By on August 13, 2020

Image: Ford

Let’s keep our minds far away from the gutter, folks. We may be talking inches today, but they’re cubic inches.

Yes, displacement, a unit of measurement that spans the gamut in today’s new vehicle lineups. Thanks to the advent of the subcompact crossover segment and the proliferation of big boy HD pickups, the breadth of displacement choice has only grown in recent years. General Motors can now sell you Chevrolets ranging from 1.2 to 6.6 liters, but Ford has them beat: 1.0 to 7.3 liters.

There’s plenty to choose from out there, but today we’re looking only in one direction.

Simply, what was the largest-displacement vehicle you’ve ever owned?

You author can’t compete with many, if not most, of the eventual replies. A lowly 3.1-liter V6 was the largest under-hood action in his stable. Efficient to a fault.

The same can’t be said for a friend, whose first car was an early ’70s Cadillac sporting (and I can’t believe the detail escapes me) either a 472 or 500 cubic-inch V8. No planet was saved during that car’s tenure.

But what about you? How big did that mill get?

[Image: Ford]

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92 Comments on “QOTD: Biggest You Ever Had?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Toss-up between my 1971 Corvette with the 454ci LS5 engine and my 1976 Grand Prix with the 455ci engine

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    1976 Trans Am 455, bought new with 4 speed transmission and no air conditioning!

    before that I had a 1970 Dodge Charger 383 magnum, bought used with 4 speed transmission and that tall pistol grip gear stick

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    One 6.6L and several 5.7L, 5.4L, 5.3L and 5.OL –

    currently have 6.0L, 5.3L and 4.8L (and several smaller)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A 350 Chevy small block V-8 in a 73 Chevelle is the biggest I ever had but my parents had a 72 Cadillac Sedan Deville with a 472 V-8. I have not owned a V-8 in almost 19 years and all three of my current vehicles are 4 cylinders. I doubt I will ever have any ICE vehicle with anything bigger than an I-4 because I just don’t need anything more than that.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Viper 8.4L (512 in^3)

    Honorable mentions: 8.1L Avalanche, 7.3L F250, 6.4L Cadillac, 6.2L F350, 6.2L Chevy SS, 6.0L G8

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    ’99 7.3 diesel was my first thought, but the ’91 460 V8 (7.5).

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    440 6-pack Challenger.

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      Ditto

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Great block, the 440. Also used in Chrysler Marine inboards. My Mom’s brother had two of them in his Cabin Cruiser, counter-rotating, and two 150-gallon gasoline tanks.

      Many a great time on the water, between San Pedro and Catalina Island.

      A different time. A different place.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        And TOO MUCH FUN ! .

        I no longer remember what size the V8 in my 1959 Cadillac convertible was but the car was HUGE .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          Nate, if the car was stock it would have had a 390 in^3, the same as my ’60 had.

          And yes they were massive.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Those old Caddies are simply TOO BIG for me but I still find them beautiful all these years later .

            I had a 1980 Fleetwood based S&S Victoria hearse, it was nice and all but again TOO DARN BIG so I gave it to my big brother who ran it as a shop car for a few years before leaving it up on blocks with a TH400 pan leak…

            I’d like a ’53 Caddy Coupe but would prolly never pony up for one even if I found one .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Only one V8 in 40 years… an 82 Ford 302.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I had two consecutive Mustang GTs with the 5.0 litre Coyote mill. Great great engine.

  • avatar
    Jon

    current work truck has an 8.1L

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I had an ‘84 Chevy pickup that I bought very cheap with a self destructed 6.2 diesel and swapped in a very old 366ci from a dump truck sitting in a junk yard.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    [email protected] ’67 Catalina and ’72 Gran Torino.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    1969 Chevy Bel Air two door sedan. Originally came with 327 but was replaced with a 454 with aftermarket crank making the total 496 cubic inches.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    355 in my ’86 Monte Carlo SS – an engine I mostly built myself (starting with a shortblock)

    Stock: 5.7L in a Roadmaster, 5.0L in a Mountaineer, 4.6L in a Grand Marquis.

    edit: I forgot the 400ci in the 1968 Pontiac Firebird.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    5.0 that would be a 307 Oldsmobile V8 – made less hp per cubic inch than anything I’ve owned besides an Iron Duke.

    The Modular 4.6 in my Ford F150 had that 307 beat by 100 hp.

