To build or buy is one of the most important questions to ask yourself when it comes to engines. If you are going to build a motor from scratch you will need a myriad of specialty tools, a decent recipe of parts, and a good machine shop in your back pocket. Now if you already have things like a rod bolt stretch gauge, piston ring filer, and so on, then you most likely will be building your own. For the guy who can install an engine, but maybe not build one from scratch, then buying an assembled motor might be the best option.
Let's face facts, it's hard enough to build a car let alone having to come up with an engine recipe that will produce power and stay together for more than a few miles. Luckily, today there are complete engines available that are built by professionals that won't put you in the poor house. There are some engines out there that are expensive, but there are also crate engines for the more budget minded.
As you will see, we compiled a very diverse selection of engines in this guide to help you find the right one for your project. We made sure there was something for everybody, the traditional small-block 350 for the budget guy, a ground shaking big-block for the drag guy and (of course) the LS platform for the modern performance guy. Most of the content is pretty abbreviated, but full details can be found on each of the company's web sites. Once you are finished drooling over the engines, make sure to check out the other sections in the guide so you can pair your new engine with the proper goodies.
When it comes to crate engines for your muscle car, ATK High Performance Division engine packages range from mild to wild and are built custom for each customer. One of the most popular engines is a small-block 350 that puts out 325 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque for under $2,000. This unit consists of a four-bolt, cast iron block topped with cast iron heads and a flat tappet cam. Since it is a performance engine, it comes with hypereutectic skirt coated pistons with moly rings.
It features an 8.9:1 compression ratio, so it will run just fine on pump gas and comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty. Need it as a drop in? All of the performance engines can be customized with fuel systems, pulley kits, and even engraved custom valve covers with your name on them.
Edelbrock's most popular crate engine, the Performer RPM E-Tec uses the latest in engine technology to squeeze every drop of power possible from the timeless Chevy 350 platform. It features a hydraulic roller cam, E-Tec 170 aluminum heads, and hypereutectic pistons. Based upon the GM ZZ4 block equipped with a forged steel crank, this engine generates 435 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque.
The engine is available in a variety of finishes, including polished and the easy to care for Endurashine. It is backed by Edelbrock's two-year, unlimited mileage warranty and includes cast valve covers, MSD distributor, Moroso oil pan and optional water pump.
Something a little bigger in size and power is Edelbrock's 555ci Big-Block rat. The new Edelbrock/Musi 555 RPM XT big-block Chevy produces 697 hp and 643 lb-ft of torque when equipped with the Edelbrock Pro-Flo 2 EFI system and 676 hp and 649 lb-ft of torque with an 800cfm Thunder AVS carburetor. Based on a Dart Big-M 9.8-inch iron block, it features a forged steel crank from Scat, forged aluminum pistons from JE and Eagle forged H-beam rods.
The engine also features Edelbrock RPM Xtreme aluminum cylinder heads that retain the stock exhaust flange location for compatibility with off-the-shelf headers. A Moroso oil pan and Mallory distributor round out this mill, and everything is backed by a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
GM Performance Parts
As far as crate engines go, this is the one that might have started it all. The ZZ4 350 Turn-Key crate engine has a forged steel crankshaft, hypereutectic pistons, hydraulic roller cam and aluminum cylinder heads. The ZZ4's Corvette-derived high-performance heads feature high velocity intake runners and D-shaped exhaust ports to promote efficient and unobstructed flow through the engine-providing strong power and torque at all rpm levels.
It is delivered with an aluminum dual-plane intake manifold, HEI distributor, cast iron water pump, damper, flexplate, an accessory drive package, fuel pump, chrome air cleaner kit, Holley 750cfm carburetor, starter, and spark plug wires. The ZZ4 comes to you with a full 355 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
On the LS side, the LS7 features a unique big-bore cylinder block that is anchored with a forged crankshaft, titanium connecting rods, and friction-coated pistons. But it's the airflow capability of the LS7's cavernous, CNC-ported heads that enables its 500 naturally aspirated horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque rating. Large-volume, straight-passage intake runners channel air directly around 2.20-inch titanium intake valves.
The mixture is burned in large, 70cc combustion chambers and what's left exits through 1.61-inch sodium-filled exhaust valves. GM Performance Parts' LS7 7.0L crate engine package includes a production-style engine with the dry sump oil pan, manifold assembly with injectors, electronically controlled throttle body, and log-style exhaust manifolds.
