What’s the opposite of success? Oh right, wretched humiliating failure, and that’s just what Cadillac had on its hands in the early 1980s courtesy of a brand-new fuel-saving technology.
If you haven’t guessed already, the next car on our list isn’t a car, but an engine. Called the V8-6-4 it was standard across the wreath-and-crest brand’s 1981 lineup with the exception of the Seville where it was optional. Here’s why it’s a part of this top 10.
In a bid to improve its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), Cadillac developed a new powerplant. Internally it was referred to as the L62 and it featured a new-fangled technology called cylinder deactivation. Shutting down unnecessary cylinders when full power is not required is a terrific way to slash fuel consumption.
In theory the idea worked great, in practice it was something else entirely. Unsuspecting Cadillac owners of the time had to put up with severe drivability issues ranging from jerking and bucking to outright stalling.
What’s up with that? Well, it turns out the electronics of the era were simply not powerful enough to make everything work. Such was the state of computers during Ronald Reagan’s first term. Surprisingly though, the fundamentals of this engine were just fine and owners could simply disconnect the cylinder-deactivation system and run it as a V8.
Luckily for GM’s reputation and the buying public’s patience, the ill-fated L62 was phased out after only one year on the market.
The 1981 V8-6-4 may have been abjectly awful but it was tremendously pioneering. Cylinder deactivation would come into its own years later.
The efficiency-enhancing innovation was about a quarter-century ahead of its time. It took that long for the electronics-side of the technology equation to catch up.
A few years ago GM figured out how to make cylinder deactivation work and has been installing it on a number of its V8 engines. Chrysler also uses it on its famous Hemi. Other automakers have jumped on the bandwagon as well including Audi and Honda.