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Reader's Performance Engine Build Suggestions - Garage


Nov 1, 2006
0611_chpp_01_z Chevy_performance_engine Magazine_reader 2/1

Engines, bullets, motors, powerplants...the myriad names we call the sources of our motivators. And when we asked you to submit the types of engines you'd, the response was incredible, by far exceeding anything you've responded to previously. For those of you who don't like to e-mail but don't have a problem posting on message boards, then head on over to our site at Here's your chance to get interactive with each of the staffers and post the builds you'd like to see.-Henry D

Great job on the magazine; we look forward every month to the articles. I just read your story on three-way showdown, very interesting. I own a '71 Z28 that we have been restoring for a year and a half, except the engine. Recently, with the help of a local Chevy guru Bob Joehnck (who worked with Edelbrock in the '60s), we did a similar comparison on paper with three different scenarios and decided to go with a new Chevy ZZ383 425HP long-block. After the block was delivered to his shop, Bob did his magic, checked the roller rockers, cam-to-crank timing, installed an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap manifold, and I installed the Edelbrock 750-cfm carb. I was able to reuse the headers, the high-volume fuel pump, and the ACCEL high-output distributor. What a difference that was from the old 350 SS motor. A similar ZZ 383 buildup netted 488 lb-ft at 4,400 and 450 hp at 5,500. Cost was about $5,600.
Jim Spann
Carpinteria, CA

I really liked the three-way small-block showdown in September's issue, so much so that your invite to respond got the best of me. I've been involved in dirt track-racing for many years, and you're right-on when you say that "the littlest Mouse was in a league of its own." It brings a smile to my face when a 355 small-block leaves my shop in a open-wheel modified car, running against all-aluminum 434 Gerty engines, and pulls away in a 20-lap feature race. And that's on a $4,000 budget.

I also tried this concept with my bracket-car engines and elected to build a few 396 BBCs on a budget: 0.030 blocks, two-bolt mains, factory rods, cast cranks, and 350 horse-style TRW forged pistons rounded out the short-block. Up top I use a set of large, oval-port, open-chamber Chevy heads with mild work done underneath the valve seat. And don't forget a 30-degree back-cut on the valve. An Engle Cams solid-roller EX-1/2, 262/269 at 0.050 with 0.695/0.711 lift, requires about 0.100 cut from the dome of the TRW pistons. A Victor Jr. intake and a Holley 950HP on alky will get you a 10.22 at 130 mph in an all-steel back-half 80 camaro. This can be done for around $3,500.

I'd love to see you build this engine with a good set of JE or Ross pistons around 12.5-13:1, a set of AFR fully CNC-ported 290cc oval-port heads, and a modified large-body 4150-style alky carb from AED.

These engines did not work right off, and I find a lot of great engine combinations never got a chance to come alive (due to the lack of know-how to tune these great little motors). Cam timing on the small-block was worth a full second in lap times on a half-mile-high bank track, and the big-block found 0.4 second in the 60-foot mark alone with the change of the fuel pressure regulator from the small, standard Holley to the large high-flow unit and a 14-inch extension added to the collectors. On the big end, two Holley black fuel pumps wouldn't supply enough alky, and trap speed was only 123 mph. Adding a Barry Grant beltdrive pump with no other changes netted the 10.22 e.t. at 130 mph. Thanks for taking the time and getting to know more about what we the readers are doing out here in the field. I look forward to every issue of CHP and the great job you're doing.
Bobby Noplis

Bob's Speed Shop
I would like to see a low-buck buildup of a 350 SBC turbo motor. I have read about people who've bought used turbos from diesel truck motors (Powerstroke or Cummins) and make decent horsepower with them. I think you could start with a four-bolt-main short-block with low compression, add a set of good-flowing heads, and your choice of either fuel injection or carb-or try both. Find a turbo on eBay, and tell us what to look for in searching for a used turbo. I feel you could do this motor for $5,000-$6,000. The exhaust would probably be one of the more expensive items in this build. This is something I have not seen done in any magazine. I think it would hit home with all of the DIY car builders, since not all of us can afford a Nelson Racing twin-turbo monster. Thank you for your time, and the magazine is great.Chris Butts

