In 1951, plucky little Studebaker introduced its new ohv V8 engine, only two years behind the groundbreaking 1949 Cadillac and Oldsmobile V8s, and several years ahead of other competitors. Except for some fairly minor teething issues and a few inherent weak spots, it soon earned a reputation for durability and developed a loyal following among Studebaker fans. It certainly gave Studebaker a competitive edge at the time.
Although it looked fairly modern at the time of its birth, Studebaker’s conservative engineering resulted in a physically large and heavy engine for its displacement, and one whose performance potential was intrinsically limited. That served the typically older and conservative Studebaker buyer just fine, but it was a missed opportunity, as other brands took advantage of the rapidly growing interest in performance and its positive image to expand their sales, especially to younger buyers.
Much of the more recent literature available online about the Studebaker V8 tends to be written by its loyal fans, including this one at Hemmings modestly titled “America’s Best V8 Engine”. We’re going to take a more objective look at this engine, including its strengths and weaknesses, its origins, and the various versions built over its fairly short fourteen-year lifespan (1951 – 1964), including the last-ditch attempt to inject some life into it. The Studebaker V8 may have come into the world a bit meekly, but it went out with a bang.
The creation of the Studebaker V8 had a clearly defined brief, which was laid out along with its engineering and design details in an SAE paper by company engineers Gene Hardig, T.A. Scherger and S.W. Sparrow:
The introduction of this engine was prompted by a desire to benefit humanity in general and Studebaker stockholders in particular. Specifically, the aim was to increase sales and profits by replacing a six-cylinder car with an eight that would cost less and yet have equal or better performance.
Once we get past the tongue-in-cheek desire to benefit humanity in general, there’s some useful information that helps explain the resulting engine, especially the last few words: yet have equal or better performance. That was a somewhat modest goal, to merely equal or better the performance of an aged flathead six engine (the Commander 245.6 CID six) that was a product of 1920s engineering.
And here’s another detail from that report that’s a bit surprising:
Hence a long look forward was in order. In that look we seemed to see what other observers have reported – the possibility of higher compression ratios and hence, smaller combustion chambers…the threat of small combustion chambers led us, somewhat reluctantly, to overhead valves.
“Somewhat reluctantly”? So presumably the first preference for an all new V8 engine was another flathead? Reluctant or not, it’s a good thing they went that route of ohv, otherwise it would have truly been a dismal dead end.
Realistically what happened was that Studebaker’s engineers saw the light when the 1949 Cadillac and Olds V8s appeared, with their compact wedge-shaped combustion chambers, overhead valves, hydraulic valve lifters, generous valve and port size, compact and lighter blocks thanks to shorter strokes and “slipper” pistons, and a slew of other advanced engineering elements. Eventually all American V8s came to adopt these key design aspects of the Cadillac and Olds engines; some sooner than later. Those that didn’t, like the Chrysler hemi and the Ford Y block, did so at their peril, and both were soon replaced by engines (Chrysler B/RB; Ford FE) that more closely followed the GM approach.
Studebaker wisely avoided such a major detour, as they wouldn’t have had the engineering budgets to fix it later like Ford and Chrysler. So they just picked the Cadillac V8 as the starting point for their new engine, which had benefited from extensive research from GM’s Kettering Labs. The evidence that the Studebaker V8 (right) was very deeply influenced by the 1949 Cadillac V8 (left) is all-too obvious. There are some differences of course, but the basic architectural similarities start right from nearly identical bore center spacing (Cad: 4.5625″, Stude: 4.50″) , physical size (these two images are not corrected for size), and even weight, with the much larger displacement (331 CID) Cadillac weighing 695 lbs to the Studebaker’s 650 lbs.
Cadillac even allowed a contingent of Studebaker engineers to visit and essentially copy its production facilities for the V8 engine, as Studebaker had no experience in that.
But although Studebaker largely copied the basic architecture, they failed to copy certain key elements that specifically gave the Cadillac many of its inherent qualities. So instead of scaling down the Cadillac in size, to their intended smaller displacement (232 cubic inches), they kept the block the same size. They chose not to use Cadillac-type slipper pistons, where part of the lower piston’s skirt is cut away allowing it to “hug” the counterweights of the crankshaft. This was a key design element that enabled a more compact and lighter block and reduce reciprocating weight. If Studebaker had used them, they would have been able to reduce the deck height of their block, save weight, and create a more compact engine. The Cadillac had a significantly longer stroke (3.63″ vs. 3.25″), and would eventually accommodate a 4.0″ stroke thanks to its slipper pistons, despite using the exact same rod length (6.625″) as the Studebaker.
The biggest obvious difference above the block are the significantly smaller valves and ports in the Studebaker heads. This would become the defining feature of their cylinder heads right to the end, and inherently limit their performance potential.
Without going into all the technical details of their similarities (and differences), let’s just say that a Cadillac V8 intake manifold (and valley cover) will bolt directly to a Studebaker V8. That’s not just merely a coincidence. The ports don’t match up perfectly, but that can be fixed. It’s mainly done for show, such as this Cadillac Eldorado dual quad manifold (above) in a Studebaker pickup, since a stock or even moderately warmed up Stude V8 simply can’t use more than one modest size (∼500 cfm max) four barrel carburetor, due to the limited flow of its heads. But given the dearth of aftermarket manifolds (and other performance parts) for the Studebaker V8, it’s one solution if looks take precedence over actual function.
So despite being essentially the same size externally and weighing almost the same, the Cadillac had 50% more displacement to start with, and that was readily increased up to 429 cubic inches in its final form. The Studebaker would top out at 289 cubic inches, except for the specially selected blocks bored out to 304.5 cubic inches for the few R3/R4 engines. As to the decision of its initial displacement (232.6 cubic inches), here’s what the Studebaker engineers said in that SAE paper:
Eventually the conflict of desires was resolved by the selection of a piston displacement (232.6 cubic inches) approximately 5% less than that of the six cylinder engine that was to be replaced. Later, when the car was found to weigh about 6% less than its predecessor (due largely to using a shorter front end), we felt confident of meeting our goal of equal performance without sacrifice in fuel economy.
As Richard Langworth wrote in his excellent book “Studebaker 1946-1966”, “economy, in this exercise was taking precedence over performance”. Which is of course consistent with the image Studebaker had cultivated for some time; its cars were smaller and lighter than those of the Big Three, primarily for the resultant economy.
But the Studebaker V8’s weight (650 lbs dry/695 as installed) was not exactly in keeping with Raymond Loewy’s design mantra at Studebaker: Weight is the Enemy. The result is somewhat unfortunate, as every Studebaker V8 tends to feel nose heavy, given that the cars were inherently more compact and lighter than average. For example, a ’55 Commander sedan and a ’64 Lark V8 both had a rather unfortunate 60/40 F/R weight distribution; the longer wheelbase coupes improved that a bit, to about 57/43. That impacted traction as well as handling adversely.
The combination of the decision to use a Cadillac size block and the obsolete state of Studebaker’s foundry technology resulted in a big-block engine with small-block displacement. Undoubtedly it resulted in a very stout block, although that’s not inherently a requirement for durability. Studebaker did give its rotating parts generous bearing areas, which contributed to its reputation for a stout bottom end. The camshaft was driven by gears, not the typical timing chain. And Studebaker kept mechanical lifters, another conservative change, which meant a noisier engine and regular valve lash adjustment.
And contrary to popular myth, Studebaker’s forged crankshaft was hardly unique or exceptional. In fact, that was what everyone (including Chevrolet) used at the time, except Ford, who were the inventors of nodular cast iron crankshafts.
Despite the conservative engineering, the Studebaker V8 was far from perfect. It didn’t have a full flow oil filter until partway through 1962. Previous to that, it only used a bypass or partial flow filter. This was the same setup that the new Chevrolet V8 had in 1955 before it added a full flow filter in 1956. The lack of hydraulic valve lifters may be why Studebaker kept this system for so long, as mechanical lifters are not quite as finicky in this regard. The oiling system also sent tended to send too much oil to the rocker arm shafts as they wore, which could lead to oil starvation on the bottom end and low oil pressure problems. This rocker arm shaft wear was often the result of extended higher RPM usage, like high speed highway driving. The engine would pump too much oil to the top end of the motor and it couldn’t drain back to the pan fast enough. In mid-1961 Studebaker made some modifications to attempt to correct this problem. They used a smaller oil passage in the rocker arm shafts to restrict the oil to the top end and a large drain hole in the cylinder heads to get it back to the pan more quickly.
Studebaker V8s were also notorious for leaking oil in various places.
Let’s look at the various versions, chronologically:
1951 – 1954: 232.6 CID 120hp
The initial 232.6 CID version starting in 1951 and built through 1954 had a bore of 3.38″ and a 3.25″ stroke. Its valve sizes were a very modest 1.4″ for the intakes and 1.28″ for the exhausts, and the ports were correspondingly small too. The center exhaust ports were siamesed. It had a rating of 120hp @ 4000rpm (note: all hp and torque ratings in this article are gross), and 190 ft/lbs of torque at 2000 rpm (the outgoing six had a 102hp rating).
There’s two ways of looking at those specs. It was a fairly small displacement engine for the times, but for 1951, its output of .52 hp/ci was very competitive; somewhat above the initial 1949 version of Cadillac (.48), Olds (.46) and only slightly below the new 1951 Chrysler 331 hemi (.54).
But in terms of hp/pound, an important metric of efficiency, the Studebaker comes in last, with .18 hp/lb. The Chrysler hemi had .25, the Cadillac .23 and the Olds, .21.
But performance in the relatively light (3,065 lbs) Commander was considered good for 1951. Tom McCahill managed to flog a new Commander from 0-60 in 12.8 seconds with the manual transmission, and with Studebaker’s almost new Automatic Drive, 16.2 seconds when manually engaging Low and 18.5 seconds in Drive. Quite respectable for the time. McCahill was impressed (as he invariably tended to be), and incorrectly predicted that the Studebaker V8 would be the terror of stock car tracks. Not so.
