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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

10 of Chevrolet's Greatest Racing Engines Throughout History

AUTOS CHEAT SHEET

Source: GM


Source: GM
 
Driving cars like the insane Cadillac CTS-V with its supercharged 640 horsepower Corvette motor are what gets gearheads like me all hot and bothered. By firing up that bowtie-clad crate motor, you’re celebrating Chevy’s lengthy and well-documented history of building race engines. Plus, the neighbors probably need to learn how to appreciate the aroma of race fuel reaching combustion anyways.
 
One of the great things about being an American citizen is freedom of choice, and in the case of automotive fanatics like ourselves, this means having the freedom to order a full-blown 454-cubic-inch LSX454R crate motor online.
With a racing history that spans more than a century, and the motor-building heritage to back it up, its race engine programs continue to slowly be consolidated beneath a single roof at the all-new Powertrain Performance and Racing Center up in Pontiac, Mich.
 
Thanks to the guys over at GM, who have graciously opened their photo vaults to us, you too can now get a brief history lesson on the science behind the evolution of Detroit muscle.

1. 409 V8


Source: GM


Source: GM
 
As the longstanding patriarch within the Chevy Big Block engine family, the 409 remains the quintessential race motor of yesteryear. Even though it made its debut all the way back in 1961, this motor continues to command the respect of enthusiasts with its strong torque curve and high horsepower capabilities. In its heyday, the 409 was churning out around 425 horsepower, making it an obvious choice for any GM enthusiast who wanted to dominate in NHRA Stock and Super Stock drag racing classes. Easily recognizable due to its W-shaped rocker covers, the 409 is about as iconic as it gets in the engine world.

2. 427 “Mystery” Engine


 
Source: YouTube/RK Motors Charlotte


Source: YouTube/RK Motors Charlotte
 
Back in 1963, NASCAR racer Junior Johnson raised both pulses and eyebrows with a performance of unprecedented proportions during a Daytona 500 qualifying race. Stuffed beneath the cowl of his car was a 427-cubic-inch engine, which had recently been dubbed the “Mystery V8″ in a magazine article. GM says this engine was specially designed by Chevrolet and “included design elements that would evolve into the Big Block family.” Later, plans to name the motor the “Mark II” V8 were scuttled when a corporate edict pulled GM brands from organized racing, thus limiting its potential and presence.

3. 302 Small Block


Source: GM


Source: GM
 
By the late 1960s the SCCA’s Trans-Am road racing series had morphed into a monster, and Chevrolet’s new Camaro was gearing-up to offer pony car competitors a swift backhand… to the face… with a torque wrench. But right away there was a problem; at that time, there wasn’t a suitable production engine in the lineup that met the series’ strict displacement limitations. But by utilizing its wide range of Small Block options, engineers were able to take the 4-inch bores from the 327 engine and mate it with the 3-inch stroke out of a 283 engine in order to achieve an idealistic 302 cubic inches. In an effort to get the engine homologated (inspected and approved) for series eligibility, Chevrolet opted to install it in a special version of the Camaro which ended up having an option code that you might recognize: Z28.
 
4. 427 ZL1 Big-Block
 
 
Source: GM
 
Source : GM

First developed for the now-defunct Can-Am racing series, the 427-cubic-inch ZL1 engine was resurrected when a certain Chevrolet Dealer by the name of Fred Gibb took Chevy’s special ordering system to a whole new level. Commonly referred to as “COPO,” this special ordering process allowed Gibb to build fifty custom 1969 Camaro muscle cars with race-spec, all-aluminum high performance motors. Once other dealers got wind of this procedure, everyone was talking about the Gibb’s special package, and even though only 69 ZL1-powered Camaros ever hit the streets, these motors flourished as engine swaps grew increasingly popular and easy to execute. This engine offered the best of both worlds for GM enthusiasts, as it had all of the power of a Big Block but with a curb weight that came in around 100 pounds less thanks to being almost entirely constructed out of aluminum.

