From its founding in 1908, GM allowed each of its divisions (including overseas units like Opel and Holden) almost complete autonomy in the design and engineering of their various vehicle lines, so long as they fit within the GM hierarchy. Thus, each division (with only a few exceptions) maintained separate and distinct engine designs for many decades.
By the 1970s, GM began to see problems with this approach. For instance, four different North American divisions (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick) offered four completely different versions of a 350 cu in V8 engine - very few parts would interchange between the four designs despite their visual similarities, resulting in confusion for owners who (quite naturally) assumed that replacement parts would be usable across the board. In addition to these issues and the obvious overlap in production costs, the cost of certifying so many different engines for tightening worldwide emissions regulations threatened to become very expensive.
Thus, by the early 1980s, GM had consolidated its powertrain engineering efforts into a few distinct lines. Generally, North American and European (Opel) engineering units remained separate, with Australia's Holden and other global divisions borrowing designs from one or the other as needed. GM also worked out sharing agreements with other manufacturers like Isuzu and Nissan to fill certain gaps in engineering. Similarly, the company also purchased other automotive firms (like Saab Automobile and Daewoo Motor), eventually folding their engine designs into the corporate portfolio as well.
Besides GM's core business of automobiles and trucks, the company also maintained several divisions specializing in heavy-duty or industrial engines. These included Detroit Diesel, Allison, and Electro-Motive. All three produced high-capacity powerplants in a wide variety of types and sizes, most totally unrelated to the automotive divisions. GM eventually spun these divisions off to focus solely on its core business, but the engines they designed while under GM's control are included in this list to illustrate the company's level of engineering ability.
In recent years, GM (like many other auto manufacturers) has begun to use specific brand names to market their engines. As a consequence of this, many different families of GM engines use names such as EcoTec and Vortec, even though they may have little or nothing to do with each other from an engineering perspective. (For example, the Vortec 2200 and Vortec 2800 are both inline four-cylinder engines, but they share no parts with each other; additionally, the 2200's basic design predates that of the 2800 by over two decades.)
On the other hand, some of GM's earliest engine designs (from the company's 1908 founding through the 1930s) have gained colloquial nicknames over the years that have reached a level of common usage. The most famous of these may be Chevrolet's "Stovebolt" six-cylinder engine. Other names were used in a semi-formal context, like Pontiac's Silver Streak eight-cylinder (Pontiac models carrying this engine often had "Silver Streak" badges or decorations on their bodies, but the engine itself was never officially referred to as such).
Within its regional units around the world, GM has traditionally used two different coding methods to identify their engines. Specific codes will not be discussed here, but a breakdown of how they work may be useful for research within individual engine family articles linked to this list.
Since the 1970s, GM's North American divisions have used three-digit RPO (Regular Production Option) codes to identify specific equipment on their various lines of vehicles. RPO codes relating to engines generally begin with an "L"; hence many GM engines have become commonly associated with a particular RPO code - the "L88" V8, "LSJ" inline-4, "LX5" V6, etc.
There is no specific rationale for which combination of letters or numbers are used after the initial "L" digit, and it should be noted that (despite thousands of possible combinations) GM has reused many different codes over the years. This can sometimes lead to confusion, especially when engines of similar design use the same codes. (For instance, "LS6" can refer to two totally different Chevrolet V8 engines in both the older Chevrolet "big-block" family and the newer LS family.)
Worldwide (outside North America)Edit
Led by GM Europe, the company's units outside of North America began using a more organized SKU-style coding system during the 1980s to classify engines used within their own set of divisions. Though there are some differences, it is a similar style to that used by manufacturers like Honda or Nissan and easily indicates several different criteria of a given engine for quick identification. Depending on the engine's particular level of tuning or complexity, codes may range from four to six digits in length.
An example code for a specific gasoline (petrol) engine is "C20LET". In this case, "C" indicates use of a catalytic converter, "20" indicates displacement of 2.0 litres, "L" indicates a compression ratio of 8.5:1 to 9.0:1, "E" indicates use of electronic multi-point fuel injection, and "T" indicates use of a turbocharger. Codes for diesel engines are largely similar.
