Over the years countless of engines have come and gone – some good, some bad, and some that were outright terrible. Of course, with the competitive nature of the automotive industry, no manufacturer sets out to make a truly horrible motor.
Different circumstances affects an engine's reputation, sometimes it's something as simple as timing. The moment in history at which an engine is introduced can determine whether it will be labelled as the worse of its time or go down in history as one of the best exercises in engineering.
Today, we will be focusing on American car engines, which are mostly known for being big powerhouses; unfortunately though, that wasn't always the case. Some are hailed as domestic heroes, others as nothing but complete underperforming piles of junk.
15. Best: Dodge Viper V10
Sometimes size matters. This is definitely one of those times. Siting under the hood of the fifth generation Viper, this behemoth was a 8.4L V10 producing 645 hp. It wasn't the poster child for efficiency but it did make a statement. Rumors are floating about the return of the Viper, but with the changes in emission and environmental laws, the glorious V10 won't be back.
14. Best: Dodge Demon V8 Hemi
If you have seen the news in recent years, you've probably heard of the Challenger Demon. The Dodge is equipped with a 6.2L V8 and a supercharger larger than most car engines. It’s no wonder the Demon dominated drag strips across the nation. Currently sold out, but the equally crazy Hellcat Redeye is still available for those that are looking for almost 800 hp.
13. Best: Chevy 327 V8
This efficient and torquey engine was once the bread and butter of Chevy small blocks. A power source of choice for many enthusiasts, it was dependable, inexpensive, and has lots of parts and support to make it easily accessible, whether you are experienced or new in the domain of car building.
12. Best: Chevy 302 V8
Although not as popular as Ford's Boss 302, Chevy's version definitely deserves to be on this list. Created using parts from different engines, it’s sort of a Frankenstein creation, made to meet SCCA Trans Am regulations. Fitted into the legendary Z28 Camaro, it solidifies it as one of the all time muscle car greats.
11. Best: Ford Boss 302 V8
One of the famous names linked to a Ford Mustang, the Boss 302 competed with its Chevy counterpart in races for years. You will probably get a different answer on which one is the better engine depending on who you ask. If you ask us, we are giving the edge to Ford's creation.
10. Best: Chevy 427 V8 L88
In the muscle world, there is nobody who doesn't big blocks and nothing is better than big power output with low cost. The 427 L88 fits the bill perfectly. Having powered two Chevy legends, the Camaro and the Corvette, and for good reason. This engine is still very desired in the present.
9. Best: Chevy 427 V8 ZL1
If the previous entry belongs on the list, then so does the ZL1, the all aluminum version of the 427 V8, same but better. Although it is technically the same engine, we are giving it its own entry due to the extensive re-engineering needed. The rarity alone is enough for it to be mentioned here.
8. Best: 426 Hemi V8
There is no one in the car world that hasn't heard of the 426 Hemi, nicknamed the elephant engine. A motor that lit up the drag strips across the country. An engine so important that MOPAR brought it back as a 1000 hp crate engine, and sold out as fast as the cars it powered.
7. Best: Chevy LT5 V8
The most powerful engine fitted into the Chevrolet Corvette, or simply the most powerful Chevy engine period. Introduced the C7 ZR1, this LS based engine is a 6.2L supercharged V8 producing 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. If this doesn't make the list, then not much else will.
6. Best: Ford Voodoo V8
Most people would pick an engine from the muscle car golden era as the best motor ever made in America. Take off the rose tinted glasses for a second and bask in the magnificence of the first flat plane V8 built by a domestic manufacturer. A 5.2L V8 revving to over 7,000 RPM, sounding like the love child between an exotic supercar and a muscle car.
5. Worst: Ford Essex 3.8L V6
The 3.8L Essex V6 OHV fitted to the 1994 fourth generation Mustang was a performance dud. With only 145 hp it makes you wonder why it was ever installed into a sports car, let alone in such a brand defining car as the Mustang. Ford eventually rectified this in 1999 and increased its power output.
4. Worst: Ford Cologne 4.0L V6
The OHV version of this engine produced a paltry 155 hp out of a 4.0L V6, needless to say that this is probably one of the worse HP/L in a relatively modern engine. The SOHC version improved its performance to 210hp better but still lagging behind the V6 engines of its competitors.
3. Worst: Ford 5.0L 302 V8
The third generation Mustang, known as the Fox Body, had a 302 5.0L V8, though not anywhere close to the 302 that was mentioned above. The new V8 was hit hard by emission regulations and produced only 140 hp, doing the quick math this comes out at only 28 hp per liter.
2. Worst: Cadillac L62 V8
Also known as the Cadillac V8-6-4 due to fact that it offered cylinder shut off to decrease gas consumption. A great example of bad timing, a fantastic idea terribly executed simply because the technology at the time wasn't ready to implement the idea properly. What should've been a technology marvel ended up being a complete failure.
1. Worst: GM 4.3L V8 Diesel
The Dieselgate scandal is still fresh in recent memories but before that there was another event that killed the reputation of diesel engines across America. The 4.3L V8 diesel from GM was a prime example showcasing that proper engineering shouldn't be rushed. .