One of the key characteristics of any internal combustion engine is its displacement. The physical size of the engine means a lot of things to car experts. In fact, it can tell you much more than just how large the engine is. The displacement means the number of cylinders, output in terms of horsepower and torque, fuel efficiency and emissions. The bigger the engine, the more cylinders it will have and the more power and torque it will produce.
Once upon a time in car history the size of the engine didn’t matter. Detroit produced exceptionally large, powerful units that moved big cars with ease. During the 60’s and the early 70’s, fuel consumption wasn’t a big deal. With gas at 15 cents per gallon, everybody could afford to drive an enormous V8. In comparison to import car engines, American V8s looked like giants. Back then, the famous saying “There is no replacement for displacement” was born.
Today, the car industry is much more concerned about gas emissions and fuel efficiency. Although the days of monster engines are gone, there are still a few big, powerful units for sale today. Keep reading this informative list of the 12 biggest Detroit-built engines they ever put in passenger cars.
1. Hemi 426
One of the most famous engines in the muscle car era was Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8. They conceived it in the early 50’s. The Hemi engine was an innovative way of constructing the heads of the engine with side-mounted valves and big hemispherical combustion chambers; hence the name. This configuration proved to deliver more power, torque and revs than regular V8 engines, so Chrysler adopted it for most of their cars.
The Hemi family started with the 331 CID engine and went all the way to 392 CID before they discontinued it in the late 50’s. However, looking for racing engines, Chrysler engineers remembered the Hemi. So they resurrected it in 1964 as a pure racing engine with 426 CID and 7.0-liter displacement. The new engine proved to be fantastic, and not just for drag racing, but on the NASCAR ovals, too. It didn’t take long for the management to understand its commercial potential.
In 1966, the 426 Hemi became a regular production option on selected Dodge and Plymouth models. Compared to other muscle car engines of the period, Hemi was the king and soon earned the nickname, “The Elephant,” for its size and power. They rated the engine in street trim at 425 HP. But it was obvious it delivered around 500 HP straight from the factory. Soon, the Hemi became the most desirable engine for all street racers, but it was far from perfect.
The 426 Hemi was difficult to maintain. In addition, it wasn’t fuel-efficient in any way and it was expensive, too. The last year of the 426 Hemi production was 1971. Over the course of five years, they made around 10,000 engines. You can find them in Dodge and Plymouth road and race cars, and even in drag racing boats.