The V-8 engine Chevrolet introduced in 1955 wasn’t the first mass-produced overhead-valve engine of its kind—that honor goes to the 1949 Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. In fact it wasn’t even the first V-8 engine Chevrolet built—the company introduced a V-8 in its D-series cars in 1917.
But look at the impact it had. Small, compact, and with a pan configuration that made it fit most cars, GM or not, Chevrolet’s engines became the darling child of the hot rod community. That popularity inspired near countless variations, including one in a bigger package size and both remain in production some six decades after its debut.
If there was ever an opportunity to paraphrase Enzo Ferrari when talking about anything Chevrolet, it’s here. In so many words, the engine is the soul of the car. It defines—or at least should define—the car’s personality and, by extension, the owner’s interests.
We spotted a diverse array of incredible engines at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Some are modest while others are absolutely outlandish. And while it would be impossible to call any the absolute best, each is the best example to represent its vehicle.
Car or truck or even motorcycle, the Chevrolet engine will likely define the tradition of V-8 performance until they stop pumping that black stuff out of the ground.