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It doesn’t matter if your car looks good, ultimately it’s all about what it can do and this largely comes down to what you put under the hood. How do you decide whether an engine is good or not? We’ve put together our very own list of some of the best engines of all times. We’ve covered the basics from the legendary Nissan RB26DETT to the Ford 351 Windsor. Which engine would you choose and why?
Come 1970, Chevrolet was more determined than ever to push the bar of engine performance and so they introduced the Chevy 454. Unlike the Chevy 427, this big block Chevy was exclusively reserved for performance cars like the Camaro, Corvette and Chevelle.
Chevrolet developed 3 versions of the 454 engine: the LS5, the LS6 and the LS7. Initially, the LS7 was designed for the general public but was never produced on account for the emission standards that were beginning to come into play. That didn’t stop the Chevy 454 LS7 from making it out there, it was sold as a crate engine and claimed to produce around 500 horsepower.
Unfortunately the Chevy 454 engine came into the world at the wrong time. Following its inception in 1970, emission standards became a formality in 1971 which meant that Chevrolet had no choice but to detune the engine. By 1974, the Chevy 454 was no longer being used in any of the original models and could only be found in heavy duty trucks.
But that wasn’t the end of the 454 engine and it’s considered to be one of the favourites with performance enthusiasts, providing a continuous supply of parts and modifications to really push the big block Chevy above 600bhp.
Initially produced in 1989 for the skyline GT-R, the RB26DETT was a different type of Nissan RB engine. The RB26DETT engine quickly become popular for its strength and power potential, making it the perfect choice for modifications and regularly reaching up to 500 horsepower.
Acting as the inspiration behind the Toyota 2JZ-GTE, this engine was also made from cast iron and featured six cylinders with 24 valves. It became best known for its performance as a sports engine and its popularity, coupled with the pure strength in the RB26DETT engine, led to it being used and modified in a number of custom cars.
Nissan also released limited edition modified versions of the RB26DETT in the form of the N1 and Z2 which were equipped to be more powerful than the standard RB26. The end of this Nissan RB engine came in 2002 along with the production of the Skyline GT-R that had made its name.
Ford 351 Windsor
The Windsor small block engine family was initially introduced in 1962 in the form of an engine that only displaced 221 cubic inches. It quickly grew to 260- 289- and eventually 302-inch versions. Ford quickly realize that the public demand was growing. They needed to develop a way to bridge the gap between the 302 and the big block 309. The 351 Windsor was born.
Due to the heightened deck block, larger connecting rods and the distinct firing order (13726548), the 351 Windsor was in a league of its own. It launched in 1969 in a two- and four-barrel guise and the initial years of production were impressive with the engines capabilities reaching 300 horsepower (@5400rpm) but, like most engines in the 70s, new regulations came into play and the Ford 351 engine was tuned down to meet emission standards.
The Ford 351 Windsor was given a proper send off in 1995 by creating the 1995 Cobra R and becoming the pinnacle of modern Mustang performance.
That wasn’t the end of the 8 cylinder 351 Windsor, in fact the engine can still be purchased today.
Toyota’s 2JZ-GTE engine was developed purely based on the competition from Nissan’s rival RB26DETT. Initially released in 1991, the Toyota JZ engine had an inline layout and 6 cylinders. Even with very few modifications, the 2JZ-GTE is a firm favourite with pro motorsport teams of all sorts.
Despite aluminium being a lighter material, the 2JZ-GTE engine is made from cast iron, making it durable, steady and bulletproof allowing it to reach up to 325 horsepower (@5600 rpm) and a maximum torque of 440 (@ 4800 rpm). The success of the 2JZ-GTE that originally appeared in the Supra meant that it made an appearance in a number of Toyota’s other models.
Modified Toyota JZ engines could reach somewhere between 1500-2000 horsepower. Fans would install these modified engines into everything from Ford Mustangs to Chevrolet Camaros.
Officially, the V8 427 Chevy engine was in mass production in 1966, however as early as 1963, you could get a 427 engine (known then as the Z11) as a RPO (regular production option) for the Chevy Impala.
The 427 Chevy became a production engine option for full-sized Chevrolets and Corvettes, producing 390hp @ 5200rpm, and could be found in almost anything. It was an instant hit with its incredible horsepower and versatility, but you didn’t get the same 427 engine in every model of car. The lower rated horsepower 427 Chevy was reserved for more family orientated cars with options like power steering available
The 427 Chevy engines went on to become some of the most powerful engines in the late 60s, pushing the performance of street cars with 435 horsepower. The Chevy 427 ZL1 was developed for non-street use and was often used in Can-Am racing. Once tuned correctly, the 427 engine could reach up to 500 horsepower and was featured in a number of famous cars such as the McLaren and Chaparral.
