Detroit-based General Motors produced more than 30 6 cylinder engines over an 80-year period. Chevrolet was equipped with about 12 inline-6 and V-6 motors. Chevrolet was a latecomer to the 6 cylinder market. It began equipping its cars with the 6 in 1928. Its most durable engine was the 1936 through 1962 inline-6 "Blue Flame" version. Today, GM is the leader in V-6 technology, with its Vortec V-6 powering Chevys since 1985.
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The Stovebolt 6 cylinder engine, named because the head bolts resembled those found on wood-burning stoves, was produced from 1929 through 1936. Initial versions were modest with only a 194-cubic-inch displacement and producing 50 horsepower. Chevrolet trucks were powered by the engine. Near the end of its run, the cubic inch displacement was enlarged to 207.
The Blue Flame, named for its engine colour, was introduced in 1936 to replace the old Stovebolt 6 cylinder models. The venerable 216-cubic-inch engine generated 85 horsepower. It got a boost to 90 horsepower and an enlarged displacement to 235 in 1941. The 1954 and 1955 Corvettes were equipped with the 150-horsepower versions.
The 1959 through 1969 rear-engine Corvair and its van variants received GM's only horizontally opposed 6 cylinder engine with 140-, 145- and 164-ci displacements. Initial models produced 80 horsepower, with the 164 generating 110. A turbocharged version produced up to 180 horsepower.
The Blue Flame's replacement was GM's Generation 3 new straight-6 that ran from 1962 through 1988. It featured displacements of 194, 230, 250 and 292 cubic inches. The Generation 3 was a response to the Chrysler Slant Six, an economical motor that still generated plenty of torque. The Generation 3 also served to complement the small-block Chevy V-8s that were gaining popularity, but not necessary for drivers for whom performance was not a priority.The Generation 3 powered the Chevy II, Novas, the 1979 Camaro and the full-size Chevys.
From 1967 to 1984, Chevrolet equipped its cars and trucks with several base straight-6s. The 250-ci L22 model was used in 1967 through 1979 cars, including the 1978 Camaro with 105 horsepower. A 292-ci was produced until 1984 in the United States, and then moved to Mexico where it was manufactured until 1990 for cars there.
GM developed a V-6 diesel for Oldsmobile in the 1980s. But the design was flawed because the engine's head was not strong enough for the high temperatures and pressure the diesel combustion creates. It was abandoned, but not before the LT7 diesel V-6 was available as an option for the 1982 to 1985 Chevrolet Celebrity.
GM made significant strides in engine technology with its V-6 engines that powered Chevrolets beginning in 1985. The V-6 replaced the straight-6 as the base engine. A 6 cylinder version of the small-block V-8, the V-6 was first designed and placed in some GM vehicles in 1960 and 1961. But GM abandoned the concept. It was revived during the 1970s gasoline crises when GM sought more fuel-efficient and longer lasting motors. GM produced a series of flexible fuel V-6 engines that ran on gasoline blends, such as with ethanol and methanol fuels. It powered the Impala and Malibu. The Vortec 4300 V-6, the base 262.4-ci engine, generates up to 200 horsepower and powers most Chevys today.
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