Chevrolet has created a legacy of great engine platforms that not only develop power, but show lasting durability over long production runs. Chevy’s small-block 350ci engine set the standard for popularity, having been utilized in passenger cars and trucks from 1967 to 2003.
Everyone recognizes the greatness of engines like the SBC 350, but other very noteworthy engines labor away without the praise. We are here to celebrate the top three engines that are worthy of the highest praise, but are generally looked upon by many car enthusiasts as economy standards, entry-level, or base engines.
Third-Gen Stovebolt Engines
Technically, the Chevy straight-six engines made during 1962 and later and not stovebolt engines, but many older mechanics still refer to any straight-six Chevy as a stovebolt. Manufactured from 1962 through 2001 in several different dimensions, the venerable straight-six powered everything from the early Chevy II Novas and first generation Camaros and Firebirds, to 1998 Brazilian Chevy Silverado trucks.
Of the numerous versions of the straight-six platform that were produced, the stroked 250ci version was probably the most respected. It producing 155hp with a 3 7/8-inch bore, and a 3 17/32-inch stroke. The engine was typically sold with a single-barrel intake with a Rochester Monojet carburetor for passenger cars, and truck engines received two-barrel intakes with Rochester Dualjet carburetors.
The straight-six continued to soldier on through the 1960s and into the 1970s, until the 90-degree V6 engines began to replace the straight-sixes in both trucks and cars. Eventually the 250ci straight-six was relegated to light truck use until 1984, when the 4.3-liter V6 became the base engine for economy passenger cars and trucks.
Other countries continued to use the Chevy 250ci through 2001, until Brazil finally dropped the Silverado line. Through sheer longevity and dependability, this engine should rank as one of the greatest of all time, but is generally underrated as a base economy engine.
GM’s LB4 V6
GM’s LB4 4.3-liter V6 is probably the most successful and popular of the Chevrolet V6 engines, but still doesn’t get the credit that it deserves. Originally making its debut in full-sized Chevrolet Monte Carlos and El Caminos in 1985 , the mighty powerplant was quickly added to the full-sized truck line.
The engine’s idle was smoothed as engineers reconfigured the firing order, uniformly offset the crankshaft connecting rod pins, but the engine was known to shake at idle in it’s naturally aspirated form.
It was also a little anemic in base form, but when it was turbocharged, as was in the Syclone and Typhoon applications, the V6 ran like a dream. Larger valves and continuous upgrades to the engine design refined the mill into a real competitive engine. The engineers even modified the case to accept a single piece oil seal and the head’s started using center-bolt valve covers. By 1987, the mightiest mule in the V6 stable was fitted with hydraulic roller lifters. The last 4.3-liter V6 rolled off the Romulus powertrain assembly line in March of 2014.
GM’s 2.0 LSJ Ecotec
Not everyone underrated this mighty mill, as it earned honors as one of Ward’s top 10 engines in 2005. For most, the 205hp at the wheels was a sleeper when compared to some of the bigger brothers in the GM lineup. It certainly was not under powered when installed in the Cobalt SS chassis – underrated for certain, but not under powered.
The 1,998cc engine was loaded with an Eaton M62 roots-type supercharger, and an air-to-liquid intercooler. The system delivered a maximum of 12 psi of boost pressure. The factory rated it at 205hp at 5,6oo rpm, which isn’t bad, and the engine didn’t need a lot of trick parts to make that power. The Ecotec engine is all aluminum with dual cams, sodium-filled exhaust valves, a compression ratio of 9.5:1, a forged-steel crankshaft, direct cooling oil jets for the pistons, and it redlines at 6,500.
Not bad for an engine that was packaged in a car that sold at the entry-level price tag of $20,000-$21,000. Sadly, when the Cobalt and Saturn Ion Red Line ended their run in 2007, the LSJ was discontinued.
GM’s 3800 is often overlooked and sometimes fails to make Chevy lists, because of its Buick tag. The L67 supercharged version of the 3800 series II engine appeared in the 2004-2005 Chevrolet Impala SS models, and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS models in the same time frame. We love it for it’s reliability and durability, plus… it was a great choice to upgrade because of the strong internals. It could take the power adders and make impressive gains. Well worth adding to the list of often overlooked engines.