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Top 10 Engines of All Time (#1): Small Block Chevrolet (Gen 1) 350

Editor’s Note: This series counts down the Top 10 engines of all time—see how the voting was done by reading our initial post.


The small block Chevrolet changed the hot rodding world forever.

It was the small block Chevrolet 265 that started the revolution back in 1955, but the Chevrolet 350 is the standard-bearer for this entire generation of engines, which also included notable engines like the 283, 327, and 400.

You chose the Chevrolet 350 as the #1 engine of all time.

Your Thoughts

Even though the small block Chevy vote was split among the various versions, the Chevy 350 still received the most votes out of any engine. Here’s sampling of why:

“350 sbc. Mass produced, simple design makes it easy to upgrade, parts are cheap, takes tons of abuse, puts out some decent power from stock. Hands down my fave.” –Scotty H.

“Gonna have to go with Chevy 350–easy to work on, reliable, and even ford guys like them.” –Rich L.

“Chevy 350. Most reliable, and I’m pretty sure it’s the most transplanted engine in automotive history. I’m willing to bet there are more Ford T-buckets powered by 350s out there than powered by Ford motors.” –Justin G.

“The 350 SBC is the best engine ever made. I believe it is one of the longest lasting engines that has stayed in production as well. I am even a Ford guy, but the 350 has proved itself for many years.”
–William D.

“Chevy 350. Most versatile and used engine ever. Plus the most aftermarket support.” –David E.

“350 small block. It’s cheap and reliable an everyone always has parts for ’em in the rare case something goes wrong.” –Michael B.

“350 V8. Millions made, versatile, small yet powerful, easy to get replacement parts and performance parts, and cheap to work on.  Soooo much of Chevy/GM success based off this engine!!!!” –Jason V.


The small block Chevrolet first appeared in 1955 when General Motors developed the engine for the Corvette. Using the same basic dimensions as the old Ford Flathead (although slightly heavier), the small block 265 V8 produced almost twice as much power.

The Flathead was effectively rendered obsolete, and a whole new hot rodding movement had begun.

Twelve years later, the Chevrolet 350 was introduced and “Mouse Mania” was at full throttle. The high-performance small block engine was developed for the Chevrolet Camaro and is often most associated with the muscle cars of the era. The 350 was available for the Chevrolet Nova the following year and became an option for all Chevrolet passenger cars in 1969.

The Chevrolet 350’s greatness isn’t limited to just Chevrolet vehicles, though. As Justin G. pointed out above, the Chevy 350 has become one of the most transplanted engines in hot rodding history. A favorite for engine swaps, the 350 is very easily modded because of the abundance of aftermarket parts. And because so many Chevy 350s have been produced, they’re affordable and easily attainable for swaps of all kinds.

You can find a Chevrolet 350 in just about anything—on land, sea, or air!

The Gen I small block was eventually replaced by the Gen II LT-based engines in the early 1990s. But the original Chevrolet 350 helped spawn General Motors’ modern 5.7L LT and LS (Gen III) engines. And the legend of the Chevrolet 350 lives on!


Horsepower and torque ratings have changed over the years, but the original Chevrolet 350 was rated at 295 horsepower and 380 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 1968-69 version was then offered with four different options, producing up to 370 horsepower and 380 ft.-lbs. of torque.


Lest you think we’re kidding about the amount of Chevrolet aftermarket parts, here are the most abundant items found on the Summit Racing website (total in parenthesis as of 1/24/14):

Reference Books

Editor’s Note: This series counts down the Top 10 engines of all time—see how the voting was done by reading our initial post.



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  2. Issa Bendeck says:

    simply the number 1 engine in history , even in europe its got lots of builders using it , specially the ls series ones


  4. Which cars in England would the 350 fitt into without to much hassle

  5. Got my first 350 in my first car, Nova built it to max ! Currently running a stock 78, 350 in my S-10 beat the living daylights out of it. 40 years of running 350s yes I love them.

  6. I still prefer the large journal 327 over all

  7. Are you fricking kidding me? The Chrysler Hemi came out 4 years prior and still dominates top fuel drag racing today. It was outlawed from sanctioned racing at times because it worked so well. If you want to rate an engine based on the merits of its design, the Chevy small block doesn’t hold a candle. I know it’s more popular because it’s low cost and readily available, but let’s be objective here instead of politically correct.

    • yes thank you! what a disappointment, the hemi shoulda won by a mile with the treefiddy coming in at a fifth! this makes about as much sense as saying the mcdonalds mcdouble is a better burger than a whopper, just because there’s more of them and they’re cheaper. PFFT!! what a gyp, i want those twenty minutes back damnit..

