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Transportation Technology

The Last GM Big-Block V-8 Rolls Off the Line 525

Posted by kdawson
from the blow-it-out-gto dept.
DesScorp writes "It's the end of an era in auto technology, as the very last big block V-8 engine from GM has rolled off the production line. The L18 engine was the last variant of an engine that had been in continuous production for over 50 years. The big blocks powered everything from the classic muscle cars of the '60s and '70s to heavy-duty trucks today. From the Buffalo News: 'When GM said last June the L18 would be eliminated by year's end, the announcement triggered another show of devotion to the product. Some customers ordered two years' worth of L18s, to put on the shelf for future use.' More than 5 million big blocks have been produced over the engine's history. The final big block engine to come off the line in Tonawanda, NY is headed for the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, MI."
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The Last GM Big-Block V-8 Rolls Off the Line

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  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:20PM (#30519988) Journal

    ...with a single tear running down his face.

  • Innovation! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by awyeah (70462) * on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:20PM (#30519990)

    It sounds like this is the result of innovation? I imagine that these "big-block" engines will be replaced by smaller-block V8s or perhaps more powerful V6s that have similar performance?

    The only bad part of this is some people are going to lose their jobs (according to the AP [google.com]).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Laebshade (643478)

      Screw V-6's. Inline 6's have more power and better reliability. Inline engines always do.

      • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by geekmux (1040042) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:34PM (#30520072)

        Screw V-6's. Inline 6's have more power and better reliability. Inline engines always do.

        Shoehorn anyone? Inline V-8(or God forbid I-10 or 12) tends to be a bit of a reach for real estate under the hood.

        Regardless of "better" designs, we're witnessing an end of an era here, considering this format has survived for 50 out of the last 100 years of the automobile. A sad day indeed.

        You want an IT analogy? Fine. Sometimes it's about the finesse and raw power coming from a 1000W system with dual graphics cards and 15K RPM drives, and not always about "green" designs or overall reliability. Sometimes you want your machine to haul ass and look good no matter the cost.

        • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by LaRoach (968977) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:41PM (#30520130)
          Er, inline V8? I do not think that means what you think it means...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fm6 (162816)

          Regardless of "better" designs, we're witnessing an end of an era here, considering this format has survived for 50 out of the last 100 years of the automobile. A sad day indeed.

          What's sad is that GM had to almost go out of business before they'd finally acknowledge that such an inefficient engine type was obsolete. The handwriting's been on the wall since 19 ****ing 74 [wikipedia.org], for crisakes. But GM couldn't change its mindset, and instead sat and twiddled their thumbs while the Japanese took away their business.

          I'm reminded of Sun's inability to shift to commodity processors. But then, I'm an embittered ex-Sun employee...

          • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:15AM (#30520346) Homepage Journal

            I suspect GM kept at it this long for a good business reason: tinkerers loved that kind of engine: relatively easy to self-repair and powerful. Now the only choices will be wimpy or too complex to self-service. The Duke boys will have to rely much more on Cooter now.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by jhylkema (545853)

              The Duke boys will have to rely much more on Cooter now.

              The General Lee was a Dodge Charger [wikipedia.org] (well, many Dodge Chargers).

              Even the Duke boys knew better than to drive a GM product.

          • by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:36AM (#30520468)

            I'm reminded of Sun's inability to shift to commodity processors.

            C'mon man - what this thread really needs is a car analogy.

          • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Grimbleton (1034446) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:55AM (#30520554)

            So obsolete that people went on a buying frenzy when they announced they were stopping production, because there was such a demand for them...

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              That happens with anything nowadays that they discontinue, or people THINK will be discontinued. See, there's this idea that's been driven into people's heads over the past 20 years or so that getting your hands on anything that's scarce will be an easy road to riches. The old "money for nothing" ploy.

              If it's even remotely rare, some greedy, bottom feeding, unethical scumbag will buy the last of them, then put them back on sale at an inflated price, demanding huge profits while adding zero value.

              It's all pa

              • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Informative)

                by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:16AM (#30522450) Homepage Journal

                That happens with anything nowadays that they discontinue, or people THINK will be discontinued. See, there's this idea that's been driven into people's heads over the past 20 years or so that getting your hands on anything that's scarce will be an easy road to riches. The old "money for nothing" ploy.

                Well, there's 'rare' and then there's 'in demand'.

