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. Powerful and superbly engineered, how did this nicely-respected motor occur by the nick-name “rat?”

From James Cagney’s renowned line “…that soiled, double-crossin’ rat” to the much-maligned rat finks of the fifties, calling anyone or some thing a rat is the supreme insult. When something is previous, employed up and falling apart, it is “ratty.”

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

In the early 1960s, extensive in advance of the introduction of the initial rat motor, a David and Goliath confrontation was having location on the nation’s dragstrips. The Chrysler Hemi experienced become the dominate pressure in the Major Gasoline and Leading Fuel types, little by little changing the Cadillac, Lincoln and Oldsmobile engines that beforehand managed these classes.

When the Chrysler Hemi generated gobs of ability, it was also bodily bigger and heavier than other V-8s. The substantial motor immediately attained the soubriquet of Elephant motor owing to its dimension. An elephant motor with a GMC supercharger looked enormous when set up in the common tube body sling-shot dragster chassis.

Whilst the significant elephants grew to become the de-facto regular in Best Gas, there was one more motor that could maintain its own in opposition to the Hemi. A lot of groups took a different technique, choosing the famous little-block Chevy to electric power their dragsters. As typically as not, they didn’t trouble with a supercharger, preferring a straightforward established of injectors.

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

On the other hand, the tire know-how of the day was in favor of the Chevy rails.

Whilst the huge elephant motors developed a enormous sum of horsepower, the tires of the working day had been unequal to the undertaking of offering that energy to the track. A lot of that ability went up in smoke, as the large Chrysler rails burned the tires pretty much the entire duration of the dragstip.

The very little Chevies could burn off their tires as nicely, but their decrease ability authorized the tires to hook up and get traction though the huge hemis were being nevertheless spinning their wheels. The mix considerably less wheelspin, lighter over-all fat and bigger RPMs permitted the minor Chevy run vehicles to give the elephant motor autos a operate for their revenue.

Though the hemi groups were not essentially fearful of the tiny Chevy dragsters, the tiny blocks tended to make them extra than a minor anxious. There was no disgrace to drop to a blown hemi equipment, but it was positively uncomfortable 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 tiny Chevy as the mouse motor. Hence the elephant and mouse motors vied for racing honors on dragstrips throughout the place.

The mouse-motor’s job as elephant-killer not final very long. Tire and clutch engineering continued to enhance, and the major elephants were eventually ready to provide far more electricity to the monitor. By the early sixties, the mouse motor could no longer plague the major Chryslers in the Prime Eliminator ranks. The little block Chevy was nonetheless massively well-liked in the altered, fuel coupe and modified lessons. Though it rarely ran from the large elephant motors any lengthier, the motor was continue to regarded as the mouse motor.

In the course of that period of time, Chevrolet and Typical Motors had been following a rigorous non-racing plan. It is very well recognised that some GM by-passed the formal stance by supplying pieces and specialized enable to racers with no management’s know-how.

Legend has it that all through the early sixties, certain Chevy racers confirmed up at numerous race tracks with a odd new engine less than the hood. It was not a mouse motor, and it was not the massive 409 V-8 that the Beach front Boys immortalized in track. It was a mysterious, all new Chevy V-8.

The thriller only lasted a quick whilst, as Chevrolet announced a new major block V8 in 1965. Out there initially as a 396 cubic inch variation, the motor eventually advanced to displacements of 402, 427, 454 CI. GM even made available a monster 572 CI variation of the engine.

Right after the engine was introduced, many people today nonetheless continued to refer to it as the mystery motor. When the valve handles ended up taken off, very hot rodders began calling it the porcupine V8, for the reason that in contrast to the mouse motor which experienced the valve stems lined up in a neat row, the valves in the new engine ended up canted at numerous angles.

Other racers observed that though the motor was not a genuine hemisperical style and design, it wasn’t exactly a wedge head, possibly. Hence the motor gained a different title: the semi-hemi.

Search by way of photographs of Chevrolet race cars and trucks from the era, and you locate quite a few examples of cars and trucks with the phrases Thriller Motor or Semi Hemi painted on the hood.

For most rodders and racers, however, there was only a single respectable moniker for the new engine. If the tiny Chevy V-8 was a mouse motor, it really is larger, additional powerful, fiercer sibling could only be a RAT motor.

The identify has trapped. Today only previous college warm rodders and nostalgia buffs nonetheless use the terms mouse and elephant motor. The name rat motor, nonetheless, is nonetheless greatly applied to explain the major block Chevy V8. Much from staying a derogatory time period, the expression rat motor is popular with Chevy followers and is used as a title of respect by those who establish and race other brands.

And that is how the Chevy V-8 grew to become identified as a rat motor.