Gasoline piston enginesEdit
Horizontally opposed twoEdit
- Buick (acquired upon founding of GM)
Straight (inline) twoEdit
- 1909 Oakland twin (acquired via GM's purchase of Oakland Motor Car)
Straight (inline) threeEdit
- 1998-2004 Daewoo M-TEC/S-TEC three (acquired with purchase of Daewoo Motors)
- 1996-present GM Family 0 three (marketed as ECOtec)
External (non-GM) designsEdit
Straight (inline) fourEdit
- 1905-1914 Cadillac four (acquired as part of the founding of GM)
- 1905-1923 Oldsmobile four (acquired as part of the founding of GM)
- 1906-1918 Buick four (acquired as part of the founding of GM)
- 1922-24 Buick four 170 cubic inches
- 1906-1916 Oakland four (acquired as part of the founding of GM)
- 1913-1928 Chevrolet four (acquired as part of Chevrolet's takeover of, and merger into, GM)
- 1923 Chevrolet Copper-Cooled four
- 1937-1965 Opel four first use in Opel Olympia
- 1960-1963 Pontiac Indy Four (derived from the Pontiac V8)
- 1961-1970 Chevrolet 153 (derived from the Chevrolet six)
- 1962-1993 Opel OHV four (as used in small Opels like the Kadett)
- 1965-1994 Opel CIH engine (used in larger Opels like the Opel Rekord)
- 1966-1988 Vauxhall Slant Four engine (used in Vauxhall Victor)
- 1970-1977 GM 2300
- 1976-1993 GM Iron Duke
- 1976-1982 Holden four (marketed as the Starfire 4)
- 1981-2003 GM OHV four (marketed as Vortec in truck models)
- 1979-present GM Family II (marketed as ECOTec, D-TEC or E-TEC depending on brand)
- 1981-2009 Saab H (acquired via GM's 1990 purchase of Saab Automobile)
- 1987-2001 GM Quad-4 ("Twin Cam")
- 1990-2002 Saturn four(1.9L DOHC or SOHC)
- 1991-present Daewoo S-TEC four (acquired via GM's 2002 purchase of Daewoo Motor)
- 1996-present GM Family 1 four (marketed as ECOTec, D-TEC or E-TEC depending on brand)
- 1996-present GM Family 0 four
- 2003-present GM Atlas four (marketed as Vortec)
External (non-GM) designsEdit
- 1978-present Toyota A (used in several models built for GM by NUMMI)
- 1989-present Subaru EJ (used in the Saab 9-2X)
- 1997-present Toyota ZZ (used in several models built for GM by NUMMI)
- 1976-1986 Isuzu G161 SOHC engine (used in the 1976-1986 Chevrolet Chevette)
Straight (inline) fiveEdit
- 2003-present GM Atlas five (marketed as Vortec)
Straight (inline) sixEdit
- 1908-1912 Oldsmobile Limited six (acquired as part of the founding of GM)
- 1913-1923 Oakland Series 60 six
- 1913-1915 Oldsmobile Series 50 six
- 1914-1916 Buick Series 50 six
- 1916-1923 Buick Series 40 six
- 1916-1927 Oldsmobile Series 30 six
- 1923-1930 Buick "removable-head" six
- 1923-1928 Oakland six
- 1926-1927 Pontiac "split-head" six (also modified for GMC Truck models)
- 1928–1936 Chevrolet "Stovebolt" six
- 1928-1950 Oldsmobile F-Series six (also used in Marquette)
- 1928–1954 Pontiac GMR six (also modified for GMC Truck models)
- 1930s-1966 Opel OHV six (as used in large Opels like the Kapitän)
- 1936–1962 Chevrolet Blue Flame six (also used in some GMC Truck models)
- 1939–1962 GMC Truck six
- 1948-1985 Holden six (see note below)
- 1962–1990s Chevrolet "Generation 3" six
- 1963–1969 Pontiac Tempest six (derived from the Chevrolet "Generation 3" six)
- 1966–1993 Opel
- 1999-present Daewoo XK six (marketed as E-TEC; acquired via GM's purchase of Daewoo Motor)
- 2001–2009 GM Atlas six (marketed as Vortec)
Holden in Australia used straight-6 engines for a number of years in their family sedan models, with local engines ranging in size from 2.15L (132ci) in the original Holden 48-215 of 1948, to the 3.3L (202ci) six used in the 1970s and 80s, up until 1985 with the VK Commodore. These engines were color-coded, often being referred to by the color of their engine block (grey, red, blue, black). These home-grown engines were replaced in the 1986 VL Commodore to coincide with new unleaded fuel requirements in Australia. Since the old engine was considered unsuitable, and a new engine hadn't been developed, the VL Commodore sported Nissan's RB30 engine, the last straight six ever used in a Commodore.
