Building engines and having the ability to pull them on the dyno is by far one of our cooler moments as automotive scribes. In this instance, rather than doing a single buildup we assigned each staffer to build a motor for a three-way small-block shootout. The rules were simple: You could only spend $5,500. There were no limits to cubic inches, any camshaft could be used, and everyone had to account for every last coin spent.

It may sound easy; however, in order to build a respectable motor you better do your homework. Slapping a hodgepodge of components together will get the job done, but it doesn't necessarily mean it'll run the numbers. Think about it. Big cams are cool, but they also need to be in sync with the intake manifold and cylinder heads you're using. Then there's the static compression. In most cases, unless you're going blown, compression is your friend. Unfortunately, depending on your particular combination, you won't always be able to get what you want with out-of-the-box pieces and you may have to mill your heads, which can take additional money out of your already limited budget.

Now, what makes this story so compelling is that the individuals involved in these builds have varied personalities. If you had to label us, senior editor Bob Mehlhoff is more of a resto guy who can appreciate power but is generally more concerned about drivability, whereas associate editor John Nelson gets his kicks from flogging high-rpm cars at open-track events. Then there's me, a drag racer at heart who couldn't care less about idle quality and low-idle vacuum. Was there a clear-cut winner? That all depends on what you like and what you expect out of your motors--so you'll have to tell us. You'll find that we've highlighted each engine's peak numbers and included the average horsepower and torque figures, along with complete price sheets detailing every component used. As an added bonus--and to make things a little more interesting--we added a Nitrous Works single-stage nitrous system to the mix. Did anyone blow up? Better read on to find out.

NITROUS WORKS!
The greatest and cheapest equalizer available is nitrous! Nitrous Works' entry-level, single-stage plate didn't quite fit into our budget, but we would be fools for not subjecting our dyno rats to a little testing. This system retails for $413.99 and is good for an additional 75-200 hp at the touch of a button.

EXTRA CARB DIET
Holley says that the Street HP carb uses the best features from the 4150 HP but is tamed for street use. This 750-cfm mixer is fitted with mechanical secondaries and adjustable air bleeds, among other features. Very little dialing in was needed.

Squeaker Mouse 355ci
Needless to say, there was a lot of jaw jacking going on in the office as we were all trying to pin down the stroker motors. Let's face it, if you're going to build anything based off a small-block 350, a stroker kit is really the only way to go. Right? In this instance, while I wanted to go with the cubic inches, I took a step back and decided to try the opposite end of the spectrum. Knowing that the lack of cubic inches would put me at an immediate disadvantage, I wanted to go for a peaky motor, one that could easily buzz up to 7,000 rpm and wouldn't be afraid to take a nitrous hit.

To get the job done, I talked with Coast High Performance in Torrance, California. Rather than starting with a junkyard block, I took full advantage of its 355ci short-block. The base Street Fighter SS short-block starts at $1,899, but I kicked it up a notch and went with the Street Fighter for $2,300, which includes a set of CNC Beam forged-steel connecting rods and full-floater SRS forged pistons.

While I'll let the parts list and performance numbers speak for themselves, you'll notice there are two dyno numbers, representing the 725-cfm Road Demon and the 750-cfm Mighty Demon. The Road Demon made the budget, but our little 355ci commanded more fuel for our particular combination. While the numbers were respectable by all means, simply switching over to a 750-cfm Mighty Demon netted us an additional 7 hp and 17 lb-ft. The reality is if we were to take full advantage of the larger carb it would have placed us over the budget. Not terrible, but at least you have the facts.

As for what I would do with this bullet--slap it in a chassis car weighing 3,200 pounds in front of a TH350 and steep gears, and it would make for one fun Saturday night special. 12s would be a walk in the park and on the unit, and it's anyone's guess but mid-10s wouldn't be unreasonable. I am eyeing a '73 Camaro, so we may have to test that theory out in a future issue.

