Small Block Chevy Buildups - Three-Way Mousefest
What began as a three-way staffer shootout quickly changed directions after an editorial powwow. While other outcomes aren't impossible, let's face it, cubic inches usually win these deals. And if they don't, you can expect the small mills to be a bit on the rowdy side. That said, instead of trying to outdo one another with simple peak horsepower numbers, we realized we could provide more relevant information by instead showcasing three very different examples of small-block builds. How different, you ask? Let's just say each motor has its own choice of compression, type of camshaft, and intended use.
Case in point, the FNG, Haggai, wrenched over a 327 that pumped out 391 hp and 382 lb-ft. It may not sound like much, but for someone looking for an affordable powerplant for their cruiser, this is a pretty good avenue to take. Then again, can you say mid 12s in a street car with stickies? When it came to the 355, Nelson took the more aggressive approach with his 11.5:1 compression, solid-roller-packing mouse, and belted out 539 hp at 6,500 and 481 lb-ft at 5,200 rpm. Street motor? Could be, but it's on the lopey side and even he'll tell you that his emphasis was to build something more for the 'strip. As for the 383, it was pretty tame compared to some of our builds in the past; however, it still generated 491 hp and 489 lb-ft and featured plenty of idle vacuum at 14 inches at just 850 rpm-yep, the perfect medium for a daily commuter.
If you're a fan of small-blocks and looking for something from a mild upgrade to a street brawler to a fairly stout street/strip piece, then one of these combinations should suit your fancy. More importantly, any one of them can be had for under $7,000. Of course, this is assuming you already have a few of these components, namely the carburetor, distributor, and wires. Nevertheless, you'll find two price lists, one where we've listed all the core parts, including the manufacturer and their respective part numbers, and the other where we provide the info that'll allow you to mimic our combinations to every last detail. Be sure to e-mail us at and let us know which combo fits your style, and above all, whatever changes you may have preferred. -Henry D
Quick Notes
What We Did</br>Build three small-blocks
The Final Say
They made horsepower!</br>
Cost (Approx)
$3,200 to $7,000</br>
On The Edge 355
Truth be told, I went into this project with a bad attitude. Not that I had a problem with building an engine, mind you. I mean that I wanted to get a bit nasty with this 355ci build and do something out on the edge. Past endeavors have always been built with two ideas in mind: attain nice, fat peak numbers, but get them while maintaining a broad, street-friendly powerband. When compared to these past street/strip efforts, this little beast would be of the strip/street variety; we intended to make as much high-rpm power as possible, something good for ripping off fast e.t.'s at the local digs, and as long as we could at least pretend the thing was streetable, that would be good enough for me.</br>
When we conferred with JMS Racing Engines' Mike Johnson, we quickly decided that we would push the limits for a streetable, pump-gas compression ratio, running somewhere in the neighborhood of 11.5:1. Johnson also thought a bit outside the box, suggesting that we run a long, 6- or 6.125-inch connecting rod. Although the idea was to produce high-rpm horsepower, a long rod usually makes more torque, and we didn't want to be deficient in this area. (In other words, we didn't want a total low-rpm pig.) Dwell time at TDC would also be increased, promoting a more complete burn. We'd also get a favorable rod angle in the bargain, producing less piston rock. Mahle had just the small-dome piston we needed to work with a 6.125-inch rod while producing our desired compression ratio.
Our cylinder heads of choice were Trick Flow's Super 23 Street/Strip lungs. These heads flow well and are a great bargain, especially considering that they come with CNC's combustion chambers. They're available with 64- or 72cc chambers, 195cc intake runners, and several spring packages that can handle up to 0.600-inch lift. We intended to far surpass that figure, however, so we ordered ours bare and outfitted them with Isky springs and hardware to handle up to 0.730-inch lift. That should give you and idea of just how crazy we intended to get with this thing, but our rapidly approaching deadline dictated that we go with a shelf grind instead: 0.640/0.640-inch lift, 272/280 degrees duration, and a 106-degree lobe separation angle.
It's a good-sized cam for a 355, to say the least, but a funny thing happened on our way to the dyno: We came up with the big, high-rpm horsepower number we wanted-539 ponies at 6,500 rpm, to be specific-but we also came up with a pretty broad torque band. Check out the chart, and you'll see that our creation is making more than 400 lb-ft from 3,800 rpm all the way to 6,900. Our backup cam choice is indeed radical, but damned if we didn't end with a usable powerband in the bargain, thanks to all that duration and the tight LSA. Reading the cylinder pressure numbers from our runs, our dyno guru Steve Brul concluded that we'd hit on an efficient combo, leading to all the torque that came along with our horsepower.
