The Engines that Drive our Classic Cars
Right off the bat. A big warning. I am not the biggest gear head. I know enough to be pretty dangerous and hold my own with the engine conversation. I can spin a wrench well my friends, but for some wonderful reason talkin' horses has never been my favorite thing compared to discussing body and design. Maybe I dig the style versus the giddy up!
So as I once was very green when it came to engines. Let me help dial a few of you in to help you hold your own when discussing classic truck engines. This is the rundown on what we have in our trucks as well as what we upgraded to. With it comes some fun engine history. Major note too. These engines and the trucks are used to packing up and hauling a mobile bar party. When it might come to a cute candy cart, cushman truckster, or piaggio ape, those might need a trailer to be hauled with their bar set up and supplies. Nevertheless here you go with our engines!
Remember these phrases. They are going to help if you aren’t as keen on engines.
Straight six - six cylinders lined up and ready to go! Usually a single barrel carb was connected with three on the tree. Three on the tree is manual transmission you shifted on the steering column (where the wheel is).
Flathead - The first notable and largely successful v8 engines which were produced by Ford. They began in the 30s. In fact it is the engine that motored Bonnie and Clyde away in their getaway cars.
Ford - 289 and 302. Just remember these numbers for the rest of your life so you can know the Ford gold.
Gm - 350 but also 454, 283, 327. Just remember these numbers the rest of your life so you can know GM.
1914 Cadillac first production v8
First stop on this fact filled history lesson. Cadillac was the first major production v8 there in the Detroit, Michigan area! This is a cool one because I am a Cadillac guy and because later V8s are going to run this world with their well worked design to produce smooth timed power. We tip our hats to the firsts!
GM 250 in-line 6
In-line 6. Again these were linked to manual transmissions and usually a three gear off the steering column. Back in the day they came in all the 40s 50s GM / Chevrolet trucks. they are a well built engine that just keeps humming! Originally they had a 6volt battery system so one thing that needs upgrading right off the bat!
Dodge / Chrysler 318
This is a decent Dodge engine. It gets the job done. We have a couple of Tap Trucks that still have their original engines! Some came with a push button transmission back in the day which was ahead of its times. Off to the left of the dash you simply selected what gear you wanted and the truck got ready to scoot. The engine doesn’t run the smoothes compared to the ones down the line. Parts aren’t the easiest to come by. But still she is on the list
This is a sold ford engine my friend! 289 looks good and sounds even better. The way it can hum is one of my favorites when running nice headers. Parts though can be a bit hard to come by we noticed from our end. We once were replacing heads and there were some variations. Tap Truck Houston based in Magnolia, Texas has a 1955 stepside that has a smokin' 289.
Slant Six 225 chrysler
Bullet proof. These things can run forever. People say that all the time but these motor vehicles it is super true. When you hear slant six, it means Dodge was putting these engines in at a slant to help them run. Again the three in the tree were used off the steering wheel. You might be able to mount a 727 or a 904 Transmission to one of these and have some overdrive!
I am still looking for one that treats me wrong. GM / Chevy built a good motor here when the 327 began hitting trucks in the 60’s. The 327 was also notably used right away in the Corvette and Camaro! The 350 took all the fame away shortly after.
The 283 had a ten year run. To me this engine is a hidden gem. It is a bit lighter on gas especially when all it needs is a single barrel carb. We have an original 283 in our 1966 panel truck “blue”. It is connected to a 2 speed power glide which is a very straight forward transmission set up. This truck has gone to San Luis Obispo and back to San Diego. It has cruised to the Hollywood sign and cleared up to Big Bear with a load of kegs. This truck can’t stop and wont stop. If you were to ask me to hop in one of our trucks and start heading across country, this would be the vehicle
I would end up in. The reader ends up at 65 as you hear it hum. Past that we have done nothing else to the engine or trans. This pony has some legendary engineering. That means a lot when we have other heavily invested vehicles!
This is some smooth sailing power. There even is the boss 302 that gets you the extra kick. Ford built a great V8 with this one. When you have your truck running the MT82 you are ready to fly down the road. Wish this was higher up on the list but I guess GM calls our name a little more.
What great history. When these engines came out, people knew they were something special. Tap Truck Kern’s 1939 Ford panel truck has the original motor. A fun fact is that the Ford v8 had two water pumps (which cool the motor). The two engine mounts in the front are actually these two water pumps! Wild! Ford put V8s on the map with their flathead design including their sister company Mercury.
Wow what a lady. Growing up our “Ranch Limo” which was a 4 door 1996 GMC 3500 had a 454. When I recently bought a 1970 panel truck that carried a 454, I stomped on the gas and felt the truck launch in the same boss worthy manner as the 1996. Nice smooth solid sticking of my body to the seat! So great when you feel that honest power 26 years older and on a different frame and body.
On our list we left off the chevy 400. No worries there as it still gets its minute of fame now. These bigger engines definitely know how to drink. And that is the down side of them through the history of American gas prices. For the most part these engines will run and run.
Unstoppable unbeatable. Well those are lofty statements in the world of mobile bars, but out of everyone Tap Truck will claim it! The 350 is all that and a bag of chips. With endless options you can find yourself having too much fun with a dependable 350. I once rebuilt an engine for the first time, it didn’t not go well as it was my first. By the end with the bad camshaft I had the truck was still running on 6 of its 8 cylinders. Impressive to say the least.
A 350 has plenty of power and linked with a 700r transmission which offers overdrive, a man could find himself in the triple digit speed range. Not recommended, but if you must do so please keep it on the straight away! We will not attempt with beer truck kegs in back! ha. So why is a 350 our top pick. It was found in production from 1967 to 2003. Almost unmatchable. Let’s say you need parts, AutoZone, O’Reillys, Pep Boys, and Napa all have parts on the shelf ready for you. Even in a pinch.
Thanks for reading and keep on trucking!Please toss us a note or heck even a full blog recommendation on our contact us page!