Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Automotive Engine, Ever?

Engineering has been the rule of thumb this week, and we’ve gathered your opinions on examples both good and bad, but there’s no more important mechanical part of any car than the one that makes it go. The earliest were tiny one-lungs, while the biggest can make the thumps of Paul Bunyan’s axe seem like a kitten’s fart by comparison. Engines, internal combustion for the most part, but also encompassing steam-driven and even electric, are the single most important factor in defining the personality and capability of most any car.
And each is as individualistic and unique as a Terrance Malik film.
Where does your allegiance lie? Do you like V8s, or do your proclivities run more to the high-revving fours  favored in places like Italy and Japan? Maybe the progeny of the suicidal Felix Wankel really gets your triangle spinning, or perhaps you prefer aircooled boxers to briefs?
In the 100-plus years of the auto age, seemingly every form of engine has been tried, from air-cooled radial to ubiquitous ohc inline four, and even instant-torque electric. Some have proven more successful than others, while some barely cause a blip on Wikipedia’s stream of consciousness. Out of all those, there must be one that stands head and shoulders – or at least valve covers and headers – above the rest?
Image source: [bdmotorsports.com]

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94 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Automotive Engine, Ever?”

  1. lilwillie Avatar

    Big Block Chevy. Such a KISS idea. Take a small engine, don't change the design, just make it HUGE
    <img src="http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i65/lilwillie_wi/Camaro/100_2806.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="454 BBC MPFI wDIS">

    1. Jim-Bob Avatar

      If you refer to it being just a bigger small block Chevy then you would be wrong. The heads are VERY different in design and valve layout. The engine only shares a common transmission mounting flange and distributor with small block Chevys and nothing else that is usually engine specific interchanges. Some people do use BBC oil pumps on SBC's and 348/409's, but they are different.

      1. lilwillie Avatar

        Whoever deleted that comment I posted earlier, thanks.
        Vented for no reason and took it out on Jim. Apologies. Going to find a corner and a cold beer to calm myself further. No reason to take a moment of anger from my daily life and carry it to this place.

  2. craigsu Avatar

    Volvo B230F 'cause it's been so bulletproof for me for 20 years.

  3. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    The straight six. Works so well in almost anything it is put in.
    <img src=http://image.streetrodderweb.com/f/29448251+w750+st0/1012sr_02_o+1931_ford_coupe+1956_chevry_235_straight_six.jpg>

    1. M600 Avatar

      Let's take a moment to glower in the general direction of Mercedes for switching to V6 in 1995.

  4. OA5599 Avatar

    Take the architecture of a 425 HP Hemi
    <img src="http://www.rlbaileyrestoration.com/hemicuda1.jpg&quot; width=500>
    Add 74 more cubic inches, a blower and inject some nitro, and that's your basic recipe for 8000HP
    <img src="http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ldgxp8Lx3b1qdcd2wo1_500.jpg"&gt;

  5. tonyola Avatar

    Duesenberg DOHC straight 8. Capable of 400 hp even with 1932-level technology. This was when a really powerful car had 180 hp. Imagine what could be done with modern supercharging and breathing.
    <img src="http://jonthecomposer.com/WEB/WEB%20pics/duesenberg8.jpg&quot; width=600>

    1. FЯeeMan Avatar

      It would be interesting to see what could be done with a modern straight 8 based on the Dusey. It would be a shame to take an existing one and hack it to shreds to find out, though.

    2. PowerTryp Avatar

      F&^* me thats pretty.

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    Ever, ever? I will just go with the 3.2 V6 outta a NSX
    <img src="http://us1.webpublications.com.au/static/images/articles/i20/2080_3lo.jpg"&gt;
    Vtec just kicked in…

    1. Andrew Avatar

      Argh. YO!

      1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
        Jeff Glucker


      2. Alff Avatar

        That's the spirit!

  7. CptSevere Avatar

    I agree. We used to get about half a million miles out of the Caprices we used when I was a cab driver. With the original SBC. Maybe the trans would have to be rebuilt, maybe the rear end, but the engines soldiered on.

  8. tonyola Avatar

    For "most improved" engine, I'd have to go with the GM 3800. It started out as the rough and gutless Buick 231 V6 when they bought it back from Jeep in 1974. It ended up as a smooth, torquey, economical, and nearly-indestructible workhorse engine for GM.

  9. Alff Avatar

    Going with the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-c two-stroke diesel used in freighters. The most powerful and thermally efficient engine in the world.
    <img src="http://i337.photobucket.com/albums/n399/Nova21/Big%20Block/1.jpg"width=500&gt;
    IRW, I loves me some Alfa Nords.

