After my post yesterday about old cars versus new cars, I was thinking about old engines versus new engines. In the same thought, which are better, old or new engines.
In this case, there is more blending, since many of the performance features of new engines, especially the cylinder heads, use features pioneered by aftermarket parts for older engines.
The pluses to the new engines are that they have new technology and don’t have some of the design limitations of older engines. While that seems like a pretty obvious statement, it is a good way to sum up the basics.
The new technology starts with fuel injection and electronic ignition. The advantages of fuel injection are that the engine can precisely meter the correct amount of fuel for all conditions. A carburetor, unless it is adjusted each time you drive, is always a compromise. The precision offered by fuel injection gives a big improvement to drivability over carburetors. Electronic ignition offers the same level of improvement over a distributor that fuel injection offers over a carburetor.
These improvements can be added to any engine, just the amount of work would change. The biggest improvements are in the design and layout of the engine. Modern engines take advantage of computers for design, as well as decades of information gathered by the manufacturers, racers and aftermarket companies for what works and what doesn’t. Limitations designed into an engine in the 50’s or 60’s are no longer problems. If the layout of the engine meant the pushrods restricted the ports, that can be changed when starting with a clean sheet design for an engine. It is rather difficult to do that with an existing engine.
That isn’t to say that the older engines loose out. They are much easier to swap into a vehicle if the engine of your choice didn’t come in your car. Some are very easy, for example to go from a small block Chevy to a big block, it is pretty close to a bolt in. And even if you need to switch mounts and even transmissions, there are no computers to worry about to make it all work.
Modifications are easier also. You just bolt the parts on you want, once again no computers to worry about. For most older engines, there is also a large amount of aftermarket parts. Some of the newer V8s don’t have that much support.
Plus, they just sound cool:
For reliability and lack of tweaking needed, it is tough to beat a modern V8. That is one of the reasons they are popular to swap into muscle cars, that and they aren’t making the old V8s any more, so as time goes on, it gets harder to find the old ones. But the old V8s do have appeal.