Horizontally-opposed (flat) sixEdit
- 1959-1969 Chevrolet Corvair six (marketed as Turbo-Air). It was the second production engine ever to be equipped from the factory with a turbocharger,
General Motors was the pioneer of V6 engines in the United States, with both the first V6 engine in an American truck (GMC models of 1960) and an American car (the Buick Special of 1961). The company later lost interest in the V6 concept, and sold the Buick design to Kaiser-Jeep in 1967. In the midst of the fuel crisis of the 1970s, GM realized that a V6 engine would be an excellent alternative to bulky inline six and V8 engines, so the company bought the design back and launched what would eventually become the familiar 3800 V6 line. From that point on, the company has continued to introduce ever more advanced designs around the world, culminating in the most recent High Feature engines.
- 1960-2008 Buick V6 (originally marketed as Fireball, now commonly known as 3800)
- 1960-1978 GMC V6
- 1977-present Chevrolet 90-Degree V6 engine (derived from the Chevrolet "small-block" V8; now GM Vortec V6)
- 1979-present GM 60-Degree V6
- 1994-2005 GM 54-Degree V6
- 1998-2002 GM LX5 V6
- 2003-present GM High Value V6
- 2004-present GM High Feature V6
External (non-GM) designsEdit
- 1986–1988 Nissan RB six (used in Holden VL Commodore)
- 1995–present Suzuki H V6 (used in several models built for GM by Suzuki)
- 1996–present Honda J V6 (used in the Saturn Vue)
Straight (inline) eightEdit
- 1930-1936 Buick eight
- 1932-1948 Oldsmobile eight
- 1932-1954 Pontiac Silver Streak eight
- 1934-1936 LaSalle eight (possibly derived from the Oldsmobile eight)
- 1936-1953 Buick Fireball eight
From the 1950s through the 1970s, each GM division had its own V8 engine family. Many were shared among other divisions, but each design is most closely associated with its own division. Today, there are only two types of V8 engines still produced by GM for use in road vehicles: the Generation IV small-block and Cadillac's advanced DOHC V8, the Northstar.
- 1914-1935 Cadillac Type 51 V8 (also used in LaSalle models)
- 1915-1917 Oakland Model 50 V8
- 1915-1923 Oldsmobile Model 40 V8
- 1917-1918 Chevrolet Series D V8 (acquired as part of Chevrolet's takeover of, and merger into, GM)
- 1929-1931 Viking V8
- 1930-1932 Oakland V8 (used in Pontiac models during the final year)
- 1935-1948 Cadillac Series 60 V8 (also used in LaSalle models)
- 1948-1967 Cadillac OHV V8
- 1967-1984 Cadillac "new" V8
- 1981-1995 Cadillac HT V8
- 1948-1990 Oldsmobile Rocket V8
- 1952-1980 Buick Fireball V8
- 1954-2003 Chevrolet "small-block" V8 (originally "Turbo-Fire", now referred to as GM Generation I; see also GM Vortec engine)
- 1954-1980 Pontiac V8 (also modified for GMC Truck models)
- 1958-1965 Chevrolet W V8 (also referred to as "Turbo-Thrust")
- 1961-1963 GM Aluminum V8 (now better known as the Rover V8 and also the Repco V8 Formula One engine)
- 1966-1970s GMC Truck V8 (derived from the GMC V6)
- 1965-2009 Chevrolet "big-block" V8 (originally "Turbo-Jet"; see also GM Vortec engine)
- 1969-2000 Holden V8
- 1990-1995 Chevrolet LT5 (exclusive to the ZR-1 model of the Chevrolet Corvette)
- 1991-present Northstar V8 (derived from the LT5; also includes Aurora V8)
- 1992-1997 GM LT V8 (also referred to as Generation II; based on the Small-Block V8)
- 1997-present GM LS V8 (referred to as Generation III or IV, depending on type; derived from LT V8; see also GM Vortec engine)
- 1996-present GM Vortec V8 (derived from Small-Block, LS, and Big-Block engines)
- 1930-1937 Cadillac Twelve (derived from the Cadillac Sixteen)
- 1931-1944 Allison V-1710 (aviation engine)
- 1960s-1966 GMC Twin Six (derived from the GMC V6)
Several other V12 engines, designed for use in Cadillac models, have been proposed by GM over the years but have not yet managed to reach series production.
