Memorable Muscle Car Engines

3rd Feb 2011

It's really amazing how identifiable so many engines from the muscle car era have remained throughout the years.  Whether it is through your own experience with cars, you wear the Mustang apparel because it looks cool or via pop culture as in the song by the Beach Boys My 409, engines are inextricably woven into the American Lexicon.

Chevrolet 327 V8 Probably the most popular engine of the muscle car era was the Chevrolet 327 V8.  This multi-purpose engine delivered big horsepower in a small package.  It was highly reliable and was inserted in so many Chevrolet models that a gear head with a couple of buddies could swap one out of their muscle car over a weekend and be back on the road Saturday night.

The 327 spawned a multitude of aftermarket products making it easy to repair and the ability to increase its performance on a limited budget.  With a few affordable enhancements you could create a tire burning monster from a sleepy little sedan.  The manufacturers took notice of what the aftermarket was doing and began offering high performance engines direct from the factory.  Fuel injection and four barrel carburetors became more and more popular right off the showroom floor.

Ford 351 cubic inch V8 Chevrolet was not the only manufacturer to realize this phenomenon.  Ford V8's were produced with cubic inch displacements ranging from the modest 289 to the monstrous 426.  One of their most popular and highest performing engines was the 351 cubic inch V8.  This workhorse had the advantage of both power and compact size so it was able to be used in everything from a Comet to a Grand Torino.

Chrysler 426 Hemi Chrysler was not to be left outdone.  With its ardent following of Hemi lovers some of the highest output engines were produced for the Dodge brand.  Without a doubt the most neck jarring engine to come out of a Chrysler plant was the 426 Hemi.  The quintessential example of sheer displacement for Chrysler was the 440 cubic inch behemoth that was shoehorned into the Dodge Coronet made famous among muscle car aficionados packaged as the Super Bee.

Plymouth had its own version of the “super” series in the Superbird based on the Roadrunner that boasted the same 440 cubic inch engine as an option in 1969 over the standard 383 cubic inch version.  Plymouth enhanced the 440 with the three deuce configuration of carburetors.  This consisted of three two barrel carburetors mounted linearly from front to back; an impressive view under the hood to say the least.

It is quite remarkable that each manufacturer was able to create such a distinctive personality for their power plants.  You would be hard pressed to find a similar example of the competition for performance based on specific engines in today's marketplace.  To view it in a historical sense reaching back more than half a century makes it that much more significant in its importance to the development of the entire automotive industry in the United States.