Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"A 350 is a 350 is a 350"—NOT! And Other Misconceptions About GM V8 Engines Debunked

With the Crate Engine, the Chevy 350 lives today.
Photo: GM media website.
With GM's rightful reputation for badge engineering—slapping the brands of their different divisions on essentially lookalike bodies—it isn't at all unreasonable that many people think that the same idea applied to powertrains in the glory days of the storied GM V8 engines like the Chevrolet 350.

Plus, there is the ubiquitous cliche uttered by many gearheads—or wannabe gearheads—when talking about the hot-rodder projects they dream of: "put a 350 in it."

It's easy to have the misconception that, if you look at a Chevrolet, a Buick, and a Pontiac from the 70s, each with a 350 ci V8, you're looking at the same engine three times.

But there's a problem: it isn't true.

Here's a quick history lesson—if you want more detail, you'll find copious amounts of research fodder on the Interwebs. In a nutshell, over the decades, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Buick each had separate and very innovative powertrain engineering and manufacturing operations. And each, at some point, arrived at the magic number of 350 cubic inches of displacement that, for its time, packed a lot of horsepower and torque into a reasonably compact footprint.

But they all got to that 350 number in different ways, through different bore and stroke combinations—bore being the width of the cylinder, and stroke being the height of the cylinder through which each piston travels in its explosive internal-combustion journey.

All that said, in the end, only the Chevrolet 350 survived long enough to make it into the 90s, when the small-block Chevy was used in a number of GM models like the Chevrolet Caprice and the Buick Roadmaster. The other GM divisions eventually stopped making their own versions of the 350 V8.

There are some other common misconceptions about the fabled Chevrolet 350 that need to be debunked as well:

  1. While 5.7 liters is indeed roughly equivalent to 350 cubic inches, the 5.7 V8s available in GM products today, like the Corvette, some Cadillacs, and Chevy trucks, is NOT based on the classic small-block Chevrolet V8 platform. Today's LS series was engineered from the ground up and is now earning its own much-deserved reputation as a classic.
  2. No, the 5.7 V8 motors that you see in some other marques, like Toyota Tundra pickups, are not Chevy 350s. They are completely different motors with different architectures.
And yet, even today, if you're a performance-minded gearhead, you can still "put a 350 in it"—and a brand spanking new one, at that, because the Chevy 350 lives on. If you're so inclined, you can order a newly manufactured 350 V8 crate engine and have it delivered to your doorstep.

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