Who Invented the V8 Engine?

by Rob Wagner

Frenchman Leon Levavasseur was a 39-year-old inventor in 1902 when he took out a patent for the first V-8 engine he called the Antoinette. The V8 since then has become the most reliable and efficient internal combustion engine to power automobiles and to see extensive use in power boats and early aircraft.

History

The Levavasseur V-8 engine saw initial use in aircraft and boats.

The Antoinette, so named after the daughter of Levavasseur's financial backer, enjoyed a brief run between 1903 and 1912 powering monoplanes, racing boats and early passenger cars using lightweight 25- or 50-horsepower V8s. Levavasseur witnessed his invention become the most popular engine in automotive history, but died in 1922 before seeing the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler perfect it.

Significance

The luxury Bentley Brooklands is powered by a V8.

The V8 engine today is the standard powerplant for most rear-wheel-drive luxury cars, pickup trucks and sports cars, and also led to the creation of the more economical V6.

Function

The standard Chevrolet 265-cubic-inch V8 engine

The V8 is an eight-cylinder engine with twin banks of four cylinders mounted on the crankcase at a 90-degree angle and driven by a single crankshaft.

Types

The revolutionary Ford

The powerplant was originally designed for aviation and marine vehicles, but was quickly applied to the automobile and for large industrial uses.

Features

Ford founder Henry Ford tinkers with his version of the V8 engine.

Perhaps the most important improvement of Levavasseur's invention is Henry Ford's one-piece version with a down draft carburetor application. It remained unchanged for nearly 20 years until Chrysler developed the hemispherical "Hemi" V8 and experimentation began on fuel-injected motors.

Identification

The 1932 Ford coupe was powered by a V8.

Under the hood the V-shaped angle of the eight cylinders identifies the V8, while from the outside the 1932 Ford and the 1952-59 De Soto coupe were always V8-powered.

Size

The Chrysler Stromberg

With some rare exceptions, the V8 does not fall below the 2.7-liter displacement size, with the smallest European import BMW series 501, 502 and 503 coupes and sedans at 2.7 and 3 liters, and the largest 1965-79 M100 Mercedes-Benz sporting 6.3- and 6.9-liter engines.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation