Ah, the eight-cylinder engine. Beloved by muscle car fans, pickup truck owners, and the entire “no replacement for displacement” crowd. It’s a design that’s persevered from the early days of motor vehicles to today’s fastest and finest — but which eight-cylinder is the best? That’s the question we posed to you all yesterday, and today we’re looking through your answers for the top picks. Here’s what you came up with.
How about a different one then all the muscle car engines and exotics that are the obvious answer? I give you the international Navistar T444E also known as the Ford Powerstroke 7.3L. It was the workhorse of Ford’s super duty trucks for many years and also powered many school buses and work vans. Bullet proof reliable and capable of handling lots of power adders. In its final form (with turbocharger and intercooler) it made 275hp and 525 lbs.-ft. of torque.
If there really is no replacement for displacement, then the 7.3-liter Powerstroke is truly irreplaceable. For context, that’s more displacement than the last five vehicles I’ve owned — combined.
Any answer that’s not a straight-8 is wrong. I’m going with the Duesenberg:
The straight-8 is an underappreciated engine. It has all the fuel efficiency of a V8, but takes up twice as much space along the length of your car. Things that are bad are good, and this is good.
Ford-Foyt Indy V8
The Ford - Foyt Indy V8 is best because A.J. Foyt ! The engine traces its lineage back to the Miller inline 8 because Miller designer Leo Goossen, along with Miller engine builder and three time Indy 500 winner, Louis Meyer, helped develop it. It first won Indy in 1965 with Jim Clark at the wheel of the Lotus 38.
Remember when IP law wasn’t Disney-strict? When a racing driver could just buy the rights to an entire engine design and everyone was okay with that? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Cosworth DFV V8
The Cosworth DFV 90° V8 is the winningest racing engine of all time, and it looks great and sounded great, so I’ll go with that...
If I won the lottery, I’d put a DFV V8 into something hilariously incongruous. Maybe the back of a Mk1 Golf, Renault 5 Turbo-style. Anyone want to help crowdfund this?
Since I am first, I’ll take the obvious winner.
1964, 425 hp (gross) and 490 ft-lb of torque (Gross) where the official numbers, but dyno tests showed more like 433/472 (Net) which means that the official numbers were sand bagged by around 10% or so.
That engine is still out there and has a significant aftermarket for racing. In full race trim, it is easily the most powerful car engine ever, regardless of number of cylinders (actual horsepower and torque measurements are unavailable because no dyno can measure over 10,000 hp).
No engine has won as many races as the 426 Hemi. The vast majority of which were 1/4 mile long or less.
A list of the best eight-cylinder engines legally has to include the 426 Hemi. It’s just a prerequisite, a 101-level best engine. I can’t not give it a slide.
Small Block Chevy...
Even though I’m not a Chevy guy, it’s got to be the SBC. You could make strong arguments that the aftermarket industry as we know it wouldn’t exist without it. It brought speed to the people.
In absolute terms, the Porsche 918 Spyder’s V8 is probably my pick. 4.6L, 608 hp, 9150 RPM. Insane.
Ah, how times change. Remember when Chevrolet’s logo was written in space-age cursive? Neither do I, but I want it back anyway.
...And Its Modern Successors
I’ll go with the obvious here. GM’s SBC, LS, and now LT engines. Relatively small, light, powerful, torque-y, reliable, cheap, versatile, no exotic technology to deal with, any mechanic can work on it, parts are everywhere, you can easily buy a crate motor direct from GM or from a million other suppliers, etc. Sure, there are certainly more powerful, higher revving, stuff out there; but it’s gonna be more expensive, less reliable, bigger, or have some other major compromise. This is the most well rounded of all V8s in my opinion.
From the ashes of the SBC, rises the engine that likely comes to your mind when you think V8. The LS is the eight-cylinder, the one that ends up in every YouTuber-swapped SEMA build and half the drift missiles at your local skidpan.
The GT40's 427
I vote for the 7-liter 427 cubic inch V-8 in the Ford GT40 MkII, if nothing else than for the underdog story that accompanies it. As I’m sure most everyone that patronizes this site already knows, it was the engine that famously helped Ford take 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the 1966 LeMans race, humiliating Ferrari after the famous snub of Henry Ford II by Enzo Ferrari.
Everyone loves an underdog, a Cinderella story. Sure, this one comes from one of the world’s largest and wealthiest auto conglomerates, but still. It counts.
The Flat Plane 5.2L from the GT350, just for the unique sound in a NA engine.
The Ford Voodoo exhaust note is, in my opinion, the best combustion sound you can buy for under $200,000. Maybe more.
Let’s go with the 4.0L McLaren M840T.
Based on the Nissan VRH engine, it replaces the 3.8L M838T as the main tea kettle in the break room at the Woking factory. Produces 612hp and 465 ft lbs of torque in the GT and up to 833hp and 590 ft lbs torque for the Senna GTR LM. Most common configurations are puttering around between 710-755hp in the 720s and 765LTs. In true British form, casual glances at the 4.0 twin turbo V8 is considered poor taste so the engine bay is only accessible by McLaren technicians. I believe this keeps the fainting and swooning to a minimum in polite company.
God save the King.
What’s more quiet, composed, and unassuming than a 600+ horsepower V8? One with not one, but two turbos, of course. How very stiff-upper-lip.
Dark horse candidate here but I am going with the Chrysler 318 (LA), later to become the 5.2. This engine was a literal workhorse that went into anything Chrysler could stuff it into. It was never a high horsepower engine, but it was smooth, torquey and reliable. It started life as carbureted engine and ended with multiport fuel injection. Developed from the first LA engines that rolled off the line in 1964, the last one, a 5.9 was made in 2003.
Why don’t engines come with cool names any more? This one’s called the Fireball — that rules! The best we can do now is Hellcat, which — while neat — is a low-production enthusiast engine. Rename the Pentastar something interesting.
A-925 DOHC 426 Hemi
I have 2 nominees:
The Novi. Designed for Indy. Claimed to have over 450 hp from 2.7 liters in 1941. Never had a chassis or tires that could handle the power.
The A-925 DOHC 426 Hemi. 2 built as a response to the Ford SOHC 427 “Cammer” before NASCAR outlawed “exotic” engines. Would have been a world changer with Chrysler’s engineers. Imagine a Daytona Charger with one of these beasts.
I think that says it all.
Oldsmobile’s 455 is peak big block for me. If you were lucky, you got a steel crank (factory issues meant even some cars that were supposed to have steel got cast iron), but of all big blocks GM’s divisions put out in the 60's and 70's the Olds 455 was... well, it just looked really awesome. It had what looked like a massively wide intake manifold and just kind of attracted all the attention when you popped the hood.
The name “Oldsmobile” conjures such images of staid, practical cars. It’s always neat to see where the company once was, how interesting it used to be.
No love for the Cadillac 331? I see lots of comments about how advanced the SBC was when it came out, but it was standing on the shoulders of Cadillac and Oldsmobile engines that had already been out for several years. Every OHV V8 owes a huge debt to the Caddy 331. Meanwhile, the various Bugatti straight 8s and the Duesenberg J are pretty compelling, too.
The 331 is a real classic, dating back to long before my birth. Also, my parents’ birth. Feel old yet?
For making cocktails, I just stick with the original.
Ayy, MikeofLV everybody! Give ‘em a hand, they’ll be here all week!