Camshaft Specifications
ManufacturerComp Cams
Part Number12-678-4
TypeSolid flat-tappet
Valve lift at 0.0500.520/0.540-inch intake/exhaust
Duration at 0.050244 degrees/252 degrees intake/exhaust
Lash (cold)0.012/0.012 intake/exhaust
Lash (hot)0.016/0.016 intake/exhaust
Intake centerline106 degrees
Lobe separation110 degrees
Dyno Details
Headers 23/4 Hedman long tubes
Advance38 degrees
Fuel91-octane unleaded
725-cfm Road Demon
Max torque at rpm398 at 4,900
Max power at rpm417 at 6,500
Average torque 371
Average power379
750-cfm Mighty Demon
Max torque at rpm415 at 4,800
Max power at rpm434 at 6,600
Average torque 389
Average power397
Nitrous Works Plate175-Shot
Advance31 degrees
Max torque at rpm581 at 5,300
Max power at rpm607 at 5,700
Average torque452
Average power467
Engine Balance
Rod (rotating)449 g
Rod insert39 g
Oil allowance4 g
Piston517 g
Piston pin113 g
Locks4.5 g
Rings47 g
Rod (reciprocating)152.5 g
Total rotating984 g
Total reciprocating834 g
Total bob-weight1818 g
355ci Buildsheet
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 JEG's.
Displacement355 ci
Bore x Stroke4.030 x 3.480
Compression 10.25:1
Rod center-to-center5.700
Piston deck height-0.012
Chamber volume64cc
Rod-bearing clearance0.0027
Crank endplay0.0060
Piston-ring endgap0.022 top; 0.024 second
Main bearing-cap torque65 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Rod-bolt torque50 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Head-bolt torque65/70 lb-ft (moly-lube)
W/DEMON 725
rpmLb-FtHP
4,000370.6282
4,100369.1288
4,200375.2300
4,300389.7319
4,400394.1330
4,500393.4337
4,600397.2348
4,700397.6356
4,800397.9364
4,900398371
5,000397.1378
5,100396.7385
5,200394.6391
5,300391395
5,400386.9398
5,500384.9403
5,600383408
5,700378.8411
5,800373.3412
5,900366.4412
6,000357.3408
6,100352.1409
6,200346.6409
6,300341.7410
6,400339.4414
6,500337417
6,600331.1416
6,700325.7415
6,800317.7411
W/DEMON 750
RPMLb-FtHP
4,000407.1310
4,100409319
4,200410.6328
4,300412.9338
4,400411.9345
4,500412.7354
4,600413.6362
4,700415371
4,800415.3380
4,900413.9386
5,000413.6394
5,100412.5401
5,200409.4405
5,300406.3410
5,400403414
5,500401420
5,600397.7424
5,700394.1428
5,800389.8430
5,900378.2425
6,000372.8426
6,100367.4427
6,200362.3428
6,300357.7429
6,400353.9431
6,500349.8433
6,600345.2434
6,700339.7433
6,800331.2429
W/Nitrous
RPMLb-FtHP
4,000384.8293
4,100385.9301
4,200397317
4,300402.4329
4,400404.8339
4,500407.8349
4,600410.1359
4,700408.3365
4,800409.3374
4,900409.4382
5,000409.7390
5,100409.8398
5,200416.8413
5,300580.6586
5,400576.3593
5,500573.1600
5,600568.8606
5,700558.9607
5,800547.6605
5,900532.9599
6,000523.5598
6,100516.3600
6,200510.6603
6,300503.7604
6,400494.9603
6,500355.1439
6,600346.5435
6,700335.3428
6,800325.2421
HENRY'S COST
MFGPart NumberDescriptionPrice
ARP534-970112-point head bolts65.88
230-700212-point oil-pump stud6.50
134-5202Main bolt kit25.88
034510TOne-piece oil-pan gasket35.39
Coast High Performance*14006-030355ci Street Fighter short-block 5.700-inch CNC Beam forged rods Probe SRS forged flat-top pistons 3.480-inch stroke cast-steel crankshaft2,299.99
Comp Cams12-678-4Xtreme Energy SFT119.95
2900-16Solid lifters111.39
972-16Pushrods124.95
1301-16Pro Magnum roller rockers259.88
Demon132-4402020VE-R725-cfm Road Demon304.98
Fel-Pro1205Intake gaskets12.88
1010Head gaskets34.88
Milodon18750High-volume oil pump56.88
15004Chain set 56.95
30701Replacement oil pan75.88
22005Stainless steel dipstick52.95
23050Oil-pump shaft13.95
23500Pan baffle5.95
65555Timing cover31.95
65503Timing cover installation set13.99
MSD Ignition8362Street Fire HEI distributor149.99
3565Wire set56.88
Professional Products80000Balancer38.00
52031Hurricane single-plane manifold149.00
RHS220 Valve covers117.00
12025200cc Aluminum cylinder heads1,195.20
Summit Racing401030Fuel pump block-off plate2.88
TCI871002Adjustable timing pointer39.95
Total$5,459.95
*Four-bolt main upgrade available; call for pricing.