This thing is rumpity as a Harley, to be sure, and idle vacuum (at 1,200 rpm) is a miniscule 4.5 inches. Is it streetable? With a converter and gears, sure it is. We used 100-octane for our testing, but with a little less timing it'll even run on 91. In the end, we got more than we bargained for: a nasty but stout little mouse that can run hard up top but still get out of its own way down low. What did we learn? Every once in a while, things actually go better than planned. -JN
THE LOWDOWN FLOW FIGURES LIFT INTAKE EXHAUST 0.100 64 56 0.200 138 105 0.300 198 146 0.400 237 171 0.500 257 186 0.600 258 196 CFM at 28 inches H2O
CAMSHAFT SPECS Manufacturer Isky Racing Cams PN 201649 Grind Number RR-640/72-80 Type solid roller Valve Lift 0.640/0.640-inch intake/exhaust Duration at 0.050 272/280&deg; intake/exhaust Lash (hot) 0.028/0.028 intake/exhaust Lobe separation 106&deg;
DYNO DETAILS Headers 1 3/4-inch Hedman long tubes Advance 38&deg; Fuel 100-octane unleaded
950-CFM ULTRA HP Jets 78/78 primary/secondary Max torque @ rpm 481 @ 5,200 Max power @ rpm 539 @ 6,500 Average torque 442 Average power 443
355 PULLS RPM LB-FT HP 3500 395 263 3600 395 271 3700 397 280 3800 405 293 3900 409 304 4000 413 314 4100 412 322 4200 424 339 4300 429 351 4400 440 368 4500 447 384 4600 456 399 4700 465 416 4800 469 428 4900 474 442 5000 478 455 5100 479 465 5200 481 477 5300 480 485 5400 479 492 5500 477 499 5600 473 505 5700 471 511 5800 469 518 5900 466 523 6000 461 527 6100 459 533 6200 454 536 6300 448 538 6400 439 535 6500 436 539 6600 429 539 6700 419 534 6800 411 532 6900 401 526 7000 385 514
355 BUILD SHEET Specifications not listed are the same as stock. Except as noted, all dimensions are in inches or fractions thereof. All prices sourced through Summit Racing and Jegs. Displacement 355 ci Bore x Stroke 4.031 x 3.500 Compression 11.51:1 Rod center-to-center 6.125 Piston deck height -0.001 Chamber volume 64 cc Rod bearing clearance 0.0026 Crank endplay 0.0070 Piston ring endgap 0.022 top; Main bearing cap torque 70 ft-lb 0.020 second (moly-lube) Rod bolt torque 65 ft-lb (moly-lube) Head bolt torque 70 ft-lb (moly-lube)
PRICE LIST MFG PN DESCRIPTION PRICE ARP 134-3601 cylinder head bolts $60 534-9801 accessory bolt kit 80 134-2501 balancer bolt 20 Fel Pro 2812 performance gasket set 300 Isky Racing Cams 1271-LSH Red Zone solid roller lifters 633 203 HG +.160 pushrods 155 VL-750 0.050 locks 71 275-ST retainers 107 204 1.5:1 roller rockers 330 SG-2200 stud girdle 160 9205 valve springs 217 200-ACW antiwalk kit 56 JMS Racing Engines 355ci short-block 2,600 Included ARP main cap bolts; Federal Mogul bottom gaskets and cam, rod, and main bearings; Isky solid-roller camshaft and timing set; RPM International 4130 forged crank w/ 3.50-inch stroke and 4340 forged rods; Mahle Motorsports 0.030-over Power Pak pistons and rings. adjustable timing pointer 25 NGK R5671 A-8 plugs 20 Moroso 21017 Stage I Drag Race Pan 368 22135 oil pump and pickup 100 22070 oil pump shaft 14 RPM JZF350E SFI Harmonic Balancer 100 Spectre Performance 42859 valve cover breathers (2) 24 Summit SUM-G6300W timing cover 40 Trick Flow TFS-51400212 exhaust valves (8) 96 TFS-51400211 intake valves (8) 104 TFS-31400902 polished aluminum valve covers 97 TFS-30400623-8 pushrod guideplates 16 TFS-3042BVJ2-CNC Super 23 Street/Strip heads, bare 959 TFS-51400613 rocker studs 31 TFS-51400454 valve seals 14 Weiand 7532 Team G intake manifold 200 Total $6,997 ADDITIONAL ITEMS Holley 80676 Holley 950-cfm Ultra HP $979 MSD 8110 distributor hold-down clamp 28 85551 Pro-Billet Distributor 233 31769 8.5mm Super Conductor spark plug wire set 85 Total $1,325
