Not every technological advance is compelling enough to instantly earn it a spot in automotive industry folklore, but the Chevrolet small-block V-8 unquestionably passes that test. Designed under the guidance of the great Ed Cole, and first introduced in late 1954, the small-block was a low-weight, high-rev, high-compression engine designed for performance, serviceability and low production cost. The design had a short-skirt, thinwall engine block, stamped-steel rocker arms, cylinder heads with side-to-side interchangeability, and excellent breathing capability. It was so successful that it put the previous benchmark American V-8, the flathead Ford, on the trailer when it came to hot rodders and serious racers. Tens of million have since been produced in a dizzying variety of generations, displacements and application, and new-generation small-blocks power a variety of today’s General Motors vehicles. You can also leaf through the GM Genuine Parts catalog and shop for ready-to-fire crate engines that will complement your muscle car or hot rod buildup. And then, for the truck crowd, there’s this.
GM has taken a prominent page from its past in crafting and introducing an all-new replacement small-block V-8 displacing 350 cubic inches, a legendary engine size that first appeared in 1967, with its 4.00-inch bore, as an optional powerplant for the first Chevrolet Camaro. Let’s make it immediately clear that this is a brand-new engine, its long block not remanufactured from an old Chevy core or reverse-engineered in any way. Though it’s ostensibly intended for truck use, this new 350 has some very substantial design elements that will appeal to performance enthusiasts, starting with its four-bolt main bearing caps, forged-steel crankshaft, CNC-machined cylinder heads and compatibility with roller-bearing valvetrain components. While the new engine is specifically aimed at truck applications, you could still certainly build up a heck of a stout performance or competition small-block with a baseline like this. It’s being produced at the assembly plant in Springfield, Missouri, that GM jointly operates with Navistar, and where the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna vans are already built.