In the 1951 NASCAR series of 41 races, the Olds 88 dominated with 20 wins and Hudson with 12 wins. But there was one competitor in 1951 driving a Studebaker, Frank Mundy, and he managed one win at Mobile, AL. But there were no further wins in subsequent seasons for any Studebakers, and Mundy later switched to an Olds. NASCAR continued to be dominated by Olds and Hudson until 1955, when Chevrolet’s new V8 made immediate inroads. Why was the big flathead Hudson so successful against the ohv V8 Olds? Its optional Twin-H power (dual carb) engine was rated at 170 hp. If the Olds V8 had been available with dual carbs or a four barrel carb, it undoubtedly would have been even more dominant. Stock cars then really were essentially stock.
If the Olds only made 135hp initially, only 15hp more than the Studebaker, why was it so immediately embraced by the hot rod crowd?
The same applies to the Cadillac, seen here in a 1952 Allard K2. The answer in both cases, as well as the Chrysler hemi, is that although their initial production versions were tuned very mildly, their inherent potential due to their better breathing heads was recognized instantly. That is the sole key to high performance, and it took no time at all for tuners and racers to realize that. Already in 1952, this Cadillac-powered Allard K2 was making 250hp, and in 1953, 300hp.
And the production versions of the Cadillac and Olds engines quickly shot up in their power output too. By 1952, one year after the Studebaker V8 came out, the Cadillac 331 was rated at 190 hp, and by 1955, it was up to 270 hp, or .82hp/ci. And power increased further in subsequent years for both the Cadillac and Olds. And of course the Chrysler 331 hemi quickly increased its power too, to 300 in 1955, for .91 hp/ci. The 1950s horsepower war was on, and by increasing carburation with dual quads or tri-power, the inherent potential in the better breathing heads of these engines quickly left the Studebaker V8 in the dust.
This was brought home with the superbly styled 1953 Studebaker coupes, a revolutionary, a “European style” low-slung sporty coupe shepherded by Raymond Loewy. It could have been America’s first personal sports coupe a lá Thunderbird, but its performance was blunted by the little 120 hp 232 V8, which failed to live up to the coupes’ racy looks. The ’53 coupes weighed 100lbs more than its tall predecessor, the result being that it was slower: R&T got a manual-equipped version from 0-60 in 14.9 seconds (two seconds slower than the ’51), and MT’s test of an automatic yielded a best time of 16.9 seconds. Top speed was 95.7 mph, also a bit less than the 98.36 mph McCahill managed with the ’51 sedan. Even the venerable Chevy 235 six was making 115hp in ’53 and 125 hp in ’54.
No wonder Studillacs were the hot thing: swapping in a same-sized but almost twice as powerful Cadillac V8 was relatively easy and highly satisfying, yielding a genuine American high performance coupe the likes of which had never been seen before. Several outfits made them, Bill Frick being the most prominent one. A CC vintage review of one by Tom McCahill is here. The lack of a higher-output V8 in the “Loewy Coupes” was a greta missed opportunity, as they could have been priced significantly higher and bolstered Studebaker’s image and profit margins.
1955: 224 CID 140 hp
By far the rarest Studebaker V8 (other than the R3/R4) is the 1955 224 CID “Pace-setter” engine. It was only offered for the first half of the 1955 model year as the base engine in the Commander series, before being dropped mid-year along with the old-style windshield. It is essentially a short-stroke 259 (below), sharing the same 3.56″ bore, but with a quite short 2.81″ stroke. Studebaker had been toying with the idea of reducing the V8’s displacement down to some 200 cubic inches in order to replace the aging flathead Champion six, and apparently this was the compromise solution. Thanks to the somewhat bigger valves and ports of the heads it shared with the 259, volumetric efficiency was improved and output was up, to 140 hp at a higher 4500 rpm; torque was up a bit too, to 202 ft.lbs @2800 rpm. And thanks to its short stroke, this is the smoothest-running of all of the Studebaker V8s. Compression ratio: 7.5:1.
Performance appears to roughly comparable to the 232; one test of an automatic sedan yielded a 0-60 run of 17.40 seconds, with manually holding Low until 32 mph. The 224 was dropped when it was determined that a 259 with a higher (lower numerical) rear axle gearing achieved essentially the same mileage.
1955 – 1964 259 CID, 162 hp , 170hp, 180 hp, 185 hp, 195 hp:
For 1955, Studebaker made the first significant changes to its V8, resulting in the long-lived 259 CID version and the very short-lived 224 (previous section). The biggest changes were an increase in bore to 3.56″. Perhaps more importantly, the heads were revised, with somewhat larger (but still small) valves and ports. Intake valves were now 1.67″ and exhausts were 1.53″. This improved volumetric efficiency, resulting in higher torque and horsepower output. These heads would be used essentially unchanged through the rest of Studebaker V8 production, including the upcoming 289 version, except for variation in combustion chamber size to increase compression ratios.
Power ratings started at 162 hp for the “Bearcat”, the base V8 in the Commander starting mid-year 1955, and replacing the 224. This was a two-barrel, single exhaust version with 7.5:1 compression ratio. Hp: 162 @ 4500 rpm; torque: 250 @2800 rpm.
The President started ’55 with a 175 hp version (“Wildcat”), which had a four barrel carb. Hp: 175 @4500 rpm; torque: 260 @ 2800 rpm. CR: 7.80:1.
At mid-year, in addition to the new semi-wraparound windshield, the President series got a slightly more powerful 185 hp version, now called “Passmaster”. Studebaker’s naming department was keeping busy. Presumably it got dual exhausts to account for the additional 10hp.
Possibly the bump to 185 hp was to stay ahead of Chevy’s brand new V8, which arrived in 1955 in 162 and 180 hp trims, although a 195 hp version could be ordered later in the year. A comparison of the Studebaker V8 with the Chevy small block (SBC) is of course inevitable, as there were two similar sized versions (259/265; 289/283) and there are such decided differences.
Here’s a quick look at the two in cross section (not size corrected), with the SBC on the left. The SBC was the beneficiary of a few more years of advancement in both design and engineering as well as foundry techniques compared to the Olds and Cadillac V8s, but their influence can be readily seen. It is significantly more compact than the Studebaker, and weighs some 75 lbs less, thanks to thin-wall casting. But the most important difference is in the heads; it’s quite obvious from looking at these two that the Chevy’s valves are larger, and more significantly, its ports are substantially larger and designed to flow air with less resistance. This was the key reason the SBC was instantly adopted in the performance world as it required very little to unleash its vastly greater potential.
Already the very first ’55 SBC had bigger valves than the Studebaker (intakes 1.72″ vs. 1.65″), and that was just the starting point. SBC heads soon sprouted ever larger valves, the intakes growing to 1.82″, 1.94″ and topping out at 2.02″ in 1963. Even the very limited production Studebaker R3/R4 heads could only fit 1.875″ intakes, due to the inherent architecture of the Studebaker engine. There just wasn’t more room, in part because of the relatively small 3.56″ bore.
This difference in head flow capacity, which is the single biggest determinant in an engine’s power potential, resulted in explosive power increases for the SBC: 240 hp in 1956 (265 CID), and 270 hp (carbs) or 283 hp (FI) in the ’57 283 CID version. And they continued to increase in subsequent years, to 375 hp from the 1964 327.
In 1956, the Commander and Power Hawk’s standard 259 engine was rated at 170 hp @4500 rpm, and torque was 260 @2800. That small increase was due to an increased compression ratio to 7.8:1. The optional 185 hp version had a four barrel carb and dual exhausts.
In 1957, compression ratio on the 259 was increased again, to 8.3:1, resulting in a bump to 180 hp for the two barrel version, and 195 hp 4 barrel version, whose torque increased to 260 ft.lbs at a higher 3000 rpm.
These two versions (180/195hp) were built through to the end of engine production in 1964, and were used exclusively in 1959, in the new Lark and Silver Hawk. In the compact and light Lark, the only V8 compact until 1961, they gave good performance; 0-60 times were in the 11-12 second range for the 180 hp version, and 9-10 seconds with 195 hp (with manual transmissions).
1956 – 1964 289 CID, 195hp, 210 hp, 225 hp, 240 hp, 275 hp, 290 hp:
Studebaker may have been behind the horsepower curve a bit, but with the increased competition from the low-priced three as well the mid-priced brands its V8 models competed with, it had to hustle to justify its pricing premium. After just one year, displacement went up again, to 289 cubic inches, thanks to a longer 3.63″ stroke. Other than the longer stroke, it was essentially identical to the 259, including the heads. This would be the final iteration, except for the very limited production 304 inch R3/R4.
There were three versions of the 289 in 1956 (195/210/225hp). The 195 hp (@4500 rpm) version had a 7.8:1 CR and its torque was 286 @2800 rpm. The 210 hp version had 8.3:1 CR, a two barrel carb and made its peak power also at 4500 rpm, and max torque of 300 @2800 rpm. The 225 hp version also had the 8.3:1 CR, a four barrel carb and its torque peaked at 305 @3000 rpm. The 195 hp version was discontinued after 1956, and the 210/225 hp versions (two/four barrel carbs) continued on through the end of production.
In 1957, Studebaker replaced the 275 hp 352 CID Packard engine in the ’56 Golden Hawk (“Studickard”?) with a supercharged version of the 289, rated at 275hp. The big Packard engine, which actually weighed only 44lbs more than the Studebaker, was going out of production, so it was necessary to come up with an expedient solution. Since the Studebaker’s heads did not facilitate any further power increases (more carburation would have been counter-productive), the obvious solution was forced induction. Supercharging is very effective in overcoming the limitations of poorly-breathing heads, and is the reason Kaiser-Frazer used it on their flathead six and Ford on its 312 Y block (in very limited quantities), which briefly made it the terror of NASCAR in early 1957 until supercharging was banned.
