Chevrolet introduced the small-block in 1955, and the production milestone comes in the same month the brand celebrates its 100th anniversary. The engine design has been used in GM vehicles around the world and is currently found in global Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac vehicles, along with Vauxhall in the U.K. and Holden in Australia.
“The small-block is the engine that brought high-performance to the people,” said David Cole, founder of the Center for Automotive Research and son of the late Ed Cole, chief engineer at Chevrolet who oversaw development of the original engine. “There is an elegant simplicity in its design that made it instantly great when new, and enables it to thrive almost six decades later.”
The milestone engine is a supercharged, 638-horsepower LS9 version used in the Corvette ZR1, which is hand-built at GM’s Performance Build Center northwest of Detroit. It represents the fourth generation of the small-block engine, and GM will keep it as part of its historical collection.
Among the 100 million engines are “crate engines” sold to enthusiasts, updated versions of the original first-generation engine that are still used for marine and industrial applications, and the 4.3-litre V6 found in some Chevrolet and GMC trucks and vans, based on the small-block but with two fewer cylinders.
GM also announced a fifth-generation small-block engine under development, which will feature a new direct-injection combustion system for increased efficiency.
The first Chevrolet small-block of 1955 had a displacement of 4.3 litres (265 cubic inches) and produced up to 195 horsepower with its optional four-barrel carburetor.