    • I agree completely. Just because its cheap and common does not make it good. On top of that a stock Chevy 350 is a peice of junk, in order for it to be a decent engine you have to pour $1500 dollars in it at which point you would be better off just buying a Pontiac 400 that can more than hold its own against a 350.

      • You can use the stock bottom end of a 5.3 and push 17 lbs of boost and have a 600hp setup with turbo for under 800 bucks there guy and the 5.3 holds the record for the most hp on a stock bottom end and stock vortec pistons I’m sorry but that just can’t be beat even with 300k plus miles these ls based engines can be yanked and used as a race motor for years without touching them

    • Are you high the 5.3 and 5.7 are the longest lasting and most bulletproof engine ever made the hemi doesn’t compare when looking at quality plus you don’t see any hemi with over a million original miles

      • I think you might be high. Because I’d put a Ford 300 I6, or a old Toyota pickup against a 350 anyday If we’re talking durability.

    • The modern ls will outrun the hemi hands down

  8. durability..? drag racing.. ? universal uses ? how to be judged..?…..or rated..??

  9. number 1 in rebuilt kits being sold also!

  10. The 350 sold over a billion and still producing

  11. I just bought 1

  12. My freinds 79 camaro has a 8.0l W16-Quad turbo (veyron engine) and it makes over 1010 hp

  13. David JAckson says:

    Where is two thur ten? All I have seen in this article is the number one engine on this top ten list. You must be the worst professionel writer on planet earth to have forgotten the last nine engines in your ten engine article.

  14. There gen 2 did not replace them gen one, they coexisted, in fact, there gen 2 was dropped after they 97 model year and gen 1 continued till I’m believe 2000.

  15. Ed Stewart says:

    I agree with David Jackson (above). I`m a big fan of the 350 Chevy. But this a promo, NOT a list. You suck. Thanks for nothing.

  16. gregreynolds91 says:

    426 HEMI is the best engine by far. This list is a bunch of mess.

  17. top motor should be ford 427 side oiler…….350 in vanilla

  18. Jeffrey Coulson says:

    Street Hemi’s were no big deal. Never was beat by one. 1970 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1. Now the 426 Max Wedge was a different story.

  19. Whogives Acrap says:

    I don’t think there isn’t a piece of rotating machinery the 350/SBC hasn’t been used in.. I’ll bet there is a washing machine powered by one in some corner if the globe….

  20. Sorry but i grew up around lots of 350s in the 70s and 80s trucks as my grandfather preferred to buy them from another relative that owned a dealership.Those dam things were total junk.The rods would break,the cranks would break,cams would go flat,virtually everything in those engines would break easy.My uncle bought new in 79 a chevy shortbed 4×4 same year my dad bought a new 3/4 ton ford 4×4..he drove it about 3k miles and had enough of things breaking and going bad and got rid of it.I mean it was a new truck!.we still have the 79 ford and its never left us walking one time at 209,000 miles and most of those miles were working miles,pulling trailers,pulling logs etc.Its not much fun driving nowadays with its 4.11 gears but it was built to not come apart and it never did.Like everyone says though 350s are cheap to build but like i always tell people anything that breaks that easy should be cheap to build.I had a chevy guy tell me once yeah they break pretty easy from the factory but you put good aftermarket rods in them and a good aftermarket crank,uprade this and upgrade that,they will hold up pretty good,well i can take about any ford engine from 96 on back and not have to change anything in it and beat the crap out of it and not have the slightest worry about something breaking.They were build with good parts right from the start!When ford changed over to the modular motors, 4.6 5.4 etc they lost alot of reliablility and quality..I won’t have any of them.

  21. Short supply – but 392hemi tops my list

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  23. Speaker of the Truth says:

    The only thing people really like about this engine is that they think other people like this engine. You get to feel included if you talk about how much you think a 350 belongs in every single car. It is the engine of the sheeple with no real engineering strong points.

    From a mechanical stand point, it’s basic, uninspired, generic and boring. It was cheap and readily available so a lot of guys made a tacit agreement to pretend it was cool; just like the Honda Civic in the 90s. You can tell a lot about a guy that likes either of these things: they’re generally mindless followers.

    Just to drive it home: Honda Civic, Small Block Chevy, same psychology.

    • You Sir, are a speaker of truth!

    • The real engineering strong point of the SBC is the fact that it is still the basic design since its inception. Unlike Ford who seems to make a new engine every year and none to compare to the SBC in any formidable respect. Yes, it is “basic”, “generic”; you just described the beauty of this engine. Reasonably priced, powerful, and reliable. Boring? Not hardly. Nothing is considered boring with the versatility, dependability, and longevity of this engine, and yes, it could go into every single car, with ease, and perform flawlessly for years to come. A small package that does everything and does it well. And that’s why the SBC is #1.

