The End of an Era: GM Produces its last Big Block Engine by Gregory Hilton

After 51 years in production, General Motors this week produced its last big block V8 engine. These were the power plants for the high performance cars – Corvette, Camaro, Impala SS, GTO, Firebird, and numerous heavy duty pickups. The autos were at first called muscle cars, and over five million big blocks were built at six GM plants.
The engine design was updated many times since 1958, and its versatility and power was the reason it stayed in production. According to “Car and Driver” magazine, “The only people who could possibly be happy at the death of the big blocks are ones who haven’t owned or experienced one. If you wanted an engine that could pull your house trailer up Pike’s Peak, this was it.”
Unfortunately, they were also beasts at the fuel pump. The future now belongs to small displacement V6 turbo engines which will meet the new fuel economy requirements. Times do change but that in no way makes the accomplishments of the big blocks any less impressive.
Today the two extra cylinders in a V8 are considered a waste of gasoline, and this is apparent in the current Corvette which is rated at 16 city and 19 highway mpg.
That will change. By 2016, automobiles manufactured in the United States will have to operate at 35.5 miles per gallon. Europe already has a 40 mpg standard. The new requirements will cost Americans an average of $1300 a vehicle.
The increased CAFE standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) will also mean an increase in automobile accident fatalities. This is because manufacturers will meet the new fuel standards by building smaller cars and trucks with lighter but more fragile material. This will protect motorists less during automobile accidents.
The National Academy of Sciences estimates the increased motorist deaths from small cars at 1,300 to 2,600/year. That is far higher than our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, and it is on the magnitude of the Vietnam War.
The major reason for increasing the CAFE standards is to reduce greenhouse gases. According to the Heritage Foundation, cars and trucks subject to the increase CAFÉ standards generate only 1.5% of greenhouse gases. The new standards will decrease greenhouse gases by only one half of one percent.

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