The Nissan SR20DET is a popular 4-cylinder engine that replaced the CA18 after it couldn’t meet Japanese emission standards. Initially produced in 1989 for the Nissan Bluebird, the SR20DET was used in the infamous Nissan Pulsar GTi-R between 1990 and 1994 and then went on to be used in the Nissan Avenir in 1995.
The Nissan Silvia was the longest running model to use the SR20DET engine from 1991 to 2002. The Nissan SR20DET is still a popular performance engine choice due to the high output (maximum horsepower could reach 201 @ 6000 rpm and maximum torque could reach 202 @ 4000 rpm) for such a small and lightweight engine and are regularly used for parts swaps to further increase performance.
The SR20DET is perhaps the best well known Japanese performance engine of all time and gained the reputation through its reliability and incredible response to tuning applications. Throughout its lifetime, the SR20DET engine didn’t change its basic features of design as it was so successful.
Ford 300 Inline 6 Cylinder
The first inline 6 engine was made in 1906. Built to deliver more torque power than a V8, the engine was quickly discontinued after establishing a reputation for tearing up transmissions . Ford reintroduced production of the inline 6 in 1941, once transmission technology could handle the massive torque produced (283 @ 1600 rpm). The Ford 300 Inline 6 wasn’t released into production until 1965 where it was built for the popular pickup truck.
During its 31 year reign the Ford 300 earned an incredible reputation for strength and reliability. This popular inline 6 was used in a number of Ford vehicles, anything from agricultural equipment and tractors to heavy duty dump trucks and generators. Best known as being a rugged, dependable workhorse, the Ford inline 6 surpassed all other engines of the era and its ability to produce torque extremely low only increased its popularity. It’s not uncommon to come across an inline 6 that’s made it to 300,000 miles or more with no major issues.
The Subaru EJ engines is a series of 4-stroke engines initially produced in 1989. This EJ20 engine was Japan’s debut quad-cam, high performance Subaru and has had a massive impact on engine performance around the world. The EJ20 appears in a number of rally competitions around the world and is perhaps one of the most commonly modified engines of all time.
Immediately rivalling Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan, Subaru had high expectations for the EJ20. It originally appeared in the BC/BF-series Legacy RS/GT and sported Subaru’s trademark horizontally opposed engine architecture. The EJ20 engine also became a first for Subaru as the crankcase and heads were made from lightweight aluminium.
The Subaru EJ engine impressed car enthusiasts with its raw output of over 200 horsepower at 6400 rpm, however the engine was detuned for the GT sedan and GT wagon. By the mid-2000s, Subaru decided to take a step back on power output to concentrate on tightening the EJ20s emissions.
The EJ20 engine was still going strong in the new millennium and was given a series of updates before slowly disappearing from production but can still be found in the Japanese Impreza.
Chrysler 426 Hemi
The 426 hemi engine is best known for the way it revolutionized NASCAR racing in 1965.
Based on their experience in building aircraft engines, Chrysler built their first engine with hemispherically-shaped combustion chambers in 1951. By 1963, Chrysler executives were intent on building a hemi engine that could win Daytona.
After winning the 1965 Daytona race, the 426 hemi instigated change in NASCAR racing, allowing race-only engines to become available in production vehicles. Throughout the 1965 season, Chrysler took a step back and decided to develop a street version of the hemi engine which then began to appear in the 1966 Dodge and Plymouth B-Bodies producing up to 425 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and a maximum torque of 490 @ 4000 rpm.
The hemispherical-shaped combustion chambers is what set the Chrysler hemi apart from other engines and the second generation, detuned street-version of the 426 hemi offered an impressive 425 horsepower and become one of their iconic engines.
Mitsubishi Sirius 4G63
The 4G63 engine become known for the characteristics of having high top-end power and low-end drivability, as well as economical operation. This 4-liter engine became the rally-dominating giant, best known for its installation in the Evolution Lancer, and was later installed in a variety of Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Hyundai and Chevy vehicles.
The 4G63 is definitely the most well known engine of the Mitsubishi Sirius engine family and comes with the most variations including two block variations, one with a 85 x 85mm bore and stroke primarily for passenger cars and the other with a 84 x 90mm bore and stroke mainly for commercial vehicles. The 4G63 can also come with single and overhead cams and during it’s time in the VR-4 Galant and the Evolution Lancer, it was also fitted with a turbocharger.
Based on the 4G63’s compatibility and ability to be easily modified the 4G63 engine is definitely noteworthy. In 1983 it became the world’s first 2 x 3 valve engine.
Do you agree with our list? What would you change, and which engine do you think should be here?