The McCulloch/Paxton supercharger was essentially the same type as used on the Ford 312, a belt-driven variable-speed centrifugal unit that peaked at about 5 psi, in the 3,000 – 4,000 rpm range. It fed a Stromberg WW6-121 two barrel carb that was enclosed in a pressure chamber. Compression ratio was lowered to 7.8:1 to reduce pre-detonation. Boost came on at about 2500 rpm, meaning that below that, it was a bit more sluggish than a non-supercharged 289.
There’s a very comprehensive test of a ’57 Golden Hawk by Hot Rod here. They tested an automatic with Twin-Traction rear differential. 0-60 runs averaged 8.8 seconds; 0-80 in 16 seconds. The 1/4 mile was achieved in 16.72 seconds @82.3 mph. Top speed at El Mirage lake was 122.7 one way and 119.5 the return trip. Very good performance, roughly comparable to the larger, heavier and more expensive Chrysler 300C. The supercharged Golden Hawk was made through 1958. The Golden hawk was expensive ($3,182 in ’57), and only a few thousand were built. The Paxton supercharger was not without some vices; reliability issues were recurring, and there were a number of major revisions over the years to address them, primarily with the bearings.
As a frame of reference, Chevrolet went with fuel injection in 1957, and its new 283 V8 was rated at 283 hp, and 290 in 1958.
Through 1962, the 210 and 225 hp 289 engines continued to be the top engines in Studebaker’s line-up, including the Gran Turismo Hawk. There’s a car Life review here, of a ’62, with the newly-available BW T-10 four speed manual and the 225 hp four barrel version. Other than the brakes being unable to complete a single stop from 80mph due to extreme fade, they generally liked it quite a bit. Performance was far from spectacular though, with a 0-60 time of 11.4 sec., and 0-80 in 21.0 seconds. The 1/4 mile was absolved in 18.2 seconds @75 mph. For the $3,788 as tested price, that was adequate but hardly in tune with the times for a rather pricey sporty coupe with such a promising name.
None of this is to say that the Studebaker V8 couldn’t or didn’t provide excellent performance in typical every-day use, the way the great majority of owners drove their cars. Their design favored low rpm torque, which made them feel responsive in the lower-mid rpm band. They could make perfectly reasonable power outputs, but they simply were more constrained in ultimate hp potential. That had obviously not been part of their design brief.
But the times they were ‘a changing, and Studebaker made on last glorious effort to not be left behind in the golden performance era of the ’60s.
1963-1964 289 CID R1/ R2, 240hp/290hp:
In 1961, Sherwood Egbert (on right, with Raymond Loewy) was hired from McCulloch (makers of the Paxton supercharger, among other products) to be Studebaker’s new President. He was young and ambitious, and determined to give Studebaker’s stodgy image a major make over, starting with a bold new sporty coupe (the Avanti, above) and more performance from its V8.
Loewy designed the coupe Egbert wanted, but to get the performance, he hired Andy Granatelli, who with his brothers had been active in racing and had a successful high performance parts company, Grancor. Granatelli had bought the Paxton Products Co. from McCulloch in 1958. In 1962, Studebaker bought the Paxton supercharger business, and Andy was now the President of Studebaker’s STP Division. And in addition to promoting STP, he quickly went to work not only adapting the Paxton unit to the 289 (for a second time), but also in applying other performance mods, resulting in the R-series of engines.
The first order of business were the “Jet Thrust” R1 and R2 versions of the 289, for 1963. The R1 was the base engine in the Avanti, and optional in the Lark and Hawk. A somewhat more aggressive camshaft, 10.25:1 compression ratio, dual point distributor, dual valve springs, a heavier crank damper and a larger Carter AFB four barrel carb increased power from 225 to 240 hp, still at 4500 rpm. Max. torque was 305 @3000 rpm.
The supercharged R2 was essentially the same, but with a lower 9.0:1 CR, and of course the Paxton supercharger. Initially, Studebaker did not publish output numbers for the R2/3/4, but due to issues with sanctioning bodies they were later. The R2’s published hp rating was 290 @5200 rpm.
We posted a vintage review of a ’64 R2 Lark here at CC; performance was brisk: 0-60 in 7.3; 1/4 mile in 15.8 @90mph. An Avanti R2 tested by Cars managed a 6.1 second run to 60, but an almost identical 1/4 mile result (16.0 @90.45mph). A heavier R2 GT Hawk with automatic was a bit slower, with 0-60 in 7.4 seconds. More details on the R2 here.
1964 304.5 CID – 280hp, 335 hp (R4/R3)
The R3 and R4 engines play a very outsize role in Studebaker lore, considering that only a handful of R3 and R4 equipped cars were ever actually sold to the public. Some 20 more R3s were probably built by swapping in R3 or R4 crate motors. There’s no definitive accounting but a total of some 140 R3/R4 engines were perhaps ever built; some used by Granatelli in the Bonneville record runs and the rest sold as complete crate engines, blocks or parts until the part supply ran out. After Studebaker shut down, Granatelli was stuck with extra engines that were eventually sold off over the years. It’s important to know that the R3/R4 were not production engines; they were hand-built at STP/Paxton in Santa Monica and the few that were sold installed in cars were shipped to South Bend.
The specially selected 289 blocks for straight cores were bored out to 3.65″, making 304.5 cubic inches. Almost all of the internal components were different, from various performance suppliers or custom made. The pistons (slippers, for less friction) and connecting rods had to be redesigned, as the stock units could not handle the higher stresses and engine speeds. Forged-True supplied the pistons. The assembled engines were balanced at Edelbrock. Weiand made the intake manifolds. A semi-wild 276° cam was standard; an even wilder 288° version was optional. The block had scallops at the ends of the bores in order to accommodate the larger valves of the custom cylinder heads.
The cylinder heads were completely unique castings, with room for larger valves (1.875 intakes; 1.625 exhaust). That intake size is still well below even the very common 1.92″ intake SBC head, never mind the 2.02″ version. But that’s the biggest size that was possible given the Studebaker engine’s architecture. Here’s more details on the R3. The unique heads required their own unique intake and exhaust manifolds, so there was essentially no interchangeability with the R1/R2 or the lesser Studebaker V8s.
Given that this was a custom, hand built engine, the cost was going to be reflected in its price: $1,031, in the Avanti, or almost a 25% increase over the Avanti’s base price. The result was that all of nine customers ponied up for an R3 Avanti.
This reflects the reality of these R3/R4 engines: they were never going to be widely available, and were limited to a handful of enthusiasts that could afford them as well as for their presumed PR value in attracting attention to Studebaker. But realistically that was never going to actually drive sales of bread and butter Studebakers when there was no easy or cheap way to improve a regular 289’s performance, unlike the SBC or other popular V8s.
In the supercharged R3, compression was 9.75:1. Output is pegged at 335 hp @5,350 rpm. With a higher ratio pulley for the supercharger to increase boost, 400 hp was possible. Motor Trend’s test of an R3 Avanti prototype yielded a 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.
Granatelli wasted no time in sending the R3 Avanti and other Studebakers to Bonneville, where in August of 1962 he shattered 29 records in various classes, including a flying kilometer at 168.24 mph. He and even more Studebakers would return the following year.
The R4 is essentially a normally aspirated R3, with an ultra-high 12.0:1 compression ratio and two Carter AFB four barrel carbs. It was rated at 280 hp @5,500 rpm. As noted previously, only some eight (or less) R4-equipped cars were ever sold new, and some 10 or so additional genuine R4 engines are documented and made their way eventually into other cars. 280 hp from 305 cubic inches was hardly that impressive, given that regular production Chevy small blocks were making well more than that per cubic inch back in 1957, and were now making 375 hp from 327 cubic inches. Ford’s brand new 289 K-code was already making 271 hp. Chevrolet’s 302 in the ’67-’69 Z-28 was rated at 290 hp, but was widely accepted to actually make 425-450 hp.
The 1964 R4 Daytona Convertible, which had been run at Bonneville that summer, was tested by Cars magazine. Its performance was good, but not really that impressive in the era of GTOs, 409 Chevys, 426 Mopars and such. Its 0-60 time was 6.7 sec., and the 1/4 mile came in 16.0 @90 mph. The really impressive number was its price: the R4 package, which included HD suspension, disc brakes and other bits and the mandatory T-10 four speed resulted in a sticker price right at $5,000. That’s more than a Corvette, Shelby Cobra or an XK-E. And it was some 33% more than several of the hottest cars from the Big Three, and essentially double of a new Chevelle with a 327. CARS suggested that $5k would be better spent on two new Chevelles; one to race and one to tow it!
Car Life also tested an R4 Daytona coupe, priced a bit more modestly at a mere $4550. It wasn’t as fast, despite being lighter, and its 0-60 time was 7.8, and the 1/4 mile came in 15.8 @88mph.
The whole R2/R3/R4 saga makes for interesting reading, but the actual impact on Studebaker sales was essentially nil. Studebaker was dying, and what loyal Studebaker buyers were left in 1964 were old and very conservative. These engines were simply way too expensive for the typical performance-oriented younger buyer at the time. And buying a regular 289 powered Studebaker had no appeal to them either, as there were no readily available or affordable performance parts to be had, either from the factory or vendors. A 283 Chevy II (for some $2200, or less than half the price of an R4) could readily make some 300 hp with a cheap Duntov cam and four barrel carb and manifold. And a $2600 Chevelle 327 could take that up another 50 or so hp.
Long-terms Studebaker owners interested in improving the performance of their V8s have found ways to make some progress over the decades. There is still essentially no commercial aftermarket parts for them, but individuals are modifying heads with modern CNC machines to improve flow as best as possible, and for a price, one can buy custom made intake manifolds and such. There has been talk on the forums for years about someone casting R3/4 heads, but it’s not happened yet. And as some have pointed out, one might as well design a much better flowing head than that from scratch, as has been done in the aftermarket for a number of other old V8s, including the Ford Y block. But due to the very limited numbers, no one has been able to justify the investment.
So except for the couple of genuine R3/R4s still out there, some of them performing impressive feats on the drag strip, Studebaker V8s are best appreciated for what they are, and not in trying to make them into something they were never designed to be.
