The High 10 Most Underrated Engines of All Time (Says You)

The High 10 Most Underrated Engines of All Time (Says You)


Positive, everybody loves a 426 Hemi.

350 Chevy? Yep, discovered dang-near all over the place.

And even non-Ford people can recognize a properly tuned Windsor.

…However there are many different engines on the market, reliably powering basic cruisers, work vehicles, and humble folks movers—simply with out the panache and fanfare of these extra standard powerplants.

So on its social media pages, Summit Racing requested you to fill within the clean:


“Probably the most underrated engine of all time is _______.”


The Reader Contributions poured in by the lots of. We collected ten of essentially the most under-the-radar engines from these responses, and right here’s what we got here up with. (Spoiler alert: You definitely like your inline sixes!)

Please word, generally people gave us a selected engine, others gave the complete engine household, so we used each interchangeably right here.


10. Volkswagen Air-Cooled Boxer 4

With the right combination of elements, the VW 4 might be fairly potent. See extra of this engine (and the Baja Bug it’s hooked up to) on this Lot Pictures function. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Whereas this household of engines might be present in thousands and thousands of automobiles, lots of people don’t understand that it has some bona fide efficiency potential. “You are able to do rather a lot to those engines” says Mike L. Then Eddie B. reveals some specifics, like “bored and stroked and turbocharged.”

They’re straightforward to work on too. “My mother rebuilt certainly one of these on the kitchen desk and put in it herself,” Kane D. explains.

Volkswagen-derived fours wound their method into loads of automobiles, together with boats, trikes, plane, and even a number of Porsche fashions. These engines are delightfully easy, comparatively dependable, and reasonably priced. What’s to not like right here?


9. Pontiac Iron Duke/Tech IV

Our pal Brian Lohnes discovered this Iron Duke in a clear 1984 Camaro. (Picture/Bangshift)

If Rodney Dangerfield was an engine, he’d be the two.5L Iron Duke. In inventory trim, the Iron Duke was loud, buzzy, and never that highly effective—however that sucker would run endlessly with minimal upkeep. Trent P. pointed that out too. “None of them have been powerhouses, however nonetheless darn good dependable engines.”

Although made by Pontiac, the Iron Duke discovered itself in a mystifying array of automobiles, from Postal Jeeps to Camaros, Fieros to S-10s, and seemingly each Eighties financial system automotive in GM’s steady.

However regardless of these pedestrian purposes, some readers have been fast to level out that the two.5L four-banger had some potential too. “I’ve seen a number of which were turbocharged and lay down some loopy numbers,” Chris C. tells us. Certainly, the Iron Duke was the Swan Track for Pontiac’s legendary Tremendous Obligation engine lineup, and utilized in loads of ARCA and IMSA racers.


8. Oldsmobile V8

You possibly can discover an Olds V8 in every part from station wagons to Trans Ams. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Numerous commenters provided up the assorted iterations of Oldsmobile’s second-gen V8, just like the brief deck 350 and the tall deck 455. Heck, Robert P. even tossed the Olds 260 into the dialog. From brute energy to gas-sipping effectivity, the Oldsmobile V8 wore lots of hats across the halls of GM and it picked up loads of followers alongside the best way.

The engine took to efficiency upgrades properly, and Ulises M. proved that. “My little iron-headed 350, bored .030 over, lays down 11.6s on pump fuel.” (Oh, and let’s not neglect that Oldsmobile helped carry Pontiac’s efficiency mantle within the Seventies, both.)

Reader Marco M. talked about the ill-fated Oldsmobile 350 diesel—however we’re fairly certain he was joking. (Marco, please inform us you’re joking!)


7. AMC 232/258 Inline Six

Regardless of its off-road popularity, the peppy 258 was additionally dropped in AMC’s efficiency vehicles just like the Javelin and Hornet. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Generally an engine is underrated merely as a result of shadow forged by its successor. Working example: the carbureted AMC 232/258 (3.8/4.2L) inline sixes. Whereas there’s no query that the Jeep 4.0L is without doubt one of the finest off-road engines ever made, many people don’t understand that the EFI 4.0L really advanced out of an inline six initially designed to energy AMC passenger vehicles. As soon as AMC purchased Jeep although, the sixes wound up within the CJ and the remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.

In reality, that’s the very first thing Juan S. factors out. “In manufacturing 42 years—so good that Chrysler used it till 2006.” Then, John H. chimes in with “it comes with 7 most important bearings,” alluding to its sturdiness. Lastly, Kent A. quips “had one in a Jeep and liked it.”


6. GM 4.3L V6

Terry despatched us an image of the 4.3L V6 he’s at the moment engaged on too. (Picture/Fb – Terry H.)

What would occur for those who took away cylinders #3 and #6 from the trusty small block Chevy V8? Nicely, you’d get a brand new household of super-durable 90 diploma V6 engines that culminated in a 4.3L six that propelled loads of vehicles and vehicles within the GM portfolio. Randall F. says “I’ve at all times had nice experiences with 4.3L V6 GM motor,” and Allen M. follows up with “not a powerhouse, however boy they’ll final endlessly.”

