Ranking The 8 Best V8 Engines Of All Time (And The 7 Worst

Ranking The 8 Best V8 Engines Of All Time (And The 7 Worst

  • Most people associate V8 engines with American muscle cars or modern performance, but they have actually been around since 1904.  V8 engines were additionally intended for airplanes and speed boats, but Cadillac was the first company to mass produce the V8 engine for automobiles.  After World War II, all American auto companies were mass producing V8 engines, and with few exceptions, still continue to this day.

Any car enthusiast admires the power, sound and performance of a V8 engine.  However, like most things, not all V8's are created equal.  While there have been legendary performers, there have also been a number of missteps along the way.  For a variety of reasons, car manufacturers have produced engines that have become famous for all the wrong reasons.  These include poor performance, reliability issues, bad design concepts or just simply being rushed to production without adequate testing in order to meet demand.

What follows are 8 of the best and 7 of the worst V8 engines of all time.

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15BEST: 1964-1971 CHRYSLER 426 HEMI

Via HotRodNetwork

Known as a Hemi due to the shape of the combustion chamber, the second generation Chrysler 426 V8 is the holy grail of muscle car enthusiasts.  Affectionately known as the "elephant" due to its large displacement and massive torque, cars with this engine often command premium prices on the auction block. A $605 dollar option in 1969.

14BEST: 1967-2003 CHEVROLET 350

Via TheTruthAboutCars

First produced in 1967, the Chevy 350 is the best known small block in GM's engine inventory.  It is remarkably versatile and has powered everything from the Chevy Camaro to the Cadillac.  It came in numerous horsepower and torque configurations, and is also considered one of the easiest engines to rebuild with aftermarket parts.

13BEST: 2007-2013 BMW S65

Via eBay

The BMW S65 V8 engine was the power plant used in the M3 between 2007-2013 when it was replace by a turbocharged V6. At 4.0 liter displacement, it produced 414 HP, and at 8200 rpm, it was the highest revving engine BMW has ever produced.  BMW has produced some fantastic engines, but the S65 is one of the best V8 engines ever.

12BEST: 1997-2004 CHEVROLET LS1

Via LSXMagazine

The LS1 was a 5.7 liter V8 first introduced by GM in 1997 for use in the Corvette.  By 1999 the LS1 was also being used in Camaro's and Firebirds.  The LS1 is known for its reliability and was a significant improvement over the previous generation V8 engines in the GM inventory.  It can also be easily modified for increased performance.

11BEST: 1965-1970 CHEVROLET L78

Via Pinterest

Introduced in 1965, between 1966-1969 the L78 was the most powerful production option available in the GM intermediate car line.  It was used in the Chevelle initially, and eventually available in the Camaro and Chevy II.  By its final production year in 1970, it was bored out to 402 cubic inches but still labeled a 396 do the name popularity.

10BEST: 1969-1970 FORD BOSS 302

Via Hagerty

The 302 was initially conceived as a small block engine that Ford would use to compete in the 1968 Trans-Am season.  It had many high performance elements to include forged pistons and connecting rods, thicker cylinder walls and free flowing headers.  The 1969-1970 Ford Boss Mustang is actually named after the engine.


Via Hagerty

Although the entire Pontiac line had V8 engine options starting in 1955, the best engines were produced in the 1960s.  The Pontiac small journal V8 is probably better known as the 389 cubic inch engine that initially powered the GTO.  In 1968 the small journal was bored out to 400 cubic inches and included many performance options.

RELATED: 8 Old Pontiac Cars That Stood The Test Of Time (And 7 That Did Not)

8BEST: 1965-1970 CHRYSLER 440

Via Hagerty

The Chrysler "B" engine known as the 440 made its debut in 1965 rated at 375 horsepower.  By 1969 a triple two barrel Holley carburetor system was an option and increased horsepower to 390.  Know as the six-pack or six-barrel, it was available in Plymouth Road Runners and Barracudas as well as Dodge Chargers and Challengers.


Via Hagerty

As gas prices skyrocketed in the late 1970s, car manufacturers scrambled to make their vehicles more fuel efficient.  In 1980 GM rushed a diesel engine design in to production with severe consequences.  Blown head gaskets and engine moisture intrusion were common as well as a very noisy engine.  All for 120 horsepower and negligible mileage improvements.

RELATED: 10 Cars From The '80s That Were Just Awful (And 10 From The '90s)


Via Hagerty

In 1970, British Manufacturer Triumph designed the Stag to compete with Porsche.  They decided to convert the existing inline 4-cylinder engine to a V8.  There were numerous problems with the design from the beginning.  The engine had an inadequate cooling system for its size and you even had to jack the car up to add additional coolant.

5WORST: 1980-1981 FORD 4.2

Via YouTube

The 1980-1981 Ford 4.2 comes from the famed Windsor line of V8 engines, however, that is in name only.  The 4.2 was an option in the Mustang and provided a whopping 118 horsepower and 194 ft-lbs torque.   It also had a very restrictive head design and a two barrel carburetor which further restricted any sort of V8 performance.  The lowest rated Mustang V8 ever.

RELATED: These Are The Least Reliable Cars From Ford…Ever

4WORST: 1976-1992 CHEVY 305 H.O

Via Hagerty

The 305 V8 was GM's standard engine throughout the 1980s and used in Camaros, Firebirds and the Monte Carlo.  Restrictive intakes limited the average horsepower to 150. Despite a number of engine modifications during the decade, the engine was severely underpowered and was pretty much a low point in GM engine performance.

3WORST: 1981 CADILLAC 8-6-4

Via MindOverMotor

The 8-6-4 refers to a design to shutdown cylinders when they weren't needed for highway driving.  As a fuel savings measure the concept sounded good.  However, the execution did not work so well.  Due to lack of computer power in the 80s, cylinder shutdown was a noisy maneuver to include loud pinging whenever the pistons disengaged.

2WORST: 1979-1981 GM 267

Via Hagerty

The GM 267 was another V8 engine rushed to market in an attempt to get better fuel economy.  Installed in a number of GM models, it had 127 horsepower.  Among other problems, the 267 had difficulty meeting emission standards and its parts were not compatible with other GM engines.  It only lasted two years and was discontinued for the 1982 model year.

1WORST: 1977 PONTIAC 400/6.6

Via HemmingsMotorNews

By 1977 Pontiac had discontinued the 455 cubic inch engine and the replacement was the 400/6.6 liter V8 engine.  The result was a detuned V8 with a 4 barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, but producing only 180 horsepower.  A special edition package would push power to close to 200 horsepower, a pretty far cry from any sort of V8 performance.

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