Engine Porn from the GM Heritage Center

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In addition to the cars, scale models, memorabilia and neon signs that fill the General Motors Heritage Center, the corporate museum also has an entire section devoted to historic GM engines. Actually, they’re pretty much exclusively Chevy motors, as I don’t recall seeing any of the other GM brands’ engines on display that day. I can understand not having an Oldsmobile Rocket V8 or Pontiac SOHC Six, since those brands have been discontinued (though there are still large displays of cars from those now deceased GM brands at the GMHC), but I’m surprised they didn’t have a Buick “Nail Head” V8 or even better, one of David Buicks “valve in head” engines that was so important in the history of what would become General Motors.

Still, there were plenty of genuinely historic engines for motorheads to drool over, from Chevy’s Stovebolt Six to a selection of modern LSx variants. There were SBCs in a variety of displacements including the original 265, a 283 and a couple of 327s along with an SB2 second generation small block Chevy. Large blocks were also well represented in displacements from 348 to 454. There were a couple of 427s including the very rare Z-11 version available as a R.P.O. option on the ’63 Impala two-door, essentially a factory drag car. To the GMHC’s credit the display includes one of Charles Kettering’s copper-cooled 1923 Chevrolet engines, one of Kettering’s few technical failures.

The LS454 was not the largest displacement engine in the GMHC, nor wasn the mammoth Oldsmobile Limited’s 707 cubic inch (11L) straight six. The largest engine on display wasn’t even from a car. During World War II, the American auto industry converted to military production and one of GM’s contributions to the war effort was building Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines. To recognize that, the GMHC has a  R-2800 Double Wasp built in the Tonawanda plant. The 18 cylinder double-bank supercharged radial engine displaces 45.9 liters and puts out 2,000 horsepower. Actually aircraft and marine engines are not that uncommon at car museums, particularly those located near Detroit, the “arsenal of democracy”. The Packard Proving Grounds has Packard marine engines including one used in WWII PT boats. The Walter P. Chrysler museum has a 30 cylinder Sherman tank engine that Chrysler cobbled together out of 5 inline sixes, and Chrysler’s original “hemi”, an experimental inverted V16 that never saw combat but did develop combustion chamber, head and connecting rod designs that would appear on peacetime Chrysler engines.

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