    The 2.0T in my TourX is actually the highest HP/Torque motor I’ve owned at 260/295.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Dan you have a TourX?
      How do you like it? I really thought I wanted one but the local dealers would not work with me before they stopped making them. I thought that fully loaded one shouldnt have cost over 25k but they still wanted 32K after all discounts

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I love mine –

        https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/coal-2018-opel-insignia-country-tourer-or-buick-regal-estate-no-matter-the-tourx-is-all-mine/

        I need to give those guys a 1 year update I’m at roughly 15,000 miles now.

        Price on that car was all about framing in my mind. If you saw it as an Audi or Volvo with a HUGE discount then you should be happy. My Preferred (mid-trim) with all option boxes (minus sunroof) checked was an MSRP of a hair over $35K. But after discounts and a generous allowance for trade-in I walked out the door at $24K.

        Could the interior materials be higher quality for a supposed “Premium Brand” – sure. But I honestly feel that everything is well screwed together, durable, I haven’t had rattles etc.

        I feed it premium gas, the AWD system is designed to make driving more fun (not to just get you out of a snowdrift) and the performance would kill the muscle cars I lusted after in my youth.

        Highway fuel economy is close to 30 mpg even at 85 mph – in town economy stinks I’ve been averaging the low 20s in town but I LOVE to spool up the turbo.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    360ish? 5.9 diesel. Now two 345s.

  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    I had a 2.5l 5 cylinder in my Volvo c30 and a 2.5l 4 cylinder in my Mazda 3. Smallest was the 1.4l in my Fiat 500.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I owned a 72′ 454 SS Chevelle that had a ZZ502 in lieu of the long since blown up 454.

    Jeebus that was a torque monster. Heavy engine, but the pull was amazing.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    429 would be the largest. 900cc in an Autobianchi A112 is the smallest, 4 wheeled anyway. I had a couple of 250cc motorcycles.

  • avatar

    1972 Dodge Charger with the lowly 318. Everything after that has been the smaller 2.2l or 2.4l engine. Currently have a Charger with the Pentastar 3.6 which I enjoy driving. Biggest engine in the family was a 383 in the 66 Dodge Coronet that dad bought new. Thought that was totally cool as a jr. high aged kid.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    500 cu in or 8.2L in the last of the big Eldos.

    At the other end of the specturm, 37 cu in or .6L in a Honda N600.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      You made me remember the 150cc scooter I owned – carbureted with roughly 8-9 hp.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “500 cu in or 8.2L” of slow turning, stump pulling, gnarly low end grunt.

      I miss those big blocks.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Thanx ~

        Yes, it was bone stock and original fully loaded with wonder bar radio and foot pedal “seek”, magic eye, dual hydromatic slush box and black leather seats .

        Paint was faded white but not quite gone .

        Sadly I abandoned the damn thing after the radiator was stolen .

        This was about 1979 ~ 80 maybe, the car was impressive but essentially worthless although in pretty good survivor shape .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    JimC2

    An airplane with twin 360cid engines. That makes 720 as in seven hundred. Chew on that, bro truck fanbois. lolol

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yummy. I think you win today’s prize.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        At the other extreme, somewhere I have a Cox .049 cubic inch engine that I think I got from a yard sale or something like that. It came out of a toy car and it had a recoil starter (tiny rope start). That’s all I remember though.

        • 0 avatar
          volvo

          Wow does that take one back to childhood.

          Best specs I can find for the .049.
          .049 CI, spring starter, glow plug, reed valves, model engine fuel which was a mixture of methanol/castor oil/nitro. Idle 4000 rpm full power 22,000 rpm.

          I had a couple of control line model A/C with Cox .020 engines back in the day. Also had a Cox .090 in an RC unlimited racing boat model.

          In the 50-60s Cox made complete A/C with .049 engine that was called the PT-19 flight trainer. It was held light plastic held together with rubber bands designed to come apart without severe damage during the many crashes you had while learning to fly control line aircraft.

          There is a Cox website run by a Canadian who purchased most of their stock when Estes closed the line in 2006. NOS .010 offered for $295 USD.

