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Best Engine: 4-Cylinder, 6-Cylinder, or V-8?

Four Wheeler readers sound off on which is best.

Dodge V-8, Cummins Diesel, and Chevy 292ci

I'm old enough to know how to spell "carburetor," and in my youth I pumped gasoline at 9.9 cents per gallon!

I had a Chevy with a 292ci inline. Also had an Austin-Healey 3000 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, both with inline 6-cylinder engines. Had a Porsche 911 with an "opposed" 6-cylinder (does that count?). Also had a Mazda RX3 (rotary) that would leave a Corvette in its dust! Nasty little two-rotor engine!

Now I have two Dodge trucks with inline 6-cylinder Cummins diesel engines: '00 with a 6-speed manual and '05 "flatbed" with an Allison 6-speed auto conversion.

The only truck I have with an 8-cylinder engine is an '84 Dodge W350 1-ton crew cab. The engine is a tried and true 360 V-8 with a non-synchro granny first gear and 60,000 original miles. You'll love the color!

Did I read recently that GM was working on a 6-cylinder "inline" diesel and Mercedes has an inline-6 gasser?

I certainly don't have any problems with a 6- or 4-cylinder engine in anything as long as it's designed properly to do the task at hand. Seems like Cummins is having really good success with their 4BT and R2.8 crate 4-cylinder diesel conversions. Reliability is the key!
Dave Mitchell
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300ci Engine

I had a few 300ci 6-cylinder trucks back in the 1980s, and I will say that is one of the best engines I have ever owned. Man, what a torque monster. My '16 Ford F-150 work truck with the EcoBoost is no slouch, either, but the 300 has a special place in my heart.
David Kohl
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Jeep V-8 and Venerable Six

Saw your editorial on all the dust-up over 4- and 6-cylinder versus V-8s. Have had both, and currently have an '04 Jeep TJ with the 4.0L and that is one stout engine. Had a '72 Jeep CJ-5 with the 304 V-8, and it was also a stout engine. My favorite, as you pointed out, was the Ford I-6 300-cube found in zillions of pickups. I had a '68 Ford F-100 with a 300 and three on the tree. Sold it, but it had over 200,000 miles and the 300 had never been touched. Says an awful lot about the venerable six. Thanks for being its champion.
Jerry Cronk
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Ford Bronco Straight-6

The straight-6 in my Ford Bronco has about a million actual miles without a rebuild and still runs like new. It has helped me earn driving awards in several states, including one with three digits while loaded with camping gear on the way home from the off-road park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It's essentially stock, despite being on its third chassis now. The original '95 F-150 donor was totaled and in a Louisiana salvage yard when I got tired of rebuilding the Bronco's original one-barrel engine. Shortly after that swap, I rolled the Bronco and changed all the sheetmetal but kept the chassis with the '95 engine. A couple decades later, when that body and frame started coming apart at the seams, I moved most of the running gear to the '93 frame and body that I'm still driving daily on-road and off-road. It has pulled 35-foot travel trailers, other Broncos, tractors, stumps, construction equipment, and even a stuck cement truck.
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V-6 and I-4 Engines

Up until 1986, I was driving a high-mileage, early '70s Plymouth Duster. I was just learning about auto repair and DIY maintenance. Unfortunately, I used the wrong tranny fluid and blew the tranny. A week or so after that, I bought my first new vehicle: an '86 Ford F-150. It was silver and had a fullsize bed and bright-red "deluxe" vinyl interior. It also had a manual trans, no power windows, and 55-mph A/C. Out the door, the pickup was $10K.

My father had always owned pickups (mostly Fords), and he drove a medium-size, refrigerated, diesel delivery truck for 50 years. I was always in a truck, so trucks were in my blood. At the time, I lived in the greater New York City metro area and no one—and I mean no one—bought pickup trucks. I went to work in a suit (remember those?!), and all the contractors stared at me. However, I was everyone's best friend come moving day. It reached a point where I would give my keys to my friends with the caveat that we would walk around the truck before and after to make sure there were no surprises. My friends put many miles on that truck without any harm or shenanigans (at least none I could prove).

One memorable trip, I had to go to New York City and pick up a large couch—the person who asked could not drive a stick, so I had to drive my pickup. We were someplace by Canal Street, and the street was impossibly narrow—food delivery trucks and parked cars. We had no A/C and everyone in the cab (three of us) was hot and sweaty, and what made things extra special was the city had August air—folks back east call it hot, hazy, and humid. I call it smog. We finally turned down one street and had to pull the retractable windows to the cab and sort of creep on the curb to get around a rather large box truck. With some sweaty palms and a few close calls, we were able to pick up the couch and return back to New Jersey. Mission accomplished.

Like your father-in-law's truck (Firing Order, Oct. '19), mine had the I-6 in it. That engine would not die and did everything I asked it to do, including hauling a lot of flagstone from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. That truck never let me down. With many, many miles on it, I sold it to a painter, and he kept the truck for another 5 or 6 years. I periodically saw it around town, and each time I saw it, it gained new colors.

Do I believe trucks can have something besides a V-8? Absolutely. The V-6s and I-4s of today are as powerful as the V-8s in the 1990s and have a whole lot better mileage. In 2017, I sold my 1-ton for a diesel Chevy Colorado. (Had the Ford F-150 diesel option been available, I would have purchased it.)

OK, yeah, I can't pull a train anymore and have to occasionally borrow my friend's heavy-duty truck, but with my 4-cylinder diesel pickup, I can realistically tow 3,500-4,500 pounds and when not loaded get 27 to 29 mpg. Long live the V-8—but kudos to the V-6s and I-4s. They are tough, powerful little engines.
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