GM Performance Parts' recreation of the classic L88 big-block combination, now called the ZZ427/480, rated at 480 hp. Like the original, it features an iron block, forged steel crankshaft, and high-flow aluminum cylinder heads. GM upgraded the camshaft from the original's mechanical flat-tappet design to a more contemporary hydraulic roller, giving this 21st-century L88 modern drivability characteristics and a greater rev range. A lower 10.1:1 compression ratio lets it live on pump gas. The ZZ427/480 comes complete with high-flow oval-port heads, a high-lift camshaft (0.510-inch intake/0.540-inch exhaust), an aluminum intake manifold, 870cfm Holley carburetor, an HEI distributor, aluminum water pump, balancer, spark plug wires, and a 14-inch flex-plate.
Back in the day, the big daddy of all GM powerplants was the all aluminum ZL1. Not many were made and who knows how many even survived. Luckily, you still can be a part of muscle car history by picking up one of these aluminum Anniversary 427s. That's right GMPP is cranking out a limited number of these lightweight big-blocks. The Anniversary Edition 427 starts with a new version of the ZL1 aluminum block using the exact same tooling used back in '69.
The aluminum 4-bolt main block is filled with a forged steel crank, forged rods, and forged aluminum pistons for a 9.5:1 final compression ratio. Aluminum, oval port heads have a 110cc combustion chamber and carry 1.7:1 aluminum roller rockers, 2.19-inch intake and 1.88-inch exhaust valves. A matching, high-flow aluminum oval-port intake feeds the heads with the help of an 870cfm carburetor.
The camshaft is a hydraulic roller with 0.510-inch of lift on the intake and 0.540-inch on the exhaust. Like the original ZL1, the Anniversary 427 comes underrated at 430 hp. Only 427 of these crate engines were produced before the ZL1 tooling was retired forever and according to our contact at GMPP, not many are left.
Based on the potent LS9, the LSA is a bit detuned with a slightly smaller 1.9L Eaton supercharger. The engine consists of an aluminum block, forged steel crankshaft, high-flow aluminum L92 style cylinder heads with as cast 68cc chambers, powdered metal rods and hypereutectic aluminum pistons.
Make no mistake even with a small supercharger this engine is still a performer with 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque. What makes the LSA a little user-friendlier over the LS9 is the conventional wet-sump lubrication system. GMPP also offers an intercooler kit, which simplifies the installation even more. Smooth idle, snappy throttle response and a 6,600 rpm redline-what more can you ask for?
GM Performance Parts
The 427ci Air Attack LS7 supercharged crate engine from Katech produces up to 750 hp and 700 lb-ft of flat-lined torque. Katech lays a solid foundation with a Callies forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, plus the manufacturer's forged aluminum pistons with DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coated pins. It also uses a stock LS7 block with a billet steel girdle to tie the bottom end together. An upgraded camshaft designed for boost actuates the stock LS7 titanium intake valves and sodium-filled exhaust valves. Magnuson handles the compression of the air change with its M122 twin-screw, high-helix intercooled supercharger.
You '10 Camaro owners can get 750-plus horsepower with a Mast Motorsports' (416ci) LS3 and L99 supercharged drop-in engine. Each engine features a forged rotating assembly with Callies crank, Callies forged H-beam rods, and Mahle forged pistons. Up top you will find CNC profiled cylinder heads with premium valvetrain components, LS3/L99 car intake, a Mast custom core single bolt or VVT supercharger profile cam and Magnuson's TVS 2300 supercharger.
Each engine is test fired, rings are seated, and a dyno sheet provided . Each engine is backed by a limited 12-month, unlimited mileage warranty. Installation requires custom computer calibration (available separately from Mast) and versions are available for both the LS3 manual and L99 6-speed automatic '10 SS Camaros.
New from Procomp Electronics is this 427ci SBC that makes 550 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque. This big-inch mouse is built with all Procomp Parts, from the block to the fully CNC'd heads. The only thing Procomp is outsourcing is the pistons, which come from Probe. The engine features a 4.00-inch stroke 4340 crank, 6.00-inch H-beam rods, forged Probe pistons with 10.5:1 compression ratio, aluminum heads and full roller valve train. It also includes a 7-quart kick out sump, fabricated valve covers, pushrods, flexplate and balancer.
The UltraStreet line of high performance street engines from Shafiroff Racing now includes an all-aluminum "Real Street Lite" 427ci small-block. This lightweight powerhouse features a World Products aluminum block with splayed 4-bolt main caps, Eagle forged steel stroker crank, Eagle forged H-beam rods, Mahle custom coated 10.25-1 forged aluminum pistons, angle plug aluminum heads with stainless steel valves, and Comp Cams custom grind hydraulic roller cam. Dyno tested at 525 hp at 5,600 rpm and 550 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, this pump gas friendly engine comes with a two-year warranty.