Vintage Review: Tom McCahill tests the 125 mph Studillac
CC 1953-1954 Studebaker Starliner Coupe
CC 1959 Studebaker Lark VIII Coupe
CC 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
Vintage review: 1964 Super Lark
Fascinating stuff! Thanks, Paul!
“The introduction of this engine was prompted by a desire to benefit humanity in general…”
For some reason that opening statement seems strange to me, as though it were implying that the engine could wipe out famine, or cure some dreaded disease.
They were obviously joking.
The final paragraph of the SAE paper says: “Now when these things and many others like unto them had been accomplished there was constructed an engine. And in this engine the pistons did go up and down and did develop pressures which were both mean and effective. And in this engine the crankshaft did go round and round and from it there came forth both power and torque. And in due time there were other engines like unto this in every particular, and these engines were installed in vehicles which did move both forward and backward…and in the performance of these vehicles the owners thereof did find pleasure and satisfaction — we hope.”
Which makes it even stranger.
Who expects engineers to have a sense of humor? 😆
Hey, on behalf of engineers everywhere, I resent that! Yeah, I know we have a reputation, but all jokes aside, I worked with some pretty funny engineers in my career. Though I’m probably not one of them.
You engineers are a veritable riot, compared with the accountants!
As an engineer, I thank you for that vote of confidence.
That briefing lays it out clear: The Stude V8 was prompted by a desire to benefit humanity… and to make our stock price go up…
There’s humour, sometimes verging on the British, throughout the paper:
“With good temperature distribution, ample water flow, ample water capacity, and an adequate fan and radiator, there seemed to be every reason to expect freedom from cooling troubles. Unfortunately, engines can be very unreasonable, and (…)”
“Due to the brevity of human existence, no attempt will be made to enumerate all the istakes which were made or all the difficulties which were encountered in working out the valve train.”
“In working out combustion-chamber contours, knowledge of the various theroies concerning detonation, preignition, and combustion roughness is highly desirable. Such knowledge permits the engineer to talk impressively of flame speed, turbulence, and quench areas while he follows the usual cut-and-try methods in developing a combustion-chamber shape that will be satisfactory.”
“There was a time when inner rings were seldom admitted to the polite society of new engines and were forced to associate with derelicts which had developed an unquenchable thirst for oil as they tottered toward oblivion. Today inner rings are somewhat more respected—at any rate we like them.”
“Once upon a time Studebaker built an engine which had a floating piston pin and a noise. When the pin was clamped int he rod, the noise disappeared. As the noise wasn’t really needed, the latter construction seemed preferable (…).”
“Naturally the rods that failed were submitted to the laboratory for metallurgical examination. This is a very desirable procedure since it provides a few hours for meditation between the time when the failure occurs and the time when the report comes back stating that the broken part is metallurgically perfect.”
“While car owners are quite content to discard a crankcase-full of oil after a few thousand miles, they are apt to become violent at the site of a few drops trickling from either end of the crankshaft (…) [the groove] should not extend to the front edge of the felt as it pumps dirt with as much enthusiasm as it does oil.”
I rather suspect “The threat of small combustion chambers led us, somewhat reluctantly, to overhead valves” also belongs on this list.
Very informative. I did not know about the 224 cu in version.
My Aunt had a 61 or 62 Lark, with the 259, probably a 2 barrel. I can remember it had great low end torque – and would jump off the line very quickly. My Aunt was not one to wring it out, but she appreciated the quick starts. I would say it had better torque than the 260 in my ’64 Fairlane and my buddy’s ’63 Impala with a 283.
It is almost impossible to keep from comparing this engine to the SBC, if only because they were the only two small-displacement engines from the 1950s that saw any performance development at all after 1957-58.
The combination of such small displacement and such a large and heavy block is indeed a head scratcher. But then the prewar President 8 had only been 250 cid, so perhaps the thinking was that with the trend towards higher compression, fewer cubes were needed.
Chevrolet’s being one of the last new V8 designs of the first wave paid huge dividends, as they had a clearer picture of where the future was headed, including the relatively large displacement which was their opening bid (265 cid vs. 239 for the 1954 Ford Y block and 232 for the 1951 Stude). Their biggest advantage was that there was never a time when the Chevrolet V8 was without performance champions, starting with Ed Cole.
As you note, those small cylinder bores were never overcome. Which is amazing, in that the similarly sized Cadillac got to 390 cid on its original block design and almost a .5 inches of additional bore out of the near-identical bore centering. It seems that there was plenty of room for a bigger bore, but this was prevented by the way the block castings/cooling passages were designed.
The other advantage Chevrolet had was the Corvette. No other American manufacturer continued development of a 1950s small-displacement engine after 1957. Ford and Chrysler invested their resources in bigger blocks. Chevy did the same, but the Corvette demanded that the small engine get the same kind of continuing development that the big blocks got all around. It was an excellent engine that got just a little better every year.
My only argument with your analysis is your description of the R3/R4 engines as not really production engines. Outside construction was the only way they were ever going to get built in the company’s condition and the small numbers that would have been possible under even the most wildly optimistic projections – the miracle is that they were built at all. And yes, it was an expensive way. I have not tried to do the math, but I would suspect that the 375 hp 327 was a smaller proportion of 1964 Chevy smallblocks built than the R3/R4 was of total Studebaker V8s. 9 original installs is a low number, but Studebaker’s whole 1964 V8 production was a low number too. Granatelli did nothing with those engines that a company with some development money could not have done on a production line. It is a shame that someone like him was not involved when the engine was conceived, or at least when there was some money available for block and head modifications. The ability to have gone to a 4 inch bore would have made a world of difference.
All that said, I wonder if any other engine was ever pushed as far towards its potential by its manufacturer as this one was.
“…All that said, I wonder if any other engine was ever pushed as far towards its potential by its manufacturer as this one was”
Of course the early-on fantastic story of the engine’s potential was how Agajanian “OHC-ed” it for an attack on the ’52 Indy 500.
I don’t recall why I think this, but it seems like I read or heard that Big Oil had promised upcoming plentiful high octane gasoline that would allow for 12-1 or more compression. So early post-war engine designers were working from the perspective that future power would be derived more from compression rather than displacement. That may explain some design features that later became limitations.
Your memory is good I think. I have done some reading on an experimental Oliver tractor (XO-121) which had 12:1 compression. This was done in the early ’50’s in response to the idea that high octane fuels would be readily available and cheap. I have read somewhere that the Studie engine was designed with this in mind and that is one reason it was so robust.
Even Chevrolet re-jiggered its block casting early in the 1957 run because the 283s bigger bore was a problem with the original block casting. This is no knock on Chevrolet, I think the way displacements jumped between 1950-57 (especially in the smaller cars) surprised everyone a little. And at Chevrolet’s volume a little tinkering with the casting was no big deal. And they certainly did it right because I think they eventually exceeded a 4 inch bore in that very compact block.
I suspect that a similar reworking was possible with the much larger Stude block. But as we all know, after 1955 that was never, ever going to happen.
The block was recast to allow for thicker cylinder walls with the larger 3.875″ bore of the 283. This was done again with the 327 moving up to a 4″ bore, and again with the 400 and it’s 4.125″ bore. It is common place for modern engines to have separate castings for separate displacements.
Once the military went with jet aircraft and the airlines were about a decade behind, oil refiners rightly expected a surplus in high octane alkylate. Wartime aviation gasolines went as high as 115/145 “octane” aviation rating. This was also used in postwar airliners. But, the amount of lead additive in aviation gas far exceeded that in auto fuel. Spark plug fouling and other problems with lead deposits would not be acceptable in cars and trucks.
Thanks for a great essay and good explanation of the failings of the Studebaker V-8.
Outstanding article, Paul. What an education this is!
One thing, though:
Cadillac even allowed a contingent of Studebaker engineers to visit and essentially copy its production facilities for the V8 engine, as Studebaker had no experience in that.
My question is: why? What was in it for GM, or even just Cadillac?
Nothing. It was a long tradition for engineers (and execs) to visit other company’s facilities. Porsche (and a contingent) visited Ford’s Rouge plant before designing the Wolfsburg factory, as did quite a few others.
It was in essence professional courtesy.
In some cases factories were open to the public. I went on long tours of both the Ford Milpitas (aka San Jose) and GM Fremont (now Tesla) plants which went way into the bowels of the operation. Believe me, watching assembly of RWD A Bodies or Pintos, often with hammers and prying and bending, at the height of the malaise era, was not necessarily confidence inspiring, but perhaps the PR was worth it.
I recall GM cars of the 1960’s to 1980’s had such bad quality that there were shims in the doors to make them line up properly and they famously created the “GM two slam” door. The front ends were shimmed, too. Body on frame cars are certainty not that desirable for me.
SAE journal always lays out design stuff I would have thought “proprietary.” (SMPTE journal–Motion Picture stuff—equally fascinating!) My father, at Ford’s Cleveland Foundry, would lead through visitors both from Detroit and overseas firms, though this was about production rather than design. I wish I could remember accurately an anecdote—I can’t remember which company is (A) Host and who’s (B) Guest—but “A” would intentionally under- or over-staff a production line during a visit to fool/mislead “B” as to actual production staffing needed for some aspect of casting—so in that way keeping Host’s cards slightly close to their chest. Maybe-maybe that’s GM fooling Ford/Chrysler visitors, but don’t hold me to it.
All that said, Paul, I never paid much attention to Studebaker’s engines—just thought the Avanti a pretty car—but today’s essay is turned out to your top standard, and I’ll be rereading even this afternoon!
Well, at least that ’55 bumper and grill combination looks front-end heavy, so with the V8 option you had truth in advertising. Where was Raymond Loewy when that design was chosen? Such a change from the elegant ’53.
Thanks for this informative look at the Studebaker V8. Once again Paul addresses and corrects a commonly held belief, this being that Studebaker engineers mis-read the direction of the industry and overbuilt their V8 engine so that it would be able to handle very high compression ratios made possible by wartime advances in fuels. Which doesn’t square with the company’s history of marketing to conservative, cost-conscious buyers-why would you build an engine for economy buyers that could run on high-test only?
