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We’ve already observed how GM was unique among the Big 3 US automakers in having bespoke V8 engines for each of its five automobile divisions. Contrast this with Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, both of which were sharing V8 engine architectures among their various brands since the 1950s.
Today, division-specific powertrains at GM are a distant memory, and all engines are now simply “GM” engines. So when (and how) exactly did this transformation take place? Note that I’ll be limiting my discussion to V8 engines in this post: Six and four-cylinder engines (which were shared much more freely at GM) will be the topic of a future post.

Even for a company as big as GM, it is expensive to have distinct small- and big-block V8 engine families for each division. It didn’t take the bean counters at GM long to realize that this was not a sustainable situation, especially once GM’s market share began its long slide from its peak of 50% in 1962. Cracks appeared in the facade starting in the 1960s as GM divisions began to swap V8 engines, with the practice entering public consciousness in 1977 with the breaking of the Oldsmobile-Chevrolet engine scandal.
GM learned their lesson after the 1977 scandal, and the lesson was the correct one: The issue wasn’t so much that engine swapping was bad (after all, Ford and Chrysler were already doing it). Rather, the problem was the failure to properly disclose the engine sharing and, and more broadly, the continued use of divisional specific engines and divisional engine branding. After 1977, GM engine swapping rapidly picked up speed, so it wouldn’t be long before some divisions stopped making their own V8 engines altogether and made the switch over to “corporate” powertrains.
When I first hatched the idea for this article, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t answer the question posed by the title, and I’m guessing that many of our readers can’t either. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised: GM didn’t make a lot of noise at the time about the “last Buick engine” or “last Pontiac engine,” and for a good reason: Aside from the 1977 scandal (which was largely manufactured by lawyers and amplified by the media), buyers typically didn’t care. As a result, all of GM’s division-specific V8 engines snuck out in the middle of the night with a nary whimper.
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1961 Buick 215 V8
1961 Buick 215 V8
 

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Cadillac was the only GM division to never share its OHV V8 engines with any other division (although the modern DOHC 32-valve Northstar engine would eventually be shared with Oldsmobile, Buick, and even Pontiac).
I certainly remember Oldsmobile using the Norstar and the Shortstar engines, but I don't recall Buick and Pontiac using the Northstar - anyone remember what Pontiac and Buick's used the Northstar? Or were they referring to the Shortstar V6? Was it the Buick Ranier that used the Shortstar V6?

The comments to the article are interesting too.

So many things GM could've done to shore up their finances as their market share started falling off the peak in the early '60s. Consolidating engines a lot sooner than they did would've been some low dangling fruit.
 

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^ Bonneville GXP & LaCrosse Super used the Northstar V8.

The Divisions should have kept building proprietary V8s - that was not 'low dangling fruit'. And marketshare really didn't start falling considerably until after the move to corporate engines- it was still about 42% in '85.
42% from 50% is a huge decline when you are talking about factory utilization which greatly impacts profitability. I know you really like the '60s - '70s GM era, but no matter how you slice it, that is when the decline started.

One really good, bullet proof V8 family (could have multiple configurations) would've done them wonders vs. a bunch that were similar yet shared little. They could've still made a 5.7 liter for one division and a 5.0 liter for another, etc. and added or taken away different aspects to individualize for each division.
 

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I would say at least the sub 5.7L V8's should have been standardized across the divisions - no need for the Pontiac 265 and 301, Oldsmobile 260 and 307, and Cadillac HT4100. Should have just used the Chevrolet 305 across the board instead. Cadillac should have stuck with the 6.0L V8 and paid the gas guzzler penalties and then just the 3.8L V6 in the FWD versions until the Northstar was developed. Also should have just used the Buick V6 across the board instead of the Chevrolet 3.3 and 3.8, although the 4.3 was necessary for the trucks.
 

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1978 is when GM became "transparent" with component swapping. As stated above, I don't think it really mattered to the average Joe. It was more of a $candal in the eye$ of attornie$.
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^ Bonneville GXP & LaCrosse Super used the Northstar V8.

The Divisions should have kept building proprietary V8s - that was not 'low dangling fruit'. And marketshare really didn't start falling considerably until after the move to corporate engines- it was still about 42% in '85.
Which is about when badge engineering became the go to concept at GM.
 

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Which is about when badge engineering became the go to concept at GM.
I disagree - I think at the point they started using the North/Shortstars they were trying to differentiate the vehicles, at least stylistically both instide and out. It was the 70s-80s when everything between the divisions looked exactly the same except for a different grill.
 

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42% from 50% is a huge decline when you are talking about factory utilization which greatly impacts profitability.
You are conflating market share and production volume. Production was nearly identical from circa 50% market share to the 42% market share... and GM had already closed some plants in-between... so profitability from factory utilization would actually have, potentially, been better.

Market share is merely a percentage- it does not correlate directly with profitability.
 

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You are conflating market share and production volume. Production was nearly identical from circa 50% market share to the 42% market share... and GM had already closed some plants in-between... so profitability from factory utilization would actually have, potentially, been better.

