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The Chevrolet 454 engine was a part of the 2nd generation of Chevrolet big block engines. The first generation of Chevy big block engines was introduced in 1958, with the 2nd generation being introduced for production vehicles in beginning in 1965.
The introduction of the 454 engine did not actually begin until 1970. Beginning in 1970 this engine was available in the Chevrolet Corvette, Caprice, El Camino, Monte Carlo, and Chevelle, with the engine being made available in the GMC Sprint beginning in 1971.
This engine is still quite popular for performance enthusiasts, as is indicated by the number of aftermarket parts still available for this engine in some popular aftermarket magazines.
Proud Member of the Big Block Family
As mentioned, the Chevy 454 first became available as part of the 2nd generation of Chevy big block engines in 1970. The engine originally had 3 variants, although only 2 of those were offered in normal production.
The 3 engines were the LS5, LS6, and LS7 – with the LS7 never being offered in normal production. These engines are not to be confused with the more modern small block LS5, LS6, and LS7 offered by GM.
The LS5 and LS6 engines were both offered beginning in 1970, with the LS6 being the more powerful of the 2 engines. The LS5 engine remained available in cars until 1976, while the LS6 was phased out after only 1 year. The 454 did last longer in heavy duty truck applications, lasting until the mid-90s.
The major reason for the fast phase out of the LS6 was primarily due to bad timing of introducing such a large engine. The engine was introduced just before emission standards were increased, and also very close to the gas crisis in the early 1970s, neither are friendly environments for such a large engine.
This engine is now in production only in crate versions, and with quite a few differences compared to the original engine from 1970, but this attests to the popularity of this engine. This big engine is capable of creating a lot of power and is also quite reliable.
454 Big Block Performance Specs
The original LS5 engine was introduced with 390 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, while the LS6 was rated at 450 hp. By the time 1972 was reached, change of power calculations along with reduced power for emissions control resulted in a drop to max power rating of 270 horsepower with a peak torque of 468 lb-ft.
As you might have guessed, the 454 represents the 454 cubic inch (7.44L) displacement of the engine. This is accomplished with a bore of 4.25 inches along with a 4.0 inch stroke.
Head and Block Construction
This engine is made using a cast iron block and heads. The pistons used for regular versions of the engine were cast iron, while performance versions were offered in forged steel. Standard push rod overhead valves were used, with 2 valves per cylinder, 1 intake and 1 exhaust, with the camshaft inside the block.
The valves were oriented to open away from the combustion chamber and cylinder walls, greatly increasing the volumetric efficiency of the engine. This design also resulted in the phrase being coined that this was a “porcupine design.”
The Chevy 454 was a very powerful engine and is still popular to this day for performance fans. One major issue that this issue had to face was the fuel crisis in the early 1970s, which is definitely not good for the sale of large engines.
The stricter emissions standards were also not kind to this engine, requiring additional major modifications just after the introduction of this engine. Nonetheless, this engine was used in other applications for a long time and is still popular to this day for performance fans who have a car large enough to accept one of these big block engines.
Photo via Michael Barera