    1. dragon951 Avatar

      Riding on that cylinder would be the most fun roller coaster ever…until the exploding part.

      1. Alff Avatar

        You'd be exhausted afterward.

  10. RichardKopf Avatar

    Why, the air-cooled V8 in the back of a Tatra 603.
    Also, I must give props to the worst engine ever, the HT4100. That damn thing was with us in some form until recently.

  11. Christo Avatar

    For me it's a tough call between the BMW S54, BMW S85 or Honda F20C. I love me some revs.

  12. brazilreporter Avatar

    The Hartley Busa V8 maybe not my favourit but is one of the most intriging engines
    <img src="http://cache-02.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/gallery/12/2009/05/medium_3575274531_6fc8825b0b_o.jpg"&gt;

  13. brazilreporter Avatar

    Most favourit is a Cossie in an Escort Mk1 engine bay
    <img src="http://www.motoscope.co.uk/images/escmk1005.jpg"&gt;

  14. dukeisduke Avatar

    The Pontiac V8, of course. Simple and bulletproof, the Pontiac V8 pioneered stamped rocker arms (with zero lash lifters), which were then adopted for the Small Block Chevy. They also used stout cranks with large main journals, and just ten beefy bolts per head. Also a dual plane intake manifold with separate valley cover, and D-shaped exhaust ports.
    <img src="IMAGE URL" width="600">
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5a/Pontiac_Tripower.jpg"&gt;

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      This is also my pick. I love the way they sound, look, and make power in the midrange where it's the most fun. Plus, no matter how much you spend making one pretty, the paint's gonna burn off those heads in no time and it's going to look like a working man. Just like the one in this pic.

  15. Lotte Avatar

    <img src="http://www.ktsmotorsportsgarage.com/amelia98/images/fullsize/chrysler63turb1.jpg&quot; width="500/">
    "Ever" is a long time, so I'll look to the future…Chrysler Turbine! It burns everything and sounds like a jet doing it! http://www.allpar.com/mopar/turbine.html

  16. Alex Avatar

    What engine builder has won the most points in F1?
    What engine has been used in more f1 races than any other?
    What engine was used from 1967-1985?
    Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce the FORD-COSWORTH DFV
    [youtube -yOI_RKu3qk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yOI_RKu3qk youtube]

    1. joshuman Avatar

      The golden part of that video for me is hearing Keith Duckworth talk about building engines.

  17. Devin Avatar

    <img src="http://classic2.alfisti.net/media/ratgeber/autokauf/kb164_v6_24v.jpg"&gt;
    I'm going with this Alfa 24V V6. For no reason other than if I had one I'd spend all day in the garage staring at it. It's so purdy.

    1. TheRedCar Avatar

      The 12V version gets my vote simply because I've never heard a 24V.
      It's the greatest sounding engine I've ever heard. Between the fact that 4000 rpms sounds like 8000, and the sound changing pitch at least 4 times as it goes through the revs, it's incredibly addictive.
      I've had a 84 3.0 GTV6 for 11 years and I've been threatening to sell it for the last 6. That idea only lasts until about the 3rd or 4th run though the gears every spring.

  18. Hopman Avatar

    I'm going to go in a different direction and nominate a couple of truck engines:
    The Detriot Diesel Series 60 and the Navistar DT466 (now known as the MaxxForce 7).
    Why? The Series 60 was the first diesel to be computer controlled and the DT has been used for years with the same basic design! I've even seen a few used un Unlimited tractor pulling comps!

  19. thomasmac Avatar

    Ive always liked the "Sprint" package for the Pontiac OHC-6, shame Chevrolet did`nt do anything like that for the 250.

  20. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    I read on Allpar, that Chrysler tinkered with the idea of a twin-cam, slant 6. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

  21. Joe Avatar

    Volkswagen 1600DP. Despite the type-4 being superior; the ubiquity, robustness, interchangeability and aftermarket support makes the type-1 my favorite.

    1. buzzboy7 Avatar

      Yes. There is no other engine I can think of that is quite as "customizable" or as "unique" or even as "stout" as the dual port. The single may be a bit better for turbo/super charging but there is just something about the DP. Plenty of low end torques for dune buggies and rail cars. Enough top end to pass people without having to drop gears(dropping gears in most cases would overrev/kill engine). I loved my DP. The only reason I sold that car was for rust issues.

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      How many plussies do I get to I click for this?

