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How the Chevrolet Rat Motor Got Its Name

How the Chevrolet Rat Motor Got Its Name

To a sizzling rodder or racer, a rat motor is a Chevrolet large block V-8. Effective and superbly engineered, how did this properly-respected motor appear by the nick-identify “rat?”

From James Cagney’s famed line “…that dirty, double-crossin’ rat” to the a lot-maligned rat finks of the fifties, calling someone or a thing a rat is the supreme insult. When something is previous, made use of up and slipping aside, it is “ratty.”

So it is fairly astonishing that the huge Chevy has earned the monicker of rat.

In the early 1960s, very long prior to the introduction of the initial rat motor, a David and Goliath confrontation was using place on the nation’s dragstrips. The Chrysler Hemi experienced come to be the dominate power in the Leading Fuel and Top Fuel types, slowly replacing the Cadillac, Lincoln and Oldsmobile engines that beforehand managed these categories.

When the Chrysler Hemi developed gobs of ability, it was also bodily greater and heavier than other V-8s. The big motor rapidly acquired the soubriquet of Elephant motor due to its sizing. An elephant motor with a GMC supercharger appeared huge when put in in the regular tube frame sling-shot dragster chassis.

Whilst the huge elephants turned the de-facto regular in Top Fuel, there was a further engine that could maintain its very own in opposition to the Hemi. A lot of groups took a unique approach, picking the legendary little-block Chevy to electricity their dragsters. As usually as not, they didn’t trouble with a supercharger, preferring a straightforward set of injectors.

On paper it was an unequal contest. The blown hemi was much a lot more impressive than the minuscule Chevy, and it seemed that the Chevy didn’t have prayer versus the Chrysler in a quarter-mile race.

Having said that, the tire technology of the working day was in favor of the Chevy rails.

Although the big elephant motors designed a large amount of horsepower, the tires of the working day were unequal to the activity of offering that power to the keep track of. A great deal of that power went up in smoke, as the large Chrysler rails burned the tires pretty much the full length of the dragstip.

The very little Chevies could burn their tires as very well, but their decrease electric power allowed the tires to hook up and achieve traction even though the massive hemis ended up however spinning their wheels. The mix a lot less wheelspin, lighter total pounds and bigger RPMs permitted the very little Chevy driven cars and trucks to give the elephant motor automobiles a operate for their cash.

Though the hemi teams were not essentially fearful of the minor Chevy dragsters, the modest blocks tended to make them additional than a very little anxious. There was no shame to drop to a blown hemi equipment, but it was positively embarrassing to free to an injected Chevy.

Anyone remembered the fable that the only creatures elephants are scared of are mice, and started out referring to the small Chevy as the mouse motor. Consequently the elephant and mouse motors vied for racing honors on dragstrips all through the place.

The mouse-motor’s function as elephant-killer not previous prolonged. Tire and clutch technology continued to strengthen, and the huge elephants were being at some point in a position to produce more ability to the monitor. By the early sixties, the mouse motor could no lengthier plague the big Chryslers in the Major Eliminator ranks. The tiny block Chevy was still massively well-known in the altered, gas coupe and modified lessons. While it rarely ran towards the big elephant motors any longer, the engine was continue to acknowledged as the mouse motor.

During that period, Chevrolet and Basic Motors were being next a strict non-racing coverage. It is very well recognised that some GM by-passed the official stance by supplying elements and complex support to racers with no management’s knowledge.

Legend has it that throughout the early sixties, specific Chevy racers confirmed up at numerous race tracks with a unusual new engine beneath the hood. It wasn’t a mouse motor, and it wasn’t the big 409 V-8 that the Beach front Boys immortalized in song. It was a mysterious, all new Chevy V-8.

The secret only lasted a shorter whilst, as Chevrolet declared a new huge block V8 in 1965. Offered very first as a 396 cubic inch version, the motor finally advanced to displacements of 402, 427, 454 CI. GM even made available a monster 572 CI version of the motor.

Soon after the motor was released, lots of people today even now ongoing to refer to it as the mystery engine. When the valve covers ended up eradicated, incredibly hot rodders begun contacting it the porcupine V8, mainly because compared with the mouse motor which had the valve stems lined up in a neat row, the valves in the new engine were being canted at several angles.

Other racers mentioned that despite the fact that the motor was not a genuine hemisperical style, it was not accurately a wedge head, either. Hence the engine acquired a different identify: the semi-hemi.

Appear by means of pics of Chevrolet race vehicles from the era, and you obtain several examples of autos with the phrases Mystery Motor or Semi Hemi painted on the hood.

For most rodders and racers, however, there was only one particular legitimate moniker for the new engine. If the smaller Chevy V-8 was a mouse motor, it really is even bigger, more impressive, fiercer sibling could only be a RAT motor.

The name has stuck. Right now only aged college hot rodders and nostalgia buffs even now use the conditions mouse and elephant motor. The title rat motor, having said that, is however commonly utilised to explain the major block Chevy V8. Much from staying a derogatory term, the expression rat motor is preferred with Chevy followers and is utilized as a title of respect by those who establish and race other makes.

And that is how the Chevy V-8 became identified as a rat motor.