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 |  Dec 10 2012, 2:02 PM

Cadillac V8-6-4

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.

  • Tomst37

    I loved this. It was really interesting and informative.

    Thanks

  • Greenjeep1998

    Don’t know if you knew this Craig, but the Eagles and Cherokees were sold side by side for a short period of time since AMC owned Jeep for the last 20 years before being bought by Chrysler for the Jeep brand. IIRC, Chrysler’s Turbine program was started shortly after WW2 and died right around the time they went bankrupt the first time. Even though the turbine engine has yet to make it into a regular production vehicle, Chrysler had some ownership in the manufacturer of the Abrams tanks and I’ve often wondered how much of their turbine tech went into the Abrams instead.

    BTW, the Turbine Cars weren’t the only Mopars capable of burning whiskey……..their 2.7l and Pentastar V-6′s as well as the 4.7l V-8 are all built to be capable of burning corn whiskey. The Pentastar is quite fond of the stuff and my 4.0l I-6 Jeep don’t seem to mind a couple gallons being splash blended every once in a while too :D

  • Craig Cole

    No, I had no idea!  That’s really interesting but not as interesting as Chrysler helping build tank engines.  That’s really cool.  You must be a Pentastar Historian.