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I have a confession to make. I identify as a car guy and work as an automotive journalist, yet I’ve never owned any classic cars or trucks with a V8 engine. How could I have possibly missed out on the most iconic of American powerplants? I’ve certainly swooned over various V8-equipped vehicles. But at the end of the day, I always found another classic that was cheaper, easier to work on, or just more interesting.

The V8 premium

The Detroit Three’s marketing teams have been singing the praises of the American V8 for 70 years. As a result, this V-shaped engine layout has a certain coolness factor. But because of the V8 mythos, classic cars with V8 engines are often darn expensive! V8s are a premium option in new cars and trucks as well.

I’ll admit, classic V8 muscle cars and trucks usually have a larger displacement than the other engine options in the same model. This usually translates into more horsepower and faster acceleration/higher tow rating.

That said, a nimble coupe with Dodge’s slant-six or Ford’s 300 I6 and a manual transmission offers an engaging driving experience. I might argue that in almost all situations, it is a more engaging experience than a V8 and automatic transmission.

Why I love inline six-cylinder engines

Not only are many used inline six-cylinder engines cheaper than V8s, but parts are cheaper, and they are easier to work on. An inline engine only has one valve cover and one set of camshafts. Any V-shaped engine will have twice as many top-end components.

Many six-cylinder powerplants fit in engine bays designed for V8s with room left over. This means you have extra space to reach in and work on the engine.

Sometimes six-cylinder engines have been abused less. Take pickup trucks, for example: if you buy a vintage V8 truck, chances are someone has pressed it into heavy towing service. But if you buy an old truck with the base engine, you stand a chance of finding a truck that’s never been worked very hard.

An ode to the unloved automobile

Blue convertible parked in front of palm trees and an In-N-Out burger.
The writer’s slant-six-powered 1963 Dodge Dart | Henry Cesari via MotorBiscuit

Honestly, I never set out to avoid V8 engines. But over the years, I’ve been attracted to unique and quirky cars. You could say I love unloved automobiles. And as it turned out, more often than not a unique engine was what gave these cars their personalities. Though V8s have a lot of personality, they also have a lot of fans.

Toyota just ditched its V8s in favor of a turbocharged 3.44-liter V6. Stellantis unveiled a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 to replace HEMI V8s in Dodge, Ram, and Jeep vehicles.

Many fans of American muscle are mourning the slow death of the iconic V8. But these new engines each have a strong, fresh personality. And many of them are very different from one another. This is an opportunity for all of us automotive enthusiasts to step into the unknown and fall in love with an all-new type of vehicle.

And who knows? Maybe when turbocharged six-cylinders are the norm, and the world has all but passed the V8 by, I’ll restore an old 2022 truck with a V8 engine just because it’s unique and unloved.


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