The V8 engine has become ubiquitous throughout the automotive industry over the last century, and its legacy began right after the turn of the 20th century in France. First patented in 1902 by Leon Levavasseur, it was being used successfully in early airplanes and speedboats by 1904. The first V8 engines were capable of 24 hp at 1400 rpm, but this output disappointed aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. He ordered a heavier engine for his aircraft, allowing it to gain a more robust 50 horsepower.
This automotive V8 engine made its debut in 1905, when it immediately broke land speed records in France. Victor Hemery, a notable Grand Prix driver, got his Darracq, equipped with a 221 liter V8 up to an incredible 109.65 miles per hour, setting the land speed record at the time. Rolls Royce took notice, and they were the next automaker to use the V8 in 1905 and 1906.
In America, Cadillac was the first to use the V8 when they introduced the the L-Head V8 in 1914. In 1916, GM expanded the production of the V8 with the 244 ci Oldsmobile V8, and Chevrolet followed in 1918. As we can see all around us, the V8 has been an automotive staple ever since. The key selling point of the V8 is power and acceleration without excessive vibration, making for a smooth and comfortable ride.
One of the modifications and tweaks made to the V8 over time is the angle of the “V.” Traditionally, the angle is 90 degrees for optimal balance, but engines like the Yahama built V8s that power some Ford Taurus and Volvo models utilize a 60° “V” angle.
Virtually every automobile manufacturing company both foreign and domestic has utilized the V8, and the engine that started out powering French airplanes and speedboats in 1904 clearly remains relevant to this very day.
Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer