Chrysler 318 History
The Chrysler 318 was introduced in 1967 (for model year 1968) as a mid-sized V8 offering in Chrysler’s LA (Light A) engine series. At the time, Plymouth had already offered a 318 cubic-inch V8 since 1957, and though functionally similar, the A-Series engine is not the same as the LA 318. The LA engine series design was very similar to the A-Series but around 50 pounds lighter.
The Chrysler 318 was manufactured primarily in Detroit, Michigan, at Chrysler’s Mound Road manufacturing facility. Like most brands at the time, the engine was also manufactured at other factories in Mexico and Canada.
The LA-Series engines, which were first introduced in 1964, became the backbone of MOPAR production and gained widespread notability. The 318 wasn’t as powerful as the 340 or the 360, but it was a formidable engine that saw widespread use in cars and trucks.
It’s difficult to draw a direct comparison with other brands, but the small block 318 engine was a reasonable alternative to the Ford 302 and the Chevy 305 in terms of power and application. However, power variations over the years certainly make this comparison arguable.
The Chrysler 5.2L was usually outfitted with a 2-barrel carburetor from the factory. However, some trucks and cars (such as many police models from 1978 onward) came with a stock 4-barrel Thermoquad or Quadrajet carburetor.
Over the years, the basic design of the LA 318 stayed fairly constant. There were a few available modifications (especially during the latter years of production), including available electronic throttle-body fuel injection (TBI) on the 1981-83 Chrysler Imperial.
The 318 used hydraulic lifters from its introduction, which reduced that signature tapping sound associated with older A-Series solid-lifter engines. Initially, the Chrysler 318 V8 was a flat-tappet engine, but it was upgraded to roller lifters beginning in 1985.
The original LA-Series Chrysler 318 engine was discontinued in 1991 and replaced with the heavily-modified Magnum 318.
Though it shared a 318 cubic-inch displacement, the Magnum 5.2L engine was vastly different and had few interchangeable parts. The Chrysler Magnum 318 and the other Magnum engines had numerous upgrades to the original LA-Series, including stock aluminum cylinder heads and multi-point fuel injection.
The Magnum 5.2L V8 was introduced in 1992 and produced until 2003. Like the LA 318, the Magnum 318 was used across multiple Chrysler sub-brands and on both cars and trucks.
Chrysler 318 V8 Engine Specifications
The Chrysler 318 originally came as a flat-tappet 90-degree OHV (overhead valve) V8 engine. The first LA Chrysler 5.2 engines had a compression ratio of 9.2:1, which fell to 8.6:1 during the SMOG years of the 1970s. At introduction, the 318 had 230 horsepower at 4400 RPM and 340 LB-FT of torque at 2,000 RPM.
ENGINECHRYSLER 318 (LA 5.2L) SMALL BLOCKMANUFACTURERCHRYSLERYEARS PRODUCED1967 TO 1991DISPLACEMENT317.5CI (5.2-LITERS)CONFIGURATION90° OHV 2-VALVE V8FUEL TYPEGASOLINECOMPRESSION RATIO9.2:1 (1967)FIRING ORDER1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2BORE3.9062 INCHES (99.2 MM)STROKE3.312 INCHES (84.1 MM)HORSEPOWER (1963)230 HP (171.5kW) (1967)TORQUE340 LB-FT (1967)GAS MILEAGE12-20 MPG (EST)
Horsepower and torque also fell off during the 1970s to 145-155 HP at 4,000 RPM and 260 LB-FT at 1,600 RPM. The LA 318 was designed to use regular gasoline in its common 2-barrel (2BBL) carburetor configuration and its 4-barrel (4BBL) configuration. Fuel-injected models also used regular gasoline.
The engine is a pushrod V8 with a bore of 3.9062 inches and a stroke of 3.312 inches, which is the same as its A-Series predecessor.
Chrysler 318 Applications
The Chrysler 318 was the “standard” V8 offering for many years and represented the upgraded economy-range engine option. Later, the 360 was typically the next level up, though the 340 was also popular in many vehicles.
The 318 was used extensively across the Chrysler coupe and sedan lineup. It was also used in cars by Dodge and Plymouth for decades. Dodge trucks were commonly equipped with the 318 and received a second TBI fuel-injection upgrade during 1988.
Heavier vehicles, such as commercial trucks and RVs, also came with the 318. This engine was used extensively in marine applications and found on everything from ski boats to small trawlers.
This Chrysler 5.2L engine was popular in police cars. After 1978, many police models came equipped with a 4BBL carburetor, though some vehicles (like 1980s Dodge Diplomat police cars) came with a basic 2BBL 318.
Is the Chrysler 318 a HEMI?
No, the 5.2-liter Chrysler 318 is not a HEMI, though HEMI motors were available during the LA-series engine era. The HEMI V8 engines differed from the LA-series in several key ways. Most notably, the HEMI featured a hemispherical combustion chamber (hence the name), whereas the combustion chamber of the 318 (and the other LA-series engines) is shaped like a wedge.
Is the Chrysler 318 a Good Engine?
The Chrysler 318 is an excellent engine that’s known for simplicity and reliability. The 318 is more fuel-efficient than some of the larger LA-series V8 engines, though generally less powerful than the 340 and the 360.
The Chrysler LA 318 was sold for nearly 25 years and installed in millions of cars and trucks. Two decades and tens of millions of miles have proven the longevity of these engines, and the LA platform itself has great aftermarket parts availability.
Chrysler 318 Problems
The Chrysler 318 wasn’t plagued by many generational problems. Typical issues occur with these engines—the majority of which are common across competing platforms like the Ford Windsor series and the small block Chevy.
The most common issues you’ll encounter with the Chrysler LA 318 are vacuum leaks, noisy or stuck lifters, worn-out camshafts, and various ignition and timing issues. Again, these problems are common on all V8 engines from the flat-tappet era.
About THE AUTHOR
I rebuild & restore classic cars and trucks when I'm not researching and writing about all things automotive. My current project is a 1978 Ford.Read more about Joshua Weinstein