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Sherman's Small Block Hybrid - Big-Inch Mice In Two Distinct Flavors

Inside Joe Sherman Racing's Hybrid 408 Small-Blocks.

By Doug Marion, Photography by Doug Marion

It's been over 25 years since stroking a 350 small-block V-8 first became easy to do-hence, a very popular move-with impressive results. We're talking about the beloved torque-monster 383. We recently visited noted engine builder Joe Sherman at his facility in Santa Ana, California. Joe won the inaugural Popular Hot Rodding magazine Engine Masters Challenge seven years ago and has not looked back. When we asked him what a 383 had evolved into, he grinned and said, "As the 383 is to the 350, the 408 is to the 383."

He continued by telling us about his many hybrid 408 small-blocks, plus his latest one. The basic-form 408 Chevy small-block has been around since at least 2003-2004. But so have a lot of other non-stock Chevy small-blocks, including many factory crate engines. Why was Sherman touting his 408s, which he refers to as hybrids? Four reasons:

1. It is an internally-balanced engine. Some less powerful Sherman 408s (550 hp or less) have successfully been built and put into service using a factory 350 iron block. Hence, to the onlooker, the engine looks like a 350, as the block's casting number would so dictate.

2. Many of his USA and Western European customers have requested his 408 in different horsepower levels and have reported good results.

3. With a beefier aftermarket engine block (example: Dart) Sherman has created single four-barrel, solid, reliable engines, like the one in this story, producing in excess of 660 hp with over 560 lb-ft of torque.

4. Depending on the 408, the maximum horsepower is at 5,800 or 6,800 rpm, both very livable engine speeds.

408 Combinations
The key to producing the maximum obtainable torque and horsepower in a given combination is to have the correct top-end combo: camshaft, heads and induction. Sherman's 667hp 408 has a roller camshaft which delivers over 0.700-inch valve lift with 1.6 ratio Jesel shaft-mounted roller rocker arms. It was ground with a 270/280 split duration and features mechanical roller lifters. It was also ground specifically for this engine. For your convenience, we have listed all component data in the technical sidebar. Yes, flat tappet cams can be created with the same lobe lift spec but roller cams create less friction and their lobe design lets the valve stay open longer-hence, more cylinder filling and power production.

To best work with the roller camshaft, Sherman's intake manifold of choice is an Edelbrock Super Victor. It was designed for maximum power production between 4,500 and 8,000 rpm. Sherman's carburetor of choice is a 1,095 cfm King Demon from Barry Grant. So here we have a 408ci small-block with 11.50:1 compression ratio pumping out 506 hp at only 4,800 rpm with 554 lb-ft of torque. The numbers increased to a maximum torque output of 562 lb-ft at 5,600 rpm and 667 hp at 6,800 rpm.

Sherman feels there is something special in Air Flow Research's newly designed 210 Eliminator heads. He thinks it could be the combustion chamber design and/or the water jacket cooling design- along with their large 210cc intake ports. The AFR stainless steel valves feature narrower 8mm stems with bead-lock retainers. This equates to a 10 gram weight reduction in valvetrain weight.

Both the crankshaft and rods are right out of Scat's catalog. The forged steel crankshaft has a 4.00-inch stroke. The I-beam connecting rods are super strong, generally lighter than others and have rod bolts that are clearanced to avoid contact with the cam lobes.

The pistons are also right out of a catalog, in this instance CP's. They are race-type pistons and feature short skirts, three-rings and flat tops with dual valve reliefs. With a 0.014-inch deck height, 65cc combustion chambers and a 0.030-inch thick/4.125-inch bore Cometic steel head gasket, the 667hp 408 engine's compression ratio is 11.50:1.

Why so "low?" Sherman wanted to see if with the Comp Cams roller cam, the engine could run on his dyno using Chevron 91-octane unleaded gas and make big power. It did. It remains to be seen what octane number the 408 will need in actual competition.

The thing to always remember about Cometic gaskets is this: They offer a gasket for your engine in "any bore and any thickness."

It is much more cost effective to dial in the final compression ratio with a Cometic head gasket rather than taking the block back to the machine shop for more milling of its decks.

Aftermarket Block Recommended
There are a lot of 350 blocks and it is general racing knowledge that all stock iron block wall thicknesses are not the same. Call it "production casting irregularity." Regardless of what anyone else says about stock factory blocks, Sherman emphatically told us, "I recommend a beefier, clearanced aftermarket block (example: Dart) for my 667hp hybrid 408. It weighs 45 poundss more due to its beefiness. It costs $1,995 or so more, but they will never cause a problem.

Complete flow bench results are listed in the technical sidebar. Suffice to say, the intake ports measure 316 cfm flow at 0.700-inch valve lift. This is huge. The exhaust port flow spec is 233 cfm. The biggest 408 small-block engine produces over 500 lb-ft of torque from the mid-4,000 rpm on up to 6,800 rpm. This is huge.

Horsepower output measures over 500 from 4,800 rpm to 5,600 rpm then over 600 hp from 5,700 rpm to 7,200 rpm. Big torque and horsepower numbers at every measured rpm is how Joe Sherman won the inaugural Engine Masters Challenge seven years ago. A ballpark price for this custom-built engine is $12,000. That's $17.99 per horsepower. Being internally balanced, the engine could be painted stock Chevy orange and look like a warmed over 350 to most onlookers.