Excellent. Your hard work is appreciated.
Overall these are a solid motor. On the 289 the stroke is more than the bore making for more torque. The others were going for big bore with a short stroke and horsepower through RPM. The Stude is more of a slow turner with torque at useable RPM. I have a 289 in a pickup and it will pull hard down to 2,000. At low RPM the smaller intake passages work well by keeping intake velocity up. A serious limitation at high speeds though. Another reason for the small passages is that Stude used way more head bolts than any of the others. One just doesn’t have head gasket problems with one of these but at the expense of flow. You forgot to mention that these had forged crankshafts, not the cast as usually found in the Chev. I personally much prefer the gear drive cam and solid lifters too. My experience daily driving a stock 259 Lark was that a yearly valve adjustment could easily have been stretched out to 2 years. 20 mpg on non oxygenated CA gas too without an overdrive. It had enough power to run the fast lane up the Cajon pass heading to Vegas. Outdated and clunky yes, but quite able to give good service for a long time.
I think it was by happy accident that the things brought about by conservative engineering and “proven” (some could use the term outdated 🙂 ) production techniques like solid lifters and the many forged internal parts were the kinds of things that became necessary in the later years when performance became a thing.
Other engines put more forgings inside and switched from hydraulic to solid lifters in their highest performance engines, but with Stude they were already part of the package. The basic bottom ends could handle everything Granatelli threw at them. As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And one of those days was the latter part of 1963.
The basic bottom ends could handle everything Granatelli threw at them.
Actually, the rods were not capable of higher rpms, and had to be redesigned, as did the pistons. As to the crankshafts, other engines like the SBC did just fine with the same crankshaft too for its hi-po engines.
I was thinking of the block, crankshaft and bearings. And I keep forgetting that Chevy went to the cast crank as late as it did, so a good point.
You forgot to mention that these had forged crankshafts, not the cast as usually found in the Chev.
That’s because every SBC also had forged crankshafts during the time the Studebaker was built. As did every other engine in America, except the Ford Y Block and Ford six. The nodular cast iron technology to cast crankshafts was created and patented by Ford, and the 1952 Ford six and 1954 Y Block were the first to use them. Chevrolet didn’t start using them until 1966 or so.
In any case, it’s a bit of red herring, as cast cranks have been shown to be perfectly comparable in use other than all-out racing.
This thing about the Studebaker having all these forged internals is a bit silly, as everyone else did too at the time.
As I said in the article, the Studebaker gave excellent service in the kind of use that its owners typically expected of it. Perfect for a truck!
“Perfect for a truck!”
And in another typical Studebaker move, they didn’t even offer it in the truck until 1955!
People love to mention Studebaker V8s heavy block, forged cranks, rods and rocker arms to show how it was “overbuilt.” First, weight doesn’t equal strength. As Paul stated above, forgings were the norm of the era, even on the the cheap SBC. And while Chevrolet did switch to cast cranks for most of their engines during the 1960s, cast cranks were more than sufficient for their intended uses. Chevrolet also used forged rods throughout the engines lifespan. It is also well known today that a stock 2-bolt cast crank SBC can handle well above stock hp levels reliably.
As for the forged rocker arm setup, as Paul mentioned in the article, this “better” setup had problems as they wore, in particular with the oiling system. As much as people love to rag on Chevrolet’s “cheap” stamped rocker arms (which was actually a Pontiac design) with press-in studs, it was a simple but excellent design. Not only did it function better than older designs but it was lighter and cheaper and proved durable.
The head bolt count is another one that comes up often too. Guess how many head bolts a SBC has, 17 – same as a Studebaker. Sure many other V8 engines only used 10, but done properly there is nothing wrong with that. It’s not like Ford V8’s were blowing head gaskets anymore often than other Chevys.
In truth, today is the first I have heard of the oiling issue. I have spent a lot of time on the periphery of various Stude forums, and “be aware of bearing problems from oil starvation” is just not something you ever see. I did a little looking around, and suspect that where that was found was a site that referred to this as a problem in *racing* Stude V8s. (rabidsnailracing.blogspot.com). Under anything less than the most extreme uses, this was never an issue.
I think where we have to land here is that Studebaker built a tough engine with remarkably few everyday faults. It was badly overweight, but it was indeed strong. Chevrolet had the benefit of 4 years of experience in a fast-moving environment and built an engine that became legendary for good reason.
The big difference was in development as the design aged. Studebaker essentially stopped developing the thing after 1955, and even those changes were relatively minor. How many people remember the Chevy 265 as a great performance engine? They don’t because Chevrolet kept the engine fresh with regular development for decades. Studebaker’s design was stuck in the early 50s for its entire lifespan, but you can’t deny that Andy Granatelli coaxed an awful lot of power out of the old thing.
The problem was that the oiling system sends too much oil to the top end of the motor and the lack of ability for it to drain back quick enough. Studebaker obviously thought this was enough of an issue that they made the engineering change to restrict the rocker arm oiling shaft and enlarge the drain holes. This isn’t the only American V8 engine that suffered from pumping too much oil to the top end at higher RPM. FWIW, I just did a quick google search and the first hit talks about some of these issues in this thread:
To quote one of the Studebaker forum posts which sums the problem up:
“Studebaker does have a drainback issue, especially with only one drain hole per head. This just promotes a high level of oil in the valve covers. Using and leaking oil is a minor problem. Running the pan dry is much worse. The reason we don’t see more major issues is the stude is pretty much a slow speed (rpm wise) motor.”
Nevertheless, I do agree with you that the Studebaker V8 was a good engine. I just don’t think it was a good performance engine, unless it was supercharged. It was conservative and hardly cutting edge, even when it was first released. I agree after 1955 that wasn’t going to change. However, I disagree on the Chevy 265. It was a good performance engine (at least the hi-po variants) when new and still is considered as such today. It’s just that it is overshadowed by larger versions of the SBC and it had a very short life span.
The big difference was in development as the design aged.
I beg to differ. The overwhelming difference was the design. There’s really not much they could do. The head design and smallish bores made it essentially impossible to “develop” this engine. What Granatelli did was just the most that could be done, given its severe limitations.
The SBC was never really changed much; the heads were great to start with, and just got a bit more great, but totally within the architecture of the first 265 heads. That’s why you can swap any SBC heads with any SBC motor. You can’t do that with the R3/R4 heads.
You can’t deny that Andy Granatelli coaxed an awful lot of power out of the old thing.
Yes I can. 🙂 I’m not going to touch the R2/R3, because forced induction makes any engine as powerful as the degree of boost you choose to give it. Think what a supercharged SBC would have made.
The R4 has a crazy 12.0:1 CR, a wild cam, cast headers, dual quads and was blueprinted and hand assembled. It was rated at 280hp. That’s .92 hp/cubic inch.
The very mild-mannered 300hp 327 SBC made by the hundreds of thousands used the mildest cam Chevy used in its V8s, had a single four barrel, regular exhaust manifolds, and a very modest 9.25:1 CR. It also made thee exact same .92hp/cubic inch. This 300hp 327 was found in vast numbers of Chevys of all stripes, and was as smooth running and well behaved as any V8 ever.
Never mind the 325, 340, 350, 365 and 375 hp versions of the 327.
So I’m supposed to be impressed that Granatelli coaxed the same hp/ci out of the Studebaker by throwing every hot-rod trick in the book at it? It’s not his fault; it’s just that the Studebaker V8 had the worst performing heads of any American ohv V8, and all of his tricks ended up making the same as a popular Chevy station wagon engine.
It’s not about “development”; it’s all about the intrinsic design elements.
Lol…. what? R4, 280 HORSIES?…. the R2 made that. You better check again
Either Paul or Vince – not arguing, just asking: Had Studebaker been able to get a 4 inch bore out of that engine (as they certainly should have been able to do given its bore centers), wouldn’t that have given not only the expected increase in cubic inches (365 as I calculate it with the 289’s stroke and 327 with the 259’s) but also much more room for decent sized valves for improved breathing?
I get that the head design was inefficient – but it would seem that a head is a relatively easy thing to redesign (along with manifolding) for better flow. It seems that pinched valve area was the main culprit here, so would a bigger bore not have allowed room to solve that problem to at least some extent?
After all, the one thing Granatelli could do nothing about was that small bore block casting, which limited what he could do with the heads and everything else. Thoughts?
(And an excellent dive into a subject that needed to be explored around here, so thanks!)
Studebaker should have had plenty of room for a 4″ bore with the bore spacing of 4.5″. I suspect that Studebaker casting techniques were not advanced enough to allow for a much larger bore. Luckily the cylinder walls were thick enough to allow for various bore sizes from one basic casting.
Now if they had offered a 4″ bore, it would have helped with the airflow by allowing for more breathing space for the valves. Even on the existing blocks Studebaker had to scallop the block for clearance for its larger valves. This would result in serious valve shrouding which hamper the airflow around the valves. Valves that are too big for a bore can hamper airflow over properly sized valves.
The port design was very limited on the Studebaker, in particular the siamesed exhaust port. The cylinder ports could have been modified for better flow, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. The basic layout of the valves and coolant passages restrict the port design from being changed too drastically. There is a lot of science behind port design, so it’s more than just enlarging then ports. And of course if you make huge changes it means new intake manifolds and new exhaust manifolds. Then there is also the limitations of the casting technology on the port shape. That’s why we can gain so much flow with porting. It’s also why modern aftermarket heads can flow so much better due to modern casting techniques with the same basic design as the original engines in the case of more mainstream V8s.
And not to beat the dead horse of the SBC vs Studebaker any further, but even though the 265 had small valves and ports relative to other SBCs, it still breathed very well due to the intrinsically good design.
Thanks for the further explanation.
Lol…. what? R4, 280 HORSIES?…. the R2 made that. You better check again
No need. You seem to have forgotten that the R2 was supercharged, and the R4 was not. That explains it all.