Nelson's Hookup
Autotronic Controls Corporation (MSD Ignition)
Federal Mogul (Fel-Pro Gaskets)
Holley Performance Products/Weiand
Isky Racing Cams
Jegs High Performance
JMS Racing Engines
Rockett Brand Racing Fuel
RPM International
Spectre Performance
Summit Racing
Trick Flow Specialties
Westech Performance
383 Street Fighter
I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but truth be told, I've never purchased a dual-plane manifold before. Sounds a bit odd, right? If you've followed any of the engine builds I've been involved with over the years, you'll find that I've always been into peak power figures and have had little concern for idle vacuum whatsoever. As for drivability, I've generally held a steadfast opinion that anything is drivable. Then again, my background has been more heavily influenced by dragstrip antics than street light blasts.</br>
This time around, things are a little different. Recently I had the opportunity of cruising the streets of SoCal in two sexy hot rods: a '66 Chevelle and a '71 Camaro, both powered by mid-400hp 383s. And considering I rolled around in them for nearly a week straight, it hit me like a runaway train that I thoroughly enjoyed their mild yet potent street demeanor, and as a result, pushed me into the build you see here.
The angle of attack for this mule was to build something that could propel a 3,400-pound street machine out of its own way, but again, in a manner that wouldn't compromise streetability. This had to be something you could drive on a daily basis with little concern for anything but enjoying the road. It also had to have gobs of torque and only crave pump gas swill, which is the No. 1 reason I opted for the added cubic inches of a 383 with a moderate 9.4:1 compression. Handling the bottom end was Coast High Performance out of Torrance, California, while up top an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap manifold was mated to a killer set of AFR 195cc Eliminator cylinder heads. For the choice of cam, with the help of Tony Mamo from AFR, we felt Comp Cams' hydraulic roller with 224/236 degrees of duration at 0.050 and 0.502/0.520-inch lift on the intake/exhaust was the way to go. Let me tell you, the mild cam didn't hurt us one bit and this combination flat-out works.
It's hard to beat Coast High Performance's $2,800 short-block that comes with a 4340 crankshaft and rods, including the company's line of SRS pistons. If you're looking to shave a few bucks, Coast also offers a cast crank with 5140 forged rods and FPS pistons that are 75 percent stronger than their cast and hypereutectic counterparts for just $2,400.
On the dyno, curiosity got the best of us and we wanted to check out the differences between the Holley 650- and 750-cfm Street HPs. We figured the big numbers would come from the larger 750 while the smaller 650 would produce better street manners. We'll have to test the latter part of the theory once we drop it in the mule, but given the cubic inches, I'm fairly certain that the 750 will be just fine. The results: The 750 HP produced 491 hp at 6,000 rpm and 489 lb-ft at 4,600 rpm, which is 11 more horsepower over the smaller 650 HP with 480 hp at 6,100 rpm and 8 lb-ft over at 4,500 rpm. This baby even pulls well over 14 inches of vacuum at 850 rpms!