                The big block v-8 filled a niche. It's not a niche that can't be replaced, but it's a niche.

                Ordering a '2 year supply' isn't stockpiling in a hope to get rich, it's having a sufficient supply that you can still manufacture your product, whether it be an emergency water pump system, U-Haul truck*, mobile home, generator, boat engine, or what not until you've re-engineered your product to take a different engine. Or some Chinese company licenses the design and starts production...

                If it's even remotely rare, some greedy, bottom feeding, unethical scumbag will buy the last of them, then put them back on sale at an inflated price, demanding huge profits while adding zero value.

                Uh.... Sure that 'scumbag' is adding value: He's adding the value of it being available. He has to pay for warehousing them in good condition, sales staff to sell them, advertising to let companies know the product is still available(in limited quantities). He has to take the risk that it'll never sell, and in many states, play a percentage tax on their retail value every year. It's expensive to keep stock around.

                Not that some of what you mention doesn't happen, but from what I'm reading, GM fulfilled all orders in before a certain date, so the 'scum-suckers' at least can't rape the customers who planned ahead and stockpiled some of their own...

                *Still surprised these aren't diesel.

          • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:12AM (#30520622) Homepage Journal

            Consumers kept buying them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I don't think the big-block was so much obsolete, as it was becoming irrelevant. Their "small block" V8 has been sold up to 400 cubic inch displacement for street use (that I'm aware of), compared to 454 for the big block. Nothing "small" about that!

            The few performance cars GM still builds with V8s use high revving small block designs to get their power. The big block has been used mostly in trucks for many years now, but the trend for high power in trucks has shifted to diesels.

            Even NASCAR abandoned the bi

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by bhtooefr (649901)

              LS7 is 428 cubic inches, and is used in the Corvette.

              The biggest big-block sold in a road vehicle was 502 ci, for fleet vehicles. The engine in this article, the Vortec 8100, was 496 ci.

              Also, GM sold a 572 ci crate motor for off-road applications. Of course, the LS architecture scales to 511 cubic inches in off-road applications, and is lighter weight and I believe higher revving.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rennt (582550)

          Sure, but a V8 can't touch a straight six turbo in the "looks good and hauls ass" department.

          we're witnessing an end of an era here

          Not really. Don't get me wrong - I like classic muscle as much as the next guy - but that era ended a long time ago. Nothing to get sentimental about here.

          • Sorry, the exhaust note from a six sounds like Felix Unger clearing his sinuses. You may haul ass, but there's no sex appeal in the way it sounds.
          • Re:Innovation! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:41AM (#30521340) Homepage

            Sure, but a V8 can't touch a straight six turbo in the "looks good and hauls ass" department.

            But a V8 turbo can sure as hell kick a straight six turbo in the ass. If your after HP and torque, the ol adage still holds true. There is no replacement for displacement.

      • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Informative)

        by w0mprat (1317953) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:40AM (#30521338)
        No not really, V-engines have a little added complexity, which may drag down reliability, but for all practical purposes there is no dramatic difference that makes a inline superior in peformance and reliability.

        A V allows you package more displacement in to smaller overall volume or to have less car to package around given in engine. Weight savings from a V engine boosts handling performance and economy. Yet an inline engine will be cheaper than a V, due to one, block, single manifolds, two camshafts instead of four.

        Difference in power may come from firing order, and the path intake charge and exhaust gas take and a small reduction in friction in a Inline 4 or 6. Inline 6s can have a good cross flow set up for top end power when mounted longitudnally in a front engined car (short straight intake runners and 6 into 1 headers, make a good turbo platform. BMW, Nissan and Toyota have exploited this to great effect in racing and in road cars. Aftermarket Nissan Skyline motors with 6-1 turbo manifolds make whopping power.

        In the end, V8s rose to greatnews because it was probably the best balance between a number of cylinders, dimensions, displacement etc. A four cylinder block is about as long as you want to go. Big displacement engines need a greater number of pistons to stop the piston speeds getting out of hand along with smoothness reasons. Eight cylinders is just right, for big power or a big engine.