Henry's HookupsARP
800.826.3045
arp-bolts.com

Coast High Performance
310.784.1010
coasthigh.com

Comp Cams
901.795.2400
compcams.com

Demon Carburetion
706.864.8544
barrygrant.com

Federal Mogul (Fel-Pro Gaskets)
248.354.7700
federal-mogul.com

Milodon805.577.5950
milodon.com

MSD Ignition
915.857.5200
msdignition.com

Nitrous Works
706.864.8544
barrygrant.com

Pertronix Performance Products<
909.599.5995
pertronix.com

Professional Products
323.779.2020
professional-products.com

Racing Head Service
901.259.1134
racingheadservice.com

Summit Racing
800.230.3030
summitracing.com

TCI Automotive
888.PRO.XTCI
tciauto.com

383ci Stump Puller
There's nothing like being put on the spot to make a guy define his priorities. Case in point: getting two weeks to spec out and create a $5,500 small-block. Actually, it didn't take much more than a few minutes for a list of desirable qualities to crystallize in my sleep-deprived brain. Right off the bat, I wanted an engine I could actually put to use: street, strip, autocross, open-road racing. A dyno bullet would not do. Second, I've been enamored of the Gen III LS6's powerband since my first drive in a Z06, so I was looking for a Kansas-flat torque curve with a horsepower peak to match. Getting into the 450-plus range for each would be good--higher than that would be better.

Third--and this was the curveball--I wanted this engine to be capable of passing at the pipe if I decided to slip it under the induction system of an '80s smog car. Not that I endorse that kind of thing, mind you. But it's an interesting exercise...

The recipe, as I saw it, called for a stout but not over-the-top bottom end, a heavy-breathing top end, and as much cam as we could get away with. The cam and heads combination proved to be key. Dart's 215cc Iron Eagle Platinum Series heads are relatively inexpensive, but the flow numbers they generate make them an outright bargain. We chose a Comp hydraulic-roller cam for long-term reliability, but the chosen 'stick would have to make the most of the heads' efficiency. Our duration figures are fairly stout for a street cam, and the lift numbers are up there, but keeping the lobe separation at 113 degrees allows for adequate vacuum and a livable idle, and makes the engine relatively emissions friendly.

Relying heavily on the knowledge and experience of Speed-O-Motive's George Ullrich, my LS6-style traditional small-block became a reality. The peak numbers of 470 lb-ft and 458 hp are about as close to equal as you can get--more importantly, this baby is making more than 400 lb-ft from 2,500 rpm all the way to six grand. Acceleration on demand throughout the powerband, but plenty of horsepower for top-end haulin'--this engine would make a good-handling car an utter riot to drive. And isn't that the whole purpose of building a hot engine?

