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We were looking through some old issues of Rod & Custom and found it interesting to see all the different engines selected to power hot rods. Many of the 1950s and early-1960s rodders opted for the most powerful engines they could find right from the factory, so Cadillac, Buick, Olds, and Chrysler engines were very popular. Without turning a wrench, these engines were producing more horsepower than a totally built flathead, and with thinner wall block castings, many of the ohv V-8 engines were as light as the flatty. All of the early luxury car engines were dimensionally larger than the flathead, so the only problem encountered was getting one to fit comfortably in a Model A or Deuce engine compartment.
In 1955, Chevy introduced a V-8 engine, a 265ci small-block, and it quickly got the hot rodders’ attention. The engine was a perfect fit in many of the smaller cars, but remained expensive for years after its initial release, so rodders were still relying on the luxury car engines until the price of the Chevy V-8s came down to reality. Chevy produced a lot of small-block powered cars and trucks, and the performance industry became infatuated with them because of their excellent performance potential, so by the mid-1960s, the engines started showing up in many street rods.
Today it seems like there is a patented formula for building a street rod, with the main ingredients being a 350 Chevy small-block and a Turbo 350 transmission. It’s certainly the easiest way to build a rod, but the individuality factor so prevalent in the 1960s is gone. Over the last few years, we’ve been featuring engine buildups on a variety of strong-running engines besides the venerable small-block Chevy, and perhaps this has sparked an interest with some of our readers.
Over the last year, we’ve started to see quite a few early Chrysler Hemis, Buick nailheads, small Dodge Hemis, and a sprinkling of Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Cadillac engines in rods and customs. The variety is very refreshing and something to think about when you build your next car. The auto wrecking establishments are filled with 1960s muscle car and luxury car engines that can be turned into stout performers, and most of them will fit into the engine compartments of many street rods. The best part is the alternative engines are usually reasonably priced because the demand for them isn’t as high as for a Chevy small-block.
We are going to give you an overview of some of the alternative engines you can still find in the wrecking yards that you might want to consider for your next project car or truck. Parts and accessories to rebuild and modify them are still available from many sources, so if you want your car to stand out from the rest, put an engine under the hood that will catch everyone's attention.
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