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A sad passing, the Big Block Chevy is no more.

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Rabbi, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. Rabbi

    Rabbi The Bombdiggity Lifetime Member

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    I dont know how I missed this but I actually just heard about this the other day and had not seen a thread here on it but the famous Chevy "rat" is gone.

    Plant bids farewell to big block
    End of production of V-8 engine at GM’s Tonawanda facility leads to 150 layoffs

    http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/899075.html

    By Matt Glynn
    News Business Reporter
    Updated: December 23, 2009, 1:18 PM / 0 comments

    Amid whistles and applause from onlookers, Willie Ray Jr. hoisted the final L18 made at General Motors’ Town of Tonawanda engine plant off the production line and onto a metal cart.

    The moment was filled with meaning for the plant’s past, present and possibly its future.

    It was the last of the “big block” V-8 engines made by the plant, a legacy dating to 1958 and a local connection under the hood of some renowned GM cars.

    The end of the L18 on Friday also puts 150 hourly workers on layoff, bringing to 298 the total number of workers on layoff from the Tonawanda plant.

    Along with their words of respect for the big block engines’ long history and regrets over layoffs, plant and union leaders said they are determined to secure a new engine line that would bring back workers.

    “We’re all working very, very hard to make this the place for GM’s next engine,” said Steve Finch, plant manager.

    Retirees and workers gathered to mark the occasion and share memories. On the cakes served to the guests, blue-colored inscriptions noted the plant’s remarkable output of big-block engines — 5 million of them — over the course of a half century.

    The plant continues to make the L850 and inline 4- and 5-cylinder engines for other vehicles. And while the L18 accounted for only about 3 percent of the plant’s annual volume, Friday was its day to shine.

    Workers used different-colored markers to write their names on the final engine, and later surrounded it for a group photo. The milestone engine is destined for the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich.

    The big block V-8s were a staple of the Tonawanda plant. So were the mistaken assumptions over the decades that those engines were going extinct.

    Salvatore Morana started at the GM plant in 1978 and two years later moved over to the Mark engine line, a forerunner of the L18. He quickly heard rumors of the Mark’s imminent demise.

    “The first thing my (work) partner said was, ‘You better get off this line,’‚” said Morana, now president of United Auto Workers Local 774.

    “I’m sad to see it go,” Morana said. “I just hope it gives us an opportunity for more space for new work.”

    Finch said the big-block V-8s had a rich history within GM. They were used in vehicles including the Corvette (for a time) and the Impala. They also helped build the automaker’s name outside the company, since the engines were used by non-GM customers in pumps, power generation and powerboats. That external loyalty was a key to the big block V-8s’ lasting success.

    “Our customers just loved this product so much, they wouldn’t let it die,” Finch said.

    Guests watched a video slide show celebrating V-8 engine lines at Tonawanda through the years, set to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Mixed with images of the engines were pictures of employees marking milestones along the way.

    “A lot of history,” Finch said afterward. “But the most important thing is, a lot of great people have come through these doors and participated.”

    In the crowd was Donald L. Rust, the Tonawanda plant manager from 1983 to 1996. He called Tonawanda the best of the six GM plants he worked in.

    “There is no workforce like this one here,” Rust said. “There’s nothing they can’t do.”

    The big block V-8s were vital to the plant’s endurance over the years, he said. And the engines’ versatility and power were the reason production of them “just kept going and going.”

    “I used to tell people, if you wanted an engine that could pull your house trailer up Pike’s Peak, this was it,” Rust said.

    He also experienced the V-8’s power while riding in a powerboat. “We passed an airplane that was overhead down in Florida,” Rust said.

    The L18 began production in Tonawanda a decade ago and was used recently in the Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick.

    When GM said last June the L18 would be eliminated by year’s end, the announcement triggered another show of devotion to the product. Some customers ordered two years’ worth of L18s, to put on the shelf for future use, Finch said.

    For many workers and retirees, Friday was a time to reflect on their own careers. Robert Coleman, a third-generation GM employee, recalled starting out in 1978 on the plant’s big-block V-8 line.

    “Hopefully as this rolls out, someone will come and say, ‘Hey, we have new business to fill this spot,’‚” said Coleman, shop chairman of UAW Local 774. Aside from the layoffs, about 50 workers related to L18 work are being absorbed into other areas of the plant, he said.

    Under the UAW’s contract with GM, most laid-off hourly workers receive about 70 percent of their total pay after taxes, through a combination of unemployment benefits and supplemental benefits.

    Mike Fonti, area manager/ superintendent for the L18 machining, wondered aloud how to possibly say “thank you” to so many GM employees for their work on the big-block engine lines across 51 years.