Nicknamed the “3/4 350,” the 4.3L model shared a lot with the SBC it was based mostly off of, together with some valvetrain elements, bellhousing bolt sample, and a 4 × 3.48 inch bore and stroke. (Simply don’t confuse the GM 4.3L V6 with the “Child LT1” LT4 V8.)


5. Pontiac OHC Dash Six

The short-lived OHC six may very well be present in Pontiac’s mid-size Tempest/Le Mans and Firebird fashions. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

To this point, a lot of the engines on this listing have been simply bizarre powerplants that did their jobs actually, very well. The Pontiac Dash 6 is a wholly completely different story.

Utilizing revolutionary (for the period) overhead camshaft structure, the Dash Sixes may’ve been a legit substitute for V8 energy. Although because of low cost, plentiful fuel within the Nineteen Sixties, the revolutionary design grew to become a basic case of being too far forward of its time. Stephen F. nominated this one, and fairly a number of people agreed. Loads of others commented on the Dash’s rev-happy character and signature exhaust word.

Need to study extra? We wrote a whole article on the Dash 6.


4. Studebaker V8

Right here’s a supercharged R-2 Studebaker 289 we noticed in a Lark Wagonaire. Learn the entire story on that ‘Stude right here. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

“Overbuilt like a tank,” explains Michael H. and Dee I. chimed in with “as robust as they arrive.”

It’s straightforward to see why too. Launched in 1951, Studebaker V8s featured solid internals, a gear-driven cam, strong lifters, and 18—rely ’em—18 cylinder head bolts. So it’s no shock that these engines took to pressured induction so properly, normally by means of a Paxton supercharger. In reality, in tremendous uncommon “R-3” efficiency spec it simply remodeled 300 horsepower. We sat down with recognized Studebaker knowledgeable Malcolm Berry in an episode of the OnAllCylinders podcast and he advised us a lot about these engines.

Possibly although, the ‘Stude V8 is healthier summed up by one other commenter, Austin B., who merely stated “Studebaker is throughout an unsung hero within the automotive fanatic neighborhood.”


3. Briggs & Stratton L-Head

Eric included an image of his classic Briggs & Stratton engine. (Picture/Fb – Eric F.)

“There are thousands and thousands of these on the market,” Adrian M. says—and we imagine him. The standard pull-start Briggs & Stratton powered untold numbers of garden mowers, rototillers, and snow throwers. (In reality, Jeff M. boasts that he’s “nonetheless bought 4 or 5 laying round.”)

But it surely’s their tailored use in minibikes and go-carts that makes these little four-stroke thumpers so endearing. In reality, Briggs & Stratton now provides a lineup of crate engines for go-carts and Jr. Dragsters that’ll preserve you from pillaging your neighbors’ garden gear.

However maybe Nate D. stated it finest, when he proudly acknowledged “this little engine is what sparked my curiosity in combustion engines and scorching rodding!”


2. Mopar 225 Slant Six

We’ll take any alternative to say a Dodge Aspen. (Picture/Summit Racing – Jason Liss)

Behold Mopar’s “Leaning Tower of Energy.”

Whereas the Slant 6 is definitely overshadowed by any variety of Chrysler V8s, it’s nonetheless an enormous a part of Mopar historical past. Like lots of the engines on this listing, it persevered for many years, adapting to the altering instances by way of gas injection and evolving emission management programs. And it earned loads of supporters within the course of. “It’ll run endlessly,” explains Alfred B., whereas William H. tells us that it’s “bulletproof and makes nice energy.”

In reality, the oldsters at Engine Energy virtually doubled a 1971 Slant Six’s output, you may examine that challenge right here.

But Pat S. has a bit extra pragmatic tackle the Slant Six. “Just a little beast. Gutless however they only don’t die.” 


1. Ford 300 Inline Six

The oldsters at Powernation’s Engine Energy have executed a number of excessive efficiency builds utilizing the venerable Ford 300 I6. (Picture/Summit Racing)

Truthfully, we hesitated to incorporate this one. In any case, it’s just about beloved by the Blue Oval brigade.

But on the identical time, the 300 doesn’t have the pizazz of a 302, side-oiler 427, or perhaps a Mod Motor. However the sheer overwhelming response the Summit Racing people bought for this one demanded that we not solely embody the 300—we needed to lock it in at Number one on this listing.

So somewhat than us prattle on concerning the 300’s virtues, we’ll let a number of of the readers provide the skinny:

  • “One of the best motor Ford ever constructed.” – Keith F.
  • “Ran endlessly and was used all over the place.” – Mark Ok.
  • “Robust as nails.” – Joe M.
  • “Nice engine.” – Bob M.
  • “A real workhorse.” – Robert C.


Admittedly, there have been a ton of nice engines that didn’t make the highest 10 right here, however they’ve legions of followers nonetheless. So, which of them did we miss? Any obtrusive omissions on essentially the most underrated engines right here? Tell us within the feedback part under.


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September 2022