        A inline 6, and a 90 degree V12 and a boxer six are probably the three ideal engines, having perfect balance. The greatest engine of them all on the balance of all considerations, including, cost, complexity and packaging is the inline four. That's why V8s are made out of two of them:

        American V8s most often really are just two inline four engines stuck together. Right down to the split-plane (cross-plane) crankshaft. Yes there are hack mechanics who have lopped off one bank of cylinders to make a inline four, it works. Unfortunatley cross-plane crankshafts have a lot of drawbacks including difficult to control vibration, unbalanced piston movement, poorer exhaust scavanging in certain exhaust configuartions and need for counterweights that add rotational inertia. Yes every American V8 you drove had a dirty kludge under the hood.

        IMHO, a real V8 has a flat plane crankshaft. Truly the correct format for a V8, better firing order, more power, more balance and even better sound :)
    • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:36PM (#30520084)

      "It sounds like this is the result of innovation?"

      More like the rise in fuel costs coupled with the recession.

      The big block Chevrolet is a simple, tough engine that produces excellent torque, is durable, very easy to work on and inexpensive to repair. Aftermarket support is excellent and one can build complete engines without using a single GM part.

      The powerplant of choice that replaced big block gas engines is the diesel, which is vastly more complex, brutally expensive to repair, difficult to work on even for well-equipped shops, and burdened with complex emission systems. Diesel fuel quality is always a concern, especially with low-sulfur diesel. They make great power, but you pay dearly for it.

      I'll be hunting more of them for spares (I just rebuilt a 366 for my C30 wrecker). Like the small block Chevrolet, these adaptable engines will be working for many decades to come.

      • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mirix (1649853) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:53PM (#30520224)
        While diesels do have their own problems, I've never seen a big block with over a million miles on it.
        • Re:Innovation! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by zippyspringboard (1483595) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:32AM (#30520448)
          While the big block wont EVER make it to a million, I've seen an awful AWFUL lot of diesels fail to make 500k. When it comes time to rebuild the engine the big block can be rebuilt several times over for what the Diesel will Cost. (atleast in parts and machining costs) Diesels commonly give twice the service life of their gas equivalents, anything more than that while not unheard of, is not to be expected either. (some gas engines go 400k too) Don't get me wrong, I would trade my Vortec 454 for a diesel in a heartbeat. But my motivation would be for the improved gas mileage. ESPECIALLY when Towing. The only reason I own Big block is for pulling a 10,000# trailer, and it does this VERY VERY well. But it get's about 10mpg when towing (15.5 when not) A Diesel would probably get 18mpg when towing and i could run homemade bio diesel. My tow vehicle with a big block is inexpensive, dependable, easy to work on, and gets pretty poor gas mileage....
          • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:21AM (#30522486) Homepage

            If a diesel makes it to 500k it will have saved you so much in fuel costs compared to gasoline that you can afford to throw it away and still make a massive profit.

            Plus I'm not so sure the difference "complexity" is anything like you claim. Modern diesels are computer controlled so they're a lot cleaner then the old ones and don't need anywhere near as much extra hardware to meet smog standards.

            Diesels are perfect for American SUVs. American drivers are conditioned to expect grunt at low revs, which gasoline engines are terrible at delivering (you need a big thirsty V8 to do it). Diesel engines are much more suited to American expectations so you can have a smaller engine ans get double the savings in economy.

            If you start extracting diesel from Algae then it will be much cleaner and more consistent than petroleum-diesel and you can probably get rid of all the emissions-control junk which is needed for diesel engines today.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Thelasko (1196535)

            When it comes time to rebuild the engine the big block can be rebuilt several times over for what the Diesel will Cost.

            I feel the need to stress the fact that there are rebuildable engines and non-rebuildable engines.

            Semi engines are rebuildable. They have replacable cylinder liners and bearings that can be removed and replaced. Yes, this is expensive, but it's cheaper than a new engine. These are the engines that run for a million miles +.

            Most diesel pickup truck engines are non-rebuildable. Their bearings are replaceable, but the cylinder bore is actually part of the cast block. You can hone the bore, replace the

        • by Temkin (112574)

          Nor will you see a big-block putting out 700+ ft/lbs. of torque for 250K miles. 12.5 mpg vs. 7 mpg in heavy towing applications plays a part as well.

          The BB's were great engines, but there's a reason why there's all those diesel pickups out there these days.

    • It sounds like this is the result of innovation? I imagine that these "big-block" engines will be replaced by smaller-block V8s or perhaps more powerful V6s that have similar performance?

