Max Freeman led the Northstar engine team back in 1988 and oversaw the work on the new 3.5-liter V-6 when development began more than three years ago. His official title is assistant chief engineer of GM Powertrain's Premium V department. He was interviewed by Staff Reporter Aaron Robinson.
Why not use all the available engine technology out there?
Variable cam timing was considered, and it can help increase low-end torque. The approach we took was to increase the stroke of the engine at a much lower cost. It gave us more torque than we could have gotten with a short-stroke engine and cam phaser (variable valve timing). The customer will feel the low-end torque and get the better fuel economy out of the stroke increase more so than they would have out of the cam phaser. Do you just put everything into the engine, or just put the items in that give you the best overall value?
How did the reorganization of GM Powertrain last year affect the work on this engine?
The Northstar and V-6 were really prototypes of the new organization. We set up a special team off-site to do the conceptual work on the engine, bringing in the best block engineer, the best rod engineer, the best valvetrain guy, and having them work together with the group that had been doing the Northstar V-8. Once it was designed and in its development stage, it was transferred to the product team here that put it into production.
This engine started life as an Oldsmobile exclusive. Is that still the case?
Possibly. If you put together a good engine, customers will come. We got most of our direction and input and customer requirements from Oldsmobile. Although I'm sure there will be other interested parties later on, initially it's Oldsmobile exclusive for the first application.