  22. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    The power plant in my personal Eleanor (Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3)….the M-100
    <img src="http://m1.ikiwq.com/img/xl/t8qfb82baFsgoocXT7r5Va.jpg"&gt;

  23. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I loves me some flat fours, just add snail.
    <img src="http://lotpro.com/blogphotos/Subaru/tn_CS08Subaru%20Forester%20Engine.jpg"&gt;
    IMG from LotPro.com

  24. PowerTryp Avatar

    The winningest engine in F1, also used successfully in other openwheel series to this day. Ford (Cosworth) DFV.
    <img src="http://www.maserati-alfieri.co.uk/nec2003a/nec-2003-119a.jpg&quot; width="500">

  25. Deartháir Avatar

    Bit surprised it hasn't been mentioned, but I will always have a soft spot for the Ford Flathead V8. Partly because of the history, but also because it's just damned pretty.
    <img src="http://www.hotrodscustomstuff.com/OLD_SITE/Cars/Culton-32/Culton32-02-02.jpg&quot; width="600">
    And, by extension, I've got love for the Lincoln Flathead V12. Sure, it was a largely crap engine, but it fills me with "what if?" and wondering what we could do with that engine, properly hot-rodded today.
    <img src="http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/jalopnik/2009/03/Ford_Zephster.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. McQueen Avatar

      With a good running Flathead V8 you should be able to count off the cylinders as they fire , there is a 90 Lb flywheel spinning behind the motor

  26. MusclesMarinara Avatar

    [youtube q_rohOISimg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_rohOISimg youtube]
    Powered by Ford.
    Ever since I first heard it rumble in my uncle's old Torino GT, I've been a fan of the 351 Cleveland.

    1. Alff Avatar

      88 miles

    2. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      The wikis are your friend, but it's mostly head design. The Cleveland has humongous ports and valves, which made it a great engine for higher-rpm applications.

      1. Alff Avatar

        IIRC, not all Cleveland heads are created equal – some had huge valves, others not.

      2. McQueen Avatar

        The Windsor is a small block like a 302 and the Cleveland was actually built for marine purposes with heavier casting and totally different water passages for marine use , it belongs to the 335 family which included the 351M and 400M there were also some 302 Cleveland produced .

  27. citroen67 Avatar

    12 Valve Cummins. Because real engines don't need silly things like spark plugs.
    <img src="http://dieseldepot.com/images/cummins-6btcomplete.gif"&gt;

  28. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I like different engines for different reasons. One of my all time favorites has to be the Nissan KA24DE. I really love reliability and modestly maintained KA's are damn near indestructible. My old Frontier has 362,000 city miles on it's original KA24DE and the only reason I parked it in my back yard is because I can no longer afford to drive a vehicle that only gets 21 mpg city. I also like that they are nearly a bolt in swap for the old Nissan L series engines as they are an evolution of them. Thus they can be bolted in place of, say an L16 in a PL510 with oil pan mods.
    I also like the Suzuki G10 for practical reasons. Most cars they come (Swifts, Metros and clones)in get 40-55 mpg without being hybrids. As an added bonus, you can actually lift the engine out of the engine bay BY HAND because it only weighs 137 lbs. They are also great engines to swap into lightweight cars like the Mini to make a practical classic car that is easy to get parts for at any local parts store.
    For fun, nothing beats the budget friendly nature of the small block Chevy. Newer designs like the LSX may be capable of more than the 56 year old SBC, but they can't do it on the budget that the SBC can. It is not without it's flaws (low nickel engine blocks, for example) but all in all it has been the way to go fast on a budget for generations and that makes it worthy of love.

  29. muthalovin Avatar

    Man, I was seriously hoping for more yo's.

  30. muthalovin Avatar

    I guess I should speak up for the Ford enthusiasts that are strangely MIA.
    <img src="http://www.modelcar.de/picall/modellautobilder/ford_gt_motor.jpg"&gt;

    1. McQueen Avatar

      The Modular motor doesn't receive near the amount of love it deserves .

  31. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Hmmm…Favorite to own, drive, or just appreciate from afar?
    Hard to beat the ownership experience of a small block Ford or an AMC/Jeep I-6. Generally speaking, you're not gonna do better for power per unit volume (at a given reliability) than an LS-series engine.
    Favorite to bring up for no good reason? Buick/Old Turbo-Jetfire 215 V8. An all-aluminum, small-displacement, turbocharged, methanol-injected motor from GM. In 1962.
    <img src="http://forums.pelicanparts.com/uploads16/F851265410528.jpg"&gt;

    1. Jim-Bob Avatar

      The funny thing is that it was only rated 15 hp more than the top N/A variant of this engine used in the Buick Special. The heads were different on the Olds vs the Buick, but it is still sort of funny that the turbo added so little.