If you are more into having a Rat under your hood, then you might want to check out the 540 RealStreet BBC from Shafiroff. This 625 hp package features a New Merlin III "Street Block" with 4 bolt mains, Eagle forged steel stroker crank and I-beam rods. It breathes through a set of 320cc runner aluminum heads with stainless valves. The engine is internally balanced and comes completely assembled with the actual dyno sheet for the engine you receive.
Street And Performance
The LS3 from Street and Performance kicks out 436 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The LS3 has revised cylinder heads featuring rectangle ports borrowed from the vaunted LS7 with 63cc combustion chambers, 2.16-inch intake valves, and 1.59-inch exhaust valves. The camshaft features an aggressive 0.551 inches of lift on the intake side with less overlap (than the LS2) for even greater airflow and power.
Rocker arms with a 1.7:1 ratio sit on top of the heads. On the bottom end, the aluminum 6-bolt main-block features 4.06-inch bores and a 3.62-inch stroke nodular iron crankshaft. Powdered metal rods and aluminum pistons (10.7:1 compression ratio) round out a rev-happy short-block. Redline for the LS3 comes at 6,600 rpm and you will get there very quickly. The LS is detailed by Street and Performance with the company's accessories, paint, and chrome.
Street & Performance also has the new LS9 engine, wiring harness and accessories ready for shipment. The LS9 has an aluminum cylinder block with steel, 6-bolt main bearing caps, cast iron cylinder liners, forged steel crankshaft, titanium connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons, which, when combined with the cylinder heads, delivers a 9.1:1 compression ratio. The LS9 can deliver over 620 hp, and approximately 595 lb-ft of torque. The supercharged LS9 makes big power at lower rpm and carries it in a wide arc to 6,600 rpm. The engine produces 90-percent of peak torque from 2,600 rpm to 6,000 rpm.
Street & Performance
Summit Racing Equipment
Summit now offers a huge selection in its BluePrint Engines line of crate motors, including a Chevy 355ci Vortec long-block. The iron block features a 4-bolt main, cast steel crankshaft, heavy beam rods with 150,000psi bolts, and Keith Black hypereutectic pistons. The top-end includes cast iron Vortec cylinder heads, flat tappet hydraulic lifter camshaft, double roller timing chain, dual plane intake manifold, and chrome valve covers.
The 9.5:1 compression long block is rated at 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque and comes with a high-volume oil pump and oil pan. The engine is also available in a fully dressed version, which also includes an Edelbrock 600cfm carburetor, MSD distributor, coil, and wires, harmonic balancer, 110gph fuel pump, and ACDelco spark plugs. Both engines are backed by a 30-month, 50,000-mile warranty.
Summit Racing Equipment
Turn Key Engine Supply
Turn Key Engine Supply offers a variety of LS-based crate engines, like the 5.7L LS1 engine. This V8 features a cast aluminum block and heads, forged pistons, powdered metal rods, and sequential fuel injection for a 10.1:1 final compression ratio. The motor has a composite intake manifold and comes with Turn Key Engine's five wire hook-up.
Included with the package is almost everything you need to get your project going like the wiring harness, complete EFI fuel system, Delphi ECM, oil and air filters, mounting hardware, Vortec engine covers, and a comprehensive installation guide. The Street Package version also comes with a flywheel or flexplate, a starter, and headers, making the install that much easier. Performance numbers are 390hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, making this a great motor for a budget.
Now if you have some coin in your piggy bank and want a lot more power then check out the 800hp supercharged and intercooled 427ci LSX SuperStreet Engine. Turn Key Engine Supply created the LSX SuperStreet Engine especially for muscle cars and street rods. It features all of the hardcore performance parts you would expect with this power level, including a forged crank, rods and pistons. Air Flow Research aluminum cylinder heads provide breathing room for the Kenne Bell 2.8L Blowzilla Twin Screw supercharger and intercooler. The SuperStreet comes with everything you see here including the company's simple five-wire hook up wire harness.
Turn Key Engine Supply
The Power Crate 502/455hp big-block crate engine sold by Year One features a 4-bolt main block, steel rectangular port cylinder heads, forged pistons, forged crankshaft and a hydraulic roller camshaft. This 502ci big-block produces 455 hp with 460 lb-ft of torque on pump gas. Each engine is dynamically balanced and blueprinted and comes with ARP fasteners throughout.
The engine is supplied with an Edelbrock dual plane aluminum intake, black valve covers, standard rotation long-style water pump and balancer. The fuel pump and accessories are not included so you will need to choose a front drive system like the ones we will cover later in the story.
Other Engine Sources
American Speed Enterprises, Inc.
