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GM Press Release: GM Builds 100-Millionth Small-Block Engine

Rob

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GM Builds 100-Millionth Small-Block Engine

Milestone LS9 assembly at Performance Build Center comes 56 years after introduction

2011-11-29

WIXOM, Mich. – General Motors today will build its 100-millionth small-block engine – 56 years after the first production small block – representing an engineering legacy that continues to deliver greater performance and efficiency through advanced technology.

Chevrolet introduced the small-block in 1955 and the production milestone comes in the same month the brand marked its 100th anniversary. The small-block engine has been used in GM vehicles around the world and is currently found in global Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, as well as Vauxhall in the United Kingdom and Holden in Australia.

"The small block is the engine that brought high-performance to the people," said David Cole, founder and emeritus chairman of Center for Automotive Research – and whose father, the late Ed Cole, was the chief engineer at Chevrolet and oversaw development of the original small block engine. “There is an elegant simplicity in its design that made it instantly great when new and enables it to thrive almost six decades later.”

The milestone engine is a 638-horsepower supercharged LS9 small block – the power behind the 205-mph Corvette ZR1 – which is hand-built at GM’s Performance Build Center, northwest of Detroit. It represents the fourth generation of the small block and is the most powerful engine ever built by GM for a regular-production car. GM will preserve the engine as part of its historical collection.

The small block has been adapted in almost innumerable ways throughout the auto industry and beyond. Updated versions of the original Gen I engine are still in production for marine and industrial applications, while “crate engine” versions offered by Chevrolet Performance are used by thousands of enthusiasts every year to build hot rods. The 4.3L V-6 used in some Chevrolet and GMC full-size trucks and vans is based on the small-block, too, but with two fewer cylinders. All of these versions contribute to the small block’s 100-million production milestone.

"This tremendous achievement celebrates an engineering triumph that has reached around the globe and created an industrial icon,” said Sam Winegarden, executive director and group global functional leader - Engine Engineering. "And while the small-block’s enduring design has proven adaptable to meet performance, emissions and refinement challenges over the years, it has more importantly delivered them with greater efficiency."

Current small blocks engines feature all-aluminum cylinder block and heads in car and many truck applications to help save weight and contribute to greater fuel economy. Many applications feature fuel-saving technologies such as Active Fuel Management – which shuts down four cylinders in certain light-load driving conditions – and camshaft phasing, which continuously alters valve timing to optimize performance, efficiency and emissions.

The 430-horsepower (476 kW) LS3 version of the Gen-IV small-block helps the 2012 Corvette accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about four seconds, run the quarter-mile in just over 12 seconds and achieve a top speed of more than 180 mph – all while achieving EPA-estimated highway fuel economy of 26 mpg. That compares favorably against many sports and performance cars:

  • The 2012 Audi R8 is EPA-rated at 21 mpg on the highway with a V-8 engine
  • The 2012 BMW 650i coupe is EPA-rated at 23 mpg on the highway with a V-8 engine
  • The 2012 Nissan GT-R is EP-rated at 23 mpg on the highway with a turbo V-6 engine.

It also compares favorably against many vehicles known more for soccer practice drop-offs – and fuel economy – than quick lap times on a road course:

  • The 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan is EPA-rated at 24 mpg with a four-cylinder engine
  • The 2012 Subaru Legacy sedan is EPA-rated at 25 mpg with a flat-6 engine
  • The 2012 Nissan Maxima sedan is EPA-rated at 26 mpg with a V-6 engine.

“The small-block engine delivers guilt-free performance,” said Winegarden. “It is the quintessential V-8 engine and a living legend that is more relevant than ever.”

GM also announced Tuesday that the fifth-generation small-block under development will feature a new direct-injection combustion system that will help enhance efficiency over the current-generation engine.

“The small-block architecture has continued to prove its relevance in a fast-evolving industry and the fifth-generation engine will build on the performance legacy with a significant advance in efficiency,” said Winegarden.

GM is investing more than $1 billion in manufacturing facilities associated with producing new small-block engines, resulting in 1,711 jobs that have been created or retained. The Gen V engine is expected in the near future and is guaranteed to have 4.4-inch bore centers – the center-to-center distance between cylinders that has been part of the small-block’s architecture from the beginning.

In the beginning

GM didn’t invent the V-8 engine, but interpreted it in a way that made performance accessible to millions of new customers. It got its start in the years following World War II, after Chief Engineer Ed Cole transferred to Chevrolet from Cadillac, where he oversaw the development of its premium V-8 engine.

Cole’s team retained the basic overhead valve design that was a staple of Chevrolet’s inline-six engine – affectionately called the Stovebolt. It was seen as one of the Chevrolet car line’s selling points, reinforcing a message of simplicity and reliability. Cole challenged his engineers to tighten the new engine package to make it more compact, less costly and easier to manufacture.

Upon its debut in the 1955 Chevy lineup, the new V-8 engine was physically smaller, 50 pounds lighter and more powerful than the Stovebolt six. It was not only a better engine for Chevrolet cars, it represented a better way of building engines, with a minimalist design that took advantage of streamlined production techniques.

