When I was a mechanic, all US cars, especially GM’s had engines which except for the maze of vacuum hoses and electronic ignition, a mechanic from the late 60’s would have no trouble recognizing them for what they were. A 229 was just a 305 with 2 cylinders chopped off, your old cast iron I-4 was just turned sideways so you had to remove engine mounts to replace the cap and rotor.
Why did it take as long as it did to get a truly new engine design rather than just tweaking what they had? Imports had already been killing them for years. By the time the Quad-Four came out, it didn’t seem very impressive and seemed like a bloated DOD effort.
It’s because there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with those engine designs, at least not for the larger cars Detroit believed people would resume buying after the small car fad ended. Indeed, there are still some highly-evolved decedents of 60’s design engines being sold today and giving very good service (the venerable Buick V6 is a good example).
The reason why most American cars of that vintage were terrible had nothing to do with the overall engine designs, but with the half-assed way in which the big-3 approached the emissions regulations. In hindsight, fuel injection always had to be the ultimate solution, but Detroit thought it could cobble together workable emissions systems by modifying the older fuel systems. Once they did go to fuel injection, those old 60’s engine designs worked great in big cars and trucks for many years later.
The trouble is that scaling them down for small car engines didn’t work so well. They did make a few attempts at genuine new-design small car engines, but they didn’t go so well. The 2300 engine in the Vega should have been exactly what they needed: small displacement, aluminum block, overhead cam, but they just so happened to be absolutely terrible. The engines used in the Pintos were at least a bit more reliable, but still weren’t great (and arguably not American either).
It has always been thus. GM, like every other car maker, is in the business of making money, not cars. It’s cheaper to use the old stuff than spend the cash developing new stuff. It nearly killed them in the end.
GM dropped its “stovebolt six” into cars for decades. The engines in my parents’ '59 Chev and '65 Malibu were essentially the same as the engine in their '51 Chev, which looked identical to the engine in an uncle’s '46. That engine, minus its minor tweaks, probably went back to the '30s. I think GM used it until it had to develop a V6 for its downsized front-wheel-drive X-car junk.
New isn’t GM’s strong suit. The much-ballyhooed Quad Four was such a turkey GM had to kill it. It was noisy enough to wake the dead. The Cobalt is dead. The Cruze is a 1400cc disposable. I suspect the plug will be pulled on the Volt.
The future is written in the past.
The engine in Chrysler’s all-new-look '57 cars, with push-button transmissions, oval steering wheels and fins tall enough to scrape high-tension wires, had flat-head sixes designed in 1938. They probably remained through to the '60s. God knows what Ford used, though its rumbly V8s sounded suspiciously like those in the Model A when their mufflers rust out. The 1966 Rambler still had vacuum wipers.
Using old stuff under new glitter is cheap, and there is no arguing against success — until the bottom falls out, and it did*.*
Ford’s Crown Victoria is so old the stamps probably shattered from metal fatigue. Chevy’s Impala is so long in the tooth Bugs Bunny is jealous.
What are you talking about? They had new “new engine designs” all the time. The aluminum Buick Wildcat V8 was pretty advanced for its time. Then there was the Vega 2300, Cadillac HT4100, Olds diesels, yada yada. The reason they stuck with the older designs for so long is because GM was institutionally fucked up and most of their new ideas were implemented poorly. The 2300 was a disaster, so they went back to the 2.5 liter OHV 4-banger. The wildcat had casting porosity problems, so they sold the design to Rover. They eventually did get the HT4100 figured out and punched it out to 4.5 (later 4.9) liters. The less said about the Olds diesels, the better.
And besides, what about modern engines (apart from the electronics) do you think a competent mechanic from the 60s would have trouble figuring out? Need I remind you that DOHC engines are actually older that pushrod engines? Duesenberg was doing DOHC / 4 valves in the 1920s.
Are you still talking about engines, or expanding to overall car designs?
The LSJ engine in the Cobalt SS (and Ion Red Line) was very well received. GM changed from the supercharged LSJ to a turbocharged version some years ago. I expect that swap reduced their cost by a good amount.
