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Supercharged Crate Engine - A Crate Start

Jegs And Vortech Join Forces To Sell A Supercharged Small-Block Crate Engine

By Richard Holdener, Photography by Richard Holdener

Here at Super Chevy, we are often spoiled when it comes to engine buildups. With so much hardware at our disposal, we sometimes forget about what happens out there in the real world. Getting to build or even just cover the buildup of 800hp, 900hp or even 1000hp small- and big-block Chevys has a way of distorting your performance reality.

While 1000hp turbo small- and big-blocks may be commonplace in the dyno cell, the reality is that they are few and far between out on the streets. The chance of running across one of these killer machines on your daily commute is about as likely as having Paris Hilton stroll up to buy you a drink. On the other hand, the odds of that Camaro, Chevelle or even late-model truck sporting a run-of-the-mill crate engine are a lot more grounded in the real world.

While we all long for the big-power buildups, the reality is that most engine bays are filled with the stock stuff. Given the intended usage, the stock or mild crate motors are an ideal choice for vehicles whose only race is the daily commute, a Friday night gamblers race at the local strip or lugging that heavy load from the local Home Depot. Even if performance is high on the wish list, speed always costs money. This is true even of the venerable small-block Chevy, as complete high-performance engine assemblies can easily exceed $10,000. Since none of us are made of money, cost is always a huge consideration when it comes time for a buildup.

Affordable performance is exactly why Jegs and Vortech got together to bring you this supercharged crate motor (priced under $5,500). The idea was to provide a combination that was both powerful and affordable, while simultaneously offering the ability for future upgrades. The affordable portion of the equation came in the form of the most cost-effective motor available. Naturally the low-cost GM Parts 260hp crate engine was hardly a powerhouse, but the cure for the power portion of the equation came from Vortech in the form of their carbureted small-block supercharger assembly. What made this assembly so attractive is the fact that it was available complete and ready to run with all of the potential installation and tuning problems already addressed.

The 260hp 350 small-block features a 4-bolt block stuffed with a cast crank, powdered metal (LT1/LT4) connecting rods and cast pistons. The dished pistons combined with 76cc chamber, cast-iron heads to produce a very blower-friendly static compression ratio of 8.5:1. In other words, this low compression ratio was just begging for some boost. The iron heads also featured 1.94 intake and 1.50 exhaust valves, which receive lift from a mild hydraulic flat-tappet cam. The cam offered a .383/.401 lift split and a 112 lobe separation. The mild cam profile was one of the reasons the 350-cubic-inch crate motor was rated at just 260 hp (with a small 4-barrel carb and headers).

Additional features included provisions for both right- and left-hand dipsticks, a 4-quart oil pan and timing tabs for both 6.75 and 8-inch balancers. Basically, the inexpensive small-block was an excellent cost-effective starting point for a more serious buildup. What the thing needed now was some more power.

That additional power came in the form of a Vortech supercharger, but not until a few upgrades were made to the small-block. As indicated previously, the idea behind this was to provide a complete assembly that was ready to install with a minimum of expenses and associated hassles. While the 350 was a decent starting point, there were still a few things necessary to complete the package before getting to the blower. Included in the upgrade was an intake, carb and HEI distributor.

Also included was a mechanical fuel pump, damper and the associated gaskets necessary to complete the installation of the induction system. According to Jegs, the supercharged EZ crate motor will be available without the distributor, damper and other accessories for enthusiasts wishing to replace an existing motor. Jegs will then offer these accessories as a package for those wanting a complete supercharged crate motor.

By Richard Holdener
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