When it comes to customizing, we all do pretty much the same thing-we install aftermarket parts or take off the stock stuff and modify it to our liking. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking custom is the exterior. Trick wheels and an altered stance are the staples of a custom ride, but what about when you open the hood?
Most of the time people think of the motor as just a performance piece used to annihilate the rear tires instead of something to customize. It's one thing to impress your gearhead friends with the way your car sounds. It's even better if you can open the hood and show it not only sounds good, but looks good, too.
We decided to take a very common motor, a Gen I small-block Chevy, and dress it up in three different styles. We set forth to do a vintage, race, and full show look without spending too much money. We started with a bare long block so there are a few parts we needed just to make it a complete motor. If you already have a running car, than you won't need some of the stuff we picked up, which will bring down the cost quite a bit. For the most part, the looks are wrapped around the valve covers, air cleaner, and intake manifolds.
We will give you the mail order prices on everything to help you decide what to get, based on your budget. Plus, we have added some tips on the little things that take it from just a clean engine to a complete look. Instead of boring you with any more fluffy words we'll cut to the chase and get on with it.
The foundation for our story is a run of the mill small-block that we gave a fresh coat of paint, and yes we polished the freeze plugs. As you can see the motor is missing everything so we will need a few extra parts just to fire it up.
We hit up Weiand to provide the intakes for all three looks and it only took two, one raw aluminum ($118) and one with the new Everbright coating ($226). We selected the Action Plus dual-plane manifolds because they feature CNC machining and a power band that goes from idle to 5,500 rpm, which is perfect for most street engines. The new Everbright manifold coating is available on the most popular Weiand and Holley intakes. This new treatment uses proprietary vacuum metalizing technology combined with a protective clear powdercoat to provide long lasting, virtually maintenance free polished looks.
The Common Stuff
JBA sent us a set of their Cat4ward shorty headers ($580) for this story. These headers feature stainless steel mandrel-bent primary tubes, 3/8-inch single piece laser-cut flanges, and specific length down tubes for improved torque. The nickel finish was perfect for the show look, and if we had a slammed ride the shorty design will stay off the ground. We also got a set of JBA's Powercable ignition wires ($62) that feature unique boot ends designed for maximum clearance with JBA Headers. Each set comes fully assembled and uses a wire-wound center and 100-percent silicone jacket.
For the vintage and race look, we ordered up a set of Hedman Elite series headers ($300). These long-tube pipes will allow the motor to breath at the big end of the rpm range. Long-tube headers have been the staple of performance exhaust products for many years and we are really impressed with the companies Hi-Tech Coating (HTC). According to the company, the HTC is resistant to abrasion and chipping and allows oil and grease stains to be removed with polish or fine steel wool. The only problem these headers would pose is a ground clearance issue on an ultra slammed Bow Tie.
To hook up all the black ACCEL 300+ plug wires ($80) we opted to use the Billetproof electronic distributor ($210) from ACCEL. It's a ready to run, self-contained electronic breakerless design in a CNC-machined billet 6061 T-6 aircraft grade aluminum housing. It features easily adjustable high performance mechanical and vacuum advance mechanisms so you can dial in a perfect advance curve. It also comes with a vacuum lockout insert and a distributor gear that is compatible with flat tappet and roller camshafts.