I know of someone getting 700HP from an LSJ (supercharger + turbocharger)
I’ll stay away from the obvious political jab here…
They also had the then-new Hemi.
The model A had a 4-cylinder. Stop making shit up.
The bottom fell out because of institutional problems going back decades, and the unsustainable legacy costs stemming from them. Not because they still used a pushrod engine here or there.
It also has been out of production for a year and hadn’t been sold retail since 2007.
Oh, and for Shosy, you want to talk about “clinging to old technology” and a “mess of vacuum hoses?”. Why aren’t you complaining about Honda, who clung to caruburetors long enough that they released this rat’s nest into the world?
Actually…to be honest Toyotas clung to it too, but in some ways both brands were somewhat easier to work on because they had a fairly logical vacuum manifold system, rather than a zillion individual ports (though I still hated it).
To address other posts…the 305, after they went to TBI, was certainly one of the most reliable engines there was. One company which we had a fleet account for bought a raft of chevy pickups with them, they were a joy to work on, and the parts were dead cheap, even from the dealer.
The 231 was a good engine though…but even working on the V-8 version of olds engines, for some reason that distributor position just seemed so wrong back then…
The mid 70’s GM passenger diesel attempt, I’m sure GM and the owners of those cars don’t want to remember…
You’re advancing the Vega and Oldsmobile diesels as examples of GM superlatives, then go on with all the reasons why GM looks like it was run by Mr. Fezziwig, ending with your examples of the same new GM engines that were unmitigated disasters. Colour me confused.
It means that in a car too heavy for it, a 1400cc engine at freeway speeds, and in city when its oil-coking turbo would be run flat out nearly all the time because of the car’s weight, will magically turn the engine into an oil-burning pile of scrap (if it hasn’t seized) in 25,000 or 30,000 miles, optimistically speaking.
So you’re saying GM isn’t playing politics with the Volt and could sell millions, OK, thousands, of the things in the U.S. without government kickbacks to customers and without lighting up like torches. And in parts of the U.S. where it isn’t summer year-round.
I employed a quote by English historian Lord Acton, which concludes,“and that which hath been is the same thing that shall be.”
So what? The proportion of hemis to flatheads sold would be infintesimal. Besides, Chrysler’s late-'50s rustbuckets were so awful mechanically, the company had to come up with its 50,000-mile drive-train warranty in the '60s to sell even windshield washer.
I didn’t make it up. I made a mistake. So what? Show me a Model A and I’ll show you a Model B.
Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?
Not to mention zillion-dollar bonuses to the semi-conscious brass, and private jets to fly them from Detroit to D.C. to beg for handouts for the next bonus round of the game.
I have nothing against pushrod engines. I haven’t slammed them as entities unto themselves anywhere. In fact, my car has one and I prefer them, as long as the design doesn’t give me nine miles to the gallon because its 70-year-old blueprint is turning yellow from age.
I know that, but so what? The Crown Vic was made for 20 years, the outdated Model T of our time. They were still being churned out this year, for god’s sake. Talk about clinging to old technology.
You’re right; I was mistaken. The Model 18 had Ford’s first V8, in 1932, Wikipedia says. It’s here. The Model B was an updated Model A with a four-cylinder engine. Dropping a V8 into it made it a Model 18.
In returning to the question in your original post, this Wikipedia entry (bolding mine) about that 1932 Ford V8 says:
I shall defend the Crown Vic (or Grand Marquis) with the 4.6 liter SOHC engine. The car was huge with a trunk that could hold a Smart car or two. They also got good gas mileage for a nearly 3 ton ride. My '97 Grandma Key got 20 in town and 27 + mpg on the highway.
The only bad thing about it was it was small inside due to the transmission hump. Definitely not really the six-passenger car it was advertised to be.
I had built a long and detailed rebuttal to your 1st post, but a lightning strike cycled the power as I finished the last sentence. It takes too much work to demonstrate again the many ways that you are wrong.
