By on May 2, 2013

These were the good old days. Picture courtesy Oldcarphotos.com

There are bad ideas, there are terrible ideas, and then there’s the transverse V-8 drivetrain. There’s just something comically pathetic about having eight cylinders sitting sideways in the front of a car. The Eldorado you see above and its predecessors didn’t suffer from that; they had the engine pointing the right way so you could open the sharply-creased hood and see a proper mechanical vista. In those cars, and in the Toronado, front-wheel-drive was a nifty engineering trick for low-speed traction and a flat floor so all three of your bitches could sit in the back of your pimpmobile without discomfort.

The transverse V-8, however, was something else. It reeked of cost-cutting, of easy assembly, of last-minute decisions to add a decent engine to a middling platform. With very few exceptions, it’s been a lousy idea. And yet there were two vehicle platforms that had not one, but two completely different V-8s installed in them. One of them, of course, was the Cadillac E/K-platform, which shouldered the load of both 4.9-liter OHV and Northstar DOHC engines in the Eldorado, Seville, and Deville/DTS. (Arguably, the E/K was similar enough to the G-body that one could add the Aurora “Shortstar” to the mix for a total of three difference V-8s.)

And the other? Make your guess and click the jump.

Why, it was the Ford DN101!

SHO is. Picture courtesy Wikipedia

Your humble author was in the business of selling the third-generation Taurus SHO, which featured an absolutely pointless and thoroughly gutless Yamaha V-8. In a straight line, the SHO was barely any quicker than the three-liter Duratec Taurus and considerably less sprightly than the previous-gen V-6 stick-shift SHO. It had special ZF steering, so it was pleasant to drive, and its full complement of features made it kind of a left-field entry into the entry-luxury class. But it wasn’t very fast. If you wanted a fast Taurus you had to go across the street.

A kiss on a hand is quite Continental. Picture courtesy Wikipedia.

DN101 also spawned the Continental, which had a detuned, 260-horsepower “InTech” mod-motor V-8, later bumped up to 270hp during a facelift. For years, Mustang guys have been pulling these engines out of junkyard Continentals, hoping they’ll drop into V-6 SN95 platforms, but so far it hasn’t worked out. There’s a missing motor mount and the bellhousing pattern is different. It wasn’t a horrible car, and it could apparently be coaxed into running a very high fourteen in the quarter-mile, but the mod-motor was simply too large for anything like effective or convenient servicing, making these relatively new cars a rare sight on the modern road.

Lincoln and Cadillac are out of the transverse-V8 business now, as is everyone else; the MKS offers the EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 while the XTS is, apparently, about to have something similar. We’ll never again see the day when a company commissions a bespoke V-8 that cranks out 230 horsepower and swallows its cam gears right after the warranty runs out. It’s even possible that we’ll never again see a major manufacturer offer a transverse V-8-powered automobile.

And that’s okay.

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39 Comments on “Thursday Trivia: You Coulda Had A V-8...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    God help me I still love those “coffin nose” Toronados from 1979 to 85. I still lust after a 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado with the one year only Oldsmobile 350V8 3 speed auto combo. Although I’ll take a 307 Toronado over a 4100 Eldorado…

    “Toronado, front-wheel-drive was a nifty engineering trick for low-speed traction and a flat floor so all three of your bitches could sit in the back of your pimpmobile without discomfort.”

    Dang right. Given that their diet was likely cocaine and cigarettes all three of them fit easily, and you could still easily load at least two dead informants in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In 1980, you could get the Eldorado with an injected Cadillac 368. That was it though. In 1981, they went to the V8-6-4 variable displacement nightmare, and in 1979 the gas engine was an Oldsmobile 350.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I know that CJinSD, I was just picking Oldsmobile because at least they sold a reliable engine for the cars entire run.

