A small-block engine is a North American V8 in a family of engines which generally have less than 6 liters (360 cubic inches) of displacement, although some derivatives have grown larger (up to 400 cubic inches, 6.6 litres). Larger families of engines are called big-blocks. The distinction came about in the early 1960s when the large full-size cars needed a bigger V8 than the smaller intermediate and compact cars. Prior to that point, manufacturers normally had only one V8 engine line.
The term is normally used only for engines from the "Big Three" (Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler Corporation) since the other companies did not keep two V8 engine size families. However, it's sometimes used for the more modern and compact V8s produced by others, such as Studebaker.
Although a small-block V8 is of significantly smaller displacement than the equivalent big-block, a small-block engine can be tuned to develop significant amounts of power. Additionally, many small-block engines were more advanced technologically than their big-block counterparts, and were much lighter and smaller. For this reason, they were often preferred in racing and sporting applications. Many hot rods and custom cars are fitted with small-block V8s, particularly the GM (Chevrolet) 350 engine and the Ford 351 Windsor.
Ford Motor Company small block V8 engines include the following:
- Ford Y-block engine (1954-1962)
- Ford Windsor engine (1962-1995)
- Ford 335 engine (AKA Ford Cleveland engine) (1970-1982)
- Ford Modular V8
- Ford Triton engine
- Ford Duratec engine
General Motors small-block V8s include:
- 350/LT1 - Generation I small-block
- LT5 - DOHC 4-valve small-block from Lotus/ Mercury Marine
- LT1/LT4 - Generation II small-block
- Northstar - Cadillac DOHC engine
- L47 "Aurora" - Oldsmobile Aurora DOHC engine
- LS1/LS2/LS6/LS7 - Generation III and IV small-block
- Vortec - Truck engines based on the LS1
Chrysler Corporation small-blocks include:
- Chrysler A engine (1956-1966)
- Chrysler LA engine (1964-)