      I am curious about the GMC commercials talking about a "6.2 liter nutcracker." If a 6.2 liter V8 is not a big block, then what is?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now they can finally join the 80's and work on getting rid of leaf springs next.

    • Re:Good Riddance (Score:4, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:40PM (#30520118)

      "Now they can finally join the 80's and work on getting rid of leaf springs next."

      Leaves are versatile, easily stacked to suit intended use, and tough.

      If you want an F1 car by all means buy one, but leaf springs work very well on trucks and other applications where coil spring towers would be awkward (and coils risk coil bind when overloaded).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        but leaf springs work very well on trucks and other applications where coil spring towers would be awkward (and coils risk coil bind when overloaded).

        Not only that but it's easier to tie into supporting members (eg. the frame) so you can carry more sprung weight. This is why heavy-duty machinery almost always has leaf springs. Plus you need less lateral support and they are stronger in general.

        Leaf springs have their uses even on the most modern equipment.

      • by citizenr (871508) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:30AM (#30520426) Homepage

        leaf springs work very well on trucks

        like Corvette

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by huge colin (528073)

          leaf springs work very well on trucks

          like Corvette

          Do you understand that the Hotchkiss rear suspension (which is what you're thinking of) involves a solid rear axle and is completely different from the transverse single composite monospring used by the Corvette (which uses IRS)? The Corvette has had fully independent suspension since 1963.

          I'm a fan of Jeremy Clarkson and his wacky antics too, but when he talks about American cars he's often quite wrong.

  • big blocks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kqc7011 (525426)
    Plenty of other big blocks being made, no real reason to want a 50 year old design of a cast iron lump. Lots of new ones being built and machined, mostly aluminum.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Aluminum is nice for racing, but there is no penalty for using iron (which is also more stable) in truck applications. For hauling, the front end weight is a plus (and part of why I just installed a 366 in my wrecker).

    • mostly aluminum.

      ... Aluminum overheats at nothing. Your radiator goes on an aluminum engine and chances are good the engine's got a hole in it now too. Berate cast iron all you want, but at least it could handle a cheap component failing without exploding.

  • So... What will GM be using for diesel engines? I'd thought their Duramax engines were V8s.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by terraformer (617565)

      Big block v. Small block. The will continue to have V8s, just smaller ones. The classic GM big block was the 454 ci. They will continue to have the 350 ci.

    • Duramax engines are made by DMAX, which is a joint venture between GM and Isuzu. They aren't related to the Chevy big block, which is a gasoline engine (there are differences between the Diesel cycle [wikipedia.org] and the Otto cycle [wikipedia.org] other than what fuel they use.)
  • A sad day (Score:4, Funny)

    by mirix (1649853) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:30PM (#30520054)
    In the same way that the day the last caveman set down his club was sad.
  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:41PM (#30520126)

    Kill off another icon?

    I'm getting one of these and jamming it into my SAAB.

    Front heavy front wheel drive indeed.

  • Had a 454 Suburban (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:42PM (#30520138)
    74 3/4 ton suburban with towing package. Damn that thing would pull anything. It got 11 miles per gallon in town, on the road, pulling a trailer. No matter what it always got 11 miles per gallon. Drive it 35 miles per hour or 85 and it still got 11 miles per gallon. Weird. I miss that big boxy thing. Nothing has that much room anymore.
    • by fantomas (94850)

      By crickey! mileage explains why we don't get these big engines in Europe. Just did a quick calculation, my local garage charges GBP1.09 / litre for standard (95 octane) petrol/gasoline, that's approx $6.62 a US gallon. Would explain why these engines are very cool and impressive but you don't see them round here .. What kind of capacity fuel tanks do vehicles with these engines have?

  • V-8's rock (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Glock27 (446276) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:44PM (#30520156)

    It's fine if these engines are being killed because something better (as powerful with better efficiency) has come along. If not, it sucks.

    To see which it is, just take a look at Ford Motor Company - you know, the one that ISN'T owned by the government! ;-)

    BTW, regardless diesel engines rock! :-)

    Once again, FUBO! =:-D

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "BTW, regardless diesel engines rock! :-)"

      Real diesels, in trucks that go "kssh" and bend in the middle, do rock. :)

      The Navistar abortions that triggered the lawsuitfest with Ford aren't their finest hour, and light truck diesels generally are brutally expensive to repair. For the cost of replacing a set of diesel injectors, I can rebuild a complete big block Chevy, and for what diesels trucks cost to purchase I could stuff 460s and 454s into my Fords and Chevys and feed them premium for years. Inline Cummi

    • by compass46 (259596)

      The leaks regarding the 2011 Mustang GT's (the V8 model) engine specs have the previous 315hp engine being replaced with a 412hp engine. It'll still get about 24mpg highway though. On the other hand, the V6's 210hp engine is being replaced by a 305hp model 2011. And get this, going from 16/24mpg to 19/30mpg. (Those numbers reflect the automatic transmision model.)

