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Balls Out Rebuild on an old 400 - few questions

This is a discussion on Balls Out Rebuild on an old 400 - few questions within the Classic Muscle forums, part of the Vehicle Specific category; I'm in the planning stages of a road/rally race project, and it seems that division rules favor olders cars. Anything ...

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    Balls Out Rebuild on an old 400 - few questions

    I'm in the planning stages of a road/rally race project, and it seems that division rules favor olders cars. Anything pre 1981 gets some time bonus over modern entries, but pre76 and pre71 cars get additional time on top of that again to complete stages.

    This has me thinking about 1st gen, maybe early 2nd gen firebirds. - Rules don't for engines that weren't factory options, so the ever cheap and plentiful small block chevy is not an option.


    Can anyone recommend an engine builder with experience in Pontiac 400s?


    From here on down I'm refering to only the base 400 - as I doubt I could ever get my hands on any of the more desireable ram air II, III, or IV cars (rules dictate that a car must match the factory spec of its VIN, but it does not require a #s matching car)

    Rules allow for up to a 10% increase in displacement, but one question I have is just how many additional cubes are practical with that block (Stock Block must be used, its not an option)

    Other rules limit me to stock crank, and stock heads - though the heads can be worked to nearly any degree and revalved.
    Lifters also may have to remain stock.

    With that in mind > does any year 400 from 67 to 76 present an advantage through either revised block, head, or crank design?

    The idea is to build the closest thing to an all out race engine that is allowable with the restrictions of the division rules.
    Last edited by Intrepidman; 01-21-2011 at 04:48 AM.

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    I am very impressed by the engine build we just had completed by Bill Trovato. From the various engines I saw in his shop, I'd say that he builds them all. Check out BTR Performance in Rochester, NY on the web.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pajeff02 View Post
    I am very impressed by the engine build we just had completed by Bill Trovato. From the various engines I saw in his shop, I'd say that he builds them all. Check out BTR Performance in Rochester, NY on the web.
    non sponsor.

    kidding.

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    To my knowledge, we don't have any old school engine builders for sponsors -- that's why I posted the recommendation. Trovato runs an Olds Starfire is the NMCA Xtreme Street series that is a total beast -- 7.88 at 173 mph last year in the finals. Google images for "Trovato Olds Starfire".

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    butler is one of the best when it comes to old school Pontiac's

    not cheap tho

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    Many people build a 455 out of a 400 block, not sure what combination will give you 440 cubes
    Edit: nevermind, stock crank

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    I've been around pontiacs all my life thanks to my father. We've built a few to say the least. We have used various known pontiac builders for different things looking for that "great" combination.

    I'll start with pontiac specific builders that I've had dealings with.

    Butler is one, down in Tennessee. Good work done, prices are comparable to others. Carries the IA II block in aluminum or cast iron that can be used to build as much as 541 cubes.

    Bruce Fulper is a guy I've been friends with since the mid 90's, Super Stock record holder with a 400 pontiac engine in an 84 firebird. Been around a long time. Knows his stuff, extremely reasonable on prices, located in Southern Cal.

    Kaufmann is near Dayton, Ohio. Used him for a 455 build. Casts his own design aluminum heads. I've used his CNC ported Edelbrock heads and custom cam combination with good success.

    Currently my father is building another 455 based 498 cubed stroker from BES. As far as I'm concerned Bischoff is the best around, and he proves it by winning the Engine Masters Challenge quite often. Most recently just this past year, and he does it with various brand engines. Prices are what I consider cheap coming from someone with this much notoriety. Honestly when my father came back with a quote I was shocked at how cheap it was. Bottom line, every engine he touches is winning, whether it be Stock/Super Stock, NMCA, Pure stock, FAST etc...As a matter of fact he built the most recent FAST record holder using stock parts.
    He is located in South East Indiana.

    To answer some of your other questions.......

    You can take a 400 block up to 474 cubes with some of the many available stroker cranks. There is even a new 4.500" pontiac crank that has hit the market recently, and I've heard rumors of even larger 400's being built, but that's stretching it thin.

    If you are limited to stock stroke and stock heads, then you'll want to get your hands on the best factory heads you can afford. Since your rules dictate the engine has to match what the car would have come equipped with,,,,it would be in your best interest to start with a more advantageous model. That again will cost more money and be more difficult.
    With that said, you could start looking from 68-70. 68 was the first year for the round port heads to be introduced (ram air II's, casting #96). In 69 they were renamed ram air IV's and continued through the 70 production year. In 69 they were #722 and in 70 they were #614's.
    After that the round ports were on the 71-72 model 455 HO's and were a redesign of the ram air IV's (different casting numbers too of #196 and I can't remember the others off the top of my head). In 73 they were redesigned again and used as SD heads on the 73-74 models. I believe one casting number for SD heads was 16.

    The ram air III heads fall in the middle and produced in 69 and 70 only. They are a "D" port head and carry a #48 casting for 1969 and #12 or #13 casting for 1970.

    There are other D port heads that work well, such as the #62's found in 1969 400's, #64's found on the one year only 70 455's. #16's found on D port 68 400's.
    After 1970 the compression drops and as a result the heads have larger chambers.

    As far as 400 blocks go, the better blocks are 67 to about 72-73. After that from 74 on up, the castings are thinner, and most of those pontiac builders I mentioned above prefer to avoid these castings for performance builds, they have issues in the main webbing areas.
    Problem is these blocks are drying up,,,FAST.
    You mention using a stock crank, but didn't mention if it had to be stock stroke for the block used. With that said, you can stick a 428 or 4.55 cranks in a 400 block. You can either turn the mains down, or there are aftermarket 428/455 cranks on the market with the mains already down to 3" for the 400 blocks. There are really a ton of ways to build a pontiac, with great aftermarket support now. The aftermarket blocks were a blessing since GM blocks are drying up.

    To really find that advantageous combo and answer more in depth questions we would have to wait and see what you wind up with. Happy car hunting.

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    Thank you everyone for the great support, and Mr. Firebirdjones in particular, that was a fantastic write up.


    I think I have quite a challenge on my hands, as was said, stock engines and cars are drying up and becomming hard to find or extremely expensive. An aftermarket block would be a godsend, but sadly is against rules for every class except "Open"; Which theoretically leaves the possibility that I could end up running against anything from a 2010 race prepped, twin turbo vette, to a bugotti veyron, up to an F1 car! (possible, but not likely)

    I will just have to do some hard hunting and see what I come up with. I'm searching for any car, in any condition, with the right vin, rebuildable or not, I just need the vin. Then the same hunt is on for a block/heads ... any condition that can be salvaged.

    Thanks again everyone, and wish me luck!

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    Keep us posted. Curious to see what you end up with.

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