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Big-Block Chevy Crate Engine - Back To The Street, Part 1

We Found More Than Expected In A GM Performance Parts ZZ454

By Mike Ficacci, Photography by Evan Smith, Mike Ficacci

The price of clean Bow Ties has skyrocketed over the last decade, leaving many middle-class enthusiasts with nothing but pipe-dreams of owning a hot rod Chevrolet. Finding a first- or second-generation Camaro or Nova under $15,000 will leave you with a rusted subframe and fenders a surfer could hang 10 on. Looking for a Corvette pre-1973? Better cash in your 401k. Oh wait...the stock market devoured that already.

Alas, there are other means of living the dream in a classic Chevy by using a little bit of creativity and imagination. First and foremost, if you happen to be smarter than the masses and hid your greenbacks under the mattress (as opposed to in the market), the price of vintage autos has dropped dramatically. At the Super Chevy Show in Bristol, Tennessee, this past September, the Car Corral was crawling with over 60 hot rods begging for a new home. Sadly, this is a sign of the times, but it does breed opportunity for others.

Another route worth taking advantage of is the wide world of old drag cars. One common misconception is that these quarter-mile rocket ships have been cut-up to the point of no return, and are simply meant to die. But that is not always the case. A simple scan through or and you will find a multitude of hot rods, both running and rolling, awaiting the chance at a new life. We perused and within minutes had found four great starter cars for under $10,000. Okay, they may need some work, but for a cheap starting point for a project, milking this cow is worth the time.

Back To The Street is exactly that. We are taking a 1971 Camaro bracket car off the drag strip and returning it to street duty while breathing new life into it. We have a slew of high-performance companies on board, including GM Performance Parts, Fat Man Fabrications, Level 10 Transmissions, and many more.

For motor-vation, we decided to do the simple thing and grab a big-block crate engine from GM Performance Parts. Our mill is the ZZ454, one of the many crate motors available from GMPP. It features oval port aluminum cylinder heads, large 2.19-intake/1.88-exhaust valves, a forged rotating assembly, and a roller camshaft with .510/.540-inch lift. The aluminum cylinder heads drop close to 100 pounds off the nose, as compared to steel and utilizes small combustion chambers to add efficiency and 15 hp over the 454 H.O.

To complete your ZZ454, all you need to add is a carburetor, ignition system, and starter and you will be hearing that deep, throaty big-block rumble in no time. The ZZ454 is rated at a robust 440 hp, but we wanted to see if any extra power could be found lurking under those shiny new valve covers. Was there ever! We tried a few different carburetor/header combinations after a long break-in period and could not have been more satisfied with the results.

Nothing sounds better than a large cubic-inch Bow Tie rumbling on the street and the pump-gas-friendly ZZ454 is going to offer us plenty of torque for the occasional trip to the drag strip, with equal street manners for daily driving.

GM Performance Parts ZZ454/440
Part Number:12498777
Engine Type:Chevy big-block V-8
Displacement (cu in):454
Bore x Stroke (in):4.25 x 4.00
Block (P/N 12561353):Cast iron with 4-bolt main caps
Crankshaft (P/N 14096983):Forged steel
Con. Rods (P/N 19170198):Forged steel
Pistons (P/N 10215228):Forged aluminum
Camshaft (P/N 24502611):Hydraulic roller
Camshaft Lift (in):.510 intake / .540 exhaust
Cam. Duration (@ .050 in):211 degrees intake / 230 degrees exhaust
Heads (P/N 12363392):Aluminum oval port; 110cc chambers
Valve Size (in):2.19 intake / 1.88 exhaust
Compression Ratio:9.6:1
Rockers (P/N 12368082):Stamped steel
Rocker Arm Ratio:1.7:1
Water Pump (19168606):Cast iron, long-style
Flexplate (10185034):14-in.
Recommended Fuel:92 octane
Ignition Timing:Base 4 degrees BTDC, 26 degrees Total
Max. Recommended rpm:5500
1056 Randolph Ave., Dept. MMFF
NJ  07065
GM Performance Parts
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By Mike Ficacci
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