The great thing about owning a Gen I small-block Chevy is since they were built in such vast numbers, the level of aftermarket support is almost overwhelming. Compared to their blue-oval counterparts, finding performance parts for your small-block is like taking a trip down Easy Street.
With so much to choose from, the difficulty is often less about finding parts than deciding among all the great possibilities. The key to a successful trip down Easy Street is having a game plan. Having a goal is every bit as important as what you choose to achieve that goal. You see, intersections abound on Easy Street and the temptation is often overwhelming to meander left down Big-Block Boulevard or right down Tunnel Ram Terrace.
The best route down Easy Street is to decide on the destination, plug the coordinates into your GPS, and follow the little blue dot. Deviate from the course and you'll may be asked to make a U-turn.
For this build, we decided to go conservative, but with an eye on future power potential. Who's to say we won't want more power down the line? Even if you decide on a mild daily driver right now, proper planning can provide the makings for a mild daily driver today and a street/strip stormer tomorrow. This is exactly what we had in mind for our Easy Street 350. The build began in the most humble of places, the wrecking yard. While we all long for complete forged stroker assemblies, the reality is that just about any stock short-block will suffice for all but maximum performance. If you already have a small-block to start with, you are ahead of the game. The rest of us need look no further than our local wrecking yard for a perfectly usable donor. Our late-model, four-bolt, hydraulic-roller long-block came from a truck for the paltry sum of $180 (a short-block would be slightly less.) Though ours was capable of running as is, we chose to clean it up, hone the cylinders and add a new set of rings from Total Seal.
With a fresh short-block at the ready, it was time to choose the power parts. Destined for street use, the components chosen for this build reflect the fact that Easy Street was destined for street use, though with an eye for additional performance in the future. From top to bottom, we chose an Edelbrock Thunder Series carburetor matched to a Performer RPM Air Gap intake and E-Street aluminum cylinder heads. To enhance the wow factor, the carb and intake were given the Endurashine treatment. Additional bling came in the form of a set of Elite Series valve covers and open-element air cleaner. We liked the fact that the carb, intake and heads not only worked well on our mild combination, but all had additional performance potential just waiting to be unleashed.
What really dictated the power output of the combination was our mild Crane cam. To keep costs down, we chose a hydraulic flat tappet grind that offered less than .500 lift and a 224/232-degree duration split. A wilder cam would certainly improve power, but would likely come at the cost of drivability. The Crane 224 cam offered a nice balance of performance and street manners. The motor was finished off with a set of Crane aluminum roller rockers and MSD billet distributor, then dyno tested with long tube headers.
To ensure the cam and lifters survived the critical break-in period, we made sure to adequately prepare them for the ordeal. Both the cam lobes and lifter bottoms were liberally coated with moly-based assembly lube. To this we added high-zinc break-in oil and made sure to prime the oil system with an electric drill prior to start up. The drill was used to ensure adequate oil supply to all of the rockers before start up. The precautionary steps worked, allowing the 350 to perform flawlessly through all of the testing.
After timing sweeps and minor adjustments to the carb, we were rewarded with a broad power band and peaks of 395 hp at 5,900 rpm and 419 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm. Critical for street use, torque production from our Easy Street small-block hovered near 400 lb-ft from 3,000 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm. With a static compression ratio of 9.7:1, these power numbers came easy on pump gas. What did we learn from this adventure? We learned that a trip down Easy Street takes nothing more than having on a game plan and choosing the right parts.