conception, development, and release of the small block V8, as well as the importance of the first production cars they were fitted to – the 1955 Chevrolet.
The small block V8 was almost certainly the best mass-produced V8 in the world when it was introduced.
This new engine was smaller, lighter, and more powerful than previous American V8s, and hot rodders soon realized that it was very responsive to tuning – making it popular for street performance cars and race cars up to and including the professional level.
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