Sherman's Tamer Hybrid
Joe Sherman's other hybrid 408 is referred to as "Jr." It has a smaller camshaft, a 750 cfm Speed Demon carburetor, smaller heads, an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake manifold, and a 10.5:1 compression ratio. It produces 568 hp at 5,800 rpm and 568 lb-ft of torque. It's ballpark price is $10,500 to $11,000.

667 HP 408 Engine Specifications
Camshaft
Manufacturer/Type: Comp Cams Roller
Duration @ 0.050-inch: 270 degrees intake280 degrees exhaust
Lobe Separation: 109 degrees
Camshaft Lobe Lift:
0.454-inch intake
0.438-inch exhaust
Intake Valve Lift (1.6 ratio rocker arm)
0.726-inch
Intake Valve Lift (1.5 ratio rocker arm)
0.681-inch
Exhaust Valve Lift (1.6 ratio rocker arm)
0.657-inch
Exhaust Valve Lift (1.5 ratio rocker arm)
0.645-inch
Valve Events @ 0.050-inch Lift:
Intake Opens-30 degrees BTDC
Intake Closes-58 degrees ABDC
Exhaust Opens-69 degrees BBDC
Exhaust Closes-29 degrees ATDC
Valve Lash: 0.013-inch intake (cold)
0.017-inch Exhaust (cold)

Cylinder Heads
AFR 1100 Eliminator 210 cc
Combustion Chamber Volume: 65 cc
Intake Valves: 2.080 -inch dia. x 5.020-inch long
Exhaust Valves: 1.600-inch dia. x 5.030-inch long

Valve Springas
Manufacturer: Comp Cams
Model: 26115
Closed Valve Seat Pressure: 255 psi @ 2.00-inch
Open Valve Seat Pressure: 663 psi @ 1.25-inch

Crankshaft
Manufacturer: SCAT
Material: 4340 Steel
Stroke: 4.0-inch

Connecting Rods
Manufacturer: SCAT
Material: 4340 Steel
Design: H.D. I-Beam Type, Fully Profiled
Cap Bolts: 7/16-inch
Rod Weight: 600 Grams
Length: 6-Inch
Highlights: Stroker Clearanced

Pistons
Manufacturer: CP
Size: 4.030-inch Forged
Piston Weight: 378 grams
Piston Pin: Tool Steel, .090-inch wall, 0.927-inch dia., 2.50-inch long, 78 grams.
Lateral Gas Ports : 10
Compression Height: 1.00
Ring Package: 043-043-3mm

Carburetor
Manufacturer: Barry Grant
Model: King Demon 1095 cfm
Jetting: Primaries & Secondaries: pn 94

Intake Manifold
Manufacturer: Edelbrock
Model: Super Victor pn 2925

Engine Blueprint Data
Deck Height: 0.014-inch
Piston-To-Wall Clearance: 0.005-inch
Piston Ring End Gap:
Top: 0.014-0.015-inch
2nd: 0.018-0.020-inch
Main Bearing Clearance: 0.003-inch
Rod Bearing Clearance: 0.0027-inch
Crankshaft End Play: 0.008-inch
Head Gasket Volume: 6.6 cc
Compression Ratio: 11.50:1

Tuning
Gasoline: Chevron 91 octane
Total Ignition Timing: 35 degrees
Spark Plugs: NGK no. 5672
Gap: 0.045-inch

REWORKED AFR HEAD
"CFM" FLOW NUMBERS
LIFT INTAKE EXHAUST
0.100 77 62
0.200 153 115
0.300 211 184
0.400 259 215
0.500 293 225
0.600 310 230
0.700 316 233

SUPER FLOW DYNO TEST RESULTS
RPM TORQUE HORSEPOWER
4,800 554 506
5,200 564 559
5,600 562 599
6,000 554 632
6,400 537 654
6,800 514 667
7,200 484 663
1 3/4-INCH dyno headers & 3-inch magna flow mufflers


SOURCES
Air Flow Research
10490 Ilex Avenue, Dept. MMFF
Pacoima
CA  91331
Jesel Valvetrain
7-32/-901-1800
www.jesel.com
Barry Grant/Demon
Dept. 5.0
1450 McDonald Rd.
Dahlonega
GA  30533
706-864-8544
>www.barrygrant.com
Joe Sherman Racing Engines
7-14/-542-0515
www.joeshermanracing.com
Cometic Gasket
Concord
OH
4-40/-354-0777
cometic.com
Milodon
2250 Agate Ct.
Simi Valley
CA  93065
805-577-5950
www.milodon.net
Competition Cams
Memphis
TN
8-00/-999-0853
compcams.com
MSD Ignition
El Paso
TX
9-15/-857-5200
msdignition.com
CP Pistons
Irvine
CA
949-567-9000
www.cppistons.com
Scat Enterprises
3-10/-370-5501
scatenterprises.com
Edelbrock
Dept. 5.0
2700 California St.
Torrance
CA  90503
310-781-2222
www.edelbrock.com
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By Doug Marion
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