I’ve spent a lot of years behind the wheel of various cars and over that time, a few motors have really stood out. This is completely unscientific and is really a reflection of the cars I have owned in my long driving career. The engines here are not in any special order other than my experience with them.
The Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 was always my favourite V-8 of the cast iron era. I am familiar with the 307, 350 and 403 variants, from 1977-1985. The 350 was by far the best of the lot. I had a 1977 Delta 88 four door sedan stripper I bought for a cab. It had been owned by a priest and it didn’t even have air-conditioning but man-o-man did that thing run good. Lots of low end torque and a surprising top end, too. The 403 wasn’t worth the extra money and fuel since I could never tell the difference from the 350. The much maligned 307 was a workhorse. In all the Oldsmobile taxis my family had, we never saw a 307 wear out. The 307 was ideal for that purpose but I think that on a hilly highway the 350 would be a lot better.
Who doesn’t love the Slant 6? I’ve had a few over the years and I really liked each one. Even the later, strangled, ones were not bad. What I liked about the Slant 6 is the low end torque. I had a Dart Swinger with a non-smog motor, no PS or PB and nary power toy and it ran really well. In fact, if felt quick off the line and around town. With the Torqueflite it was really fun. That said, the party was over at 100 km/h (62 mph).
The Honda J series (60 degree V6 designed and built in the US starting in 1998, in 2.5 to 3.7 L versions) is a real gem. It is smooth, has great low end power and turns into a snarling gem when the tach gets to the upper end. I have had two of them and the both ran really well. Like a lot of Honda motors, a J series is kind of always asking you to push it harder due to all the wonderful sounds it makes. This meant my Acura TL was guzzling premium fuel at the rate of 14.5 L/100 km. Oh well, it was worth it!
The Volkswagen EA888 (1.8 and 2.0 L turbo four) is in my opinion a superb motor. I have one in my Golf and it’s the best gasoline motor I have experienced. My experience isn’t all that broad, but the EA888 is smooth, flexible and very fuel efficient. There is never any waiting for power on an EA888. Push down your foot and you have power NOW! The grey iron block is capable of making some serious power. A stage one performance upgrade is less than C$1000 all in and gives 236 hp and 270 ft/lb. The second the warranty is up on my Golf it’s going in for this!
The Chevrolet “Turbo-Thrift” inline six (from 1962 and up; 194, 230, 250, 292 CID) is the Rodney Dangerfield of motors: it’s just don’t get no respect. Everybody gushes about the Ford 300 or the Slant 6 but the humble Chevy six powered millions of vehicles in many markets. They are smooth, make good low end power and are as reliable as a stump. It takes serious effort to kill one. I saw them come into the garage with oil leaking from every gasket but they ran. I saw them with practically zero maintenance and they ran. In fact, I have never seen one that didn’t run. I could say the same thing about the Ford 300 but I don’t have much experience with them. As for the Slant 6, I didn’t kill one but I was present when my buddy did.
This wraps up my top five engines. Again, it is not in any way scientific or durability tested. It’s just what I like and maybe other CC members can post their top five. I am also thinking of doing a bottom five engines, too.