          In 1956 Cox developed the Babe Bee 049, designed by William (Bill) Selzer, which had an extruded aluminum crankcase, not cast like the others. This engine sold for just $3.95

          Couple of Wikipedia articles on Cox that makes for interesting read.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      “largest-displacement vehicle”

      disqualification on isle two!!!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Just to give a straight answer within the rules of the game, the biggest car engine I’ve ever owned (car, land vehicle, etc.) was a plain old Slant 6, a 225cid with a factory rebuild 0.030″ overbore, so closer to about 229. 3.4″ bore and 4.125″ stroke became 3.43 × 4.125. It probably added a whopping 2hp between the displacement bump and the subtle compression bump from the overbore (by my calculations, up from the stock 8.4:1 to slightly greater than 8.5:1, woohoo lookouuuuuut!!).

  • avatar
    AVT

    We got a later model volvo VNL780 with the D16 (16 liter) motor for up north stuff. It’s only running when we need to bring in the tractors from the farms in for work or we got a massively heavy load that needs to be moved. Engine is extremely unreliable and expensive to maintain/fix but when it works, its a monster (600hp and 2050 lb-ft. of torque). On the other hand, I have a 1.8l in my honda goldwing. Great motor, great smooth power, and decently fuel efficient when cruising. And with the manual, the cost of ownership is barely noticeable. My lincoln MKT with the 3.5L ecoboost falls in the middle. I like them all when I use them as they were intended to be used.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I have had mostly NA 6’s over the years of car ownership from 2.5 to 3.8 however I have only had 2 four cylinder engines with one being turbo charged. However my largest is the one I own right now Tau 5.0 v8

  • avatar
    JimBot

    I had a 77 Grand Marquis with a 460 V8 that was fun.. 7 MPG! Prob had 120HP.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I had that 460 in a 1960 Mercury Montclaire 4-dr sedan, 4-barrel, twin exhaust from the factory.

      Sweet cruiser, but the AC was too often on the blink, a real heated trip in the desert between LA and Las Vegas, NV.

      And it needed new points and plugs, every 10K miles, right as clock work.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    It would be my current ride, a 6.0 wrapped in a 2014 HD. The General has many faults, but a smooth v8/auto/rwd is not one of them.
    I was born in 65 so you think I would have had something larger, sooner, but 350 was it.

  • avatar
    PlannedObsolescence

    Biggest was the 1971 Cadillac Sedan DeVille at 472 ci. It passed from my Dad, to my Mom, then to me for my senior year of High School.

    Smallest was the 1988 Subaru Justy at 1189 cc, bought new for my wife. It had a 5-speed stick and A/C, and could just maintain 75 mph on the highway (if the A/C was off and no hills). My wife drove it mostly around-town, and loved how easy it was to park.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    ’66 Bonneville, 389 c.i.

  • avatar
    volvo

    #1 6.3L (386 CI) V8 in W109 MBZ.

    #2 5.0L (305 CI) V8 in Mustang.

    To show how time changes the horsepower of both these engines less than the V6s in my current Toyota and Honda. But the torque on the MBZ engine was incredible.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “#1 6.3L (386 CI) V8 in W109 MBZ.”

      So you are rich?

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        Rich no. Just middle class.

        That car was $15K USD new in 1972 and I got it used 10 years later for 6K when it was not considered anything special. Served me well for 25 years. When I sold it the person buying it was rich.

        Really a gas hog at 12 mpg. When maintenance needed it was not outrageous since parts (except drive-train) were shared across the entire W109 platform. The best part was smog exempt.

        The expensive ones to buy and maintain were the 6.9L 300SEL the 6.3L 600 Sedan/Limo.

        The W109s did not become collectible until the the early 2000s and clean examples now command a premium. From the mid 70s to the early 90s all the buzz was about the newer W116/126 platform.

        IMO the quality of build and materials was better in the W109 SELs than in the later W116/126 models. However the W116 was faster/safer and better handling. The W116 did not come with the 6.3L engine but only the 4.5 or 6.9.

        If I were rich I would drive a restored W111 cabriolet.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    Work truck I used (didn’t own) had the Ford 7.3L
    I also got to drive my brothers ’67 Camaro with a bored out 454 (.30 over) making it a 468 I believe. You could drop the clutch on that and spin the tires until they were just rims!

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    454 Chevelle

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    5.3 L Jaguar V-12. Smmmooooth power!

    Sold it to buy my then girlfriend an engagement ring. Best transaction I’ve ever made.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    IN the mid 80’s I had a 75 Thunderbird for a couple years. It has the 460 V8 (7.5 liter engine). Was nice on the highway, but boy did it eat gas !!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The same can’t be said for a friend, whose first car was an early ’70s Cadillac sporting (and I can’t believe the detail escapes me) either a 472 or 500 cubic-inch V8.”

