1971 Chevrolet MonteCarlo2 medium

10 Biggest GM Engines Ever Made (Infographic)

In a world of smaller displacement, younger generations seldom can put their foot into a big displacement powerhouse. Newer technology, computer advancements, and emissions laws have all changed how the modern day car operates. However, It could be argued, such iconic big displacement namesakes laid the foundation.

“There are a lot of electric vehicle fans who like to criticize the internal combustion engine for being ‘old technology’ but their evolution is impressive and shouldn’t be scoffed at,” said Matt Mylan, GMPartsCenter.net Director.

Less Cylinders But More Power

A new graphic from GMPartsCenter.net shows the 10 biggest engines in GM history, starting with a pre-war Cadillac V-16 and ending with a Chevy 572 crate engine. The graphic ranks the engines in terms of cubic inches, horsepower, and torque.

Mylan believes each are significant in their own way.

“In 1938, the 7.1L V-16 Cadillac Series 90 engine was state of the art, producing 185 horsepower. Three decades later, the Olds 455 was producing 400 horsepower with eight fewer cylinders,” Mylan said. “Three more decades, and Chevy’s 572 crate motor can produce 720 horsepower, nearly twice the power of the Olds 455.”

Exponential Growth

GM’s big displacement production dates back to the 1930s, when Cadillacs featured massive V-12 and V-16 engines. Big displacement engines fell out of favor in the ’40s and ’50s, until the muscle car era redefined them. In the late ’70s and ’80s, it was a similar story for big displacement, with a resurgence once again in the ’90s.

“Engine performance has been roughly doubling every 30 years or so,” Mylan said. “That’s an incredible rate of growth.”

While most of the engines on the list are from the muscle car era, there are three modern ones: the GM 572 crate engine, the 502 crate engine, and the 8.1L V8. While the two crate motors are typically used in racing, the 8.1L was a workhorse offered on many GM trucks until 2010. The 8.1L, or Vortec 8100, was offered in 3/4 and one-ton pickups and vans, the Suburban, and on the now defunct Avalanche.

What is your favorite big displacement GM engine? 

GM Big Engines Infographic

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  1. When I heard about the Big Blocks, I understood these engines has been considered old and buried, in the name of the better efficiency and lower fuel consumption. Some months ago, a friend from Texas (source of informations ‘cos I’m in Europe) told me someway these powerful engines will have a new tech and “fashion” trend.

  2. My favorite huge American V8 has to be the 1969-1970 472 Cadillac engine. 200 pounds lighter than a big block Chevy, with an external oil pump, the two big HP years were the 1969 and 1970, the 1969 having 10.5 to one compression, the 1970 having 10 to one compression. 550 ft,lbs. of torque at 3800 rpm, and 368 horsepower at 3900 rpm made the big Caddy engine a tire smoking beast. Warmed over with a relatively mild camshaft, headers and an even bigger carburetor put the 472 up into the five hundred horsepower range, along with 600 pound feet of stump pulling torque. My 1970 Coupe DeVille was of the warmed over variety, and made quick work of Corvettes and Porches. The two best looking years as well.

    1. Thank you for the observations and insight Matt. Thank you for reading our site.

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