As with the V12, Cadillac has recently considered production of a modern V16 as well, but has not gotten beyond production of prototypes and one well-regarded concept vehicle supporting the idea.
Diesel piston enginesEdit
This list may be incomplete.
GM diesels stem from the acquisition of Winton Engine Corporation in 1930. Winton was based in Cleveland, and initial production continued in that city. These were mid-sized engines. The main customer of Winton was the Electro Motive Corporation, the pioneering producer of diesel-electric locomotives. GM acquired Electro Motive at roughly the same time as Winton. These two companies were merged to became the Electro Motive Division (EMD) of GM in 1941, which was responsible for locomotive production and engine design. A further division, the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division, was responsible for submarine, marine and stationary versions of the EMD engines. Finally, in 1937 GM set up a third diesel division in Detroit, the Detroit Diesel Engine Division. The Electro Motive Division was responsible for mid- and large-displacement engines (over 150 cubic inches per cylinder) while the Detroit Diesel Division was responsible for small-displacement engines (50 through 149 cubic inches displacement). The Canadian market was served by a single company, General Motors Diesel, which produced versions of the EMD and Detroit engines.
- 1920s-1939 Winton 201-A (industrial engine; acquired via GM's 1930 purchase of Winton Engine and Electro-Motive)
- 1938-1966 EMD 567 (industrial engine)
- 1938-1980s GM Diesel Series 71 (now better known as a Detroit Diesel product)
- 1945-1965 GM Diesel Series 110
- 1950-1955 GM Diesel Series 51
- 1957-1990s GM Diesel Series 53
- 1960s-1970s GMC Toro-Flow (derived from the GMC V6)
- 1960s-1980s GM Diesel Series 149 (now better known as a Detroit Diesel product)
- 1965-1980s EMD 645 (industrial engine)
- 1974-present Detroit Diesel Series 92
- 1977-1985 Oldsmobile Diesel
- 1981-2000 Detroit Diesel V8
- 1984-present EMD 710 (industrial engine)
- 1980s-present Detroit Diesel Series 60
- 1988-present Isuzu Circle L (marketed as ECOTec DTi; acquired via GM's 2003 takeover of DMAX)
- 1996-present 2 litre DOHC (marketed as ECOTec DTi, Ecotec DI)
- 1998-present EMD 265 (industrial engine)
- 2000-present DMAX Duramax V8 (acquired via GM's 2003 takeover of DMAX)
- 2002-present DMAX V6 (acquired via GM's 2003 takeover of DMAX)
External (non-GM) designsEdit
- 1997-present Fiat JTD (marketed as EcoTec CDTi or TiD depending on brand; used via a sharing agreement between Fiat and Opel)
- 2000s-present VM Motori RA 420 (marketed as EcoTec CDTi or VCDi depending on brand)
This list may be incomplete.
- Allison 578-DX
- 1953-1955 Allison T40
- 1954-present Allison T56 or 501-D (now better known as a Rolls-Royce product)
- 1960s-present Allison 250 (now better known as a Rolls-Royce product)
- 1944-1959 Allison J33 (originally developed by General Electric and transferred to GM for production)
- 1946-1955 Allison J35 (originally developed by General Electric and transferred to GM for production)
- 1948-1958 Allison J71
Voltec is a plug-in capable, battery-dominant series hybrid powertrain architecture planned for the 2011 model year.
Notes on GM's automotive diesel historyEdit
These Diesel engines were designed to fit into the engine bays of gasoline powered automobiles, but despite popular belief, they were not "converted" gasoline engines. Oldsmobile's diesel engines, the 5.7 L LF9 and 4.3 L LF7 V8s and 4.3 L LT6/LT7/LS2 V6, were notoriously unreliable, particularly in the earliest versions, though reliability had improved by the early 1980s with the advent of the DX block, along with better fuel filtering and water separators. By the early 80s,the 5.7L diesel was a fairly reliable engine with the introduction of the rollerized camshaft/roller lifter combination and had many improved enhancements that the late 70's 5.7L diesel engines did not have. Many of the reliability issues these engines developed were a combination of faults not just related to design. Many of these engines suffered major malfunctions from poor quality fuel, mechanics not properly trained in diesel repair, and even improper owner service and maintenance. Although over one million were sold between 1978 and 1985, the failure rate of GM's engines ruined the reputation of Diesel engines not just built by GM, but overall in the United States market. Eventually, a class action lawsuit resulted in an arbitration system under the supervision of the Federal Trade Commission where consumers could claim 80% of the original cost of the engine in the event of a failure.