Let’s stick with Chrysler. Their flathead six went into service in 1932 and was extensively used until 1959 when it was replaced by the Slant Six. In the interim, there was a war. The Slant Six was then used for roughly forty years and was one of the most reliable and easily serviced engines that Detroit has built. ICE engines have barely changed at all since the birth of the automobile. Incremental changes are made in heads, starters, carburetion, cooling and other peripherals, but rarely do any of those changes require a new block. There was no need for a new engine, the technology had not developed to the point that improvements were necessary. In any case, during the Forward Look era into the millennium, people wanted V8s, and that’s where the engineering went.
Chrysler Firepower Hemi 1951-1958
Chrysler A 1956-1967
Chrysler B and RB 1958–1978
Chrysler LA 1964–1992
Chrysler Hemi 1964–1971
Chrysler LA Magnum 1992–2003
They also tried to develop a turbine for street cars. The engine lab was definitely not slacking off. Whatever changes were need for emissions controls would not be made easier by coming out with a new engine. In addition, they picked up a couple of engines through mergers with AMC and Jeep.
You seem to be campaigning for a new engine every ten years. The aforementioned Vega, Wildcat, Quad 4, Corvair and Diesel all lasted about that long. But you’ve denounced them as failures because they didn’t stick around. So do you want a thirty-year engine or a ten-year? What flaws do the Ford Eco-Boost and GM small blocks have that calls for there replacement as quickly as possible?
the OP asked “So…why did it take so long for US manufactures to make a new design engine?” I posted several examples of cases where they did, and the reasons why they reverted back to older designs. Try to keep up.
it has the same peak HP as the naturally-aspirated 1.8 liter and more torque. And since this is GQ I’m going to demand a ctiation or two that the Cruze 1.4 liter turbo is coking oil and only lasting 25-30,000 miles.
No, I’m saying the Volt is a technological “halo” car and they’ll continue to sell and develop it as long as the “green” set will pay attention to it.
So what? part of the reason it stuck around for so long was the massive amount of aftermarket upfit parts (and upfitters) for police equipment. For the past five years the car had been pretty much sold to police departments and no one else.
And there’s nothing wrong with that when “old” works just fine in its intended application.
Well, I never expected to much impassioned debate (and everyone gave good examples) and…well, I think that’s good…it certainly is fun to me, and cars, for people who understand them is a passion.
First to address one post, the X cars just had the same 4 cylinder we always saw but turned 90. The V-6 was part of the new line of 60 degree V-6’s we later say on the S-10 for example. That then appeared on numerous cars (like a Le Saber which I, um had a collision with a pillar at the shop…the owner was really quite nice about it, less than a week old) which required you to remove the top engine mounts to tune up.
Lincolns Town Cars I ways loved and it seemed Ford liked putting technology into their high-end cars. A girl I used to baby sit always said “I like guys with Lincoln Town Cars” rather than my GF’s ditzy beach bums who wanted to see a Porsche (all very cute…or maybe she was much smarter than they were).
Essentially, I think that many foreign manufacturers put more engine technology into everyday cars, as opposed to high end cars, and US companies tended to put the money into auxiliary luxury items. Again, it took how long to get a 4 valve/cylinder engine into a mainstream US car?
Can’t resist but add this, one of my favorite political cartoons (I think it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, but I saw it in the Washington Post National Weekly) is 2 Russian generals driving down the road “Of course we steal their ideas, everything we make is made with stolen American technology” …then the car falls apart…
Modern engines have a lot of features that would have been impossible to produce until fairly recently. Machining, material, and electronic technologies have advanced greatly and allow the more efficient engines we now have.
again, what difference does it make? like anything else, valve count is a means to an end. not an end unto itself. Very few people actually care whether the 200 HP engine in their car is a OHV V6 or a DOHC 4-cylinder, so long as the fuel economy is similar.
FWIW, Honda didn’t really do 4V engines until abot 1988, and by 1990 you could get DOHC V6s in the Chevy Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix and Ford Taurus, and a DOHC turbo four-banger in the Dodge Spirit.
the other thing to keep in mind is that elsewhere in the world- especially in much of Europe- car owners have been taxed based on engine displacement; so there was incentive in those markets to wring power out of smaller engines. No such incentives exist here, so save for a few periods in the '70s it just wasn’t an issue.