      As for GM, it was the reintroduced 2010 Camaro, especially the V6 model which currently has comparable numbers to the upcoming Mustang V6, tha

    • by afidel (530433)
      The 6200 has 10% less torque and more HP for a couple hundred less pounds of weight and significantly better fuel economy.
  • and one day Mad Max will get this engine. Now we know; the clock is ticking on the apocalypse.

  • so goes another point of history, maybe for the better, but there was something about when you opened the hood and you saw one, now you look under the hood and it's confusing. I guess age is getting the better of me LOL.

    well I guess you'll all start wondering what it was like to have 550hp+, and punching it, there is just a sound, not like any other sound, it's the sound of power, raw, and tamed by only your nerve as you head down the strip. light to light, pole to pole, neck to neck, blasting the traps at

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by afidel (530433)
      The engine being retired made 450HP which Ford is making with a midsized V-6 (ok only 415, but still). The Ford V6 is almost half the weight (449 lbs vs 734). Ok it's apples and bananas since one's a big truck V8 optimized for torque and the other's a race car V6 with twin turbochargers, but the point remains that old technology is old and there's very little need for 8.1L gas engine.
    • by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:05AM (#30521426)
      Newsflash: people who race cars on public roads are brainless tards and I pray that they die roasting in fiery crashes. Crashes with large inanimate objects, of course.
  • old friend (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    good bye my old friend, you will be missed.

    as a gear head, not much is more impressive than a big ol rat motor sticking out of the hood of your car. I will really miss this motor, gas hog or not

  • turn the page (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:14AM (#30520340) Homepage

    I'm old enough to appreciate the value of a piece of tech that has served so well for so long. Likewise, I have a soft spot for the land-line and the command line. But there are pleasurable vices that we simply can't afford to cling to, and the big petrol-burning engine is one of them.

  • We used to have an old 87 Chevy 3500 van and a 85 Chevy cube truck. Both were powered by the big block 366. Those things were nasty, I could chirp the tires on the cube truck with a light load! The van was a rocket ship, you had to be gentle on the pedal. They were hardy engines and you could pile on miles with little problems. The trucks rear finally blew in the 2000 and we junked it and sold the van. Replaced them with two GM 3500 vans which have the small block but are very ballsy. Can handle a 2700lb lo

  • car analogies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:15AM (#30520638) Homepage Journal

    The big block V8 is like the Itanium. Big and power hungry and a real commercial workhorse.

    It think people are sad because it would be like if Intel stopped making Core 2 Quads and decided all you needed was an Atom chip.

  • by Eskarel (565631) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:12AM (#30521216)

    The reason GM needed to get bailed out by the government is because they ignored the evidence of every other country on earth and presumed US gas prices would always stay the same. If they'd produced the last of these ten years ago and started making cars which actually have something remotely resembling fuel efficiency, good design, or low carbon emissions, then American cars might not be a global joke, the government might be a couple of billion dollars less in debt, and a whole lot of Americans who used to work in the auto industry would still have their jobs.

    It took near bankruptcy to finally get GM to acknowledge that they had to actually innovate(or at least copy everyone else) rather than continuing with a technology which is 50 years old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fons (190526)

      In Europe we also have GM. They're called Opel/SAAB here.

      All Opel/SAAB cars have modern competitive diesel engines. So apparently, GM DID invest in new tech.

      The question is, why did they not sell those engines/cars in the US?

      Maybe because US consumers were not interested? I'm not being arrogant here, that's a real question. I really don't understand.

  • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:45AM (#30521890)
    "Dart" [dartheads.com]

    "WorldCastings" [worldcastings.com]
  • End of an era (Score:4, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:20AM (#30522474)

    This is a big sign of the end of the era of user-maintainable cars.

    Almost as sad as when the last VW Beetle rolled off the line in 2003 (after more than 60 years).

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