5. SB2 NASCAR Engine


Source: GM

 
Source: GM
 
This motor represents the first time Chevrolet worked on developing an engine package exclusively for NASCAR racing, a move that without question earns the 1998 debut of the SB2 motor a place on today’s cheat sheet. Based around the bones of the classic Small Block V8, this race-spec motor took things to a whole new level with things like unique cylinder heads for better flow, a one-off valve arrangement that enabled higher RPM gains, all with more efficiency and durability than any conventional GM cylinder head to date. The proof was in the pudding too; famed NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon took his SB2-powered Monte Carlo to the series championship that year with 13 total wins, and was crowned the Winston Cup Champion that year.

6. R07 NASCAR Engine


Source: GM

Source: GM
 
Once the aforementioned SB2 engine program proved to be fruitful beyond its expectations, Chevrolet set about looking at ways in which it could be made even more potent. First introduced in 2007 as the R07 race engine, this monstrous V8 benefited from cutting edge “computational fluid dynamics,” which helped optimize high-speed airflow. Designed strictly as an engine that was meant for NASCAR racing, the R07 had nothing in common with previous Small Block or Big Block engine designs other than being made of metal and having things like eight pistons within its walls. Having said that, it did feature “mirror port” cylinder heads, something that was similarly seen in GM’s infamous line of LS engines.

Interestingly enough, this same engine still powers NASCAR Sprint Cup racers to this day, with 15 recorded wins in 2015 alone claiming Chevy a record-setting 13th consecutive manufacturer title.

7. 7.0 Liter Corvette C6.R



Source: GM

Source: GM
 
The Corvette Racing C6.R was an absolutely amazing vehicle to watch on track. It logged 39 wins in the GT1 class, multiple championship wins from 2005-2008, 12 consecutive wins from 2005 to 2006, and 25 succeeding wins from 2007-2009. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but all those wins were made possible by a production-based 7.0-liter (427-cubic-inch) race engine. Concocted to house a forged steel crankshaft, titanium intake valves, sodium-filled exhaust valves, titanium connecting rods, a dry-sump oiling system, and hydro-formed exhaust headers that featured unique “quad flow” collector flanges, the LS7.R engine was an unstoppable monster for its time.

8. Chevrolet/Ilmor 2.65 Liter Turbo V8


Source: YouTube/2008uenopanda

Source: YouTube/2008uenopanda
 
Perhaps one of the more obscure engine tales comes to us today hidden within the documentation of Chevrolet’s 1986 CART Champ Car series. After partnering with England’s Ilmor Engineering (on the insistence of Roger Penske), a small-displacement, 2.65-liter turbo V8 engine was born. Positive performance results were staggering, and before long this oddball engine had become most racers’ preferred powertrain. All the way up until 1992, the 2.65-liter motor ruled the roost, owning 64 of the 78 races outright, and racking up six consecutive IndyCar Indianapolis 500 wins.

9. Chevrolet/Ilmor 2.2 Liter Twin-Turbo V-6

Source: GM

 Source: GM
Chevrolet’s return to IndyCar racing in 2012 received a significant amount of fanfare, due to the all-new 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 that it was showcasing. Much like the amazing Chevy engines of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 2.2-liter motor was co-developed in partnership Ilmor Engineering. This direct-injection, small-displacement engine produced around 700 horsepower consistently, was near impossible to break, and powered various Chevrolet drivers to 10 wins during the 16 races in 2015 alone, a feat that included Juan Pablo Montoya’s famous Indy 500 win.

10. 1.6 Liter Turbocharged Inline-4


Source: YouTube/ChevyWTCC's channel

Source: YouTube/ChevyWTCC’s channel
 
Our final engine isn’t the biggest one, it’s definitely a fun one. The Chevy Cruze helped elevate Chevrolet’s motorsports program onto an international scale, and even though it’s just a 1.6-liter turbo motor, it absolutely dominated the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) series back in the day. Scoring more wins than any other manufacturer, four consecutive driver championships (2010-2013), and three consecutive manufacturer titles  from 2010 to 2012, the Chevy 1.6-liter turbo proved that dynamite can come in small packages. Isn’t it funny how something as mundane sounding as a pint-sized production engine found in a Chevy Cruze can take the world by storm?