These Are The Cars You Say Had The Worst Engines

1979-1982 Monte Carlo, Malibu, Checker, Impala, Caprice.

Let’s introduce you to the 4.4L (267 ci) Small Block Chevy

The best first gen SBC is the 350/5.7. The 4.0 Bore works well for the engine producing good power, low emissions and decent (for the time) fuel economy when properly setup. SBC with the 350 were good engines, even in the darkest days of GM. The 305 (3.736″ bore) sucked. It used more gas, needed more emissions controls and made a lot less power because the small bore messed up the burn of the engine. But we aren’t talking about the underwhelming 5.0L SBC. We are talking about GM going one step more.

If a 3.736 bore SBC makes a worse engine in every way than a 4.0 bore… why not make a 3.5 bore? To put in such a tiny bore, they had to replace the valves with undersized valves and make special heads. The resulting engine had horrible emissions due to bad flame fronts and thus needed a ton of emissions controls strapped on them. The resulting 4.4L engine made 120-85 hp (each year getting worse) and got significantly worse fuel economy than the 5.7 (Seriously, a 5.7 Malibu station wagon got 10% mpg better than the 4.4L sedan and had twice the power).

But wait.. there’s more. Not only do you get worse economy and power, you also get..

* Cracked blocks due to the water passages being too far from the pistons.

* Cracked heads due to lack of cooling and running lean

* 5000 mile spark plugs due to hot burning.

* uber high vacuum leading to brake booster failures

* GM’s legendary QC from this era were 75% of the engines required replacement as soon as they got to the dealer.

* Unhardened cams that rounded before 50k miles

My dad had one in an 80 Malibu. Actually he had 5. It took that many to get one that ran, and the 5th one was actually a rebuilt engine with the parts of the other 4. His cousin got lucky with his. He got a working engine on only the 3rd try. Both engines had failures before 50k miles even with 2500 mile oil changes and 5000 mile tune ups.

The 200 ci V6 of the same error (spelling intentional) was also a crap engine, but it was only 66% of the crap of the 267 V8. Why? Because the 200 ci V6 was a 267 with 2 cylinders lopped off. Which made it more reliable and didn’t hurt the power.