    I once worked on a friend’s Cadillac of that era. The engine – besides being physically enormous – was called a 502, IIRC.

    This may be where we discuss how mfrs used to lie (maybe still do) about size. The same 4.000 x 3.000 bore x stroke was used in the Ford 302 and Pontiac 301. IIRC, Pontiac later called theirs a 4.9, but Ford used the term 5.0. On paper, the actual displacement is 301.59 cu. in, which works out to 4.94 L. But Ford has never called that engine a 4.9.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It is in fact a 5 liter engine, and yes not a “5.0”.

      We can blame Ford marketing. “5.0” just has a special ring to it, and the “5.0” fender emblems on Mustangs/Caprii dates back to ’79.

      The car just became the “Five-Point-Oh” (if properly equipped) on the street, enthusiasts circles, and pop culture.

      And that Vanilla Ice song wouldn’t sound the same if it was just a “5L”, “Five Liter” or “4.9”.

      But nowhere on official company literature is the engine called a “5.0”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    460 cid (Ford). 455 cid, 454 cid, 400 cid, 390 cid (GM). 400 cid (Chrysler).
    Drove but never had a Caddy 500 cid. My Old Man did have an Eldorado with the 425 cid engine.

    There is no replacement for displacement!

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Forgot the 400 cid (Ford).
      Believe that is the full list of ‘big blocks’ I have had.
      Plus a long list of ‘small block’ v8’s.

      Used to think that averaging 20 mpg on the highway was phenomenal mileage.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ve got a 6.2l V8 (LT1) C7 Z51 currently.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    5665cc in a C5 Corvette. Other end is a 100cc Maxter ICA engine in a kart – a much more exciting ride than that lazy Chevy.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Maybe I win the smallest (non-motorcycle) displacement prize. 1.15 liter 2-rotor Wankel in a Mazda RX-2 sedan.

    Biggest: current 6.2 liter V8 in my 2015 GMC pickup.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    My first was my largest – 429 cu. in. (7.0L in theory).

    Enough torque that if you were a new rear-seat passenger I could probably knock your head against the metal trim strip over the back seat when leaving a traffic light. (People quickly learned to brace.)

    [Twice the displacement of my current daily driver. Twice the power? Hardly. Twice the fuel consumption? At least.]

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The largest engine I ever owned with the 350c.i.d. Rocket 350 in my 1975 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. After that I’ve owned a 318 c.i.d. Dodge Aspen (a much better car than most here want to accept) and a 302 Windsor in a ’73 Ford Gran Torino (which was also the most problematic engine with a factory output of roughly 175 horses.)

  • avatar
    volvo

    This thread has gotten me thinking about engine efficiency (I know off topic).

    My first 30hp VW type 1 had 30hp (25hp/liter) execrable performance and 30mpg.
    My current Honda V6 has 270hp (77hp/liter) great performance and 27 mpg.

    We have come a long ways just in efficiency not to mention comfort and safety.

    That VW had MSRP $1500 USD which is about $15,000 today adjusted for inflation. You can get a pretty nice efficient car for $15K today.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    MEL 462

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Lessee, the mighty Cummins 12-valve cubes out at 359 or so. The engine in my other truck cubes out at 351, also in the correct cylinders of six.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Biggest in my family was my parents’ 455 Wildcat in a ’65 Buick Elektra 225, that I can recall. They had a ’79 Sedan deVille but I don’t know for sure what was under that hood.

  • avatar
    bigcraneman

    I currently own a 2003 Chevy Suburban 2500 8.1 (496 ci).

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Biggest was the 472 in a 1968 Coupe De Ville. Second biggest was a 440 in a 1971 New Yorker. The Chrysler was faster, and at 8 mpg was thriftier by one mpg. Of course, premium cost 34 cents in 1971, about $2.22 today.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    At one time in the 80’s the family fleet in my folks household ran the gamut from my sisters 77 Toyota Corolla base 2-door with the 1200cc 4-speed and a manual choke to my 75 Cougar XR-7 with the 351ci. Grandfathers hand me down 73 Impala 2-door with the 350ci and the biggest of all purchased from a relative 76 Cadillac Eldorado coupe with the 500ci.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    While I didn’t own it, the biggest I’ve driven was a 16L Detroit Diesel inline 6 in a Freightliner tractor. Next closest was a DT466 in an International.