Admittedly, we searched for that last bit of power in hopes of cracking the 500 hp mark, but it just wasn't meant to be. We ended up testing a 1-inch open spacer followed by a 1-inch tapered spacer, only it didn't make a bit of difference on this combination. For what it's worth, we originally planned on using a set of 1.6 ratio rockers; unfortunately, we had the wrong rocker studs and had to instead go with a set of 1.52 rockers. It's hard to say whether or not that would have gotten us over the hump; that'll be a test for another day. Until then, read up and check out this bad boy. -HD
THE LOWDOWN FLOW FIGURES Lift Intake Exhaust 0.200 137 110 0.300 196 158 0.400 243 190 0.500 274 207 0.550 280 211 CFM at 28 inches H2O CAMSHAFT SPECS Manufacturer Comp Cams PN 12-415-8 Grind Number NX276HR Type hydraulic roller Valve lift at 0.050 0.502/0.520-inch intake/exhaust Duration at 0.050 224/236&deg; intake/exhaust Lobe separation 113&deg; DYNO DETAILS Headers 1 3/4-inch Hedman long tubes Advance 36&deg; Fuel 91-octane unleaded 750-CFM STREET HP Jets 72/78 primary/secondary Max torque @ rpm 489 @ 4,600 Max power @ rpm 491 @ 6,000 Average torque 451 Average power 387
383 PULLS RPM LB-FT HP 2700 398 204 2800 397 212 2900 400 221 3000 408 233 3100 422 249 3200 432 263 3300 443 279 3400 452 293 3500 459 306 3600 466 320 3700 473 333 3800 476 344 3900 481 357 4000 483 368 4100 487 380 4200 489 391 4300 489 400 4400 489 410 4500 489 419 4600 489 428 4700 489 437 4800 487 445 4900 485 452 5000 484 461 5100 481 467 5200 477 472 5300 473 477 5400 469 482 5500 462 484 5600 455 485 5700 450 488 5800 444 490 5900 437 490 6000 429 491 6100 422 490 6200 415 489 6300 406 486 6400 397 484 6500 391 484
383 BUILD SHEET Specifications not listed are the same as stock. Except as noted, all dimensions are in inches or fractions thereof. All prices sourced through Summit Racing and Jegs. Displacement 383 ci Bore x Stroke 4.030 x 3.750 Compression 9.4:1 Rod center-to-center 5.700 Piston deck height -0.006 Chamber volume 60 cc Rod bearing clearance 0.0027 Crank endplay 0.0060 Piston ring endgap 0.020 top; Main bearing cap torque 65 ft-lb 0.022 second (moly-lube) Rod bolt torque 63 ft-lb (moly-lube) Head bolt torque 65/70 ft-lb (moly-lube) PRICE LIST MFG PN DESCRIPTION PRICE AirFlow Research 1040 195 cc $1,440 ARP 230-7002 12-point oil pump stud 7.88 534-9701 fastener kit 79.95 134-3601 head bolts 61.95 134-2501 balancer bolt 19.95 Coast High Perf. 14006-030 383ci Street Fighter short-block 2,800 Including 5.700-inch CNC beam forged rods, Probe SRS forged flat-top pistons, 3.750-inch stroke cast steel crankshaft Comp Cams hydraulic roller 259.95 853-16 High Energy Hydraulic Roller Lifters 459.95 7944-16 pushrods 153.39 1301-16 Pro Magnum roller rockers 285.95 Edelbrock 7501 RPM Air-Gap 212.1 Fel Pro 1205 intake gaskets 12.88 1003 head gaskets 34.88 OS5197C2 multipiece cork gasket 17.69 Milodon 18750 high volume oil pump 56.88 18307 oil pump pickup 36.95 15004 chain set 61.95 31502 oil pan 122.95 23050 oil pump shaft 14.95 65555 timing cover 37.95 Spectre Performance 5031 fabricated aluminum valve covers 145 42859 push-in breather 16 42869 shielded push-in breather 18 Summit Racing C4265 balancer 125.39 Total $6,455.57 ADDITIONAL ITEMS Holley 82750 Holley 750-cfm Street HP $519.95 Performance Distributors 12720 black cap Street/Strip D.U.I. 279 9051 black Live Wires 99 Total $897.95
H's Hookup
Air Flow Research
Coast High Performance
Comp Cams
Edelbrock Corp.
Federal Mogul (Fel-Pro Gaskets)
Holley Performance Products
Jegs High Performance
Performance Distributors
Spectre Performance
Summit Racing
The Misfit 327
To be completely honest, I was a bit skeptical when I volunteered myself to put together a 327 for our three-way build, as in my eyes, the 327 has always seemed like an outcast, shunned by the other small-blocks as a weakling and cast aside for more important jobs. Sadly, it's never really gotten its due. I knew it was going to be tough to try to play in the street with the other bad boys of the hood, but I knew it could be done with the right parts and with less money. Predictions and trash-talk were running rampant in the office as to how much power we could get out of this little guy, but the 327 made it through without so much as a hiccup.</br>
After we contacted Mark Plotner from Powerhouse Engine Components in Bakersfield, California, he set us up with an original 327 block, bored and machined 0.030 over. He also offered up his complete, balanced 327 rotating assembly with cast flat-top pistons. While this foundation is nearly stock, we were trying to keep costs at bay so we could spend our loot on a more efficient top end. In this case, we went with Dart's SBC top end kit, which came with everything we needed to complete the build. At only 1,500 bucks for the stuff, it was perfect.