        • 0 avatar

          You forgot about the 5.7 diesel that was available on all of them. If you want to talk about poorly thought out cost cutting…

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            I can attest to that. Back in the late 80′s I bought a 80 Toronado diesel from the original owner for a mere $500. It was in decent shape charcoal grey which was starting to fade with a red velour interior, factory steel sunroof and no optional vinyl roof. Oddly enough no tilt wheel, it must have been an option as well. It had a new Mr. Good wrench motor and a rebuilt transmission as well as a aftermarket fuel filter kit, so I figured how could I go wrong for the price. It ran fine for a while getting 28 mpg highway. Econocar mileage in a luxobarge and great handling with the 4 wheel independent suspension. These 79-85 E-Bodies were nicely sized for their time and far less wallowly then their predecessors. Then the maintenance issues started. I had to change the glow plug controller after a starting issue which led to a couple of glow plugs that had to be changed. A couple of belt changes, water pump etc. After a couple of years of fairly reliable use the engine started making sounds like acts of god or the devil. I though about doing a rocket 307 or 350 conversion but ending up selling it to be parted out. I would love another one of these, but gas only.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s similar to the brown 1985 Buick Riviera that my grandmother had when I was little, which first got me interested in cars…

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    ” The Eldorado you see above and its predecessors didnt suffer from that; they had the engine pointing the right way”

    That’s because, the larger predecessors more then this one, had engine bays the size of a current 2-car garage. They could have put the engine on the diagonal and it would have more then likely fit.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I am kind of partial to Buick LaCrosse Super, Impala SS and Prand Prix GXP. I know that’s not what you are talking about but while we are on the topic of FWD V-8 sedans.

    Also, the 4T65-E is the only automatic I have found so far that does not drive me crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve heard those cars kill their transmissions pretty quickly, although I’d love to have one just to put some better mufflers on it and listen to the V8 melody of the 5.3 as much as possible.

    • 0 avatar

      I only found out the LaCross with LS4 existed recently, and that was by looking through our Goodyear “quick lube guide” book. I’ve never seen one in person. i see a lotta Impala SS’s – one of our sales people has one, it’s a damn nice car. But not 300C nice.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    The last (or soon to be) generation V8 Imapala is a interesting prospect on the used market. Although, being a DIY person, I’d have to look over the drivetrain and make sure there is room to work with.

    My aunt had a early 80′s Toronado in the late 90′s. Was in excellent condition and she said nothing but great things about that car. She’d take long road trips in it, use it for her realtor job, etc. I think it still might be tucked away in a garage somewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      They aren’t too bad if you’re used to working on FWD transverse machinery. Certainly easier in most aspects that the Northstar. Serpentine belts can be a pain, but for the most part it’s standard fare.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I found the V8 W-bodies to be thoroughly entertaining cars. The Grand Prix GXP in particular with this front tires being wider than the rears, actually manuevered fairly well. And…LS4 FTW.

    Bonus points to the Lacrosse Super owner, who will need to take solace in the fact that he’ll have the only example he’ll ever meet, but will never see any additional residual value because of the Super package he paid for up front.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      True I’ve searched Auto Trader and the odd SUPER that comes up is within a few dollars of similar examples with similar mileage. I’ve always wondered if a 2005-2009 LaCrosse CXS (which had the non DI 3.6 at 240hp) was worth the extra effort of hunting one down.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’m biased on this, but if you want a W-Lacrosse, I’d go 3800 or LS4. The four speed used in the Lacrosse 3.6 didn’t do it any favors (and I think the exhaust on the CXS looks terrible)

        If you want a non-DI 3.6 the CTS, G8, or Aura is where I’d go.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m pretty sure that the V8 Lacrosse will be worth more than the 3800 and 3.6 powered ones.

      Probably not a lot more, but I don’t remember the Super being a big price jump over the CXS 3.6 in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        They might ask more, but won’t get it. They’ll sell in the same ballpark as the CXS because of the interior features. With today’s fuel prices, the only difference being the V8 isn’t an upsell for most prospective Buick buyers.

        For the right price, I would buy one to keep as that bad investment collector car pseudo driver. The 5.3L when turbocharged is a real screamer too.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Another transverse V8? Volvo’s 4.4L made by Yamaha in the XC90 and the S80. The engine is supposedly not related to the Ford SHO V8:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_B8444S_engine

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As the happy owner of a second generation SHO for 10 years,I found the third generation to be a giant WTF? in my mind and evidence that someone in Dearborn had lost his mind (in fact you could accurately say that about that entire generation of Taurus, which severely wounded the brand).

