Several companies offer booster vacuum pumps to assist the engine vacuum with braking. Master Power Brakes offers a pump that will produce enough vacuum to operate the power brake system on its own. This heavy-duty vacuum pump kit, PN AC2724K, features a 12-volt pump that will produce a constant 18-20 inches of vacuum, and the kit includes a vacuum switch to cycle the pump when needed. We'd recommend using this pump in conjunction with the engine's manifold vacuum. You will still benefit from the engine vacuum generated during deceleration.
True Young Gun
Q I am a 13-year-old growing up with an automotive mechanic for a father. During my childhood I have learned a lot about car motors and basically know every aspect of the Chevy engine. I'm an all-time Chevy fan, and every Chevy High Performance magazine I get, I go straight to your section. You have helped me learn a lot about cars, and I think I have something you can help me decide. I recently ran across a 350 small-block that my dad will let me tinker with to help me continue my gearhead education, and I wanted to get your opinion on what I could do to cheaply create a decent-power 350 powerplant with mostly stock components. I plan to drop it into a '77 Chevy Cheyenne. I love the sound of an off-idle Chevy engine, and the truck may be taken to the track every now and then but more importantly will serve as my daily driver. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.Blake HolderHickory, KY
A Welcome to a very contagious hobby or, as in your father's case, a good living. We all got our start tinkering with anything that ran: lawn mowers, motorcycles-anything with an engine-or just the clock on the wall. They've all been pulled apart by the best of us, and some still seemed to work after we were done with them.
The best thing you can do is learn. Dig on the Internet and read as much as possible to be completely versed in what you're trying to do. To spend as little money as possible, read up on do-it-yourself cylinder head porting. There is a tremendous amount of information on the web; a couple sites have complete step-by-step instructions on how to do it. Check out the Standard Abrasives site for a full section on head porting, block preparation, gasket removal, and thinking outside the port. Yes, the company is pushing its wares, but these are very high-quality porting kits at reasonable prices. Also, Wikipedia has a great definition and explanation of porting and why you should do it. CHP has published many stories over the years in which even writers were able to make very nice gains through their first time porting cylinder heads. Get online, search "cylinder head porting," and read away.
Hopefully your dad has some tools that will give you a leg up on doing some porting. Increasing the airflow into and out of the engine is the best way to increase power. If your only expense is your time reading and doing the labor, it is basically free horsepower!
Next, since this is your very first build, stay on the conservative side; you'll be much happier with the results. Try swap meets, junk yards, and garage sales to find aluminum intake manifolds and headers. You'll need to buy a new camshaft and lifters. Again, stay away from the really nasty cams. Remember, you do want to install this engine in a heavy Chevy truck.
Welcome to a lifelong hobby or career. People will always need their cars repaired, and doing what you love for a living is the ultimate goal. Good luck.