Initially, on the dyno, the motor wasn't happy. Upon some investigation, we realized the timing pointer on the timing cover had been installed upside down, in turn giving us the wrong reading. As a matter of fact, we were 10 degrees off, and once we got the timing correct at 35 degrees, we recorded a baseline of 346 hp. We weren't pleased just yet and we knew there was still some hidden power to be found. The fuel curve was pretty fat so we got after it and took out some fuel in the primaries and secondaries-even bumping up the timing to 39 degrees. We then hit 371 hp on the next run. The fuel curve was perfect but we still weren't that impressed. We opted for a 1-inch open style Wilson Manifold spacer and gained 10 hp. At that point, the 327 was still making power so we took it a step further and added a 2-inch tapered Wilson spacer and gained another 10 hp. Our final number netted us 391 hp and 381 lb-ft with no drop in power down low! It was rather impressive, to say the least, and the cost to produce it was even better. -SH
THE LOWDOWN FLOW FIGURES Lift Intake Exhaust 0.200 139 114 0.300 193 145 0.400 231 164 0.500 249 172 0.550 253 173 CFM at 28 inches H2O CAMSHAFT SPECS Manufacturer Elgin PN E920P Type hydraulic flat tappet Valve lift at 0.050 0.480/0.480-inch intake/exhaust Duration at 0.050 230/230&deg; intake/ exhaust Lobe separation 114&deg; DYNO DETAILS Headers 1 3/4-inch Hedman long tubes Advance 39&deg; Fuel 91-octane unleaded
650-CFM STREET HP Jets 67/73 primary/ secondary Max torque @ rpm 382 @ 4,500 Max power @ rpm 391 @ 5,600 Average torque 361 Average power 298 327 PULLS RPM LB-FT HP 2600 316 156 2700 314 161 2800 315 168 2900 320 177 3000 330 189 3100 343 202 3200 351 214 3300 358 225 3400 365 236 3500 369 246 3600 370 254 3700 374 263 3800 377 273 3900 380 282 4000 380 290 4100 380 297 4200 381 305 4300 382 313 4400 382 320 4500 382 327 4600 381 334 4700 381 341 4800 381 348 4900 381 356 5000 380 362 5100 378 367 5200 376 372 5300 375 378 5400 374 384 5500 371 389 5600 366 391 5700 359 390 5800 352 389 5900 345 388 6000 339 387 6100 331 385
327 BUILD SHEET Specifications not listed are the same as stock. Except as noted, all dimensions are in inches or fractions thereof. All prices sourced through Summit Racing and Jegs. Displacement 331 ci Bore x Stroke 4.030 x 3.250 Compression 9.6:1 Rod center-to-center 5.700 Piston deck height 0.020 Chamber volume 64 cc Rod bearing clearance 0.002 Crank endplay 0.0060 Piston ring endgap 0.017 top; Main bearing cap torque 65 ft-lb 0.019 second (moly-lube) Rod bolt torque 50 ft-lb (moly-lube) Head bolt torque 65 ft-lb (moly-lube) PRICE LIST MFG PN DESCRIPTION PRICE CANTON 15-010 5-quart oil pan $185 20-020 oil pickup 35 COMP Cams 7972-16 5/16 pushrods 147 210 two-piece timing cover 244 Dart 10110010 thru 10220010 top end kit 1,500 Powerhouse Engine Components 327 750 327 block bored 0.030 over, balanced 327 late large journal crank, GM rods with ARP bolts, moly ring set, King main bearings, King rod bearings, sealed power flat-top pistons, Melling high-volume oil pump, Fel-Pro gasket set, cam bearings, Elgin camshaft, hydraulic flat tappet lifters, brass freeze plug kit, True roller three-key timing set Scorpion SCP1026BL 1.7:1 roller rockers 222 TCI 872002 8-inch front balancer 186 Total $3,269 ADDITIONAL ITEMS Holley 82651 650-cfm Street HP $501 Pertronix D100710 billet distributor 247 60104 HV coil 71 Wilson 004150 2-inch tapered spacer 197 TOTAL $1,016
FNG's Hookup
Comp Cams
Dart Machinery
Jegs High Performance
Canton Racing Products
Powerhouse Engine Components
Scorpion Performance
Summit Racing
Wilson Manifolds

Photo Gallery: Small Block Chevy Buildups - Chevy High Performance Magazine

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