It's been a little while since GMHTP last built a "traditional" small-block, but it's certainly not because we don't still enjoy small-block Chevy technology. The engine platform is tough, the parts are affordable, and the power and reliability is hard to beat. When Steve Baur, an old GMHTP associate and current office instigator, finally scored a clean '87 Firebird Formula 350, we started dreaming up engine combinations right away, and when his stock TPI 350 rattled its way off the trailer, we knew exactly where to start the engine.
However, we didn't want to tear into the stock 350 right off the bat and leave the shell of the car sitting abandoned somewhere while we bolted a new heart together. Instead, we chose to build an all-new small-block from scratch, using high-performance internals stuffed inside a four-bolt main, one-piece sealed, 350 block that would take a ton of abuse without any issue. It wasn't particularly hard to find one and when we finally dug it out from Greg Lovell's shop, we were impressed. Plucked from a bread truck some 10 years ago, the 350 block was in great shape and had the main caps that every small-block builder was looking for. Of course, we weren't planning on keeping the cubic-inches stock either, but we could have with how good the cylinder walls looked.
If you're starting to think you've read this before, you may remember that we've covered this project already in an earlier issue, where we waxed nostalgic about the good ol' days, showed off Steve's super clean Formula, and introduced the Lunati Sledgehammer 383 cubic-inch rotating assembly that we were planning to use. After a small struggle trying to find a machine shop that wasn't backed up (good luck with that!), we were finally able to drop our 350 off to be cleaned, decked, bored, and put together. This month our focus was on bolting the bottom end together and installing the camshaft. Follow along to watch Greg Lovell kick it old school as he puts together an SBC the way they used to do it.