There's no question that crate engines have become quite a phenomenon within the world of hot rodding in the past decade or so. And there's good reason for the trend. Crate engines take the guesswork out of selecting the right parts, and eliminate the legwork of hauling an old engine all over town to have it machined and assembled. Instead, you get to peruse the pages of catalogs and brochures, looking for an engine with the combination of horsepower, torque and street manners that you want. Then you order it over the phone and wait for a crate to show up on your doorstep.
Of course, with everyone getting into the crate engine game, the selection has become staggering. You can get everything from GM's stone-stock replacement small-blocks to race-ready, over-the-top big-blocks. So how do you know what's right for your project? Well, like anything else, you'll have to do your homework to figure that out. We'd suggest starting by determining your wants and needs, then talking about your options with several crate engine builders/suppliers. They should be able to suggest an appropriate engine for your particular vehicle and performance desires.
To give you a head start on your crate engine search, we've put together a guide to some of the latest offerings from GM Performance Parts and several other reputable suppliers. We'll be the first to admit that these offerings are only the tip of the iceberg, but they should give you an idea of the wide range of packages available. Take a look and see if there's an engine that you'd like to have in your next Bow-Tie bruiser.
GM Performance Parts
Stroke this or stroke that. Stroker engines are all the rage in the performance world, as the added cubes are a relatively easy way to produce more horsepower and a lot more torque. And we all know torque is what moves a car from intersection to intersection. It's particularly beneficial in a relatively heavy street machine or a vehicle that you use for towing. The HT 383 small-block is intended to develop loads of torque through its 3.80-inch-stroke crank and the Vortec cylinder heads. The engine produces more than 400 ft-lbs of torque from 2,500 to 4,000 rpm (exactly where most of us do our street driving), topping out at a very impressive 415 ft-lb at 3,500rpm. Featuring a torque-oriented roller cam, heavy-duty, forged, powdered metal connecting rods, a forged crank and hypereutectic pistons, the HT 383 produces 325 hp at 4,500 rpm with a very streetable 9.1:1 compression ratio designed for 87-octane gasoline.
350 HO Deluxe
If you want one-stop shopping, the 350 HO Deluxe delivers. That's because it's truly a complete engine, from the Holley carburetor and HEI distributor right down to the water pump, torsional damper, and flexplate. The engine is based on the standard 350 HO crate engine, so it features a pump-gas-friendly 9.1:1 compression ratio and a street-smart camshaft (.435-inch lift intake, .460 exhaust; 212 and 222 degrees duration). The complete package makes the engine a simple swap into most street machines, allowing you to easily put 330 hp (at 5,000 rpm) and 380 ft-lbs of torque (at 3,800 rpm) under your hood. The streetable compression ratio makes this an ideal everyday engine or cross-country cruiser.
Fast Burn (FB) 385
Okay, okay, you want horsepower and you want lots of it, but you also want an engine that is very manageable on the street. Well, the Fast Burn 385 just might be of interest to you.
The FB 385 is built on the proven ZZ4 short-block with the addition of GM's aluminum Fast Burn cylinder heads. The combination is good for 385 hp in standard form, but if that's not enough you can boost it up to 430 ponies (at 6,000 rpm) by installing the 350 Hot Cam Kit (which includes a new cam, valve springs, and 1.6:1 self-aligning roller rockers). In "stock" form, the FB 385 uses the same ZZ4 hydraulic roller camshaft that has already proven itself in countless street machine applications. Added to the mix are stamped rocker arms, a forged-steel crankshaft, and forged, powdered metal connecting rods proven to 500 hp. Add in a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty to make the FB 385 another valid choice for your street machine.