If there’s one automotive pilgrimage that must be made by gearheads everywhere, it’s the Woodward Dream Cruise. Located in the automotive Mecca of Detroit, MI, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a weeklong event that celebrates the religion of cars. The Dream Cruise specifically worships the sect of classic American muscle cars with big V8’s, aggressive lines and bad attitudes. All cars are welcome, but these vintage American hulks from a bygone era reign supreme. Today was the calm before these cars are awaken from their slumber and marched towards Woodward Ave. Every year brings something unique, and this year is no exception.
This year’s Dream Cruise marks not only the year of Chevrolet’s centennial anniversary, but also the 100 millionth small block Chevy V8 to be produced. If there were one spokesman for the entire muscle car movement, one defining piece, it would be the Chevy small block. There is no better place to pay homage to this piece of engineering than the Woodward Dream Cruise.
The mission of the Chevy small block was simple: create an affordable engine to bring the power that the marketplace demanded. In 1955, chief engineer Ed Cole completed that task. The result was the Chevy small block.
The formula for the small block is simple: 8 cylinders at a 90 degree angle, 283-350 cu. in., pushrods, and a 4.4 in. bore spacing. Its about as simple as a grilled cheese in terms of engine design and that is exactly why it is so successful. In true American spirit it brought power to the people with a fair price tag attached.
The small block and its descendants continue to be used to this day. It has evolved from 195 horsepower to 638hp as seen in the Corvette ZR1. Also, if you want the original small block for a period correct build you can buy a factory fresh one from GM’s performance catalog. In fact, they will build you any engine to fit in your project of choice from the original right up to the LS9 as seen in the ZRI. The materials, technology and performance may have changed, but small blocks all share the common origin and goal of simple, effective and inexpensive performance.
If anything, the small block is not only a symbol of the muscle car movement, but also a symbol of American ideals. Here is a power plant that is available for a very reasonable cost, simple and powerful. You may also customize it however you see fit with a variety of aftermarket parts from cams to superchargers. It’s the embodiment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the distance, all around Detroit, you can hear the small blocks rumbling while getting ready for the annual dream cruise. Tomorrow, these small blocks will be out in full force with the rest of the automotive landscape on their annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of speed. However, this year is their year. It’s officially the year of the small block. Tomorrow, look for Part Two of Bullz-Eye’s trip to the Woodward Dream Cruise and a visit to the place where modern small blocks are born. Finally, we will cap off the week with the full Woodward Dream Cruise experience and a look into the future of Chevy, the small block, and what may come next.