Before this story even starts, it's time to lay the cards out on the table for everyone to see. I am not an engine builder, and truth be told, this is my very first small-block build-well partial build, at least. Sure, I've been present during several engine builds and even assisted friends in their garage a time or two, but this one is different. This build is done nearly solo-emphasis on the word "nearly." The expert advice of an auto mechanic neighbor helped chart me through some uncertain waters. Most of the time-consuming work was already knocked out of the way, like the machining and assembly of the crank, pistons, rods etc.
This story had its humble beginnings about four years ago. Back in the year 2001 or 2002, I was a starving college student, working part-time, with a wife and one-and-a-half kids; needless to say, money was tight and nearly nonexistent. On top of that, my daily driver at the time was a '58 Chevy truck. Being in college with a family and a project vehicle just don't mix.
While browsing through the local paper, I saw an ad for a parts house sale on small-block Chevys. Small-block or long-block, the choice was yours. I chose the long-block for about $900. I removed the tired old 283 from the '58 truck and put in all the old 283 stuff, like pulleys, intake, carb, oil pan, etc. onto the new small-block, put the engine back in the truck, and that was it. The budget was gone, and the wife had laid down the law about spending any more money on the truck. So, the project truck was parked and sat motionless for the next few years. The engine had been started once for about a minute, and that's it. Now, here we are, halfway through 2006. It's time to pull that small-block out of the truck and finally build it the way it should have been done over four years ago.
Even now, building within a budget is still a concern, so in order to do this right and curb spending, a budget of $2,500 has been set. Since the engine was purchased over four years ago, we have conveniently discounted the $900 purchase price of the block. To do this right, the first people we went to for help were the folks at Holley, Lunati, and Weiand. Holley is certainly no stranger to the automotive world. If you scroll through the Holley catalog or Web site, they have a kit that perfectly fits our application. The Holley SysteMAX II is the perfect foundation for this rebuild, and the $1,450 price tag is perfect. The SysteMAX II comes with fully assembled Holley 68cc cylinder heads, an intake manifold, a Lunati cam with 235-/240-degree duration at 0.050, 0.490/0.490-inch lift, and 112-degree lobe separation, lifters, hardened pushrods, head bolts, a double-roller timing chain and gears, and assembly lube. Since this engine was going into a daily-driver wagon, we opted for a milder street cam, duration 276/ 286, lift 0.454/0.454. During this small-block build, we chose to use all Holley, Lunati, and Weiand parts. Rather than combine brand X with brand Z then try to make it work with brand A, we chose to use parts specifically engineered to work together.