And the R2 was rated at 290 hp, while the R4 was rated at 280 hp. So it made less, not surprisingly.
Thanks for the interesting article. I have read others offering that the Studebaker block could be cast with larger cylinder bores, with new cores. A similar overall block size and near identical bore centers as the Cadillac may imply that was possible. Of course, Studebaker did not have the money for new core boxes, and their volume models were small enough that they didn’t really need the extra displacement.
It may be that the Cadillac piston design was protected by a patent, so Studebaker could not copy that design element.
Some time back, a post on an FB Studebaker page wondered what would happen if Studebaker had merged with Nash, instead of Packard. As luck would have it, I had written up just such a scenario some years ago, written as a historical account of the merger, for my own amusement. The event that triggered the Studebaker/Nash merger was George Mason being put off by Packard’s price for their V8, and Packard’s insistence that Nash also buy the Packard Ultramatic to go with the V8, which lead Mason to go to South Bend looking for a V8.
It may be that the Cadillac piston design was protected by a patent, so Studebaker could not copy that design element.
It wasn’t. The design had been used by others, going back to the 1930s.
Ford’s brand new 289 K-code was already making 271 hp.
I think this was a rosey embellishment from Ford’s marketing department. While not exactly a slug, the Ford small-block was definitely wanting in horsepower in comparison to the Chevy 283 and Chrysler 273 engines (and that includes the 306hp Shelby Mustang versions).
I can’t say for certain, but it might have had something to do with the 289’s narrower dimensions which was the reason it was chosen to go into the snug engine bays of the A/C Ace and Sunbeam Alpine to create the Cobra and Tiger. In those small sports-car applications, the Ford small-block was just fine.
If you can back that up with some actual test stats, I might give it some credence. My general memories of the 289 K Code, and the 306 hp Shelby version were that they were very competitive. It certainly blew the Chrysler 273 out of the water, as that engine only ever had a 235hp rating in normal production form.
And the Windsor V8 acquitted itself quite well as Indy, in stock block form.
Well, my “general memories” of the 289 was that it was easily beaten by the comparably-sized, stock 4-bbl Chevy and Chrysler small-blocks. I don’t feel like looking it up, but I’ve read dyno tests that compare the actual horsepower and verify this. The 289 might have been able to beat a 273-4V, but it took the K-code to do it as the 225hp ‘premium fuel’ 289-4V was easy meat for the Mopar.
And there’s no denying that auto manufacturers played fast-and-loose with horsepower ratings in the sixties, at first overrating them to boost sales. Then, when insurance companies got wise and began surcharging them, going the opposite direction and underrating them. Ford seemed to be the worst at this game, first with the overrated 289, then later with the 428CJ, which was notoriously underrated at 335hp.
The K-code 289 was an excellent performance engine that punched above its weight class. It was definitely one of the best performing small displacement V8 engines of its era. Shelby’s magic got it up to 306 hp, and these early Shelby Mustangs were among the quickest Shelby Mustangs. Ever see the performance numbers on a 289 Cobra which used the same engine? They weren’t that much slower than a 427 Cobra. C/D did a comparison in 1970 against a LS-6 Chevelle, a Boss 302 Mustang and a 340 Duster. Guess which was the quickest? The little 289 ran 13.73 seconds at 101.58 mph, just beating out the legendary Chevelle.
There were a lot of low performing Ford small-blocks, but the K-code 289 was not one of them. When Ford made a concerted effort, they could make an engine run.
LeMans class winning (and 4th overall I think) Shelby Daytona was a 289 with Webers that was making at least 450 hp. How many class winning SBC’s were there? No knock on SBC, but the 289 was an excellent performance engine in solid lifter form.
Fascinating – thanks. I was always confused by the general perception of the Studebaker V8 as a high performance engine, based on a few (supercharged) examples but not on its inherent design. Thanks for the details, as well as some more general info I wasn’t aware of. For example I thought slipper pistons reduced friction from side thrust, but not that they allowed shorter deck height for a given stroke, by providing crank clearance.
One question that this post brought to mind: what was the last clean-sheet flathead design from the US industry?
“what was the last clean-sheet flathead design from the US industry?”
A great question. I was about to answer with the 1939 Studebaker Champion 6, but then I remembered the new Ford 6 in 1941. As the first Ford 6 since before the Model T it was certainly a clean sheet engine. If there’s a later one, I’m not thinking of it. But there could be one.
Perhaps the 262 cid Hudson six introduced in 1948.
It might be the Hudson Jet 202 ci L-head six for 1953-’54, it wasn’t based on the old Commodore Eight 254, only shared its small 3.00″ bore but was very long stroke at 4.75. A brand new archaic engine for a misbegotten, overpriced compact no one wanted. There was nothing wrong with the Hudson Jet…except that it killed the company!
A deep and fascinating dive, Paul. It’s one more snapshot of a company that seemingly couldn’t help itself. One step forward, three steps back.
Fine article, a very accurate description of the life span of the Studebaker V8. It’s design limitations for increased performance largely became more of a handicap as the years wore on. Given the other drawbacks Studebaker had limiting the appeal of their cars such as being uncompetitively priced versus their direct competition, the perceived flimsiness of body construction due to “Weight is the Enemy” being taken too far, the narrowness of the body configuration until the compact Lark and generally poor dealership representation, even a stellar V8 couldn’t have made the difference.
The lark was just a heavily reworked ’53 champion, it’s just as narrow. Finding the cash for an entirely new chassis was well beyond Studebaker’s capabilities in the late 50s
It was, Studebaker did a real good job with the lark considering what they had to start with.
Here’s a picture of the R3 in the famous “Plain Brown Wrapper” drag car.
And here is an R4, which is a similar engine but with dual Carters rather than a Paxton supercharger.
As I live only about 45 minutes from Hamilton, Ontario, I have always preferred the final year cars that were factory installed with 283 cubic inch Chevrolet engines.
There was an Avanti that lived one-block-over, one-block-South of me when I was a little kid. I never met the owner, never saw it in use. I saw it many, many times parked in the street in front of the house. I’d ride my bike over there just to look at it. I believe that Stude (Was it a Stude? Could have been an Avanti II! I don’t remember.) fueled my interest in Stude in general.
The second Stude that made an impression on me was housed in a glass-walled “garage” at the Trade School I attended; in it’s own little Display Case just like a cheap Chinese toy. This “Stude” was also a Bonneville record-holder. A local Gas-Station Hero put an Early Hemi engine in the gorgeous Loewy body, hauled it to Utah, and made history. This car–or a replica, but it’s presented as the real thing–is now on display in his Travel Plaza gas-station/bar/restaurant in his hometown. I presume the car at the trade school was moved, but I haven’t been back to the campus to find out.
The gasoline-octate-makes-displacement-obsolete thinking was also part of the stated design of the Caddy-Olds V-8s in ’48. Just that Caddy and Olds had the finances to go the other way when ultra-premium fuel didn’t materialize. I suspect this was part of GM owning the patents and manufacturing of Tetraethyl Lead; which later turned out to be proven such a horrific product.
Wild Guess: GM was already concerned about anti-trust legislation breaking up their “near-monopoly”; they allowed Studebaker to see behind the curtain and “copy” the Caddy V-8 since Stude wasn’t any real competition for the Chevy and Pontiac at the time as a gesture of goodwill. Chevy and Pontiac didn’t get V-8s until years after Stude. Later on, there was talk of GM/Ford/Chrysler actually providing money to the “independents” but nothing came of that, not even loans.
Seems to me that Buick also had “Wildcat” engines. Another commonality is that Buick had a similar fondness for full-skirt pistons. I have no idea why. They’re a dead-end. The industry has gone to shorter and shorter skirts to the point where there’s hardly any skirt left.
I love how in some of the Studebaker advertising, the engine is color-matched to the body color of the car it’s presented with. I assume this was not the case in real life. Who would paint exhaust manifolds and exhaust crossover pipes?
I’ve purchased several design papers from the SAE relating to various OHV engines; the Stude is the only one with a sense of humor. Kudos to them.
Somewhere back in the Shop is an unopened can of Genuine STP from the Studebaker era. Until I read the label, I didn’t know Studebaker owned STP for awhile.
“The gasoline-octate-makes-displacement-obsolete thinking was also part of the stated design of the Caddy-Olds V-8s in ’48. Just that Caddy and Olds had the finances to go the other way when ultra-premium fuel didn’t materialize.”
It did materialize, but about a decade later. That is why CR’s north of 10:1 were commonplace by the 1960’s. My take on it is that while the military was converting to jets, freeing up refining capacity for alkylate gasoline components, the airlines grew fast and used up much of the supply until jet airliners took over.
I really like these articles with lots of detail on subjects of which I have no knowledge or opinion; it’s more fun to learn stuff when I don’t have to keep sweeping preconceived notions out of the way.
Exhaust crossunder pipes like that shown in the first pic, a fraction of an inch under the oil pan, strike me as an efficient way to cook engine oil into sludge—especially the oils in use at the time of these engines.
That was my initial reaction too, but the pipe is actually in front of the sump, and in those days oil-changes were very frequent. Maybe it even helped warm-up on icy mornings….
Sure, it’s ahead of the sump, but with the engine running there’s going to be a constant rain of oil I think is going to cook on the pan above the pipe. Doubt if it helped speed engine warmup; that’s mostly a function of water temperature.
I wondered about exactly the same. It’s on the Caddy engine in the cross-section too. What IS the point of this, I wonder?
The proximity of exhaust to pan is just necessity for chassis clearance. Lots of installations were like that.
“Tin” to-air-to-tin-to-fluid makes for a terrible heat transfer path, nothing to worry about.
Compare to a wood stove heat shield – sheet metal spaced with an air-gap takes the brawn out of a roaring hot firebox.
Paul, a very interesting article. Great work ,as usual.
That SAE paper is leavened with dry humor; I encourage others to read it. Here’s the conclusion:
A great article and I thank you for it. I ‘knew’ the Studebaker engine was heavy, but no more than that. You’ve entertained and enlightened me.
