Builders of small-block Chevy engines are the luckiest in the automotive kingdom. No other engine type-regardless of manufacturer or country of origin-has access to such a wide choice of high-performance parts to suit every budget. It makes you wonder why guys bother messing with other makes. With millions and millions built since 1955, small-block hop-up goodies sell in such vast quantities that the manufacturers can slash retail prices to the bone and still make a worthwhile profit by sheer volume.
Now throw in the growing use of CNC machinery, which drastically cuts manufacturing costs and eliminates most human error for improved quality. These facts have made the small-block Chevy the engine of choice for first-timers and seasoned pros alike. You just can't beat the small-block for performance delivered per dollar spent, and the picture just keeps getting brighter.
In Part One of this series (Sep. '07), we took full advantage of this fact by splurging on a Powerhouse 383 stroker crank and reciprocating assembly. We did the math, and we would have spent more reconditioning the stock 350 cast crank, forged rods, and cast pistons than the $879 that Powerhouse charges for its cast crank/billet rod/forged piston 383 kit. And get this-the kit comes complete with rings and bearings and is prebalanced with a brand-new damper and flexplate. What's next, a cherry on top?
In Part Two (Oct.), a similar economic situation evolved when we had JMS Racing Engines refurbish and upgrade the truck-based cast-iron cylinder heads that our subject motor came with. For $908.60 ($224.60 parts, $684 labor and machine work) the heads got bigger 1.94 intake valves, restored valve seats, some bowl work, screw-in rocker studs, and quality valvesprings and retainers. But is this really the most cost-effective route?
Not when another $386.40 will get you a brand-new set of Super Street 215cc cast-aluminum heads from Patriot Performance. For the total sum of $1,295, these new heads come fully assembled and flow 282/210 cfm at 0.700 lift. Using the generally accepted assumption that doubling the intake flow rating predicts horsepower potential, these heads will support up to 564 hp. See what we mean about the small-block's stranglehold on inexpensive performance? It's gotten to the point that refurbishing most stock parts for high-performance use has become a losing proposition, hence a false economy.
For this, the third installment of the "Build Your First Engine" series, we return to JMS Racing Engines, where Jeff Johnson shows us some assembly tricks and tips. For now, we'll assemble it with 74cc cast-iron heads and a dual-plane intake manifold and tease you with a look at the new Patriot Super Street heads. Next month, we'll stick it on the dyno and compare our refurbished iron heads to the new alloy offerings and also compare the effect of single-plane and dual-plane intake manifolds.