    As for vehicles I’ve owned – biggest was a 3.4L in an 01 Impala. My dad currently drives a 04 5.4L Ford Expedition.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    The largest displacement engine I’ve ever sat behind was the 4.3 I had in my Blazer, followed by the 4.0 I had in my Aerostar.

    Otherwise I run generally between 2.0 and 2.5 litres, with a couple 3.6/3.8 thrown in.

    Conversely, the smallest engine in any car I’ve owned has been 1.9 litres in an Escort.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    When did the measurement for displacememt change from cubic inches to litres and was there a specific reason for it?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I just depended on whether the marketing people thought their fickle customers preferred one or the other. Some are old fashioned and they like “there’s no substitute for cubic inches.” Others fancy themselves as young and hip, and they prefer “there’s no replacememt for displacememt.”

      Plenty of carmakers built machinery designed on both metric and Imperial in the same model years, occasionally in the same model, where a tried and true transmission might be built on Imperial tooling and mated to the newest engine, built on metric tooling. Sometimes they overlap inside the same engine too- cylinder bore is a round number, in mm, and stroke is a round number, in inches.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I remember Dad’s 1982 Chevy Celebrity as the car that forced him to go buy a metric socket set but even under that hood there was a mix of metric/English sizing.

        I my mind the first American car I recall as “liter” was the Ford Galaxie 500 “7-Liter” prominently badged.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Here’s a funny detail and what got me thinking about it is that you used the anglicized spelling in both of your quotes.

          As an educator, you’ll probably appreciate and enjoy this.

          I found an old Galaxie brochure (that car had a bit of exotica in its name to begin with). The brochure proudly proclaims the “7 litre” engine, the word litre juxtaposed next to an American flag no less. The brochure in question is for sale (probably somebody unloading an attic full of covid cleaning on etsy) but the seller listed it as “liter,” probably from their home computer spell checker set on ‘Murrican English.

          By the same token, some easy searching turned up a mid 1980s Ford Mustang brochure, lo and behold the SVO 2.3 “liter” engine. I would have thought the marketing people would have dialed up the Euro mystique appeal all the way up to max. Maybe they didn’t realize there are two spellings of the word.

          Something I’ve noticed in suburban sprawl, when a new neighborhood of clapboard condos is slapped up and dubbed some random name intended to maximize the “honey, stop the car” curb appeal that later turns into feelings of “we’ve made it” yuppie appeal (feelings felt while waiting for the electronic gate to open after a long day at work, a hard workout at the yoga gym, or even a grocery run to whole foods). I’m talking about the condo complexes with the superfluous e and how they seem to command about $100/month more out of each resident’s bank account (either greater rent or the mortgage payment ends up being that much more). The superfluous e is often found on the end of “Pointe.”

          So…. am I being facetious or is there any truth to all this?

          :)

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        I dunno about that Jim ;

        I’m old and I well remember Hot Rodders in the early 1960’s telling me “there’s no replacement for cubic displacement !” ~

        I wasn’t hip, not ever, neither were they .

        My self I prefer smaller vehicles with smaller engines, I find it much more fun to drive slow vehicles quickly .

        However : when your inner child just _has_ to do smoky burn out and wake up the neighbors, nothing but a romping stomping American V-ate will suffice .

        =8-) .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Most displacement I had was only a 383 in a 69 Coronet convertible. It had nowhere near the horsepower and torque my small block has and the small block is in a 2200lb car which puts me just under 6lbs/hp ratio and right at 5lbs/lb-ft of torque.

  • avatar
    Moparmann

    Lessee, in descending order & cubic inches:

    440 c.i. Mopar (Dad’s car)
    340 c.i. Mopar
    318 c.i. Mopar
    305 c.i. Chevy
    262 c.i. Chevy
    91.5 c.i. Honda

  • avatar
    Schurkey

    455 + .030 in my ’66 Toronado
    454 + .030 in my boat.
    454 in my ’97 K2500
    440 Mopar in a three-row station wagon. (sold)

    Caddy 472s and 500s (engines only) parked in the barn “for later”.
    Pontiac 455 and 400s (engines only) parked in the barn “for later”.
    Buick 455s (Engines only) parked in the barn “for later”.
    Olds 455 (partial engine only) parked in the barn “for later”.
    Chevy 454 (engine and partial engines only) parked in the barn “for later”.

    Got a few small-block Chevies, too.

    Dear Old Dad had boats with 440 Mopar and 454 Chevy engines; and an ElDorado to pull them around with, having a 500.

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