It's hard to believe that we built our "Shoestring Stroker" 383 cubic-inch engine that's in Project Homewrecker almost six years ago (2007!). But in the performance engine world, having a drama-free engine for that long is always a good thing. Back when the Shoestring Stroker went together, we built it to show what a real enthusiast could put together on a really tight budget. From oil pan to carb, our 383 was built for less than $3,500 and made roughly 285-rwhp to the tires in our '72 Corvette Stingray project car (426 on the engine dyno). That included a set of budget aftermarket 190cc aluminum cylinder heads and a decent camshaft, and we were happy with the numbers—in both dollars and output—not the mention reliability. Of course, here in the year 2013, 285-rwhp just isn't what it used to be.
So, the question was, given more money and several more years for research and development, what could the Shoestring 383 make with just a cylinder head and camshaft upgrade? As we started searching, we began to have high hopes, but knew that outperforming already good stuff would be hard to do. So, we teamed up with the crews at Crane Cams and Air Flow Research, to see what they could bring to the table.
Super Chevy contributor Dan "Nova Man" Foley picked a new hydraulic roller stick out of the Crane catalog that would behave really well on the street (with plenty of vacuum), while picking up horsepower and torque, especially under the curve. What he came up with was part number 119581, with 238/242 degrees of duration at .050-inches, .558/.558-inches of lift, and 110-degree lobe separation angle.
Of course, we also decided it was time to upgrade to a set of Crane's hydraulic roller lifters, which would ride on the new camshaft and free up a couple extra horsepower while being gentle on our valvetrain. Along with the stick and the lifters, we also had Crane send us a set of its Gold Race 1.5:1 ratio rockers, and a set of 7.046-inch hardened .080 wall one-pice pushrods.
Air Flow Research was tasked with supplying our cylinder heads and they had their work cut out for them, going up against a set of as-cast 190cc aftermarket units. Of course, AFR is never one to shy away from a head-to-head challenge, and it sent us a set of 195cc SBC Eliminator Street cylinder heads (P/N 1040; $1,564.00), which feature 3/32-inch raised exhaust ports, 23-degree valve angles, and 65cc combustion chambers. Fully CNC-ported on all of the intake and exhaust ports, along with the combustion chambers, the AFR 195cc street heads flow 280cfm at .550-inches of lift, and have an ideal operating range of 2,000-6,500rpm, which is perfect for our camshaft, intake manifold, and engine setup. Of course, they bolt right up to almost any SBC, and ship complete with everything you need for an easy swap.
With everything in our greasy little hands, the only thing left to do was bring in the big gun from Seffner, Florida's AntiVenom Performance, owner Greg Lovell, to get everything installed. We'll tell you now, this is a lengthy installation for a novice, but with a professional like Greg, it went smooth as silk. And the results, well, let's just say they were definitely worthwhile.
1 Our "Shoestring Stroker" 383 has been up and running for the better part of six years, and has been a great low-buck mill. But, what's good can always be better, and we were hoping that a new set of Air Flow Research cylinder heads and a hydraulic roller camshaft from Crane would improve performance and give the ol' 383 a new lease on life.
2 Baseline testing revealed that our budget 383 was putting down 285.41-rwhp and 335.08 lb-ft of torque using a pair of $800 as-cast 190cc cylinder heads and a flat-tappet hydraulic camshaft, which featured 234/244 degrees of duration, .488/.510 inches of lift, and a 110-degree LSA. Not bad, but not enough for our heavy right foot!
3 We chose to first install the new hydraulic roller camshaft kit from Crane, which included a set of 16 roller lifters, new pushrods, and a set of 1.5:1 ratio rocker arms (same ratio as before). This way we could see what the gains were from just the cam and just the heads. It was a lot of extra work, but how else could we show the real gains? Greg Lovell, the owner of AntiVenom Performance, dug into Homewrecker right away, pulling the front accessory drive off after draining the coolant and oil.
4 On many of Chevy's finest, you'll find that the radiator must be removed in order to make room to slide the camshaft out of the way. Greg had no issue pulling our Flex-a-lite aluminum radiator out of the way to give himself more than enough forward space.
5 Up top, Greg unbolted the valve covers, along with the Holley carburetor, and finally the factory distributor and Weiand Stealth intake manifold. With access to the valley, it was time to pull the rocker arms and pushrods, before pulling our flat-tappet hydraulic lifters out of the block.
6 Back up at the front of the motor, Greg removed the water pump and balancer, which gave him access to the front timing cover. On our small block Corvette, it was easy to drop the oil pan (just a little) to free up room to work. With everything out of the way, Greg pulled the front timing cover and began removing the old timing set.
7 Finally, it was time to pull the old camshaft, which had been commanding the valvetrain in Homewrecker for the last several years. The old bumpstick was decent, but our new hydraulic roller from Crane Cams was cut to be a little more aggressive, while giving us all of the modern advantages of a hydraulic roller cam.
8 Crane sent us everything we needed for the conversion, including a new small base circle camshaft, an adjustable double roller timing chain, a set of hydraulic roller lifters, hardened 7.046-inch .080-inch wall pushrods, 1.5:1 ratio roller rockers, and the correct distributor gear and fuel pump pushrod for our 383.
9 The new camshaft features 238/242 degrees of duration at .050-inches, and .558-inches of lift on both the intake and exhaust (P/N 119581; $490.00). Cut on a 110 LSA, the Crane Cams' unit features 4 more degrees of duration on the intake lobes, and +.070/+.048 inches of lift, which should help create more power up top, with much bigger gains through the mid section of the powerband.
10 Installing the new Crane timing set was a simple job for Greg, and only required a little effort to slide in place. We chose to install the lower timing gear (which is adjustable in 2-degree increments) at 0-degrees—or straight up—for our initial testing.
11a The double roller chain bolts onto the new camshaft, but make sure you install both the camshaft thrust plate and the new front roller button. These two pieces ensure that the camshaft is centered properly in the block and won't shift forwards (towards the timing cover) once everything is installed.
11b The double roller chain bolts onto the new camshaft, but make sure you install both the camshaft thrust plate and the new front roller button. These two pieces ensure that the camshaft is centered properly in the block and won't shift forwards (towards the timing cover) once everything is installed.
12 The Crane hydraulic roller vertical alignment bar lifters slide in next (lubricate them prior to dropping them in place), followed by the 7.046-inch pushrods. Crane Cams has certainly done its homework with this combination, as everything fit perfectly every step of the way.
13 Installing the new Gold Race billet aluminum CNC-machined roller rockers is a simple job, as they just slide over the rocker arm studs in the cylinder heads and bolt down in place. Of course, you will need to properly set lash/preload, as Greg did, but that's also easy with the provided adjustable locking nuts.