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Pre-1977 GM V8 Engines: How Could They Afford to Offer Different Engines for Each Division?


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What he fails to point out is (and thank you for again gravitating to 1959 as a contrast point) - in '59 Pontiac had 1 car; the full-size series of models. Chevy had 2; their full-size and the Corvette.. and the Corvette used the same V8.

In '79, Pontiac produced the full-size Bonneville/Catalina, the LeMans line, Firebird line, Grand Prix, Grand Am (sibling to the LeMans), Sunbird, and Phoenix. That's 6 distinctively different model lines (bunching the GA & LeMans as 1). Plus, you're in an era post- gas crisis, so even if it would fit, Pontiac is not even going to consider putting a 400CI V8 in a Sunbird or Phoenix. They absolutely WOULD HAVE... were it 'possible' for the potential success of the model line. It wasn't.

Therefore, the number of engines to volume of production is under a vastly different scenario in that 20 yr period than merely 'economies of scale'.

I'm not saying cost/unit is unimportant, but it's not -by far- the driving factor.

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Okay, we now know he's in the Midwest.  I'd say his educational attainment is fairly high ... perhaps business, economics, or industrial engineering, or coursework in these areas in his studies. Who knows?

This thing with the expansion and contraction of division specific V8 engines, in my mind, was similar to push or pull marketing, and then not.   Sometimes, the consumer drives the market (they wanted their car to have the personality of that division and wanted their car to make a specific statement, so their Pontiac was to have a Pontiac V8).  Then, the manufacturer might decide to drive the market (by the '80s, GM V8s had become corporate and the Olds 5.0 liter - 307 c.i. - was accepted as the GM mainstay V8 that would power the best Cadillacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles).  In between this time, there was some confusion.  If I had bought that pivotal late '70s Olds Delta 88 (Royale or whatever) and I went to the dealership, I'd be fuming, too, upon learning I had a Chevy V8 instead of an Olds Rocket V8 under my hood.  That buyer could have just bought a Caprice and saved some coin.  He didn't get his money's worth.

Right now, the manufacturer is driving the market on so many levels, with very little consumer input.  There is still a market for sedans, and even coupes.  It just isn't as big as it used to be.  That's because the manufacturers have emptied the showrooms and lots of such vehicles such that they're not even an option for buyers of certain brands.  With Buick no longer offering passenger sedans and coupes, current Buick owners may not be buying Buick the next time around.

Only time will tell if their sharp pencils were effective.  We can't forget that governmental input is also shaping what automakers are bringing to market.

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The other 'shade' here WRT engines is, although true that Pontiac had just 1 V8 in '59, the 389, you could get a 2bbl, 4bbl or 3x2bbl induction, hooked to either a manual 3-spd or a 4-spd auto (and with about 10 different axle ratios)... and you could mix & match these.  In '79, a Pontiac 301 was either a 2bbl auto or a 4bbl with manual or auto (plus they still had one 400CI).
So in '79- there were a total of 4 V8 engines by code, and there were 22 V8s by code in '59... so while the foundry was cranking out 1 block, they were also cranking out a plethora of carbs, cams, intakes & heads to create a lot of different flavors of that 389. The actual units / volume ratio might be a lot closer than he portrayed.

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He is right as it applies to V8s, since those were mostly what powered the pre-1977 GM full-sizes and intermediates.

All of the 112" wheelbase intermediate coupes that had sedan counterparts (slightly longer 116" wheelbase), usually started out with rarely ordered 6 cylinder engines.  That said, Chevrolet produced the 250 c.i. inline 6 for their own Malibu, but also for Pontiac (Le Mans) and Oldsmobile (Cutlass, except Salon version), while Buick produced their 231 c.i. V6 for their Century/Regal models. 

In 1977, GM did break with that and muddled things up even more - the Buick V6 was now standard in the Pontiac and Oldsmobile intermediates, and for only one year in those bigger mid-size cars.  If you think about it, that could have meant quite a bit of money to pay, in those days' dollars, to have a nicely decked out intermediate with an "odd firing" 231 c.i. V6.  It may have been fine for a stripped down Century Special.  It was not fine for a Regal S/R trimmed out with all the power accessories, exterior niceties, and equipped with A/C.

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