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383 Chevy Short Block - Torqbot

The Rebuilt Mouse That Thinks It's A Rat

Mike Petralia Jun 1, 2004
Sucp_0406_01_z 383_chevy_short_block Engine 2/12

It seems we're obsessed with horsepower. It dominates our conversations and keeps us up long hours into the night. Why do we ignore torque? It's torque that gets our cars moving. It's torque that smacks you into the seat when you mash the pedal. So why have we forgotten about torque? It probably goes way back to the early days of car magazines. Throughout history, we've been trained to think about horsepower. It's all anyone ever talks about, so it must be all that's important, right? Wrong. \

Truth be known, engines don't make horsepower, they make torque and then horsepower is calculated from torque. Why are we bringing this up? Because this engine makes a ton of torque and it's not too shabby in the power department, either. It's nice too, because it's a real street motor that idles smooth and won't cost more than your next car to build. We've named it the Torqbot, because it autonomously cranks out torque like there was no letting go.

Building The 'Bot
We've heard lots of good things about the Edelbrock E-Tec heads, but all we'd seen tested so far had been the E-Tec 200s with the large runners. When we saw the kind of power Edelbrock made with their own Crate 383s and the 170 heads ("Roaring Twins," SUPER CHEVY October 2003) we decided to try our hand at it. The car this engine is intended to power will be a heavy daily driver with A/C. This motor was the perfect choice.

To keep costs reasonable, we went with a stock (read: cast) short-block assembly from Powerhouse Engine Components. The kit included all the bottom-end pieces we'd need for very little cash. All we had to so was come up with a two-bolt 350 block, which are about as plentiful as sunshine in California, and we could have the guys at Speed-O-Motive set the whole thing up for us.

The top end received a little more attention to detail, but we still didn't go overboard on the budget. The two expensive parts we choose to run were the Isky hydraulic roller cam (265/272 adv. dur, 217/225 at .050, .485/.505 lift, 112 LSA) and the aluminum Edelbrock E-Tec heads. But we felt that the performance of these parts far outweighed their higher prices. Other than that, the rest of the motor is bare bones simple, with a flare for power. The Performance Distributors HEI distributor and Live Wires ignition wires had no trouble firing this little beast.

Edelbrock supplied its Performer RPM Air Gap intake manifold and new Thunder Series AVS 650 carburetor. But for fun and games, we also tried a few of Edelbrock's other carbs, including an 800-cfm AVS and even a 750-cfm Edelbrock Q-jet just to see which one worked best. To finish everything off, we borrowed a set of 1 3/4-inch headers from Speed-O-Motive and hooked up an Edelbrock aluminum water pump to keep things cool.

Testing The 'Bot
After it was built, the dyno staff at Speed-O-Motive bolted the 'Bot onto their DTS engine dyno for a full day's flogging. It turned out that it didn't take a whole day to see that this thing was like a gorilla. Basically, everything worked great right out of the box. We set the HEI at 36 degrees total advance and made sure fuel flow was at a steady 6 psi. The dyno pulls we made with each carb showed promising results across the board. Although peak power figures were slightly lower than what Edelbrock's 383 made, our engine was almost 30 ci smaller, so we knew we had a winner here.

Sucp_0406_15_z 383_chevy_short_block Headers 12/12

The same set of 1 3/4-inch headers were used in all tests. 1 5/8-inch headers may have made a little more torque, but we didn't have a set to try out.

Torqbot Parts List
Short block parts from Powerhouse
*Crank PN 661-861-0125
*Pistons PN H345NCP .040
*Rings Speed Pro E251K
*King Bearings, Mains MB 557AM, Rods 807AM
*Pioneer Balancer & Flexplate
*Federal Mogul gasket set PN *260-100
Approx price $500

Valve train
*Isky Hyd Roller cam PN 201265/272
*HR lifters PN 2020
*Pushrods PN 203-96
*Timing set PN 300TS

Edelbrock Equipment
*Cylinder Heads-E-Tec 170 PN 60979
*Intake-Perf RPM Air Gap PN 7516
*Carb-AVS PN 1806
*Valve Covers PN 4153
*Water Pump PN 8811

* Ignition-Performance Distributors HEI w/ Live Wires
* Oil system-Moroso

*Machine Work & Assembly Speed-O-Motive


Performance Distributors
Memphis, TN 38132
Moroso Performance Products
Guilford, CT 06437
West Covina, CA 91790
Lunati LLC
Olive Branch, MS



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