GM Produces 100-Millionth Small Block Engine
A ZR1 LS9 Engine just produced by Chevrolet was the 100-Millionth manufactured by the company.
In the past 56 years, since Chevrolet began producing small block engines, the bowtie emblazoned automotive company and the small block engine has been synonymous with one another. In that time, every iconic car produced by Chevrolet has been known and linked to their famous small-block engine design in some manner. Most recently, the fifth generation Camaro has become a small block powered icon on both road and track, much like it’s LS small block powered big brother, the Corvette.
The sheer number there–100,000,000 for those who like lots of zeroes–really highlights the durability, reputation, and potential of the small block and speaks to the iconic nature of the GM engine. It is fitting then to also consider that the first small block, introduced in 1955, was built for the first generation Corvette and the 100-millionth produced was a hand-crafted work of art LS9 made specifically for the sixth generation Corvette’s special edition ZR1–the fastest Corvette ever produced.
Of course, the transition from the first small block to the modern pinnacle LS9 is a long one, filled with numerous exciting and memorable engines. In 1992 Chevrolet first introduced its second-generation Small Block, known as the LT1, in to its Corvette. This engine became an absolute staple on tracks across the globe, and adorned various vehicles from that Corvette, to the F-Body Camaro and Firebird, and the B-Body Impala SS and Caprice Police car. The LT1, which featured a newly developed reverse cooling, is still being used in races all across the globe today.
Following the second generation, Chevrolet then introduced their first LS Engine in 1997. This third generation small block, which was first placed in the C5 Corvette, was an even greater step forward. The LS engines are all-aluminum small blocks, and the first of them, the LS1, was rated a naturally aspirated 350HP and 365 lb ft of torque–numbers that, today, are still incredibly impressive for a naturally aspirated 5.7L engine. The LS engine was then featured, in some form, in numerous different vehicles and even had a more powerful, LS6 version introduced in the C5 Z06 Corvette in 2001. This LS6 featured the same 5.7L displacement as its LS1 brethren, but put out a stomach churning 405HP and 400 lb ft of torque.
Those numbers were fairly mind-shattering for a naturally aspirated engine of the LS6′s size and weight, at least, until 2005 when the first of the fourth generation small block was released. In 2005 the Corvette went from its fifth generation vehicle to the now current sixth generation, and with the change in body also came the biggest change: the introduction of the Chevrolet LS2. The LS2 was almost identical to the LS6 engine in performance and displacement, but also featured a much more even Torque curve through-out the RPM range, and had the potential to be modified for incredible gains. It was from this base LS2 that the LS7–the now revered 505HP and 470 lb ft torque monster–was produced and introduced to the 2006 Corvette. Just one year after the update of the small block, this engine seemed to be where everything was building, and the Z06 became the undeniable greatest performance bang for the buck on the globe. Within the year, there were Z06′s running against quarter-million dollar European exotics on racetracks all across the globe, and each one came with the distinctive sound and tone that only a Chevrolet small block V8 can deliver through the exhaust.
Of course, Chevrolet wasn’t finished there (thankfully, they’re dedicated to the production of envelope-pushing performance machines) and we saw such engines as the 430HP LS3 (now outfitting the base-level C6 Corvette and the Chevrolet Camaro SS), the LSA (a 556HP Supercharged monster that can be found in the world’s fastest production sedan, the Cadillac CTS-V and will also hit the streets in the body of the new super-Camaro ZL1 this year), and the engine that would be made as number 100,000,000–the LS9.
The LS9 is an absolute marvel worth talking about as well, especially considering that everything before it brought us to this point. The LS9, which can only be found in the top of the line Corvette ZR1, produces an amazing supercharged 6.2L engine based on the LS3 block and putting out a ferocious 638bhp and 604 lb ft of torque. Those numbers, in combination with the Corvette’s lightweight body and wide, aggressive stance, have produced a vehicle that runs track times that best it’s $250,000+ competitors. Today, the ZR1 is the undeniable greatest bargain on wheels that exists for the performance minded consumer, and, as such, is the only engine fitting to be given the designation as number 100,000,000 of its kind.
Of course, Chevrolet’s not stopping at 100,000,000 and the future of the small block engine holds a great deal of excitement. Already, official reports have come out that Chevrolet is updating their engine for the seventh-generation of their Corvette, and we may see the introduction of such features as direct injection and an upgraded combustion chamber design, as well as the improved performance and efficiency numbers to match. GM enthusiasts should expect to see the next small block engine first hit the streets in the C7 Corvette, scheduled for release some time in 2014.