Fine work indeed, Dr N.
Boy, that Studillac is desirable.
My first pickup was a ’62 Studebaker with a 289, that I bought used in 1973. Quick and fun and good gas mileage (for a 1960s US pickup – 17 mpg at 55).
If I waited 15 minutes to check the oil, it always had about a quart more than right after I shut it off.
It had a 4.88 axle ratio and an overdrive transmission. One Christmas coming home across Wyoming, the overdrive quit. Trying to beat a storm, I pushed the speed anyway. Long miles at high revs. About two weeks later it started to knock. So sad, I loved that old thing….
So reading about the top-end oiling issues, I just nodded gravely.
It would be interesting to see this compared to the power development used on the other small valve engine of the era. The Buick Nailhead.
Was any thought given to axing the Studebaker V8 in 1956 and instead continuing to produce the Packard V8? These had already been used in the Golden Hawk in 352 form, and there was a 374 cu.in. version that put out up to 310hp without resorting to forced induction. Plans were afoot to increase displacement again for 1957, and surely this engine was better suited for the horsepower war than the undersized Stude V8.
I have never read anything that suggested this was considered for even five minutes. Studebaker’s engines were cast in a foundry in the South Bend complex while Packard engines came from another facility.
Also, the great majority of Stude sales came from the inexpensive end of the spectrum, and the small-displacement engines were at least pretty economical. The 352 was the smallest of the Packard engines and was even heavier than the Stude engine. It would have made a Commander sedan faster, but also heavier, more front-heavy than it already was, and thirstier. And probably more expensive.
Actually, the 320 CID version was the smallest Packard V8, as used on the ’55 Clipper as well as the ’55 Nash and Hudson.
The Packard V8 weighed 698 lbs., with all accessories except air cleaner. That’s some 25-48 lbs more than the Stude, depending on how it’s configured. It seems to me that it might have been possible to reduce that gap further with a wee bit of effort. Aluminum intake manifold?
The Packard had gobs of development potential. Its bore centers were 5″, substantially more than any other V8 at the time, and the same as the Cadillac 472-500. Its heads were significantly better breathing, and it was used in several racing applications.
Your point about Studebaker being mostly lower end is well taken. And I don’t know how/where the Packard V8 could have been kept in production. But it makes for interesting speculation, as to its use in performance Studebakers.
Ahhh, I had forgotten about the 320.
Haha, a 400 cid Avanti would have been something to behold! 🙂
The 320 was 1955 only, replaced by the 352 in 1956. I’ve never read anything that suggested keeping Packard engines in production was ever considered either, but they were built in the Utica facility apart from the cars and it could have been kept open even if the rest of Packard was shut down. Clearly the engines could have been shipped over to South Bend as they were for the ’56 Golden Hawk with some feasibility. It just seems so many big decisions were rushed in 1956, with Curtiss-Wright deciding to save Studebaker but completely shut down Packard because they deemed for some reason only one brand could saved, and Studebaker was chosen due to their higher volume. That makes no sense to me – if only one brand could be saved, it should have been Packard. For one, Packard was actually profitable before the merger whereas Studebaker was bleeding cash. For another, the luxury market Packard dealt in (or at least was moving back to) is less susceptible to price, and better suited for low volumes. Consider how Porsche survived for decades as an independent. If a luxury car buyer shops two brands and prefers the one that costs a bit more, they’ll probably buy it anyway. But in the low-price field that Studebaker competed in, costing a few hundred dollars more would often kill the sale.
This was indeed a “Best of CC” piece, and a great re-read for a quiet Christmas morning.
I have spent time thinking about this engine’s size/weight issues. Sitting on a stand, this engine was not of an unusual weight for a V8 of its era. It was right in the ballpark with the Cadillac, Olds, the smaller Mopar engines (Dodge, Desoto and the Plymouth ‘A’ block) and even the Ford Y block and the AMC V8. Ed Cole’s Chevrolet design was a breakthrough in light weight at 575 lbs where all of the above were 600-700 lbs.
The problem, of course, was that the Studebaker was a lightweight car. The Ford flathead had been a 525 lb engine and worked well in such a package. The engine Stude design was just too big and heavy for a Studebaker.
The second problem was that for an engine so big and heavy, it lacked the ability go get the cubic inches all of its contemporaries got from a similar package. Stude had bore spacings larger than the Ford Y block, the Dodge/DeSoto/Plymouth A engines, but all of those (even in their early versions) got displacements between 312 (Ford) and 345 (DeSoto). Other engines that got more development (like Olds and Cadillac and Pontiac) got close to 400 cid out of their early versions. A sub-300 displacement limit (due to water jacketing and other design issues) in an engine that big was a fatal problem.
Probably the only real analog (small company, new design) was the AMC engine. It topped at 327 cid but was not seen as a worthwhile investment by the early 60s when AMC replaced it. But AMC at least got some decent cubic inches out of it (though with even greater bore centers than Cadillac, Olds and the Chrysler Hemi).
And of course, the low production numbers locked in those early decisions and made any significant design changes impossible. I guess all we can say is that after 1951 they did everything they could with what they had.
All good points. But the other critical limiting factor were the heads, with small valves and ports, and with architecture that made increasing both impossible without a complete re-design.
Having had some time to digest this story and the comments further, my take is that it was a combination of overly-conservative engineering combined with likely outdated foundry techniques. I can’t verify the latter, but a lot of signs point to that.
Ultimately, the Studebaker V8 is an honest reflection of the company: plucky but conservative, and constrained by capital and technology.
It’s a bit unfortunate, because if the V8 had better breathing heads and more displacement, the ’53+ coupes could have made a bigger impact in the performance sector.
I had forgotten until just now about one racing success the Larks had. In late 1959 Holman & Moody prepared 3 Larks to race at Sebring. The rules allowed the 259 V8 and the Larks did quite well – coming in 2 and 4 behind a pair of Jaguars campaigned by Briggs Cunningham. (One Lark did not finish). The Larks were faster than the Jags, but the Jags had better brakes. The Valiants, Corvairs and Falcons were never in the running and the rules (IIRC) outlawed the Larks the following year for an unfair engine advantage over the other six cylinder compacts.
There is a brief bit from Sports Illustrated at the time here: https://vault.si.com/vault/1960/01/04/a-second-look-at-the-compact-cars
This is a fascinating story. I understand the oil drainback issue was identified by Holman & Moody and addressed by the factory soon after.
Weird how that article makes no mention of which brands make those cars; it’s just the Lark, Falcon, Corvair, etc.
Here in December 2020, March seems like a l-o-n-g time ago!
To repeat what I wrote back then, I think it’s neat that industry professional journals so openly lay out things I’d think “proprietary,” as with the Studebaker engineers’ writeup.
Below, for another example, is Ford openly describing design & development of the 3.8L “Essex” V6 for Taurus, etc. It includes discussion of challenges as well as eventual production decisions to replace some aluminum items with ferrous. (Meanwhile, someone on Wiki is advancing a contrary theory that it was hurriedly reverse-engineered from a V6.)
We had a neighbor who was an Avanti fanatic from the time they came out until he passed away. He had three of them, the first one was gold, I remember seeing it the first time and wondering what it was and why it was so ugly? The design hasn’t grown on my over the years, that’s for sure. The second one was an awful fleshtone, my dad used to laugh when he saw the owner washing it, and when it was out for one of it’s rare drives. He thought it was “fast as lightning”, but a humiliating defeat by the other neighborhood Charger R/T and Roadrunners (both 440 autos) on the road conveniently painted with a 1/4 mile start and finish line educated him quickly. The beige one hung around and then in the early 80’s, I went down my old street and there he was, washing a bright red Avanti, which would end up being his last car. After he passed, his widow drove it for a while, and then one day, it was sitting on the lot of a car dealer along with a Plymouth Superbird. That place had some neat cars over the years, a couple of them really made my head turn, but the Avanti wasn’t one of them.
It’s a matter of taste, I like them.
As to punching out of its weight class…
Not sure if it has been mentioned, but J.C. Agajanian bankrolled a very pricey interesting and respectable “DOHCing” of the Studebaker V-8, with the intent of being a serious Indianapolis 500 contender.
I stumbled across an interesting website “Studebaker Engine Heritage Studebaker-Info” that states Studebaker was working on a 343 c.i. version of their v8 in the waning days of auto production. It was built from the standard pattern equipment and the larger bore was created by modifying the base side of the water jacket cores. According to the article, six blocks were cast, four were scrapped as bad castings and two survived although it does not state what became of the surviving two blocks. Interesting stuff for Studebaker historians.
The irony of their limited-sized postwar V8 was during the 1920’s Erskine years, when Studebaker competed primarily in the middle-price range, they fielded one of the largest sixes available, the Big Six 353.8 cu.in. engine. The 120″ wheelbase Big Six tourings and roadsters were favored by Police and Fire Departments for their performance capabilities at moderate cost..
For someone who is ignorant of American V8 engines, would it be accurate to say the main point of the article on the Studebaker V8 is that they should have copied certain key elements from the Cadillac V8 that specifically gave the Cadillac many of its inherent qualities and scaled it down to reduce the deck height of the block, save weight, and create a more compact engine?
In other words the Studebaker V8 should have ideally been in retrospect an early downscaled precursor of the Chevrolet Small Block V8 with a displacement range of 3.8-5-litres+ / 232-304.5+ cubic inches, possibly with scope for further growth in displacement to replace the 352 cubic inch Packard V8?
Did not realise the Studebaker V8 displaced as low as 224 cubic inches / 3670.7cc or that it was a compromise solution.
Does anyone know exactly how low some within Studebaker were looking to go in reducing the displacement down to some 200 cubic inches?
Studebaker fans have done short stroke 3.38″ x 2.81″ engines based on the 232 with 224 crankshaft and got 202 cubic inches of V8 power. Working on the basis of the 259 V8 with 180hp, a factory 202 could have belted out 140hp, competitive with sixes 10-15% larger in displacement sold by competitors in the 1960s so yes, Studebaker could have saved money and dumped their inline sixes…. running one type of engine with various displacements.
