March Madness is in full swing and Summit Racing is joining in the fun with its own version, pitting some of the most legendary domestic V8s against each other in a round robin. Each of the engines powered some of the most fierce muscle cars of all time and are significant in their own right. The question becomes: what basis do you judge them?
For example, one of the more interesting match-ups is the GM LS9 versus the Olds W-30. The 455 cubic-inch Oldsmobile bullet was rated at 370 horsepower and 500 lb-ft when it was released in 1970 for the Olds 442. The W-30 was created at an exciting time in muscle car history, where engineers seemed to have much more in common with hot rodders. It is actually an undersquare V8 with a tall deck (10.625 inches) that allows for a 4.25-inch stroke. The 4.16-inch bore was retained from the 425ci V8 in the Toronado. This was obviously prior to the start of shared platforms, so the Olds engine bore (no pun intended) no resemblance to the Buick 455 (4.3125 x 3.900 inches) or the Pontiac 455 (4.15 x 4.21 inches) – despite being all spawn from the General.
The LS9 is a horse of a much different color, obviously, from an entirely different era. Despite the modern tendency to share engines across various nameplates and platforms, though, GM didn’t allow the use of the legendary LS9 in anything but the C6 Corvette ZR1 until this year – and it wasn’t even on this continent. Upping the cool factor, titanium was the alloy of choice for the connecting rods and intake valves just like the LS7. The dry sump oiling system was also shared with the LS7. However, it used a unique 317 alloy block with larger head bolts and piston oil squirters, as well as Rotocast A356T6 alloy heads designed for the rigors of boost. Some involved in its durability testing said that it even faired better than the 505-horse LS7. The smaller-cube V8 (by American standards) checks in at just 376ci, or 6.2L, but makes up for it with another 2.3L of Eaton Twin Vortices Series (TVS) supercharger.
With 638 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of SAE-certified torque, the LS9 certainly has the edge on the W-30. Leaving the debate of gross versus net and political motivations for power ratings out of the equation, if we use a simple drag racing calculator it is apparent that the Olds can’t match the LS9 in performance. Perhaps, though, we need to consider significance and uniqueness. The LS9 shares its basic architecture with the LS3 and in some cases, simply robbed the parts bin for LS7 pieces. Oldsmobile didn’t have that luxury or the benefit of a pricey supercharger as the cherry on top of high-dollar sportscar. If your motto is “less with more” then the Olds wins this battle. However, if your motto is “speed kills” then we have to give it the LS9. For a few years anyway, it was king of the hill…and some might say it is responsible for the revitalized horsepower wars. 707 is the new number, and we’ll see who tops it.
Speaking of which, the Hellcat was pitted against the Pontiac Super-Duty 455 in a similar comparison. Meanwhile some of the others are classic brand wars – Chevy L88 427 vs. Mopar 440 Six Pack, Ford 427 Mid Riser vs. Pontiac 421 Tri-Power, etc.