    “You know how to say thank you?” Fonti said. “You put a new line right here.”
     
  2. 88_gurgel

    88_gurgel

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    too bad,


    good thing there are still aftermarket companies manufacturing parts for them.
     

  3. Rabbi

    Rabbi The Bombdiggity Lifetime Member

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    In general there are aftermarket companies making them, in whole, from scratch.

    However, they are not "new" generation Big Block Chevy's (and that is not always a bad thing) and they are not going into production cars/trucks.
     
  4. Just1More

    Just1More

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    Never had a big block, but my 1968 Chevy pick-up had a 327 that was pretty sweet. I'm a Hemi man now, so things are much better!
     
  5. RichJ

    RichJ

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    Here are some notable quotes from the article:

    “Our customers just loved this product so much, they wouldn’t let it die,” Finch said.

    "the engines’ versatility and power were the reason production of them just kept going and going.”

    “I used to tell people, if you wanted an engine that could pull your house trailer up Pike’s Peak, this was it,” Rust said.

    Seems like a very popular product that people really liked... so GM decided to stop making them. Good job General Motors!
     
  6. Free Radical

    Free Radical Miembro Antiguo CLM

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    Thus closes another chapter of the great American story.
    Something else may come along, but it won't be the same.
     
  7. TNGlockman

    TNGlockman NRA Member

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    My first car was a 1971 Impala that had a 402 big block. That thing was awesome!
     
  8. farnorthwintercamper

    farnorthwintercamper

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    [​IMG]

    600 ft.lbs. 570 h.p. and under 5500 r.p.m. torque at 4200 r.p.m's so low compression it would run on kerosene.

    thanks, g.m..
     
  9. wjv

    wjv Zip It Stan Lee.. . .

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    Is that the 8 liter?

    My 2500 series has a 6 liter which most people now days think of as a "big block". But when I was growing up a 366 was a mid-size engine. Hell, I had a T-Bird with a 429.
     
  10. bug

    bug

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    Is this the plant that make the blocks for there 502 crate motors ?
     
  11. Bill Powell

    Bill Powell Cross Member CLM

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    8 liter is 480 cu in

    Rabbi, a monument is in order. We need to honor that motor as the workhorse of the ages.
     
  12. Rabbi

    Rabbi The Bombdiggity Lifetime Member

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    Yeah, I am a fan as well. I shall erect...ah hell, I just buy the beers when I get down to H-town to see ya!

    We shall raise them to us, and those like us...and Chevy rat motors.
     
  13. Jeffe

    Jeffe

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    got one in out top kick service truck, (runs like a top) and a second wrapped in plastic on blocks in a garage that my brother took out of the other top kick and bored and whatever else mechanics do to them, I might have to sell that one now:p
     
  14. Annoyedgrunt

    Annoyedgrunt Dry Heat my ASS

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    One thing I've always wondered, but no one I've asked seems to know:

    How did the term "rat" motor come about?
     
  15. Rabbi

    Rabbi The Bombdiggity Lifetime Member

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    ...I have heard (and I bet Bill will KNOW) that for whatever reason they called the Hemi the "Elephant"...and the SMALL block Chevy was giving it all kinds of hell...so as the story goes, what is the only thing an elephant is afraid of?....a mouse. Mouse is the nick name of the small block Chevy, so someone put all of that together and decided a Big Block Chevy would be a "Rat". I have also heard it all had something to do with the cartoon "Mighty Mouse"

    ....i dont know if that is true but it is often retold in some way like that over the years. It gets even more silly and complicated when you consider that now most people call any small block (Mopar/Ford/GM) as "mouse motor" and any of the big 3's big blocks a "rat motor"....and anything under 500ci's a "Baby Rat"
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010
  16. G21craig

    G21craig

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  17. metro273

    metro273 Glock 19 Rocks!

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    Kinda sad!

    "Big Block" is synonymous with Chevy muscle! :crying:
     
  18. TexanRon

    TexanRon Come 'n Take It

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    A sad day, indeed. The time will come, in the not too distant future, that the very sound of a BB 454, loping through a set of Hooker headers will be unknown to most people. There ain't nothin' like it.
     
  19. DrMaxit

    DrMaxit Dirtbag Airman

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    Man you got that right
     
  20. Geezer Glide

    Geezer Glide NRA Life Member

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    Back in 1972, I had a '66 Chevelle SS 396/375 (L-78) and bought a 454 (LS-6, they were out of LS-7's at the time) short block, flywheel, harmonic balancer, high volume oil pump, and locking motor mounts, all GM stuff, from Modern Chevrolet in Winston-Salem, NC. At the time, the total bill for all this stuff was $530. That was a bunch of money back then.