The GM Heritage Center is home to hundreds of historically significant vehicles from this automaker’s varied and often times intriguing past, but there’s much more on display than just cars and trucks.
While touring this not-open-to-the-public corporate museum as part of GM’s Woodward Dream Cruise celebration, one area of the facility immediately drew my attention. Haphazardly corralled in a back corner were dozens upon dozens of different engines, each one mounted on a stand so you could drink ’em in from all angles.
SEE ALSO: Woodward Dream Cruise – MEGA Gallery
Never one to pass up a chance like this, I checked out every example that was on display, snapping photos along the way. Without belaboring the point, here are seven of the most interesting ones.
7. Chevrolet Blue-Flame Six
Before it blew competitors away with the legendary small-block V8, Chevrolet was famous for its inline sixes. Introduced in 1929, this smooth-running engine put reasonable power in the hands of everyday motorists, all at the price of a four no less! With triple carburetors, this later example could have been found under the hood of an early first-generation Corvette, though without any information placard, we can’t tell for sure. Missing facts notwithstanding, this engine sure looks good with the aqua-colored paintjob.
6. Cadillac OHV V8
The Second World War had just ended and America was the world’s undisputed superpower, practically the only nation that hadn’t been blown to dust, either physically or economically by the global conflagration. What a time to be alive! Bringing more power to the people, Cadillac introduced a dynamite overhead-valve V8 engine in 1949 (a development shared with sister division Oldsmobile), ushering in an era of ever-increasing giddy-up. Moving an engine’s valves from the block up into the heads improved breathing immensely, allowing them to deliver more of what everyone wanted: horsepower! You could argue that Cadillac – with this advanced engine – helped spawn the muscle-car era.
5. Oldsmobile Limited Inline-Six
This unfathomably large engine looks like it could power a tank, and it kind of did. An inline-six displacing a whopping 707 cubic inches (a whopping 11.6-liters in modern figures), it was bolted into the Oldsmobile Limited’s frame, a massive car that rolled on 42-inch wooden wheels… 42s!!! GM has one of these incredibly rare machines in its Heritage Collection, a 1911 specimen that’s valued at more than $1-million. Not bad for a car with just 60 horsepower. Supposedly, just 159 were built that model year.
4. Corvette LT5
Available in early-‘90s Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1s, the LT5 V8 is made largely of aluminum and features dual-overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder for efficient breathing and maximum power production. Developed with the help of Lotus Engineering, these sophisticated engines delivered up to 405 ponies (from 5.7-liters) at the end of their run, a crazy figure for the time. Even today, they deserve respect.
3. Buick 8 Dynaflash
What the Hell does “Dynaflash” even mean?! As names go, this one is about as nonsensical as they come, but I love it none the less; it’s so late ‘40s/early ‘50s it hurts. And seriously, what’s not to like about a torquey and creamy smooth inline-eight, one sporting valve-in-head technology no less? Engines like this specimen reliably powered big ol’ Buicks for more than 20 years.
2. Cadillac V16
If you can’t get enough cylinders, Cadillac has just what the doctor ordered! Back in the 1930s, this luxury brand offered a V16, a powerplant for only the most discerning of customers. Two generations of this engine were manufactured and each one is breathtaking to behold, with artful details, real metal trimmings, and gorgeous paint. The second-generation model is particularly stunning, with its twin distributors popping up like a pair of rabbit ears.
1. Chevrolet Copper-Cooled
Air-cooled engines seem like a fabulous idea, on paper at least. They’re far simpler and lighter, eschewing radiators, water pumps, thermostats and other complicated components. In reality, though, they often don’t work very well, a lesson Chevrolet learned the hard way nearly a century ago. Their “Copper-Cooled” four-cylinder of the 1920s, so called because of the copper fins attached to each iron cylinder, delivered up to 26 horsepower (Whoa, Nelly!) but was so ill-conceived GM recalled all cars built with this engine because they ran too hot and performed poorly. Only two examples are believed to have survived, though one of the engines resides in the Heritage Center, an exceedingly rare sight indeed.
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