Chrysler 360-inch V8

Chrysler 360-cubic-inch V8

Big is a relative term. In regards to American passenger-car engines, “big” in the early Seventies meant 460 cubic inches from Ford; 440 cubic inches from Chrysler; and 454, 455, and even 500 cubic inches from General Motors.

It took the OPEC oil embargo, federal emissions standards, and rising costs in general to reel these big V8 monsters in. By 1979, none of the largest engines were still in play, but a new, slightly smaller lineup of “big” engines was in use.

Of the five engines presented here, only one would go on to see passenger-car use in 1980—making 1979 something of a watershed year for big American V8s. If you recall driving something powered by one of these engines, tell us about it, and be sure to tell us what car it was in.

5 Most-Powerful American Cars of 1977


General Motors 425

1979 Cadilac Coupe DeVille

1979 Cadilac Coupe DeVille

Engine: 425-cid/7.0-liter V8

Horsepower: 180

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Standard in: Cadillac DeVille, Fleetwood

Optional in: None

Note: Like the Oldsmobile 403 (below), the Cadillac 425 saw service only between the 1977 and ’79 model years. Cadillac replaced the 425 with a 368-cubic-inch V8 for 1980.


General Motors 403

1979 Buick Electra

1979 Buick Electra

Engine: 403-cid/6.6-liter V8

Horsepower: 185

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Standard in: Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Optional in:

Buick Electra, Estate Wagon

Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, Ninety-Eight

Pontiac Bonneville and Catalina Wagons, Firebird Formula

Note: The short-lived 403 saw service between 1977 and 1979. The 403 was replaced by a 350-cubic-inch engine in most applications for 1980.

5 Most-Powerful American Cars of 1986


Ford 400

1979 Lincoln Continental

1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V

Engine: 400-cid/6.6-liter V8

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Standard in: Lincoln Continental and Mark V

Optional in: None

Note: Closely related to Ford’s popular 351-cubic-inch V8, the 400 was engineered to produce torque at low rpm instead of peak horsepower. The engine came online for California shoppers in 1977, where it was the only engine available. The 400 disappeared for 1980, when it was replaced in Lincolns by the popular 302-cubic-inch/5.0-liter engine.


General Motors 400

1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula

1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula

Engine: 400-cid/6.6-liter V8

Horsepower: 220

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Standard in: None

Optional in: Pontiac Firebird Formula and Trans Am

Note: The Pontiac 400 was only available in Firebird models for 1979, and was available only with a 4-speed manual transmission. Compared to the 403-cubic-inch engine that came only with a 3-speed automatic in those models, the 400 produced more peak horsepower (220 versus 185) and revved much more freely. Like all the engines on this list save the Chrysler 360, the 400 would disappear for 1980, replaced in the Formula and Trans Am by a turbocharged 4.9-liter V8.


Chrysler 360

1979 Chrysler LeBaron

1979 Chrysler LeBaron

Engine: 360-cid/5.9-liter V8

Horsepower: 150-195

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Standard in:

Chrysler New Yorker

Optional in:

Chrysler Cordoba, LeBaron, and Newport

Dodge Aspen, Diplomat, Magnum

Plymouth St. Regis, Volaré

Note: Of the big engines of 1979, only the Chrysler 360 would live to see another model year. In fact, the 360 would become the single largest available V8 in any American passenger car for 1980 and 1981. Chrysler’s 318-cubic-inch V8 would survive through 1989, after which Chrysler was out of the non-truck V8 business until the Chrysler LH cars (Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, Charger and Magnum) arrived for 2005.

5 Most-Powerful American Cars of 1980

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