The 350 HP Turbo Fire 327 Cubic Inch V-8

1966 Chevrolet 327 Turbo Fire V8
1966 Chevrolet 327 Turbo Fire V8. Photo by Mark Gittelman

Back in the late 60s and early 70s the big block large displacement engines received the most attention. One of Chevrolet's small block V-8 engines flew under the radar, because of its small displacement.

However, with a horsepower rating of 350-375 the Turbo Fire 327 V-8 provides a lot of bang for the buck. Here we'll discuss this mighty motor and provide details about its availability. We'll also tackle why you should consider power to weight ratio when talking about the heavy Chevy muscle cars of the late 60s.

Show Respect for the 327 V-8

I think I made an error by not including this engine in my top five muscle car engines of all time list. When creating the list I wanted to focus on engines capable of producing more than 1 HP per cubic inch. In its most powerful version, rated at 375 HP, the 327 CID boasted a 1.15 HP per cubic inch ratio. This represented the highest ratio of any factory assembly line engine built at that time.

When compared to other powerful General Motors engines like the Pontiac Tri-power 389, the 327 produced more horsepower and weighed less while doing it. It also didn't need three carburetors to achieve these numbers. I hope the next time you pop the hood on a Chevrolet muscle car and find a 327 you’ll experience feelings of admiration instead of disappointment.

History of the Turbo Fire 327

GM used the name Turbo Fire on small block V-8's starting in 1955. At first the displacement came in at 265. By 1957 Chevrolet bored it out to 283 cubic inches. Popular cars like the Tri-Five Chevrolet Bel Air from 1955 through 1957 carried these Turbo Fire engines as a step up from the standard equipment six cylinders.

This trend of the engine, increasing in size continued until it reached a 4 inch bore in 1962. The 5.4L 327 in.³ motor produced only 210 HP with the standard two barrel carburetor. However, when loaded up with the goodies available at the time, the engines could produce as much as 375 HP.

With that said, the most common configuration includes a single four barrel carburetor with an output of 350 HP. You can see an example of this engine pictured above. The end of the line of the 327 came in 1969. Chevrolet kept the 4 inch bore, but increased the stroke to yield a total displacement of 350 cubic inches. This is further explained below.

What is the Best Engine for Your Classic

When it comes to making a car faster there are two things you can do. One is to remove weight from the vehicle. The Pontiac division of General Motors built some light weight Catalina models rigged for drag racing. Ford did the same thing with their Galaxie 500 sleeper car. The second thing you can do is increase horsepower to overcome the weight of the vehicle.

The 327 Turbo Fire V-8 weighs a couple hundred pounds less than larger engines producing the same horsepower. This is automatically a step in the right direction. The interesting thing about the 327 version of Chevrolet's legendary small block V-8 is it has the shortest stroke. This is the total distance the piston travels from top to bottom.

The shorter the stroke the faster the car can gather RPMs. The downside of this is the shorter stroke develops less foot-pounds of torque. Therefore, the 327 seems best suited for small cars like the Corvette or the first generation of the Chevrolet Nova Super Sport. When GM replaced the 327 with the 350, they increased the stroke. Now the engine with the same 4 inch bore would provide more torque. This made the 350 better suited for vehicles across the entire Chevrolet line up including trucks.