I drove and owned 4 Studebaker V8’s All were very dependable and performed with more than adequate power and delivered excellent gas mileage. They were as follows: 1951 Land Cruiser, 1957 President, 1962 Daytona Convertible (4speed) and 1964 GT Hawk (R1). They all came with advanced engineering features that the Big 3 did not provide until later. The 62 with it’s 4 speed transmission would out perform most of the Big 3 even Corvettes. The 64 with the AFB carb, power shift and twin traction was a standout. Even today many of these rugged cars put out quite a performance at the annual Pure Stock Car drag races. Pretty rugged engineering from a independent company that tried to meet or beat offerings from the Big 3! Don’t forget they set speed records (170 mph) at Bonneville.
Very interesting article. I am doing some research on the origin of the old Volvo B36 V8 truck engine from the mid fitfties. Just like the Caddy and the Stude, the Volvo engine is of the classic Kettering design. I red in the book Milstoplar bland Skövdemotorer (Milestones amongst Skövde engines) by Per-Gunnar Perhed, that Volvo bought a production line from a closed factory in the US. I´m trying to find out which. The B36 prototype, the B8B, is even closer to the early Caddy and Stude than the B36. It even has a blocked off exhaust passage to the intake manifold (the Volvo intake is heated by water), which indicates it´s origin from the US. Could Studebaker have sold Volvo an early prototype back i 1951/52?
Interesting quest! I’d surely like to know more about the B36, too.
If Perhed is correct that Volvo bought a production line from a closed US factory, then Could Studebaker have sold Volvo an early prototype might not be the matching question. Prototypes don’t generally come off production lines; that’s what makes them prototypes rather than serial-production parts.
I would hesitate to say a blocked-off exhaust crossover passage indicates US origin of an engine. You might be right about this, or not. As you evidently know, finding the origin of an obscure engineered item from the past can be a long and difficult pursuit, and if historical accuracy is the goal, we have to be careful not to read too much into what look like clues, otherwise we risk spawning myths and folktales.
One available V8 production line that I can think of was Packard’s. All state of the art equipment when installed in 54. As part of the Curtis-Wright/government bailout, the Packard engine plant building in Utica was transferred to C-W. The engine line was disassembled and trucked to the main Packard plant in Detroit in the summer of 56 to be sold.
Interesting. Volvo must have got the engine line in 51 or 52 in order to put it into Philip in time to its debut 1953. I dont know if Packard had something going on in 1951.
I doubt very much that anything came from Packard. The key equipment for building engines are the transfer lines, which do the primary machining on the blocks. These huge machine lines designed and built according to a certain bore center. This is why many American manufacturers kept their bore centers the same for various generations of engines,in order to reuse this very expensive equipment.
The Packard V8 had a huge bore centers of 5.125″, wider than any other American engine. This was to provide for massive future engine displacement increases. But it meant the block was large.
The Volvo V8 appears to be a smaller engine, certainly from its modest displacement.
Just because it had certain similarities with some American V8s does not really suggest it used anyone’s transfer lines, and certainly no American manufacturer was getting rid of their high-volume V8 transfer lines back the, except Packard after 1956. The others were still building and expanding their V8 production capabilities.
I understand the B36 actually shares a number of element and parts with the Volvo four cylinder engine. I suspect it was an outgrowth of that. A number of companies outside of the US built low-modest volume V8s too.
Very interesting comments Paul. The B36 shares as you say a number of elements, and some parts in the valve train, with the famous B18, an engine introduced in 1961. 5 years later than the B36 and 8 years later than the B8B. The outgrowth is vice versa. The older four banger B4B has no parts in common with the B8B/B36/B18.
I find the differences between the B8B and B36 more interesting than the similarities with other Volvo engines. The B8B has, as the only engine from Volvo ever, short skirts ending in the crank bore center. Furthermore, the higher number of head bolts on the B8B differs from any other OHV/OHC Volvo engine from the late forties and up. The B36 is typical Volvo.
I have tried to upload some pictures of the B8B, without any luck.
Make sure the pictures are .jpg format, and not wider than 1,200px.
You´re right that the blocking itself does not indicate US origin, but it indicates that Volvo purchased it from somewhere outside their own supplier of engines (the Volvo-owned Skövde factory). It does not make sense that they ordered an engine with this passage just to block it off.
Even prototype engines are casted, but I guess the equipment isn´t ideal for mass production. The B8B was not mass produced either. Only one, or perhaps a very few examples was produced. The B8B engine still exists today as the «propulsion machinery» of the Kaiser inspired prototype car Volvo Philip from 1953. The B36 engine is the mass produced version and differs from the B8B in many ways. The B36 block is deep skirted, it has only 10 cylinder head bolts per head, and it has no signs of an exhaust crossover passage. But is has self locking valve adjustment screws like Studebaker, an attribute not used by Volvo on any of their previous or later engines as far as i know.
It should be possible to dig into the Volvo archives to find out more on the Managements transactions from the early fifties, but not tonight 🙂
Certainly enticing clues, but I still can’t get onside with the idea that a blocked-off exhaust passage necessarily means Volvo bought this engine from elsewhere, because I can think of another plausible explanation: perhaps the exhaust passage was incorporated early in development, then abandoned in favour of water-heat for the intake manifold, and blocking off the passage was more feasible (because time or cost, etc) than changing the casting—the world of automotive engines is full of vestigial/abandoned features like this; I can immediately think of one in Chrysler’s Slant-6 engine, and probably others if I were to work at it for awhile. Or here’s another alternate explanation: perhaps both water- and exhaust-heat for the intake were contemplated from the start, and exhaust-heat provisions were made for eventual use in certain applications (which didn’t necessarily wind up materialising).
I don’t assert there’s any factual accuracy to either of these ideas, just that they’re plausible.
They are plausible indeed. But so are the statement in the book mentioned above. As a small and «poor» auto maker Volvo have done a lot of purchases from the US over the years. They are well covered in the literature.
Even Chevrolet did some early prototypes based on the heavy/bulky/expensive Kettering design before they saw the light and made their famous and well made SBC.
Could certainly wish they had bought A904 Torqueflite automatic transmissions from Chrysler instead of those horrid BorgWarner 35s!
As I said above, companies do not need to buy someone else’s complete production/transfer line to build either a one-off engine or a low volume engine like the B36. Casting is not really a mass-production operation; and the machining can be done on smaller machines not intended for constant mass production (transfer lines).
That is true.
Let´s for a second assume that the Swedish author and Volvo employee Perhed got this information from a credible source. Could his understanding of «production line» perhaps be a little bit more abstract, some rejected drawings or something like that?
Apologies for my English, my Norwegian is slightly better 🙂
Terminologies and memories are both subject to interpretation. I wasn’t there, but my guess is that Volvo looked at one or more American V8s when they designed theirs. That was common practice. But I don’t see any obvious signs of it being strongly related to any of the American V8s.
And no American manufacturer back in the early fifties was willing to sell any real production-related equipment or such for their still-new V8 engines. The opposite: they were still developing new ones and expanding facilities for their manufacture.
« And no American manufacturer back in the early fifties was willing to sell any real production-related equipment or such for their still-new V8 engines. The opposite: they were still developing new ones and expanding facilities for their manufacture.»
But Cadillac still let the Studebaker guys into their holy temple:
«Cadillac even allowed a contingent of Studebaker engineers to visit and essentially copy its production facilities for the V8 engine, as Studebaker had no experience in that.»
The section about the B8B to B36 in Perheds book, translated from Swedish to English:
«What was left, was a production line, bought from a closed down factory in the USA and renovated in Skövde in 1955, and in addition, there was a demand. An engine was needed for the new distribution truck that Volvo was about to produce.»
I still find it more likely than unlikely that someone in the US opened the doors for the Swedish delegation when they were looking for some help with their V8 plans.
Not sure how accurate the post in the following thread is, yet is appears the roots of the Volvo B36 ultimately stems from the Lincoln Y-Block V8.
There’s a world of difference between letting a few engineers look at your production facilities, to see how they were laid out, to selling a “a production line”. An engine production line is a whole lot of very expensive equipment, specifically designed for a specific engine (or family) that had a specific bore center dimension, as these machines were designed and built to handle just one bore center dimension.
That’s exactly why the Ford Y-Block V8 and the “Windsor” small block V8 that replaced it have the exact same bore center spacing (4.38″). That way the same production/transfer line machines could be used for both.
It’s also why all Pontiac V8s all had the same bore spacing, from 1955 to the last one. Same for Chevy “W” V8s (348/409) and all the subsequent big blocks. Same for larger Olds and Buick V8s, as well as their smaller ones.
Transfer lines are massive investments, designed to last for many decades, despite changes in engine design, other than the bore spacing.
There was no American company that had any reason to sell off a V8 production line except for Packard, and that was later (1957) and its bore spacing was the largest ever. Plus it looks very little design-wise to the Volvo.
As I said before, most likely that line in that book was a mistake. That really does happen, you know.
It’s quite apparent that the Volvo V8 has some design similarities to some American V8s from the early 50s, but that does not mean it used one of the American production lines. American V8’s were roughly copied around the world in the 50s (Russia, China) and they just built their own production lines.
When Ford didn’t need some of their Y-Block production facilities in the 1960s, they sent it to their subsidiary in Argentina. The Y Block was made there for quite a while yet.
As one who’s no more at most than an automotive bench racer pretending to be an engineer, I’m dumbfounded by the engine design. Power demands had been going up since when, oh, say as long as cars were being made. Oversimplifying, power is made by displacement and in the head. Stude didn’t see any of that coming and designed a new engine with at best, distinctly modest growth potential? Oh, maybe that’s why companies go out of business.
Thanks for using the picture of my dual quad set-up….It’s been on the road for over 15 years now…The next time you see the truck stop by and I’ll fill you in on how I made it breath..done right it’s a grocery getter during the day and a real sleeper by night.