Editor’s note: The 1980s was a transition period for engine technology in America. The iconic carburetor gave way to fuel injection. Cubic inches were out, and liter designations marked a new era for engines — one when power and fuel economy were no longer mutually exclusive. This modern engine age has featured some of the best innovation, technology, and performance yet.
So what have been the best powerplants of these last 30 years? We asked you to help us answer that very question via Facebook and Instagram. Factoring in your votes and comments, we’ll unveil the rest of the Top 10 in the coming days.
#3 — Chevy LT5
The Chevy LT5 engine burst onto the scene in 1990.
A Little Bit Different
The LT5 played a huge role in bridging the gap between old and new at General Motors. Even though it went out of production in 1995, the LT5 helped pave the way for future engines. The dual overhead cam Northstar V8, for example, was patterned after the LT5 in many ways. GM also used its experience with the all-alloy LT5 and applied it to a whole new series of lightweight aluminum engines: the LS.
A Lot of Fun
The LT5 delivered power numbers on par with the later Gen. III LS6. Originally rated at 375 horsepower, later LT5s would top out at over 400 hp and propel the ZR-1 to 180 miles-per-hour. Quarter-mile times were into the 12s at 110 mph, but the LT5’s biggest accomplishment was setting a 24-hour endurance speed average of 175.8 mph.
While few could argue with the ZR-1’s performance, its price tag placed it out of reach for many consumers. Moreover, cars like the Dodge Viper, Acura NSX, and others fought for customer demand. The LT5 played a role in its own demise, too, as technology developed for the engine was used to created the less expensive LT1 (Gen. II) small block. Although the LT1 made less power than the LT5, it narrowed the performance gap between the base Corvette and ZR-1.
The LT5 was discontinued after 1995, but not before GM engineers learned valuable lessons to apply to future engines. And not before ZR-1 owners had a lot of fun.
- Air Filters
- Exhaust Systems
- Belts and Pulleys
- Connecting Rod Bearings
- Gaskets and Seals
- Fuel Pumps and Regulators
You can see the current list of our Top Engines of the Last 30 Years here.