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Celebrating 3/18: 318 day

by David Zatz on

The first 318 cubic inch Chrysler engine was launched in 1957, specially developed for the hot new Plymouth Fury.  It was based on the “A” engine series, and was essentially a bored and stroked 277 topped with twin four-barrel carburetors and rated at 290 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. A two-barrel and single four-barrel version were also available (at 230 and 260 hp).

The A engines had an interesting history. Chrysler’s first V8 engines had been made after World War II, and focused on optimal efficiency using lessons learned during the war.  They were too expensive and slow to build, not to mention quite large, for use in Chrysler’s most popular cars. The first step was replacing the complex “dual-rocker” hemispherical heads and valve systems with simpler “polyspherical” heads that had single rocker arms. The “A” engines were a rework of that basic design, using wedge engines and making other changes so they could be pumped out in much larger numbers, and for much less money.

The 318 was a good, strong engine, but the engineers wanted to cut its weight; the lightweight version of the engine was, to cut a long story short, dubbed the LA (light A). The first LA engine was 273 cubic inches, and debuted in 1964 in, among other cars, the new Plymouth Barracuda; the 318, a bored-out version of the 273, arrived in 1967, but it was not used as a performance engine for most of its life. Instead, a new engine, the 340, showed up in 1968 with bigger valves and other goodies.

The 318 would, after many changes, stay in production through 2002. The engine was strong, reliable, and generally well-liked, but overshadowed by the 340 and 360 cubic inch performance versions. The 360, in particular, was the basis for the Viper engine, which lasted into 2017.

Take some time on this 3/18 to revisit the 318.

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