Market share is merely a percentage- it does not correlate directly with profitability.
I stand corrected.

I cannot find a site with historical GM sales volume - best I can find is going back 20 years. Anyone have a site that will show volume by year going back to the 60s?
 

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I can give you a baseline [from My Years With General Motors ~ Alfred P Sloan]
1962
U.S. production : 4,222,823
Canadian production : 268,624
Brazil : 18,977
Holden : 133,325
Opel : 378,878
Vauxhall : 215,974
Grand total : 5,238,601

Take care when researching if numbers are US-only or worldwide.

I can manually tabulate a handful of years of U.S. production if you like (such as '70 and '80).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I would say at least the sub 5.7L V8's should have been standardized across the divisions - no need for the Pontiac 265 and 301, Oldsmobile 260 and 307, and Cadillac HT4100. Should have just used the Chevrolet 305 across the board instead. Cadillac should have stuck with the 6.0L V8 and paid the gas guzzler penalties and then just the 3.8L V6 in the FWD versions until the Northstar was developed. Also should have just used the Buick V6 across the board instead of the Chevrolet 3.3 and 3.8, although the 4.3 was necessary for the trucks.
I recall, taking in a Trade, opening the Hood to see if it was a 305 Chev or a 307 Olds, in like a Parisienne, the Olds Engine was much more sought after than the Soft Cam Chevy, by my Boss and some of the future owners.
 

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I can give you a baseline [from My Years With General Motors ~ Alfred P Sloan]
1962
U.S. production : 4,222,823
Canadian production : 268,624
Brazil : 18,977
Holden : 133,325
Opel : 378,878
Vauxhall : 215,974
Grand total : 5,238,601

Take care when researching if numbers are US-only or worldwide.

I can manually tabulate a handful of years of U.S. production if you like (such as '70 and '80).
It's more of a curiosity thing - if you have the time then yes, I'd love to see a few years you have access to.
 

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^ Bonneville GXP & LaCrosse Super used the Northstar V8.
I think you mean Lucerne. The Grand Prix GXP and LaCrosse Super used the 5.3L OHV V8. I think GM was just trying to make its old G and W body cars competitive with the new RWD Chrysler LX cars with Hemis. How I wish GM had used the Zeta platform by 2005 instead of more updated G and W bodies.
 

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I think you mean Lucerne. The Grand Prix GXP and LaCrosse Super used the 5.3L OHV V8. I think GM was just trying to make its old G and W body cars competitive with the new RWD Chrysler LX cars with Hemis. How I wish GM had used the Zeta platform by 2005 instead of more updated G and W bodies.
The Bonneville GXP had the Northstar Pontiac Bonneville GXP (motortrend.com) as well as the Lucerne. I forgot about both vehicles until 09W reminded me. I forgot both of those had the Northstar - they must've been pretty sweet!

The 5.3 in the GP and LaCrosse must've been pretty nice too - I had an '02 GP GTP with the supercharged 3.8, I never loved the engine. Had loads of power but didn't feel very sporty to me.
 

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1978 is when GM became "transparent" with component swapping. As stated above, I don't think it really mattered to the average Joe. It was more of a $candal in the eye$ of attornie$.
View attachment 68696 View attachment 68697

I disagree with you.

I recall one of my uncles who only bought new Oldsmobile vehicles. During a family gettogether, all of the men were talking about the GM engine / vehicle issues.

My uncle's feeling was that when he bought a new Oldsmobile, at a higher price than a Chevrolet, he expected an Oldsmobile engine in his car - not a cheaper Chevrolet engine.

We can all laugh now and say what should have been done, but then - GM consumers expected to get what they paid for (and resented being "tricked" with the engine sharing).
 

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(from the article) "As previously mentioned, the 1971 Pontiac Ventura was the first non-Chevrolet car to receive a Chevy engine"

Technically that's not correct, Holden were importing and fitting 307, 327 & 350s between 1968 & 1974.
 

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Yup.

The first non-Cadillac Northstar V8 application was the 2004-2005 Pontiac Bonneville GXP.

That continued in the 2006-2011 Buick Lucerne. Early years you could get the Northstar in CXL as an option and CXS was standard. Later years it was ‘Super’ trim only on the Lucerne.

The 5.3L LS4 was used in 2005-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP. The 2008-2009 Buick LaCrosse Super. The 2006-2009 Chevrolet Impala SS as well as the 2006-2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS.

Some had claimed a 2010 Chevrolet Impala SS was made with an LS4 but I don’t remember any literature reflecting it etc.
 

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(from the article) "As previously mentioned, the 1971 Pontiac Ventura was the first non-Chevrolet car to receive a Chevy engine"

Technically that's not correct, Holden were importing and fitting 307, 327 & 350s between 1968 & 1974.
If we're getting technical, Canadian Pontiacs exclusively had Chevy engines from 1955 on (thru circa 1970, if I recall correctly).
 
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