Even though the first Corvettes started with the Blue Flame in-line six-cylinder engine as the standard powerplant, the V-8, offered since 1955, has become the car's iconic means of motivation. Today, as part of the car's ongoing 60th anniversary celebrations, GM has released a short history of the Corvette V-8s.
Ranging in power from 195 horsepower in that first 4.3-liter unit to 638 horsepower in the supercharged LS9 under the see-through hood of the current ZR1, the "small block" V-8 architecture has played a role in every generation of Corvette. Corvette says that upon introduction of the first V-8 in 1955, 99 percent of orders opted for the eight-pot engine.
These days, you can even go to the Corvette factory and build your own LS small block.
According to Chevy, these are the most significant engines in the Corvette's small-block repertoire--in the company's own words:
- 1957 283 “Fuelie” – Almost 30 years before the widespread adoption of fuel injection, the Corvette offered it on the newly enlarged 283-cubic-inch small-block, resulting in 283 horsepower – and the one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch benchmark that is still considered a noteworthy performance achievement for modern engines.
- 1969 350 – The small-block’s displacement grew throughout the Fifties and Sixties, but when it settled at the 350-cubic-inch mark in 1969, an icon was born. Many enthusiasts equate the small-block with the classic 350, which remained the Corvette’s standard engine through 1996.
- 1985 “L98” Tuned Port Injection – Although electronically controlled fuel injection was introduced on the Corvette in 1981 (the early “Fuelie” engine featured mechanical fuel injection), it was the 1985 introduction of the L98-code engine and its Tuned Port Injection system that launched the modern era of performance. Its basic port-injection design is used on the 2013 Corvette and almost every other gas-powered vehicle sold in America.
- 1997 LS1 – The third generation of the small-block debuted in the C5 Corvette. Completely redesigned, it introduced a new aluminum “deep skirt” cylinder block, high-flow aluminum cylinder heads and more – all while retaining the basic 4.4-inch bore-center design of the original small block.
- 2006 LS7 – Co-developed with the C6.R racing program, it is the highest-performance naturally aspirated production small-block in Corvette history, rated at 505 hp, with a 7,000-rpm redline. It was introduced in the C6 Corvette Z06 and is also included with the 2013 427 Convertible Collector Edition. It is hand-built at GM’s Performance Build Center near Detroit.
- 2009 LS9 Supercharged – It’s the most powerful automotive production engine ever from Chevrolet and its 638 supercharged horses help push the Corvette ZR1 to a top speed of 205 mph. Like the LS7 engine, it is built by hand at the Performance Build Center.
We ask you: Which is your favorite? Are you a fan of the modern gear, or do you have a nostalgic lust for the small blocks of yesteryear?