Originally produced in 1975 through a collaboration between Caterpillar and Ford, the Cat 3208 diesel engine was extremely popular through its entire production run, which lasted into the early 1990s. The engine was used in heavy trucks, including tractor trailers, garbage trucks, school buses and construction equipment. The engine was also used in power plant and marine applications. Use of the engine was widespread and its performance was reliable; as a result, many 3208-equipped vehicles remain in service long after production of the engine ceased.
The 3208 is an eight-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engine with a V-8 configuration. It has a 114.3-millimetre bore and a 127-millimeter stroke. Different variations of the engine weigh between 722 and 899 kilograms. The engine displaces 10.4 litres. It has a cooling system capacity of between 47.3 and 56 litres and a lube oil system capacity of between 12 and 15 litres.
Three versions of the 3208 engine have varying power ratings. The version with the lowest power produces 210 horsepower, the mid-range version produces 375 horsepower and the most powerful version produces 435 horsepower.
The compression ratio for the 210- and 375-horsepower versions of the 3208 is 16.5:1. The compression ratio of the 435-horsepower version is 15.5:1.
The 3208 has a forged steel crankshaft, and early versions had a cast iron camshaft, which was replaced with a steel camshaft in later versions. Both turbocharged and non-turbo versions of the engine were produced.