After only two years on the market, the small-block began a steady march upward in displacement, power and technological advancement. In 1957, a version equipped with mechanical fuel injection was introduced, dubbed Ramjet. The only other high-volume manufacturer to offer fuel injection at the time was Mercedes-Benz.

Mechanical fuel injection was discontinued in the mid-Sixties, but the small-block debuted electronically controlled fuel injection in the 1980s and established a benchmark with the 1985 launch of Tuned Port Injection. This electronically controlled port fuel injection system was advanced in its day and its basic design is still used on most passenger cars and light-duty trucks more than 25 years later.

The small-block’s 4.4-inch bore centers – the distance from the center of one cylinder to the next – would come to symbolize the compact, balanced performance of the small-block. It was the dimension around which the Gen III small-block was designed in 1997. In 2011, the small-block is in its fourth generation, powering Chevrolet’s full-size trucks, SUVs and vans, midsize trucks and the Camaro and Corvette performance cars.

The first 4.3L (265 cu. in.) engine in 1955 produced up to 195 hp with an optional four-barrel carburetor. Today, the LS9 6.2L (376 cu. in.) supercharged small-block in the Corvette ZR1 is rated at 638 hp (476 kW), making it the most powerful engine ever installed in a regular-production Chevrolet or GM vehicle.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at General Motors | GM.com.

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Rob

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Small Block Fast Facts

29.11.2011


  • One-hundred million engines since 1955 is the equivalent of more than 1.78 million produced every year – or about 3.4 small-blocks produced every minute for the last 56 years.
  • With an average length of 29 inches, about 2,185 small block engines could be lined up front to back in a mile. It would take 45,766 miles to line up all 100 million small blocks – almost twice the distance around the equator.
  • At an average of 230 horsepower per engine, the collective output of all 100 million small block engines is 23 billion horsepower.
  • The introduction of the small-block V-8 in the 1955 Corvette is widely credited with saving the car from cancellation.
  • In 1955 Zora Duntov drove a disguised, pre-production and small-block-powered ’56 Chevy in the Pikes Peak hill climb race and shattered the sedan-class record by more than two minutes.
  • The fuel-injected 283 small-block in 1957 was rated at 283 horsepower, or one horsepower for every cubic inch. Today, the Corvette Z06’s 427-cubic-inch small-block produces 1.18 horsepower per inch, while the Corvette ZR1’s 376-cubic-inch supercharged small-block produces 1.69 horses per inch.
  • The fuel-injected small-block was so dominant in NASCAR racing in 1957, it was banned.
  • Corvette won its first race at LeMans in 1960 with a small-block engine and won its seventh title there in June 2011, again with a small-block engine.
  • The largest-displacement small-blocks ever produced by GM are the LSX454/LSX454R crate engines offered through Chevrolet Performance, at 454 cubic inches (7.4L); the largest-displacement small-block for a production vehicle is the 427-cubic-inch (7.0L) LS7 used currently in the Corvette Z06.
  • The smallest-displacement small-block V-8 ever produced included a 262-cubic-inch (4.3L) version used in the mid-Seventies – the same displacement shared by the current small-block-based 4.3L V-6.
  • The most powerful small block ever produced is the LS9 engine used in the current Corvette ZR1. It is rated at 638 horsepower, making it the most powerful engine ever produced by GM for a regular-production car.
  • The lowest-output small block was the 1975-76 262 V-8 rated at 110 horsepower. The supercharged LS9 makes 580 percent more horsepower than it with only 43-percent greater displacement.
  • The 4.3L V-6 used today in some GM trucks and vans is based on the original small-block architecture, but essentially with two fewer cylinders – and a 280-hp turbocharged version was used in the 1991 GMC Syclone and 1992-93 Typhoon.
  • Original-architecture small-block engines are still produced as crate engines for Chevrolet Performance and manufactured for marine and industrial applications.
  • The small-block wasn’t known as the small-block until Chevrolet introduced the big-block engine family in 1965 – previously, versions were known simply by their cubic-inch designations, i.e. 283, 327, etc., or simply as the Chevy V-8.
  • Small-block engines are currently produced in Wixom, Mich.; Romulus, Mich.; St. Catharines, Ontario; and Silao, Mexico.
About General Motors
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
 

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Rob

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Secrets of the Small Block’s Success

Ten reasons the original small-block engine was an engineering triumph

29.11.2011

WIXOM, Mich. – General Motors has built the 100 millionth example of its small-block engine. The milestone came 56 years after the first production engine and represents the fourth generation of the iconic engine family. That’s quite a legacy in an industry where the typical lifespan of an automotive engine can be a dozen years or less.

All generations of GM’s small-block family have featured a cam-in-block architecture and a 4.4-inch bore center specification – the center-to-center distance between the cylinders. And while GM didn’t invent the basic design of the small block engine, it interpreted them in a way that made it immediately successful. In fact, those traits were recognized at its introduction in 1955 in a paper presented at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Golden Anniversary Annual Meeting in Detroit, on January 12, 1955.