Camshaft Specifications
ManufacturerComp Cams
Part Number12-419-8
TypeHydraulic roller
Valve lift at 0.0500.520/0.540-inch intake/exhaust
w/1.6 rockers0.555/0.578-inch intake/exhaust
Duration at 0.050236 degrees/248 degrees intake/exhaust
Intake centerline108 degrees
Lobe separation113 degrees
Dyno Details
Headers23/4 Long tubes
Advance36 degrees
Fuel91-octane unleaded
Max torque at rpm470.7 at 4,300
Max power at rpm458.0 at 5,700
Average torque 447.9
Average power390.0
Nitrous Works Plate125-Shot
Advance31 degrees
Max torque at rpm641.2 at 4,500
Max power at rpm593.0 at 5,600
Average torque515.1
Average power455
Engine Balance
Rod (rotating)434.8 g
Rod insert46 g
Oil allowance4 g
Piston (w/ pin)535.2 g
Rings35.3 g
Rod (reciprocating)178.5 g
Total rotating965.6 g
Total reciprocating749 g
Total bob-weight1714.6 g
385ci Buildsheet
Specifications not listed are the same as stock. Except as noted, all dimensions are in inches or fractions thereof. All prices sourced through Speed-O-Motive.
Displacement384.6 ci
Bore x Stroke4.040 x 3.750
Compression10.30:1
Rod center-to-center6.000
Piston deck height+0.006
Chamber volume72cc
Rod-bearing clearance0.0020
Crank endplay0.0060
Piston-ring endgap0.020 top; 0.022 second
Main bearing-cap torque65-70 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Rod-bolt torque50 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Head-bolt torque70 lb-ft (moly-lube)
MOTOR ONLY
RPM Lb-FtHP
3,100451.1266
3,200448.3273
3,300446280
3,400446.9289
3,500449.5300
3,600453310
3,700457.9323
3,800461.1334
3,900463.8344
4,000466.2355
4,100469.2366
4,200469.8376
4,300470.7385
4,400469.8394
4,500468.8402
4,600467.6410
4,700465.3416
4,800462.5423
4,900461.8431
5,000457.7436
5,100455442
5,200449.1445
5,300442.7447
5,400439.7452
5,500432.8453
5,600426.6455
5,700421.6458
5,800414.7458
5,900406456
6,000399.5456
6,100391.3455
W/NITROUS
RPM lb-ftHp
3,100431.8255
3,200429.3262
3,300429.1270
3,400430.5279
3,500432.3288
3,600437.4300
3,700445.6314
3,800443.3321
3,900443.4329
4,000444.5339
4,100450.8352
4,200450.9361
4,300466.7382
4,400486.9408
4,500641.2549
4,600635.6557
4,700627.2561
4,800619.8566
4,900611.6571
5,000605.3576
5,100595.6578
5,200590584
5,300582.9588
5,400574.4591
5,500564.2591
5,600556.5593
5,700546.8593
5,800535.1591
5,900525.4590
6,000513.2586
6,100501.1582
MFGPart NumberDescriptionPrice
ARP534-9801Engine/accessory kit79.40
134-1001Cam bolts3.71
200-2401Carb studs12.30
134-3601Head bolt kit54.35
230-7003Oil-pump stud4.92
Comp Cams7808-16HE pushrods31.64
850-16Hydraulic-roller lifters201.23
124-19-8Hydraulic-roller cam245.48
202Cam button4.80
Dart10620020PIron Eagle Platinum 215cc heads*850.00
Fel-ProEIS1085PTEngine install set29.95
EIS40520Engine install set10.26
GM Performance Products10105123350ci Bare Block679.00
Holley0-82751Street HP 750 double-pumper319.95
MahleSBC125040F05Power Pak pistons and rings479.20
Pertronix808480Flamethrower 8mm plug wires40.00
D100700Flamethrower billet distributor199.95
Professional Products80003Powerforce damper44.00
52056Crosswind manifold, stain finish129.95
Proform141-753Timing-chain cover17.88
141-751Valve covers59.88
Speed-O-Motive1.6:1 self-aligning roller rockers179.95
383 stroker crank139.00
5140 forged con rods175.00
Blueprint w/line bore500.00
Cam bearings19.07
CNC clearance block for stroker crank150.00
Distributor clamp1.33
Engine balancing115.00
Engine bearings29.20
Expansion plugs7.56
Floating hang/align40.00
Flywheel35.00
Oil pump and shaft25.43
Short-block build325.00
Spark plugs20.00
Timing set19.34
Hamburger's Performance Products3057Circle/Road Race oil pan199.88
1588Spreader bars9.69
Total$5,488.30
*Bare heads are machined then assembled with Comp Cams locators, springs, retainers, and keepers, along with Manley valves and seals by Speed-O-Motive.

ARP
800.826.3045
arp-bolts.com

Comp Cams
901.795.2400
compcams.com

Dart Machinery
248.362.1188
dartheads.com

Federal Mogul (Fel-Pro Gaskets)
248.354.7700
federal-mogul.com

GM Performance Products
gmgoodwrench.com

Hamburger's Performance products
562.921.0404
hamburgersperformance.com

Holley Performance Products
270.782.2900
holley.com

Mahle Motorsports
888.255.1942
mahlemotorsports.com

Nitrous Works
706.864.8544
barrygrant.com

Pertronix Performance Products
909.599.5995
pertronix.com

Professional Products
323.779.2020
professional-products.com

Specialty Auto Parts (Proform)
586.774.2500
proformparts.com

Speed-O-Motive
626.869.0270
speedomotive.com

396 Torque MonsterIf you're an avid Chevy High reader, we're sure you'd relish the chance to get a bankroll of $5,500 to build your own small-block to your specs. For this opportunity I decided to build something other than what we've built over the last few years. The target performance range of this motor is something that will easily produce lots of torque and work very well in a street-driven performance car. That meant a completely different displacement, a not-so-often-tried camshaft, and a set of low-cost aluminum cylinder heads. The shop I chose to accomplish this engine build was Larry's Performance in Montebello, California.

For many, the term 396 conjures up thoughts of a stout big-block Chevy, but in this case all 396 ci are stuffed into a four-bolt-main 350 Mouse block. This buildup started with a well-worn '79 Chevrolet small-block casting that had been pulled from a half-ton truck and bored 0.030-inch over to achieve a 4.030-inch cylinder. The large displacement from the 350 motor is achieved by axing the stock 3.48-inch stroke crank and replacing it with a 3.8750-inch forged-steel shaft fitted to a set of 6.00-inch I-beam full-floating rods and SRP forged pistons. Yes, this means a very short 1.062-inch compression height on the pistons.