      1. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

        I'd be very curious to see actual dyno torque curves from both. (Remember that both were rated in the SAE gross system, which bore only a nodding resemblance to as-installed developed output.)
        The Jetfire was not designed for maximum peak output — Olds was very concerned with low-speed drivability, and they were trying to avoid the off-boost lethargy that tends to afflict high-boost turbo systems. As I recall, a manual-shift Jetfire (which was relatively rare) was faster than a manual 200 hp Skylark, although certainly from a cost standpoint, the latter made a lot more sense.

        1. Jim-Bob Avatar

          That would certainly be interesting to see. I know that the Jetfire used a very high compression ratio (10.25:1?) to make up for the lag that early turbo had and that it produced very little boost (5 psi if memory serves). That boost probably did not come on until high up in the power curve due to the lag and as such likely did not come in to play during most driving conditions. I often wonder how much power could be made with that engine using a modern turbo, like the Garrett GT series or even the undersized unit off the VW 1.8T and fuel injection.

    2. Tomsk Avatar

      Only the Olds was available in turbo form, but the Buick enjoyed a much longer life thanks to Rover.

    3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      If you're going to mention the AMC I-6, we need to give a nod to their 250 four banger, too. Sure it maxes out at 120-130 HP in stock trim, but they were fun to run and stout as stout, even modded up.
      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Jeep_2.5_liter_4-cylinder_engine_chromed_a.jpg&quot; width="500">

  32. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    The 2.5 or the 4.5?

    1. oldcarjunkie Avatar

      The 2.5L I think. Motorcycle inspired design, hemi head, etc. Lovely.

  33. buzzboy7 Avatar

    Allowing terrorists, child warriors and my parents to keep driving the same vehicle with unknown damage and unknown mileage for much longer and with much less upkeep than they should.
    <img src="http://www.ls1tech.com/forums/attachments/vehicle-classifieds/244476d1280010732-87-toyota-truck-22rte-turbo-p1010574.jpg&quot; width="600">
    Of course this is the "T" which I adore even more!

  34. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.
    1. dr zero Avatar
      dr zero

      I wanted to click on your thumbs up, but it was at +6, so I couldn't change it. Consider this a metaphorical thumbs up instead.

  35. IronBallsMcG Avatar

    Yo're right.

  36. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    SHO V6, because it's pretty and I'm a Yamaha fanboi.
    <img src="http://www.britishv8.org/Other/NormanRest/NormanRest-AJ.JPG&quot; width="480">
    Fiat 8V, just because it's a rare and exotic, tiny Italian V8.
    <img src="http://www.velocetoday.com/images/april06/8v-6.jpg"&gt;
    And finally, if we can pretend it's Tuesday for a moment: Honda RC166.
    <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ao3uUOVmQo8/SO8WSBqIXrI/AAAAAAAACaw/Ri3VkDrt4ss/s400/rc166-2.jpg"&gt;

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Crap. For some reason Hoonibles won't let me embed a YouTube vid. Here's the link:

    2. Hoonda Avatar

      I've wanted a SHO V6 swapped into something that isn't a taurus for a long time. Like a fiero or some other ill-advised platform.

      1. Andrew Avatar

        google "SHOgun"

      2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        My personal ill-advised fantasy is a DJ-5 postal Jeep.

        1. Spencedaddy Avatar

          i have one 😉 in New Mexico with no rust…and you just gave me an idea!

  37. Mazda5Mama Avatar

    I love the engine in the Apollo-STS Crawler Transporter .
    <img src=http://members.optushome.com.au/paylward/images/crawler/ctengine.jpg>

  38. owlman Avatar

    Well I’m with you guys:
    anything flat – 2cv 602 flat twin indestructable; Citroen GS flat four – revs to 8000 and sounds great; Scoobie flat four – all that Citroeny goodness but with added power and reliability – just listen to the warble
    anything else aircooled. Porsche? Nah. Did someone say Tatra? And if a 3.4 litre aircooled V8 hung out the tail isn’t good enough try the aircooled truck diesels
    Best of all – gotta be that Alfa V6. Mine did 99000 and was still fully on song
    Engines are good if they sound good – now pass me that Maserati…

  39. discontinuuity Avatar

    That's like picking a favorite band. This week my favorite is the experimental John Deere turbo direct injection wankel engine: http://protonet.org/doc/rota_text_1986_A4.pdf
    Although my old standby is probably the GM LS series, especially when stuffed into a small car like this MG: <img src="http://www.slowcarfast.com/MG/images_lrg/img_8751.jpg"&gt;

  40. Tomsk Avatar

    BMW's M12 1.5L single-turbo four-cylinder Formula 1 engine from the 1980s. It was based on the production M10 block introduced in 1961, and in qualifying trim purportedly produced around 1,000hp per liter.
    <img src="http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/wp-content/uploads//2010/12/bm1.jpg&quot; width="500" />

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      I'll drink to that, but because of the engine itself — I'm biased against anything that only has to run for an hour before it's thrown out. No, it's the fact that they cast the intake arm into the damned chassis mount that impresses me most. It's weight reducing, wheelbase-shortening genius!