Authored by chief passenger car chassis design engineer R.F. Sanders, the paper was titled “The New Chevrolet V-8 Engine,” and provided essential details of the small block’s design, manufacturing and packaging. As described by Sanders in his paper, here are the top ten reasons for the original small-block’s success:

1. Compact size: “Anything we could slice off the top or bottom of the block, or from the bores, would mean less heavy iron and less water required to cool it,” Sanders wrote. “This was one of our prime objectives – to make that basic block just as compact and as light in weight as possible.”

The original small-block was indeed a very tidy package. Its block was 21.75 inches long (552 mm) and only nine inches tall (228 mm), from the oil pan rail to the cylinder heads.

2. Light weight. The total weight of the new small-block V-8 was 531 pounds (241 kg) – 41 pounds (18 kg) less than the inline-6 engine it replaced in Chevrolet’s lineup.

3. Manufacturing simplicity. The original engine’s block required only twelve casting cores; overhead valve V-8s from competing manufacturers used as many as 22 cores.

4. Innovative design. The key to the small-block’s high-speed performance was an innovative valvetrain, which featured stamped steel rocker arms pivoting on individual studs. Most other V-8 engines of the time used heavy, complex rocker arm shafts.

5. Efficiency. The small block’s creators selected a high-turbulence, wedge-type combustion chamber design that provided a smooth rise in cylinder pressure and minimized the engine’s octane requirement. The wedge-shaped chambers required no machining (except for valve seats), and permitted the use of lightweight and inexpensive flat-top pistons.

6. Trouble-free Lubrication. The small block’s oiling system eliminated external lines and high-pressure oil feeds to the cylinder heads. This feature prevented potential leaks and simplified engine assembly.
7. Smoothness. Rotating and reciprocating components were balanced individually; then the entire assembly was final balanced to within ½ in.-oz. on a special fixture that rotated the engine.

8. Reliability. Chevy engineers used premium materials, such as forged steel crankshafts and connecting rods, to bolster the small block’s durability. The connecting rods were tested to 18,000,000 cycles without failure.

9. Breathing. The small block’s interchangeable cylinder heads featured an efficient cross-flow port design that remained popular with racers more than 40 years after it was introduced. Five head bolts were arranged in a pentagonal pattern around each cylinder to minimize local cylinder bore distortion and lower stress.

10. Ingenuity. The Chevrolet design team made components serve a variety of functions. For example, the hollow pushrods actuated the valves and carried oil to the cylinder heads. The one-piece intake manifold combined the water outlet, exhaust heat riser, distributor mounting, oil filter and the lifter valley cover in a single casting.

About General Motors

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

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Rob

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Small Block Production

29.11.2011

Current Production



FACILITY
LOCATION
PRODUCTS
Performance Build Center
Wixom, Mich.
6.2L LS3 (Corvette Grand Sport w/ dry-sump)
6.2L LS9 (Corvette ZR1)
7.0L LS7 (Corvette Z06)
Romulus Engine
Romulus, Mich.
4.3L V-6
Gen IV V-8 (incl. marine and industrial)
St. Catharines Powertrain
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
4.8L Gen IV
5.3L Gen IV
6.0L Gen IV
6.2L Gen IV
Mexico Powertrain
various
4.8L Gen IV
5.3L Gen IV
6.0L Gen IV
6.2L Gen IV
6.2L LSA (CTS-V and Camaro ZL1)
Gen I variants (including marine and industrial)
Bay City Components
Bay City, Mich.
piston pins, connecting rods, camshafts, oil pumps and balance shafts
Defiance Casting Operations
Defiance, Ohio
iron/aluminum cylinder blocks, iron/aluminum cylinder heads and crankshafts
Saginaw Grey Iron
Saginaw, Mich.
engine block castings

<tbody>
</tbody>

Future Production
FACILITY
LOCATION
PRODUCTS
Tonawanda Engine Plant
Buffalo, N.Y.
Gen V engines
St. Catharines Powertrain
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Gen V engines
Mexico Powertrain
various
Gen V engines
Bedford Powertrain
Bedford, Ind.
Gen V cylinder head castings
Defiance Casting Operations
Defiance, Ohio
Gen V cylinder blocks, cylinder heads
and crankshafts
Bay City Components
Bay City, Mich.
Gen V engine components

<tbody>
</tbody>

About General Motors
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
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93Rubie

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1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Coupe
Long Live the Small Block Chevy. I don't anyone can seriously call it a bad, old, or obsolete engine. It has outlasted everyone. The engine is swapped into everything from Mustangs, 300ZX's, RX-7's, Supra's, and many, many more. Funny that the Gen 1 SBC is still in production but the 2nd Gen SBC the LTx series has been dead since 1997. Long live the LTx's they paved the way to today's LSx series.

I'm willing to bet more races are won on Chevy Small Block power than any other. Cheap to own, build, easy to work on, and respond well to modification. Can't be beat. :beer
 

s'noJob

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Wake Forest, NC
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2004 Arctic White Coupe
A ZR-1 with the 1 millionth small block. Now that's an EPIC collectible.

I'm sure you meant the 100 millionth, but still, that would be a heleva collector's item, wouldn't it?

.
 

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