I enjoyed the article on the $5,500 small-blocks. What would I build? Well, I think I'd go for a 377 with a 4.155x3.48-inch bore and stroke. The extra cubes would make more torque than a 350, the short stroke would let it rev like a 350, and the large bore would unshroud the valves. And 6-inch rods would not require pistons with the pin bores protruding into the lower ring groove. Regarding small-block strokers, I just don't like the idea of anything more than around a 3.60-inch stroke in a block with a 9-inch deck height. There are just too many "gotchas," like rod angularity and rod-to-cam lobe interference. The main problem with a 377 is finding a suitable block, since most of the 400 blocks are already overbored or bad, and WP and Dart blocks cost around $1,800.

I'd choose cam, heads, intake, and carb on the conservative side for good street performance in my '55 Chevy sedan with a wide-ratio Muncie and 3.42:1 gears. The cam would be solid-lifter (for that retro sound), and the manifold would be an Edelbrock Performer RPM. My carb would probably be an Edelbrock AVS.
Mike Bresler
Plano, TX

I just finished reading your Sept. '06 issue, and I must say it was very good. These days it seems everyone has forgotten about the 350 and wants to build a stroker 383. Generally, more cubic inches is better, and that's fine as long as you have plenty of money, but I will keep my 350! How much power do you really gain with the extra cubic inches, 20 hp and about 40 lb-ft? Then you have all the hassle of clearancing the block and the rods, including finding the right oil pan, balancer, and flexplate. I am a man on a budget, and the extra money is not justified-but that's only my opinion, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who would argue the subject.

I'm a guy who likes budget engines that can run with the bigger, more expensive ones. If I had $5,500, I would do some comparisons between engines. I'm out for high horsepower-not for streetability. I'm looking for quarter-mile e.t., like Henry D. Besides, who can really drive a hot rod that much these days with $3.30 gas? I would see what really gives you horsepower and what doesn't. Let's face it, there are plenty of products out there that are all hype. What's 15 hp when you have to spend $200 to $300 to get it, or why get rid of your double-humps for a set of $1,500 aluminum heads that may only get you 50 hp? Let's see how much better roller rockers are versus stamped-steel long slots. Compare solid-roller cams with flat-tappet solids, compare double-humps and Vortecs to the fancy aftermarkets. I'd build a 350 on nitrous that'd run with just about any large-cubed engine, and forget about dual-planes-they're for the sissies at car shows. They may be good up to 6,500 rpm, but what's the point when you're using a 3,500-stall converter?

I'd also like to see what kind of power a 283 and a 305 are capable of making. Let's build a 11:1 305 with a cam with 292 duration and 0.525 lift, a good set of heads, and a 150 shot of nitrous. Imagine getting your butt kicked by a 305. How embarrassing would that be? Let's see what happens when you build a 283 with14:1 compression, a 300-duration solid-lifter cam, and a set of ported-out double-humps. I would imagine about 500 hp at 8,500 rpm, then add a 200 shot of nitrous with money left over to invest in good ARP bolts and a tach that goes past 10 grand.Bert Richardson

I read your $5,500 small-block buildup, and I would have probably built the 383 version. I think I will build something similar if and when the 350 LT1 wears out in my Monte SS. However, a motor buildup that I've always been curious about was to destroke a motor. Start with a 400 block and use a 3.25-inch stroke crank. If I did the math right, this will give you about 350 cubes. But with the shorter stroke you can get more revs out of it, as well as larger valves with the slightly larger bore. Use a compression of 11.0:1 or higher, long rods, a solid-roller cam, and roller rockers. Also, I'd like to see it with a short-runner, fuel-injected intake similar to the LT1. TPIS makes one that's similar but will work on a standard Chevy bolt configuration as well as flow extremely well. Fire the plugs with an MSD distributor and expel the gases with 131/44-inch primary headers. I'd probably end up well past the $5,500 limit, but I would be curious to know what kind of power it would make.Scot McKittrick