ATI Performance Products
Hawks Third Generation
Herbert Performance Parts Center
Reher-Morrison Racing Engines
Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center
To keep your newly purchased motor from melting down you will need a good cooling system. If you are staying in the stock horsepower range then you can pick up an OE replacement from a source like Original Parts Group. If you are upping the power of the motor then you will need to up the efficiency of the radiator and fans. An aftermarket aluminum radiator will typically provide better cooling properties over stock copper core radiators because Aluminum dissipates heat more efficiently.
On the bigger end of the cool meter is the combination radiator and core support cooling system by AutoRad. This is built to bolt right in to your Camaro, Chevelle, Nova, or Tri-Five shoe box and provide 10-percent more surface area than a stock big-block radiator. No matter what radiator fits your budget make sure to use a high quality belt driven or electric fan paired with a shroud.
Original Parts Group, Inc.
Front Drive Systems
Some crate motors come complete with a front drive system, but for the ones that don't you will need something. If you are just swapping in the same type of engine that came in your project and want to keep the budget down then you can recycle the stuff you have. Now if you are going from small-block to big-block, changing to an LS platform or just want to upgrade, then you want to look at the aftermarket for help.
For the small-block to big-block swap you can hit up companies like Trans-Dapt for new stock style replacements. For the LS swap or for an upgraded serpentine belt system you can contact companies like Billet Specialties, March Performance, or Concept One. These companies whittle out all kinds of style and belt options to drive the front accessories. Most of these will come complete with water and power steering pumps, high amp alternators and pulleys.
Concept One Pulleys
A new motor won't do much to move the car unless you hook it up to a transmission. The question becomes do you want an automatic or a manual. On the automatic side,, technology has come leaps and bounds over the past few years with new options added to the shifting arsenal. Autos have grown from the simple two-speed powerglide all the way up to a six-speed automatic and others in between. There are a few things to consider when choosing an automatic.
What will you use the car for-drag racing, daily driving or a little of both? Also, you will want to consider whether or not you want the trans be computer controlled. If you are going for all out quarter-mile action, then a low power robbing Powerglide, TH350, or TH400 might be the best way to go. If you want the added fuel economy an overdrive will bring, then you will need to look into a 200R4 or a 700R4 like the one shown by TCI. Most of these are still non-computer controlled using a TV cable to adjust line pressure.
The higher end of overdrive transmissions will be the 4L60, 4L80 four-speeds. There are even six-speed automatics out there like the 6L80 and the 6x from TCI. These are made to handle a lot of power and offer great control over shift points. The only issues with these pose will be the higher cost of the units and the necessity of a computer controller. Again the aftermarket has those computers. Check out the swap stuff section for those.
Now, if you are the kind of guy who wants to take full control of the shifting for drag racing or autocross events, then you will need a manual. Just like the autos, manuals have gotten better with time. Even though an M-22 four-speed is the old school epitome of muscle car manual gearboxes, they are getting scarce. While the Rock Crusher will hold a lot of power, the newer versions not only can handle the ponies but have one or two more gears.
Swapping a five- or six-speed has gotten a lot easier thanks to the complete kits that are out there like this one from Classic Motorsports group. Just know that even though most of these kits are complete you will still need to track down a clutch pedal assembly and clutch master cylinder.
Classic Motorsports Group
Other Transmission Sources
Much like the cooling system, if you are retaining the same series of engine in you car then motor mounts won't pose any issues. If you are changing from old school to LS then you are going to need new mounts.
Doug's headers offers a conversion plate that is made out of laser cut steel and allows you to bolt on a conventional small-block motor mount to the side of the LS. Fesler Billet has a different option in the way of an eye pleasing billet motor mount. These engine mounts require a bracket to be fabricated that goes from the motor mount to the crossmember, but they will look great once installed.
While most of the engines shown have exhaust already, some do not. Like we have said numerous times, if you are staying with the same series then you may not need to change your exhaust system. There are specific swap headers out there like these from Doug's Headers that are specifically designed to mate up to a LS1 or LS6 stuffed in a '64-72 Chevelle. Doug's also has them for '67-69 Camaro and '68-74 Novas. These headers will provide more flow over stock manifolds and really let that new LS breathe.
If you decide that your ride just has to have a six-speed automatic like GM's 6L80/6L90 then Mast Motorsports has a controller set up you need. Mast's M-90 drive by wire ECM is a propriety marine grade controller that is fully laptop programmable via Mast windows based tuning software. So, whether you have a column shifter or floor shifter in your vehicle, you can run the new GM 6-speed auto. Since the ECM has GM's LAN embedded, you can fully control the functions of the GM 6L80/6L90 transmissions.