The Oldsmobile 5.7 liter engines experienced a wide gamut of malfunctions. One of the common failures was with crankshaft bearings. This was frequently attributed to owners and maintainers running the engines on SG rated oil (intended for gasoline engines), versus CD oil (intended for Diesel engines). This prompted GM to introduce the DX block which then allowed extended oil change intervals to 5,000 miles (8,000 km). D block engines required frequent oil change intervals because of the friction created between the typical flat tappet camshaft and hydraulic lifters. When the oil change interval was ignored,excessive wear was placed upon the camshaft and lifters. In 1981 when the DX block was introduced, the rollerized camshaft and roller lifters did away with any possibility of worn camshaft lobes because of reduced friction. These engines also suffered from blown head gaskets, warped heads, bad injector pumps, and bad injectors. The beginnings of these problems can be attributed to poor quality diesel fuel that may have contained water or other contaminants. These materials would damage the inside of the injector pump, and then eventually clog injectors. If water was injected into the engine or leaked in from the coolant system, it could cause a "hydrolock" which would blow head gaskets and bend valves / connecting rods because water is incompressible. Water in the fuel also causes the injectors to rust internally, affecting injection timing and causing the engine to run excessively hot, which can warp heads. This was the reason GM equipped later cars with water detectors and double filtration systems on their vehicles.
Torque-to-yield fasteners - which stretch and can only be used once, but provide higher clamping force than traditional head bolts - were used to retain the Diesel cylinder heads. When a hapless owner took the vehicle in for repair, the mechanic would resurface the head, making it thinner, install a new head gasket, and then reuse the old, stretched-out fasteners. Within a few thousand miles, the vehicle was in the shop again for head gasket failure or a warped head. Nowadays high performance head bolt kits are available to do away with the problems the 5.7L diesel engines had such as the blown head gasket fiasco. Performance bolt fasteners when used within the 5.7L diesel will then make it a bulletproof, reliable design. The frustrated owner would frequently just get the shop to convert the engine to gasoline after a few repeated failures like this. As a side note, these diesel engine blocks were frequently sought by hot-rodders to build high-performance gasoline engines because of their extra heavy duty components which would withstand extreme horsepower.
Today, GM uses Diesel engines from a joint corporation between GM and Isuzu Duramax (for trucks) but offers no domestic Diesel passenger cars. Opel is one of the leading proponents of Diesel cars in Europe, however. In the 1970s, Opel developed the first Opel Diesel engine ever. This 2.1-litre engine made some records in a car specially built for this purpose, the Opel Rekord D (2100 cc, 60 hp). Later versions were used in the Rekord E and the Ascona B. Vehicles using these engines could be identified by a little "hill" in their hoods. Without this "hill" in the hood, the space for the engine would have been too small. Kadett D, E and Ascona B and C models also used an Opel engine (1600 cc, 54 hp). Later Isuzu engines were installed, namely for the Corsa A (1500 cc, 50 hp (37 kW) and 1500, turbo, 67 hp) as well as for the Kadett E and Vectra A (Vectra A TD: 82 hp).
Opel today uses common rail direct injection engines designed and produced through cooperation with Fiat S.p.A (MultiJet). Ownership of both designs was acquired by GM in 2005, and a new GM Powertrain Europe division in Turin, Italy (home of Fiat) was founded to manage these assets. The Fiat Diesel engine has 1900 cc, but before this cooperation, Opel had already developed two of their own engines, namely 2-litre Diesels with 82 and 100 hp (70 kW); which were installed mostly in the Vectra B. GM Daewoo recently licensed two common rail designs from VM Motori.
Many of the failures and complaints GM endured have shaped the design of Diesel engines today to be quite reliable and good performing engines. Today's Diesels have excellent fuel filtration systems to minimize failures of injection systems. Many manufacturers require owners to use specific types of oils in their diesel engines, and the use of these oils must be proven for warranty claims (Volkswagen TDI). Drivers also complained of the lack of power, unpleasant noise, and the dirty, smelly exhaust from early GM diesels. Today's diesels with common-rail injection tackle all these shortcomings. They are extremely efficient, yet provide significantly more power than older diesels, and they do so with significantly less pollution and noise. Today's dealer mechanics have also undergone the proper training to service the engines properly.
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