A lot of people think that the Chevrolet V8 engine of 1955 is just an earlier version of the same V8 engines of later years. This is not so my friends! Not only was this engine not the first V8 Chevrolet ever offered in a Chevrolet car but the engine block uniquely to the small block design and not all parts will interchange.
About the first V8 Chevrolet offered in a vehicle we need to go back to 1917.
This engine was an internal water cooled combustion engine or 288 cu in with over head valves. Unique against the later 1955 engine is that the push rods where external and the starter was in the intake valley.
There is much about this engine online so when you search consider the “D” Series as the V8 is referred to. There are a couple of other site with information that I liked and one I would like to mention.
camaros.org web site at "http://camaros.org/pdf/tech_1917V8.pdf" led me to a vintage article by John Hinckley which was published in Corvette Enthusiast Magazine. Their notations included firstname.lastname@example.org as their source. Very good enlightening information an a good read.
Now what so different about the 1955 265 cu in motor verses later small block Chevrolet V8’s?
First and foremost is the absence of a built in oil filter system even though you can see in this photo from the National Corvette Museum there is a oil filter located on top of the engine.
The engine block design does not have a filter located at the bottom left hand corner of the block where the 1956 and later engines have their built-in filter canister located.
When a V8 engine was sold in a 1955 Corvette you could not get a filter system from the factory. The installed oil filter option set too high on the engine and would be a problem with hood clearance.
This was not the fact if you bought a passenger car or truck because on them you could select a option for an oil filter system like the one shown. The Oil filter canister was mounted above the water neck on the intake and received oil through a tube from the front of the engine block by the cam area. The oil would return back to the interior of the motor via a fitting in the intake manifold allowing the oil to drop back into the pan.
This big difference in the block design made a unique oil pan design for the One year only that it was needed. The 1955 oil pan will not match the later blocks and the later pans will not match the 1955 block. The rear left side of the pan was pushed inward to make room for the position of the oil filter system of the 1956 and later blocks. Thus the bolting flange was also moved and had different bolt attachment locations.
Another little design change was in the oil dipstick tube and dipstick. The 1955 design is a small diameter and the later dipstick tubes and will not fit into the 1955 block. The blade of the later dipsticks is wider in design and are larger than the hole in the 1955 block.
When you purchase valve lifters for a 1955 V8 you should be aware that a later model lifter could pump too much oil to the top of the valves due to some lifters design changes.
Now about the cam and the 1955 & 1956 engines. They had a grooved rear camshaft bearing. A cut was made into the cams rear main journal for the regulation of oil flow through the engine.
Also it seems as there is another oil relate item, in that the oil pump body is deeper, or longer, than a later year oil pumps (this is from 1955 through 1957). I found that the oil pickup tube and screen might not set properly for the close clearance to the bottom of the oil pan. If you are using later year pumps with earlier pickups and earlier pan you will have a problem.
In the 1955 block, there is crankcase vent hole in the left hand bottom flange at the back of the block and a recessed oil draft tube hole. The 1955 draft tube was cast into the block exiting the block on the left hand bottom side. In 1956 the tube location and design was changes to the passenger side of the block.
The 1955 Chevrolet Engine is a unique design and a good motor to have. The interchangeability with later Chevrolet small block parts is very acceptable if you only watch and be aware of the differences when you buy and replace needed parts.
The pictured engine is a 1955 Chevrolet 265 cuin. engine (Cast # 3703524, Cast Date: L 4 4 Flint Block) running the GM 098 Dontov cam with 1957 Fuel Injected Heads (Cast # 3731539). The 2x4 intake (Cast# 3739653) is from a 1957 model Corvette as well as the Aluminum Valve Covers.
The exhaust manifolds are from a 1959 engine and the front engine mount is from a 1961 Corvette.
If you have comments or questions please e-mail me as I would like to hear from you.
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I have moved the information about the differences between a 1959 Corvette and a 1960 if you where expecting to view that information. Please follow the link to the 59 - 60 Corvette comparison page.
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