Skip to main content

If you fancy yourself as somewhat of a revhead or automotive enthusiast, what do car lovers need to know when comparing big block vs small block engines?

Whether you’re looking to purchase a new or second hand vehicle, or perhaps give an existing model a facelift, understanding the key points of difference between big block vs small block engines can go a long way when determining which is the right fit for you – after all, bigger isn’t always better. 


Your Guide To Big Block vs Small Block Engines

When comparing big block vs small block engines, devotees and fans are usually quick to define which is deemed to be ‘better’, but the simple fact is that it usually boils down to your own individual requirements.

In a nutshell, big block engines generally deliver increased power at the expense of fuel economy, stiffer front springs, larger wheels and tyres, and engine bay space. They also require bigger brakes and allow for less room for cooling systems and accessory drives. In comparison, small block engines sacrifice power for being lighter weight and are generally less expensive to build with better fuel economy. 

The origins of big block engines can be traced back to 1958, when Chevrolet introduced the Mark I and W series big block engines to the American marketplace. After Chevrolet introduced its first batch of big block motors, Ford and Chrysler soon followed suit. Their entry onto the market gave heavier vehicles the torque they needed, and quickly captured the hearts of muscle car lovers and hot rodding enthusiasts alike. 

Designed as a series of large displacement V8 engines that were very much needed for the heavier passenger cars produced after World War II, the engine changed formats over the years, eventually evolving into the much-celebrated 396, 427 and 454 performance versions. However, all that power came at a price, and the extra kilograms that big block engines added to the front axle of a car can significantly affect it’s handling and acceleration. Thus, if big block engines are the heavyweights of the motor world, then small block engines should be regarded as the nimble lightweight alternative. 

When comparing a small block engine to it’s larger peer, they’re physically much smaller than a big block motor and have smaller bores and shorter strokes, resulting in less displacement. The major attraction of opting for a small block engine is that they simply weigh less, which provides a boost to a vehicle’s overall handling and acceleration. However, the shortfall of this compact motor is that they produce less power – which may not bother car owners if their vehicle is light enough to speed past their often heavier competitors. 

It’s this argument that saw hot rodders and muscle car lovers adopt the small block engine,  as it delivered hardcore heavy-duty performance in a lightweight package. When Chevrolet rolled out the world’s first small block engines in the Corvette and Bel Air models of 1955, the new motors quickly earned the nickname of ‘Mighty Mouse’ in conjunction with the ‘Rat’ moniker that big block engines became known for. 

Ultimately, for those comparing the relative pros and cons of big block vs small block engines, auto enthusiasts should choose based on the individual weight of the vehicle in question, what kind of performance they desire and of course, the overall cost. One isn’t necessarily better than the other – it’s a simple matter of choosing the right engine for the job.

Your Guide To Everything Classic Cars 

Finding a fellow vintage auto enthusiast can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but rest assured that Classic’s Garage understands the thrill more than most. Having spent forty years collecting anything and everything from matchbox cars to hub caps, he’s successfully followed his passion to source, collect and stock beautiful and low mileage classic automobiles from around the world. With extensive experience in the automotive industry, it was only a matter of time before Wayne expanded on his love of vintage, iconic vehicles to share his knowledge and passion with the public.

Although his passion is for automobiles built before 1978, with a particular love for Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles and even Fords, Wayne is just as passionate about the stories of the owners. Just like the cars, he has found that his fellow classic car enthusiasts all have wildly different attractions and logic behind their passion or hobby, and this often translates into how the car is presented. If it’s even remotely different, rare or just plain unusual, Wayne will overcome the relevant logistical and geographical challenges of bringing the cars to his showroom in Australia. 

Classic’s Garage is a showroom conveniently located at Seventeen Mile Rocks, that specialises in the restoration and sales of vintage automobiles. If you’re on the hunt for Brisbane classic cars – quite simply, Wayne is your man. If you would like to arrange a viewing or inspect any other of our classic vehicles, please get in touch with us today.