Car collector corner: First independent overhead valve V8
Q: Hello Greg and thanks for all you "old-timer" columns. My friends and I, who are not computer nuts, live at a retirement home and are discussing the first V8 engines to appear. We all know that Ford's Flathead V8 has been around since 1932, and so that's not the issue. We are wondering when the first independent manufacturer (not Chevy-Ford-Chrysler) came out with a V8?
I know the Hudsons were winning NASCAR races with their powerful inline 6-cylinders, but when did the first overhead valve V8 appear from a post war independent manufacturer? Thanks, Elvin F., retired in Pennsylvania.
A: Elvin, I'd be gad to help. First, let's list the independent manufacturers that were around post World War II. They include, in alphabetical order, Frazer, Henry J (Allstate), Hudson, Kaiser, Nash, Packard, Rambler, Studebaker and Willys.
Of this bunch, Studebaker receives the nod for producing the first overhead valve (not flathead or inline) V8 thanks to its 1951 232.6-inch, 120 horsepower overhead valve V8. This V8 was standard in the top class Commander, while the Champion models still relied on Studebaker's 169.6 cu. in. 85-horsepower inline six. Notable is that in 1952, a Studebaker Commander Convertible V8 became the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500.
I remember the bullet nose Studebakers from my youth, which appeared in 1950. I also recall the wraparound rear window on the Starlight coupes from 1947 to 1952. These Starlights had very wide B pillars, but were unique in appearance and to this day are big attention getters at car shows.
As for American V8 engines, Cadillac had a 330 cu. in. V8 way back in 1914 and Olds followed back in 1916 with a 244 inch V8. Several others appeared, even Chevrolet in 1917 with a 288-inch V8 prior to being merged with General Motors in 1918. The next Chevy V8 would appear in 1955, as GM dropped the Chevy V8 to concentrate on 6-cylinder economy engines.
Thanks for your question Elvin, and I hope you enjoy your retirement.
Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia and vintage motor racing at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.