  41. dragon951 Avatar

    What, no picture? Every time I post this I think I will get tired of it:
    <img src="http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/images/gallery/porsche/19700.jpg&quot; width=500/>
    …still waiting.

  42. skitter Avatar

    The Mercedes W196: Inline layout, fuel injected, desmodromic, and dominant in everything from Formula One to Le Mans to the Autobahn.

  43. jims63valvert Avatar

    Not my favorite, but you can never have too many snails…[youtube bLfujQrr2yA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLfujQrr2yA youtube]

  44. waltgator Avatar

    my old 1995 f150 with a 351 diehard!! and now my 5.4 supercharged ford… gass guzzlers but they rock!

  45. PowerTryp Avatar

    I'm amazed, I know 6cyl has been mentioned but I figure a quick shout out to a couple of the greats is deserved.
    <img src="http://i.ytimg.com/vi/HuI30KP61P4/hqdefault.jpg&quot; width="500">
    <img src="http://image05.webshots.com/5/5/49/22/71754922uYKeQJ_ph.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Lastly, with all the 1000hp Lancer Evo motors out there no one has given a shout out to them.
    <img src="http://lh6.ggpht.com/_NRSDCBt4i-U/SwFDSLP0S1I/AAAAAAAADvg/0kEb6HYl5Dg/AMs EVO X engine.jpg" width="500">

  46. dr zero Avatar
    dr zero

    I was just (this morning) reading about the Porsche F1 engine in the latest edition of evo magazine. Looks so insane compared to the BMW above.

  47. CptSevere Avatar

    I agree. We used to get about half a million miles out of the Caprices we used when I was a cab driver. With the original SBC. Maybe the trans would have to be rebuilt, maybe the rear end, but the engines soldiered on.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Weird. I posted this reply to P161911's comment this morning, and it disappeared when I checked back on it tonight. Hoonibles is in a bad mood. If I remember correctly, there were also other completely relevant responses to his writing.

  48. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I know I posted my affinity to the Pontiac V8 earlier, but that's really just my favorite car engine. I think the Honda NR 750 V4 is the coolest engine ever. Oval-shaped pistons, people!

  49. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    I've only owned two cars, so I'm going with the engine in the first, the Nissan VQ30. Very underappreciated because it was only found in the Maxima. What a nice engine: revs easily, fabulous midrange torque, good grumbly sound when you want it, 200k+ expected without any major work – besides replacing every sensor, like, five times. The VQ35 has been in more or less everything Nissan makes for the last eight or nine years, so the VQ30's legacy is carried on nicely.
    I'm sure there are better engines out there, but the VQ is the best one I've owned. (There's not a lot of competition.)

    1. PowerTryp Avatar

      Ward's Autoworld mag agrees with you seeing as how the VQ family made the "10 Best Engines" list from it's inception in 95 all the way up to 2008.

  50. McQueen Avatar

    If you cut me I bleed blue so im going to say the Ford Windsor , it started out as a 221 CID motor and grew to 351 CID . Production of the Windsor ran from 1962 all the way to 2001 when the last 5.0 went into an Explorer . The Windsor is a bullet proof motor that has turned many drivers into champs because of it's reliability .

  51. McQueen Avatar

    The true Mac Daddy of Big Blocks needs a mention here too , the 427 SOHC ( Cammer ) . The story goes that engineers threw the motor together in less than 100 days in 1964 and It shit all over the HEMI 426 until 1968 when Ford went with the 385 series block . In crate form the 427 was producing over 700HP , that's over 100HP per liter in 1964 Honda fans . It didn't take long and
    NASCAR forever banned the use of big blocks in racing .

  52. Granny Avatar

    I love a lot of those already mentioned, especially the Duesenberg DOHC/4-valve-per-cylinder straight-eight. It was a true marvel in its time. I also love the Jaguar V8 in my Land Rover LR3. However, my personal favorite has to be the venerable Jaguar DOHC in-line six that powered all the Jags from the XK-120 through the E-Type and beyond. I had an XK-150 for seven years and never got tired of driving it or polishing the aluminum cam covers and other engine bits or simply staring at it!

  53. Sam Avatar

    BMW M30 3.5 liter inline Six.
    One of the best sounding six cylinder engines. Ever.