The people who do care spend time arguing about it on message boards and blogs.
I should have made it clear that that is my opinion based on history and experience. I cannot find anything on the net to back it up, perhaps because the car hasn’t been sold in Canada long enough. I did, however, speak from experience and the history of small-displacement turbo engines being run flat out all the time because of their lack of power.
There’s also a problem in searching for Cruze info on the net. It’s a so-called world car, and stories about it out of the U.S. and the U.K. are heavy with 1600cc, 1800cc and diesel engines. However, two salesmen I spoke to at a dealership here deny the car is available with anything but the 1400cc turbo. They may be ignorant or bullshitting or GM may not supply this market with anything but the 1400 to get rid of the them.
Despite the dearth of oil-coking stories, there are tons on the Cruze being underpowered. Again, some of those discuss larger engines and diesels that according to that Chevy dealership here aren’t available. I’ve been to the GM website that says 1800cc engines are available. Maybe GM Canada is screwing the dealership.
BTW, the Cruze has been recalled because it goes bang. Scroll down for the video (it stabilizes after a few seconds).
Edit to add: According to a poster on that page, it was also recalled because the steering wheels fall off. I didn’t check into that claim.
Using old designs is perfectly valid. American drivers stopped using manual transmissions in the 1940’s (today, less than 5% of new cars are ordered with manuals). Hence, there was no demand for high-revving engines-automatics shifted a low revs. Pushrod engines are reliable and very strong-odds are that they last longer than SOHC/DOHC engines.
As for why GM screwed up its 4-cylinder engine development, that is a mystery to me-GM made excellent 4 cylinder engines in Europe (OPel design) and Brazil-why they just didn’t copy these designs (instead of launching a new development) makes no sense.
From Wikipedia: The first motorcar in the world to have an engine with two overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder was the 1912 Peugeot L76 Grand Prix race car. It’s old technology. Early multi-valve engines in T-head configuration were the 1917 Stutz straight-4 and 1919 Pierce-Arrow straight-6 engines. The Stutz Motor Company used a modified T-head with 16 valves…from a 360.8 cid straight-4…Stutz not only used them in their famous Bearcat sportscar but in their standard touring cars as well…In 1931 the Stutz Motor Company introduced a 322 cid (5.3-liter) dual camshaft 32-valve straight-8…The 1935 Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor’s engine was a 419.6 cid (6.9-liter) straight-8 with DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder and a supercharger. Not working class, but mainstream American manufacturers. The design wasn’t being ignored.
The first mass-produced car using four valves per cylinder was the British Triumph Dolomite Sprint of 1973…The 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega featured a DOHC multi-valve headThe Japanese didn’t introduce multi-valve heads until the mid-1980s.. But trust me, the Dolomite and Twin-Cam Vega were nauseatingly crap cars with astoundingly great engines.
Honda is probably the company that people think of when they mention the US and multi-valve engines. That’s because Americans had experimented with overhead cams and found that the pushrod engine was more reliable, easier to work on and cheaper to build. They had lots of torque down low where American s wanted it, overhead cam engines tended to be noisy and high revving. Japan had OHC engines, the US had pushrods. Multi-Valve engines are easier to implement on OHC engines. If it hadn’t been for emissions controls (which the US pioneered), nobody would give a damn about multi-valve except on high end sports cars.
True, both Russia and China stole the designs for their most prestigious cars from the USA. Breshnev’s Zil looked just like a Fifties Packard and there were several others that were similar. If European cars were so much better, why not steal from them? Russia and China are in Asia. Why not steal from Japan?
I’ll also add that the highly vaunted Toyota was introduced to the US in 1959. It was so unsuited to US roads that they high-tailed it back to Japan until 1967 (they did sell the FJ40 and a few pickups in California). Nissan was THE Japanese manufacturer from 1958 until the mid-Eighties. They screwed up as badly as Ford and GM and didn’t have much visibility until 2000 or so. The Japanese are not invincible.