The Chevrolet Corvette is the last true sports car to use a pushrod V8, and you might not think that’s a good thing. After all, overhead-cam engines have been the standard for decades at this point, so why would you use an old-school cam-in-block engine today? Especially in a Corvette, which has to compete with the best from Porsche, BMW, and everyone else?
There are actually a number of good reasons to stick with pushrods, which Engineering Explained’s Jason Fenske lays out in his newest video. Fenske speaks about the general advantages of pushrod engines, but we’re going to talk specifically about the Corvette here. Why? It’s an especially interesting car to use pushrods, and well, we just like Corvettes.
Because a pushrod engine integrates its camshaft within the block, the engine itself is relatively small and light. In the case of the Corvette, this means the engine sits low in the car, lowering the center of gravity and allowing for excellent forward visibility.
Pushrod engines are also simple, with far fewer moving parts that could break over time. That’s a big part of the reason why Chevy’s small-block V8s are famous for their reliability and durability.
This simplicity also means a pushrod engine is generally cheaper to produce than an equivalent overhead-cam unit. The Corvette has always been a sports-car bargain, and its engine plays a big role in that.
Pushrod engines also offer a lot of low-end torque, and torque is good for any car, not just a Corvette. That low-end grunt comes at the expense of a higher redline, but that’s just the compromise you make with pushrods. And when you experience all the torque a Corvette has to offer, you probably won’t care. Who needs revs when you’ve got tons of shove low in the power band?
So even today, the pushrod engine makes sense, especially in the Corvette. High-revving overhead-cam engines are lovely, but we’ve got a soft spot for the old small block. Hopefully it sticks around for some time to come.