There isn't a hot rodder alive who at some point in his personal evolution or involvement in rodding hasn't come across a Corvette V-8 that even for the briefest of moments hasn't thought to himself, "Wow, that would look great under the hood of my hot rod."
For starters, hot rodding was in full swing when the original small-block Chevy parted waters and landed on the beaches of our hobby. My first exposure was the 265 but immediately elevated to the 283. It was, however, a fateful visit to the wrecking yard within eyeshot of Lions Drag Strip in Wilmington, California, that changed my life forever.
Back in the day a crashed Chevy Impala wagon wouldn't get my boxers all bunched up, but nowadays I would sell Tech Editor Ron Ceridono to aliens, the kind from outer space, to facilitate their science for a 1962 Chevy wagon. But I digress. My youthful co-conspirator in all things mechanically fast was Dwight Guild and our mentor Rod Warfield (if there was ever a rodder perfectly named) who were wandering the wrecking yard adjacent to Lions as our 1956 Corvette was on its last bore and stroke. The 283 was about to surrender after countless late-night blasts up and down Highway 39 (today's Beach Boulevard) and more weekends than one can count at The Beach. It was here we collected an armful of trophies proudly latched onto by us as C.J. "Pappy" Hart would open up the tower storage room and pass out those plastic "gifts from the gods".
All of us grew up lusting after the finned Corvette valve cover—seven-fin or the highly coveted nine-fin. There were early valve covers with staggered mounting holes and then the later ones that were equally spaced. There were early Vette motors with single fours, dual fours, and then beginning in 1957 the first of the mechanical Rochester fuel injection units. There were three versions produced over the life of the Vette with version number three produced for 1963 Sting Rays and it ran through the 1965 model year. The 1963-65 Rochester was affectionately known as the "big box" injector with its removable plenum cover.
Corvette powerplants were known for a wide assortment of go-fast goodies. To have one of the following meant you had "Corvette" power. This placed you way up the cool factor ladder. The Vette powerplant was known for dual-point distributors, larger-diameter ram's horn exhaust manifolds, the Duntov "30-30" cam (known by this moniker for the valve lash settings), aluminum intake manifolds, double-bump (camel hump) heads with 1.94 to 2.02 intake valves (whoa, big air!), high compression, and the list goes on.
Well, Corvette has done it again and I would go so far as to say there would be a wide assortment of hot rodders who would drool over the latest Corvette offering wishin' an' a hopin' that it would fit under the hood of their hot rod. The 2014 Corvette Stingray LT1 engine is the fifth generation of the small-block V-8 that began at 195 hp and now has a record 460 hp.
SAE has certified that the new Corvette V-8 with the performance exhaust system as the most powerful standard engine ever coming in a 6.2L (379 cubes for the rest of us) producing a whopping 460 hp at 6,600 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. One has to chuckle that this decedent of the venerable small-block Chevys will also deliver in excess of 26 mpg on the highway. Now that's havin' your cake and eatin' it too! If you are trying to figure out horsepower per liter that's a retina-detaching 74 hp per liter—impressive, wait, very impressive. In a new Corvette this will equate to 0-to-60 in less than 4 seconds. Worthy of any hot rod any of us would thoroughly enjoy driving.
It should also be noted that the Active Fuel Management system features cylinder deactivation, first time in a Corvette, where half of the engine's cylinders are shut down under light-load driving. And did we mention that the new powerplant is also good to Mother Nature as cold-start hydrocarbon emissions were cut by about 25 percent?
The Corvette name will forever be linked to hot rodding and those of us fortunate enough to have been around in the early days can enjoy the evolution of the small-block V-8 through today's technologically advanced powerplant. Yep, having a Vette motor in one's hot rod is about as good as it gets.