The 8.1-Liter Big Block Chevy Corvette C8 Lives

With direct injection and variable valve timing, this is no ordinary big block. But then, Larry Hofer is no ordinary mechanic.   
A white Chevy Corvette C8 with its engine cover and rear bumper removed as its 8.1-liter Big Block engine is started for a test.

Greg Quirin via YouTube

While hot-rod traditionalists continue lamenting the Corvette’s switch to a mid-engine layout, others are tuning ’em up. There was never any doubt that the aftermarket would develop loads of bolt-on parts, but I’m not sure anyone saw this coming. It’s a C8 Chevy Corvette with a direct-injected, 8.1-liter big-block running variable valve timing, all thought up by Larry Hofer—a General Motors performance guru who literally wrote a book on the engine. Now, the project is alive and running.

The build process is being documented on YouTube by Greg Quirin, the same guy who filmed and interviewed those madcap engineers with the homemade V12 in a land-speed car. Quirin makes it a point to show Hofer’s efforts in a realistic, chronological way; no quick cuts or editing tricks. Instead, it’s presented in all honesty as a two-year project (and counting) that’s taken so much know-how to get to this stage.

In case you didn’t know, the 8.1-liter big-block was a truck engine that never had direct injection or variable valve timing from the factory. That’s a huge part of Hofer’s project here that cannot be overlooked. Getting the V8 to run in its new form was an engineering feat in itself, and it’s only made better by the car it’s going into. Whereas the stock power plant made 325 horsepower, this one makes 525—a full 200-hp improvement—thanks to the new heads, intake, and camshaft.

You can learn all about it here:

Hofer clearly knows what he’s doing with this big block. If he didn’t, he never would have gotten this far, and he definitely would not have gotten the engine talking with the C8 Corvette’s computers long enough for the lump to fire up behind the driver.

That’s the latest update as the 8.1-liter is finally installed and running. It’s still throwing some codes, including one for a crankshaft position sensor fault, but Hofer theorizes that could go away with a simple timing adjustment. Either way, it’s wild to see the late-model Corvette’s sensors and digital dash communicating with the V8 that was discontinued in pickups 17 years ago.

I’ve pre-loaded the video to begin as they attempt its first startup. You can drag the slider back to the beginning if you want to watch the whole thing:

There’s still work to do—the Corvette isn’t moving under its own power quite yet. That will come in time, though, as Hofer continues refining his world-first setup. I’m eager to see how it goes, and I don’t care that it’s only a little more powerful than a standard 490-hp Stingray. It’s not always about sheer performance. Ask just about anyone what’s cooler: a Stingray with an upgraded exhaust and intake or a Stingray with a big block? The answer will be the same every time.

Keep it up, Mr. Hofer.

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