How the Chevrolet Rat Motor Bought Its Name

To a hot rodder or racer, a rat motor is a Chevrolet major block V-8. Effective and fantastically engineered, how did this properly-highly regarded motor appear by the nick-identify “rat?”

From James Cagney’s well known line “…that dirty, double-crossin’ rat” to the a lot-maligned rat finks of the fifties, calling someone or one thing a rat is the supreme insult. When a thing is outdated, utilized up and slipping aside, it is “ratty.”

So it is fairly surprising that the massive Chevy has gained the monicker of rat.

In the early 1960s, very long prior to the introduction of the initially rat motor, a David and Goliath confrontation was taking put on the nation’s dragstrips. The Chrysler Hemi experienced turn into the dominate force in the Top Gas and Prime Gasoline categories, step by step changing the Cadillac, Lincoln and Oldsmobile engines that previously managed these classes.

Though the Chrysler Hemi developed gobs of electrical power, it was also physically larger sized and heavier than other V-8s. The big engine rapidly attained the soubriquet of Elephant motor due to its sizing. An elephant motor with a GMC supercharger seemed huge when put in in the typical tube body sling-shot dragster chassis.

While the massive elephants grew to become the de-facto common in Major Fuel, there was a further motor that could maintain its very own in opposition to the Hemi. Many teams took a various method, picking the famous compact-block Chevy to electric power their dragsters. As often as not, they didn’t bother with a supercharger, preferring a uncomplicated established of injectors.

On paper it was an unequal contest. The blown hemi was considerably more impressive than the minuscule Chevy, and it appeared that the Chevy failed to have prayer in opposition to the Chrysler in a quarter-mile race.

Nevertheless, the tire technological innovation of the day was in favor of the Chevy rails.

When the significant elephant motors produced a huge amount of horsepower, the tires of the day have been unequal to the activity of delivering that ability to the monitor. Significantly of that ability went up in smoke, as the large Chrysler rails burned the tires just about the entire size of the dragstip.

The small Chevies could burn their tires as effectively, but their decrease ability authorized the tires to hook up and gain traction whilst the major hemis were being still spinning their wheels. The mix much less wheelspin, lighter overall body weight and larger RPMs permitted the minor Chevy powered cars and trucks to give the elephant motor automobiles a operate for their funds.

Though the hemi groups were not in fact concerned of the minor Chevy dragsters, the small blocks tended to make them much more than a small nervous. There was no disgrace to get rid of to a blown hemi machine, but it was positively embarrassing to unfastened to an injected Chevy.

Someone remembered the fable that the only creatures elephants are worried of are mice, and started referring to the little Chevy as the mouse motor. Hence the elephant and mouse motors vied for racing honors on dragstrips all over the country.

The mouse-motor’s position as elephant-killer not last very long. Tire and clutch technologies ongoing to enhance, and the massive elephants ended up ultimately ready to supply far more power to the observe. By the early sixties, the mouse motor could no lengthier plague the big Chryslers in the Leading Eliminator ranks. The compact block Chevy was nonetheless vastly popular in the altered, gasoline coupe and modified courses. Although it rarely ran versus the massive elephant motors any longer, the engine was even now acknowledged as the mouse motor.

Throughout that period of time, Chevrolet and Common Motors were being next a strict non-racing plan. It is well recognized that some GM by-handed the official stance by providing elements and technological support to racers with no management’s know-how.

Legend has it that for the duration of the early sixties, certain Chevy racers showed up at numerous race tracks with a weird new motor below the hood. It was not a mouse motor, and it wasn’t the major 409 V-8 that the Beach front Boys immortalized in tune. It was a mysterious, all new Chevy V-8.

The mystery only lasted a shorter when, as Chevrolet introduced a new big block V8 in 1965. Accessible to start with as a 396 cubic inch model, the engine finally evolved to displacements of 402, 427, 454 CI. GM even made available a monster 572 CI version of the engine.

Following the motor was released, many people even now continued to refer to it as the thriller engine. When the valve addresses were eliminated, hot rodders started calling it the porcupine V8, mainly because contrary to the mouse motor which experienced the valve stems lined up in a neat row, the valves in the new motor ended up canted at a variety of angles.

Other racers observed that while the motor was not a accurate hemisperical style, it wasn’t just a wedge head, possibly. As a result the motor gained a further title: the semi-hemi.

Seem by means of shots of Chevrolet race cars and trucks from the era, and you uncover a lot of examples of cars with the conditions Secret Engine or Semi Hemi painted on the hood.

For most rodders and racers, even so, there was only one genuine moniker for the new motor. If the modest Chevy V-8 was a mouse motor, it’s bigger, additional highly effective, fiercer sibling could only be a RAT motor.

The title has caught. Right now only aged faculty sizzling rodders and nostalgia buffs even now use the terms mouse and elephant motor. The name rat motor, nevertheless, is however broadly used to describe the big block Chevy V8. Much from being a derogatory term, the expression rat motor is common with Chevy lovers and is utilised as a title of respect by those who build and race other brand names.

And that is how the Chevy V-8 turned known as a rat motor.