The Chevrolet Small-Block engine was officially introduced to the public as one of the two engines in the 1955 Chevrolet passenger car. Its companion engine powering Chevrolet products was the very dated “Blue-Flame” 6. This six-cylinder driven powertrain was a key contributor to the reputation at that time that Chevrolet cars were dull and, at best, average.
The team: In late 1952, my father, Ed Cole, assumed the role as Chevrolet Chief Engineer. A few years earlier he was the Chief Engineer at Cadillac and led the development of a new, advanced design overhead valve V-8. The expectation at Chevy was that he would lead the development of a Chevrolet version but he had other ideas. At this time each GM division had their own powertrain operations. Key people were recruited from across the company based on their unique skills. The entire effort of developing, tooling and launch of the engine, as well as the total vehicle, took less than 2 years.
The engine: The Small-Block engine was considered revolutionary at that time. Features included a new casting technology that reduced the casting cores by about half, a valve train that featured simple stamped rocker arms that pivoted on individual studs and elimination of all external oil lines. Its weight was over 40 pounds less than the Blue-Flame 6 and it was very compact.
The Chevrolet Small-Block V-8 was a revolutionary engine when it was developed in the 50’s, and even today the basic architecture of the current GM Small-Block is similar.