    In fact, I admit I’m kind of a fan of fore-and-aft engined FWD cars (Audis, old Saabs, Acura Legend, 2d gen.) not to mention that 455 cubes in any engine bay is pretty awesome.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice article, JB. It never occurred to me how few transverse V8 engine families there actually are… Just the Caddy 4.x, Northstar/Shortstar, Lincoln Intech, SHO V8, Volvo evidently did one, and the LS4 iteration in W-body as noted above.

  • avatar

    It was a huge surprise for me when I found that Intrepid had its engine longitudially. And I only found about it when I saw one without an engine, with the beauty of the front axle going right through the bellhousing on full display. In astonishment, I took a picture. The steering rack on TOP of engine was a bonus.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      I have heard two explainations for the longitudinal drivetrain in the Chrysler LH cars. One is that this layout was inspired by the Renault/Eagle Premier which Chrysler inherited when it purchased AMC from Renault. Another is that Chrysler had planned an AWD version of the LH sedans and the longitudinal design was intended to facilitate the conversion to AWD in the manner of Audi and Subaru which used longitudinal FWD/AWD setups.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Good ole AWD might be the best reason for a longitudinal V8. You can have a decent AWD with a V6 or turbo-4, but those engines scream at high revs. A V8 gets the job done at lower revs while growling menacingly.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    What about the recently-departed Cadillac DTS?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Top picture… The body role is horrific!

  • avatar
    audiphile

    Volvo XC90 had a transverse V8 too!

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      As a bonus, the XC90 has a habit of converting itself to front-wheel drive only. Since that is the way it normally operates, owners only notice it when they get stuck in snow. The first thought is that some sensor is acting up and not sending the message to the computer so that it can engage the rear wheels, but it is more serious than that. Apparently, the angle gear that flip the drive through 90 degrees to the back wheels is not strong enough.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        The angle gear in our V8 XC90 gave up the ghost just as our warranty expired. Luckily, my dealer escalated the case and Volvo NA covered it. Since it doesn’t snow where I live, we discovered the problem by easily spinning the front tires in the rain.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    Actually, the last-gen Continental was *not* based on the DN101 Taurus — it debuted as a ’95 model and was based on a heavily modified DN5. That lack of commonality explains the two engines — I don’t believe the modular would have fit in the DN101 SHO.

  • avatar
    Ltd783

    I owned a 1997 Continental, and loved it. The servicing was an issue, when it came time to do spark plugs I had to pay a mechanic because the middle two on the rear are blocked by the firewall. Changing them requires loosening two motors mounts and leaning whole motor forward a few inches. A CEL light a few weeks later revealed the lazy mechanic just skipped those two. I went back and caused a scene in the waiting room of the shop, they paid for the Ford dealer to re do it correctly…

  • avatar
    7402

    The Olds Toronodo V8 set up was also put to good use in the GMC 6-wheel motorhomes–a configuration that has yet to be matched in that sector.

    For what it’s worth, the folks at Lamborghini managed to squeeze a transverse-mount V12 into the Miura.

  • avatar
    skor

    Say what you want about which way the engine was pointing, but the original Toronado was a beautiful car.

    http://files.conceptcarz.com/img/Oldsmobile/66-Oldsmobile-Toronado-DV-10-GG-01.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very much agreed, one of the more influential cars of all time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It makes you wonder why Cadillac made the Toronado’s twin, the 1966 Eldorado look so conventional. They corrected that in ’67. There has to be a story about that one year delay in giving the Eldorado an unique design.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoTone Loser

        Not much of a story, the ’66 Eldorado was a plain old RWD C-body just like the ’65. They didn’t become the same car until ’67, when the Eldorado became an E-body, and it stayed FWD until they stopped making them.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    “Psychosteer” no lie, look at the left front tire gripping for all its worth. The top picture doesn’t look like oversteer, it looks like the driver late braked coming into a turn. But as spectacular as those pictures look the car was probably only going about 45 mph.


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