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Engine Of The Day: The Very First Chevrolet V8

Illustration for article titled Engine Of The Day: The Very First Chevrolet V8

We haven't had an Engine Of The Day for a while, but the Chevrolet Series D V8 engine deserves some attention. 288 cubic inches, overhead valves, crossflow heads… and it was manufactured 38 years before the small-block Chevrolet engine. That's right, Chevrolet had an OHV V8, generating an excellent-for-its-time 55 horsepower, back in 1917! Chevrolet was absorbed by General Motors that year, and the Series D was dropped when The General's marketers decided to make Chevrolet its low-priced marque… but imagine what might have been, had early hot-rodders become accustomed to cheap V8s in the decades before the Ford Flathead V8.
[How Stuff Works] Image source: GM Photo Store


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Advanced in design, the 1917 V-8 had a central camshaft operating vertical overhead valves in each bank, a counterweighted crankshaft, and detachable crossflow cylinder heads. Displacing 288 cubic inches and breathing through a Zenith two-barrel carburetor, it developed 55 horsepower at 2,700 rpm, running on 4.75:1 compression.

This is probably because gasoline had an octane rating in the mid-40s in those days. 4.75:1 was probably pushing it, and 55 HP was about as good as it got for that size engine during World War I.