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GM plans to transform small-block V8

Block tackled: GM is facing up to the challenge of making its V8s more efficient.

General Motors backs V8 engine, planning substantial upgrade

General Motors logo2 Feb 2010

GENERAL Motors has declared its commitment to V8 engines and is planning a “substantial transformation” of its pushrod small-block V8.

Last month’s Detroit motor show might have featured much green technology, but GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz backed the GM V8, while Fiat and Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne promised a long future for the Hemi V8 and Ford presented its new-generation Coyote V8.

Mr Lutz indicated the GM small-block V8 would be given a significant mechanical upgrade, and hinted that technology such as direct-injection and variable valve timing could be employed.

Asked if GM planned changes for the small-block V8, Mr Lutz said: “Nothing we would want to announce today.

“The V8 is going to have to undergo a substantial transformation and it is going to need new timing technology. A lot of things have to happen with the small-block.” It is not yet clear if GM would move away from pushrods or instead develop a variable overhead cam valve system.

Mr Lutz said the GM small-block, which was introduced in 1955, has constantly evolved.

 center imageLeft: Chrysler Hemi V8.

“The small-block has always been like grandfather’s axe – you know where it has been in the family for 100 years and sometimes you change the blade and sometimes you change the handle,” he said.

“Because you never change the blade and the handle at the same time it is still grandfather’s axe, even though the blade and the handle have probably been changed about six times so far.

“It is the same old small-block, but if you go back in history there is nothing the same.” The GM small-block V8 family includes the Holden Commodore’s 6.0-litre Gen IV, which now features displacement on demand cruising fuel economy technology as well as the HSV 6.2-litre LS3 and the 7.0-litre LS7 which made a brief appearance in the W427.

Mr Lutz made it clear that eight-cylinder engines still had a role in the GM family, but would need to become leaner.

“The V8 engine is not dead, not by any means,” he said.

“There is plenty of potential to make V8s more fuel efficient. For instance direct-injection as opposed to indirect-injection, cylinder shut-down (for the LS versions) – there is still quite a bit of technology left that can be deployed in V8 engines to make them more fuel efficient.

“It will continue to be popular and it will be a significant proportion of the portfolio. I think we need to continue to develop the engine.” There is a view that V8 engines are at odds with the new generation of green engines being put forward by most manufacturers, including Chevrolet’s electric range extended Volt, but Mr Lutz argues there is room for V8 engines alongside GM’s new range of green powerplants.

“We do hybrids and electric vehicles and extended range stuff because that is where the world is moving and our overseas subsidiaries like Holden will benefit from all that technology that comes on stream, but we are still probably the world’s largest producer of V8 engines and proud of it and have some truly excellent cars with V8 engines such as Cadillacs and Holdens,” he said.

Mr Marchionne told GoAuto that the Chrysler Group would still regard the Hemi V8 as an important powerplant under its new leadership.

“It will continue to be popular and it will be a significant proportion of the portfolio,” he said.

Like Mr Lutz, Mr Marchionne said plenty could be done to make the Hemi, which also has displacement on demand, more efficient.

“I think we need to continue to develop the engine,” he said.

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