  24. Charles Jewell says:

    It is an engine designed with people in mind. What kind do you want? Its yours.
    The best factory supported engines out there, where you don’t have to by aftermarket stuff. You could get it all, right over the counter. Cams, cranks, heads, Chevy had them allready. Allot cheaper.

    Best engine ever, except it’s big brother the Rat. See ya later hemis…

  25. Ernest Magdaleno says:

    Great story iv raced in neb.denver.colo.bandemire.boat racing.sprint car.there is no motor period that even comes close to the durability.and aftermarket for the small block’s oil system suck.unless modefied.Chrysler 440 and 426 run good but they blow up will not hold up. Car shows street racing chevys dominate 3 to 1.iv e racing for 30 years.I don’t hate ford’s or dodge just a fact.hennessy.callaway.lingfelter.will all tell u the same just a fact.

  26. Possibly the greatest engine of all time would be the Jaguar straight six, or since I just realized that it did NOT state it had to be automotive based, there can only be ONE engine; the Rolls Royce Merlin (as well as the Allison repops)
    Major piece of winning an entire World War.

  27. Zeppo Jaworski says:

    1934 -37 Hudson Terraplane beat all others. It would do 0 – 60 in the 18 second time bracket and 20 yrs later the rest of the world was still working hard to beat it by more than 3 seconds. Plus they were the hottest things in NASCARs early days. The Merlins/Rolls Royce was another factory stock engine that didn’t need “aftermarket” parts to make it go fast. Right out of the box it was something to be reckoned with. If they made as many aftermarket parts for a Terraplane or a Merlin we would probably have gotten to the moon a couple of decades sooner.

  28. Chevy LS V8’s. Simply the best.

  29. I grew up driving Chevy small blocks from the 265ci to the fabulous 350ci. I can tell you that the small block Chevrolet didn’t have any major problems until the government stepped in and cut down the H.P. The 70’s was the destroyer of the small block with their low compression engines. They cut back on all the good internal parts and started putting cheaper weaker materials in them. From the heads to the oil pan. The small block Chevy engines were so interchangeable with each other that getting parts for it was very plentiful as well as cheaper. If you were lucky enough to have the high performance engine. A rebuild would cost half as much as their competitors, and that’s one of the reasons that made them so demanding. In todays time I love the big block Chevy engines. In my opinion the 396, 427, 454, are some bad ass engines. It all depends on what you are using them in, as to which one I’d choose. I’m building a 427 for my 1957 Chevy Belair.

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  31. Look at the conversation the 350 has spawned among us. The 350 is the choice for the lofty #1 trophy. While we can all have our opinions this engine and all its incarnations just can’t be denied as number one. As an owner of several fords , from the fabulous 429 and Lima 2.3; my 1988 gmc chassis cab 350 4 bolt with throttle body is just another amazing testimony to why the 350 is number one.

  32. But… come on!! BMW and Mercedes or even Volvo makes better more efficient engines! we are not stuck in the ´60s

  33. Briggs & Stratton hands down…… MIC DROP!!!

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  37. Steve R Fickler says:

    A SBC with 250,000 miles and uses standard rings and standard main and rod bearings? Sitting outside my place. Been driving it 25 years. DAILY. Before I got it it was in a 1988 Caprice cop car. I pulled it. Upon disassembly (175,000 cop maintained miles) I called the city where it lived and found an old mechanic. Mobil 1 Synthetic oil and filter every six months was the norm. About every 10k miles. The casting marks are for any TRUCK engine not a semi. Never available in ANY civilian car. Even the cops had to special order it. SO RARE!!

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  40. steve rencic says:

    greatest v8 ever. well how about the lamborghini v8? the lambo v8 came in 3, 3.5 and even 2.5 litres capacity.. originally built in 1953, yes 1953 it has quad overhead camshafts, sodium filled valves, double row timing chains, baffled sump, HEMISPHERICAL COMBUSION chambers..oh forget it. the greatest v8 ever is the Maserati v8. quad cam, quad weber, hemi style combustion chambers, ADJUSTABLE double row timing chains , baffled dry sump, and on and on. there was also a fuel injected version for racing AND, YES AND a Lamborghini made 4 valve head. yes from the factory, in the 60s!! yeah, american v8s do good burnouts. so what? they are dinosaur technology. 4 valve heads, from the factory, in the 60s!!

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