If you read a lot of magazines and listen to enough bench racing, you start to think that everyone has 540-inch big-blocks or twin-turbo LS engines under their hoods. Why? Because big horsepower is just sexy, even if it costs a small fortune and is nearly useless on the street. Regardless of what you may read in print, or on the internet, most gearheads just want enough “Oomph” to get their rides moving in quick fashion, and they want to do it on a working stiff’s budget. Walk though any car show or cruise night and you’ll see a dozen run-of-the-mill small-blocks for every exotic engine stuffed between a set of fenders. It’s reality versus perception, and in this case reality wins.
Even if your typical 350 horsepower small-block won’t “Wow” the fairground crowds, the truth is that it makes plenty of power for your typical Camaro. After all, it’s more than the fourth-gen LS1-powered Camaros were putting out, and nobody was complaining that they were “dogs.” And while the world of small-blocks is mostly comprised of the venerable 350-cubed V8, there’s also quite a few 327-inch varieties lurking out there. They too can easily be worked over to put out respectable power levels.
First introduced in ’62, the 327 small-block was only produced for eight years, but it did manage to find its way under the hood of quite a few Camaros. Its efficient design combines a four-inch bore and a short, 3.25-inch, stroke that yields a nearly optimum 1.75:1 rod/stroke ratio. The upside to this is that the 327 has an excellent horsepower-per-cubic-inch potential. For decades the L84 fuel-injected 375-horsepower variant was king of the hill compared to other naturally aspirated, single-cam, production small-blocks. The power ranged, in stock trim, from 250 hp all the up to the aforementioned 375 hp mill. But, most of the ones found in Camaros ranged from 210 to 275 horsepower.
Finding a good core isn’t easy, but if you already have one under your hood, then it might be better to juice it up a bit rather than spend a lot more for another engine. We decided to try out Trick Flow’s top-end kit (TFS-K314-350-400, $1,679.95) from Summit. Included in the kit are aluminum 23-degree heads, a hydraulic flat tappet cam, aluminum roller rockers, chromemoly pushrods, a billet timing set, and every gasket needed from the oil pan to the intake. It even includes high-end ARP head bolts. n
At only $20 for a new Melling oil pump it just didn’t make sense to re-use the old one. To insure against any problems down the road, we were sure to tack-weld the pickup tube in place.
Included in the kit from Trick Flow is this hydraulic flat tappet camshaft (PN TFS-31478500). It specs out at 210/216 duration with lift of .440/.445 and a LSA of 110. This puts it on the mild side of the scale and is perfect if you want performance just a bit more than stock and a silky smooth idle. The key to any flat-tappet build is to use tons of assembly lube.
Also in the kit was this new Trick Flow billet timing set (PN TFS-31478500). This USA-made part features a billet steel cam sprocket, heat-treated and coated crank sprocket, and three keyways with +4/-4-degree adjustments. We set ours at zero.
Key to us squeezing out more performance from our 327 are these heads from Trick Flow (PN TFS-3400001). The 62cc Super 23 street/strip aluminum heads flow a ton more air than even a good set of L98 stock GM heads and best of all they are a direct fit onto our short block. They come complete and fully assembled with 2.020- and 1.600-inch stainless valves, hardened exhaust seats and 195cc intake ports. They are even 50-state emissions legal (CARB Numer D-369-4) even though it’s doubtful that will matter with a 327 build.
With the provided Fel-Pro gaskets in place we went about installing the new Trick Flow heads. To keep costs—and compression—down, we didn’t deck the old 327 block. It was in great shape, and the 9.3:1 compression ratio will run great even on 87-octane gas. With gas prices where they are, it’ll be nice to get away with using the cheap stuff.
Sometimes it’s easier to buy new than try to use, or find, stock bolts. In this case we used new ARP head bolts (PN 136-3601). These were included in the kit, but even if you had to buy them they’re worth every penny. At around $62 these black-oxide-coated chromemoly fasteners will be failure free.
We then slid the Trick Flow hydraulic lifters (PN TFS-21400001) into place. Again, we were sure to use lots of assembly lube. Don’t be frugal with this stuff; after all, it’s way cheaper than replacing a flat cam.
Next we installed the included guides and rocker studs. To ensure that everything stays put we dabbed a bit of red LocTight on the stud threads.
One of the nicer aspects of this kit is that it includes these full-roller aluminum rockers (PN TFS-31400510). With a ratio of 1.5 and included polylocks they will ensure accurate valve timing, and the roller design should free up a few extra ponies. The hardened Trick Flow pushrods (PN TFS-21407850) in the kit came in at 7.85 x .080-inch. Normally when we do a build with mixed and matched parts, we measure to get the right pushrod length then wait for the UPS guy to deliver them before completing the engine. Since this is a matched kit they know exactly what length is needed and we get instant gratification.
For our first dyno pulls we wanted to go with a low rise, stock-style, intake (PN 8120, $125.95). This Weiand Action+Plus intake will out-perform the stocker and clear even the lowest hood line. Its dual plane design is good from idle up to around 6,000 rpm and should pair up well with the mild camshaft we started out with. The gasket is a Fel-Pro unit (PN 1205, include in Trick Flow kit).
Topping it all off is this Holley 650 Street HP carb (PN 0-82651, $501.95). The 4150 double-pumper has mechanical secondaries and will easily flow enough fuel and air to feed the worked over 327 small-block.
After adding a swap meet, special HEI distributor and some stamped steel valve covers, our 327 is ready to head off to the dyno. Total cost of what you see here is $2,964.78, counting the rebuild of the short block, the chrome goodies, and all the new parts. Certainly cheaper than buying a whole new crate engine.
This is a hydraulic flat tappet engine, so that means using most off-the-shelf motor oil can spell disaster for the valvetrain due to their lubricating properties, or lack thereof. To fix this inequity we tossed in a bottle of Lucas additive. This will help the oil perform like it did back before the tree-huggers screwed it up.
Time to step it up a bit with a larger Trick Flow cam. The specs on this stick are 228/234, lift of .480/.494 and a 110 LSA, making it quite a bit larger than the one we removed. Trick Flow offers this cam in another top end kit (PN TFS-K314-420-395, $1,819.95). Besides the larger cam, this kit also incorporates more aggressive heads and a few other upgrades, but we just tried out the cam.
Since this is a hydraulic flat tappet, we also had to replace the lifters. In case we ever want to reuse the previous cam, we carefully packaged the old lifters so we can make sure they end up matching up to the same lobe they were broken in on.
To take advantage of the larger camshaft we also swapped out the Action+Plus intake for Weiand’s dual plane Air-Strike version (PN 8501, $202.95). Its high-rise isolated-runner design will help produce a cooler air charge and should make great power from 1,500 up the 6,700 rpm. After running through a break-in cycle the new combination blasted out a best pull of 396 hp at 6,200 and 384 pounds of twist at 4,000 rpm. The bigger cam and freer flowing intake sacrificed a little torque down low for more power up top. Also, while the smaller cam was done at 5,600, the new combo was still going strong well past 6,000 rpm.
Unless you do all your driving under 3,500 rpm the slightly larger camshaft and Air Strike intake is the way to go. Our 327 (technically a 336 due to the .060 bore) put out 1.2 horsepower per a cube and it did it on cheaper 87-octane fuel. Keep in mind that while our 327’s low 9.3:1 compression will let us run lower octane gas we could have picked up around 4-percent more horsepower for every one-point bump in compression.