To support the midrange power goal of this combination, an Isky 292 Mega cam with 505-inch lift, 244 degrees of duration (measured at 0.050-inch lift), and 108-degree lobe center got the nod. The ignition system is a proven MSD unit and MSD ignition wires. Then a set of aluminum cylinder heads to help lighten the load and a Professional Products dual-plane intake topped off the package to provide good engine performance within the budget.

When we had finished we were rewarded with a big 481 lb-ft of torque on the dyno and almost 440 horses. Yes, big power for little money.

Camshaft Specifications
ManufacturerIsky
Part Number201292
TypeHydraulic flat-tappet
Valve lift 0.505/0.505-inch intake/exhaust
Duration at 0.050244 degrees /244 degrees intake/exhaust
Lobe center108
Dyno Details
Headers 23/4 long tubes
Advance38
Fuel91-octane unleaded
On the Motor
Max torque at rpm481 at 4,100
Max power at rpm439 at 5,400
Average torque 450
Average power386
Nitrous Works Plate 125-Shot
Advance31 degrees
Max torque at rpm663 at 4,400
Max power at rpm579 at 5,200
Average torque 492
Average power421
396ci Buildsheet
Specifications not listed are the same as stock. Except as noted, all dimensions are in inches or fractions thereof. All prices sourced through Larry's Performance.
Displacement396 ci
Bore x Stroke4.030 x 3.8750
Compression 11:1
Rod center-to-center6.00
Piston deck height0.015
Compression height1.062
Chamber volume64cc
Rod-bearing clearance0.0020
Crank endplay0.0060
Piston-ring endgap0.020 top; 0.030, second
Main bearing-cap torque65 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Rod-bolt torque50 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Head-bolt torque65/70 lb-ft (moly-lube)
Motor Only
RPMlb-ftHp
3,200448.2273
3,300450.7283
3,400452.4293
3,500458.6306
3,600466319
3,700472.2333
3,800476.8345
3,900479.1356
4,000478.7365
4,100480.6375
4,200478.1382
4,300477.4391
4,400473.1396
4,500469.8403
4,600465.7408
4,700462.2414
4,800459.2420
4,900453.5423
5,000448.8427
5,100441.4429
5,200437.3433
5,300432.5436
5,400427.3439
5,500416.9437
5,600408.2435
5,700399.4433
5,800390.9432
5,900381.4428

With Nitrous
RPM lb-ftHp
3,000392.7224
3,100393.9232
3,200396241
3,300401.2252
3,400406.3263
3,500414276
3,600426.5292
3,700441.8311
3,800446.2323
3,900447.4332
4,000452.6345
4,100452.7353
4,200465.4372
4,300482.3395
4,400662.6555
4,500653.3560
4,600644.8565
4,700632.5566
4,800622.6569
4,900613.4572
5,000605.8577
5,100594.4577
5,200585579
5,300572.1577
5,400561577
5,500422.2442
5,600410437
5,700396.9431
5,800384.7425
5,900376.4423
Bob's Cost
MFGPart NumberDescriptionPrice
Larry's PerformanceTPPCH396LBTrack Pro 396 small-block*$4895.00
ARP Stainless bolt-accessory kits
Chevy four-bolt main block NPN4.030-inch bore
Fel-Pro KS2600Engine gasket set
Isky 202-HYHydraulic lifters
201292Hydraulic Mega Cam
KingCR848HPRod bearings
MB5142Main bearings
Mellings55HVHigh-volume oil ump
MSD31229Ignition wires
85551Pro Billet distributor
Professional Products14116Valve covers
52025Intake manifold, polished finish
Pro Comp Engineering PC3002FAluminum cylinder heads
Racing Parts MaximumDG5-186DCrankshaft
JZF350E Dampener
FP350Flexplate
LG3-6000IQI-Beam connecting rods
YBB350350Stainless 1.5 rocker
SA Gear78100True Roller chain set
SRP144995Forged pistons
J100F8-4.030-5Rings
Track ProPR34BH Hardened chrome-moly pushrods
WyscoWA9005Oil Pan, 5-quart
WA4934Timing cover
Mighty Demon 7505402010GCCarburetor $499.95
Total $5,394.95
*All following parts are included, except Mighty Demon carburetor.

ARP
805.339.2200
arp-bolts.com

Barry Grant
706.864.8544
barrygrant.com

Isky Racing Cams
323.770.0930
iskycams.com

Larry's Performance Shop
323.722.8865
larrysperformance.com

MSD Ignition
915.857.5200
msdignition.com

Professional Products
323.779.2020
professional-products.com