In response to your engine build request, I have a wrinkle I've thought about for a long time. It seems that several sources produce, sell, and market 500-plus-horsepower big- and small-block engines. I would like to see the 502/502 big-block crate engine revisited (I think they run for $7,500), set it up with an attitude toward friction reduction, including a larger oil pan, an electric water pump, and roller rockers. How much horsepower and torque is really in there? Maybe stuff into second-gen F-body?John Schulte

I'm a 13-year-old enthusiast/CHP subscriber, and I'm trying to rebuild a '66 Chevy 327 with camel-hump heads. I plan on paying for the rebuild myself, but my dad is being nice enough to help me out. I want to put it in a '66 A- or X-body, an Impala, a '67 Camaro, or a '70-72 Monte Carlo. If I had $5,500 to rebuild it I would get it bored another 0.030 over like it needs, buy new rods, pistons, an Edelbrock Performer intake, some Hooker headers, a new cam, and-if I had enough left-maybe I would even buy the car to put it in. I was wondering if you guys could do an article on a 327 like mine so I would know what to do.Mike LewisWentzville, MO

A Swedish SaluteI have been a subscriber for a little over five years now, and when I recently got the Sept. '06 issue I suddenly felt the urge to show my appreciation to you hard-working guys!

First of all, I like the face-lift of the mag. Easy to follow, more pics, and lots and lots of information. The mix of tech, readers' rides, and articles is perfect. Second, the three-way small-block showdown was one of the most interesting articles I've ever read. Period. Brilliant idea, three different solutions to the same catch-22 every gearhead faces daily: If I go for that cam, I better get those heads, but then the carb will be too small, and will the converter be up to it? Nah, can't afford a new carb anyhow, so if I just stay with the cam, new lifters...and so on. The $5,500 limit was realistic, and yet one could cut some dollars off the total bill, depending on your own salvageable parts. As a small-block fan I liked the high-revvin' 355. Too bad technology hasn't been able to solve the mystery of "live sound inserts" in paper magazines; it would have been wonderful to hear them roar on the dyno.

Also, be sure to pass some sunshine on to your coworkers. I really must mention that Kevin McClelland's Performance Q&A is the foremost source of inspiration for me. Hard facts, lots of links to follow, and a very personal touch to all his answers! He's a treasure for the whole Chevy community! Ever thought about the old Star Wars trick of carbonite-freezing him in order to save the knowledge for generations to come?

Thank you for the greatest mag on Earth. Keep filling our heads with great ideas, and yes, I would really like to see more high-revving small-blocks being built! Why not an old-school 283, 0.030-over, fuelie heads, solid cam, Crower-injected on alcohol? Yummie!
Peter Berglund, Sweden

Thanks, Peter. We all appreciate the kind words, and as a matter of fact, saving Kevin for the future through carbonite-freezing is an interesting thought, only I don't think his better half would take it too kindly. As for the sound clips, we're working on it, and you'll be able to hear all of our dyno sessions on our Web site soon enough.

Young Guns
Sixteen-year-old Zach Cole of Jackson, Georgia, loves to burn the hides of his awesome '70 Chevelle. To supply the mammoth power, he and his dad have assembled a 0.040-over 400 small-block fitted with S/R Torquer heads, a Crane cam, an MSD ignition, and a free-flowing Flowmaster exhaust system. The father-and-son project took just three years to finish. Other additions include Wilwood front-disc brakes, Richmond 3.55:1 gears, and an Eaton 12-bolt posi unit. The deep hue is Fathom Blue with Pearl White racing stripes.

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