MDS Ignition, Comp Cams Roller Rockers & Holley Carburetor Upgrade - Recession Buster
7 Budget Friendly Bolt-Ons For Power & Driveability
From the September, 2009 issue of Chevy High Performance
By Sean Haggai
Photography by Sean Haggai
The drastic dip in the economy has left a lot of us car guys scratching our heads. Our budgets are stretched to the max, and luxuries that aren't vehicle-related are on hiatus until further notice. Still, it's possible to add parts and make power during these tough times, all the while staying within a strict budget. The truth of the matter is not all of us can afford a brand-new crate engine, nor can we dig up the pocket change towards forced induction. Heck, even a basic engine overhaul these days seems unimaginable.
The good news is that with a budget frame of mind, it doesn't take much to free those locked-up ponies from your muscle car. Take into consideration what an engine needs, namely air/fuel and spark. Any approach to improving these characteristics is bound to both increase power and create a much more efficiently running engine.
A perfect opportunity to illustrate these efforts came to us. We jumped at the chance to prove our theory on a street-driven '64 Chevelle that was recently purchased on eBay. The Chevelle was a clean sweep with glossy black paint, a new interior, and a solid-running, iron-headed 350 small-block with a factory-style HEI distributor, a Carter carburetor, and stamped-steel rockers. While Colin Hicks' gem survived the northern-Oregon-to-sunny-SoCal road trip without a single hiccup, he was still after a bit more performance out of the mill. Of course, everything had to meet within the constraints of his wallet, so we limited our performance enhancing to an ignition upgrade with an MSD 6AL and a Pro Billet distributor with new wires. We also took advantage of a set of Comp Ultra-Gold rockers and banked on the valve lift for increased air into the cylinders. We also replaced the archaic Carter carburetor with a fresh unit from Holley.
While we don't expect you to run out and buy a project car, the results we obtained should be close to what you might experience on a similar combination of your own. Would you have tried something different? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
What We Did
Ignition upgrade with roller rockers and a Holley carb
Perfect for your everyday hauler or project car
$1,500 for the components, $175/hour for dyno time
The engine bay of our '64...
The engine bay of our '64 was nothing to write home about. The 350 locked inside was virtually stock aside from the Doug's headers (D308) and new spark plugs. The small-block was sporting an outdated Carter carburetor, stamped valve covers, a Delco-Remy HEI with shoddy wiring, and factory rockers. The owner was pleased with his purchase, but the sloppy engine characteristics were progressively getting worse and would often shut down for no obvious reason. In stock trim, we ran the Chevelle on Lou's Performance chassis dyno to set a baseline. Without changing anything the small-block only produced 194 hp and 264 lb-ft.
Mike Consolo got to work digging...
Mike Consolo got to work digging out all the old components and made room for the new ones. We began by removing the K&N circular air cleaner and Carter carburetor. We detached all the linkage and the vacuum and fuel lines. We kept the air cleaner for later.
We then pulled the old wires...
We then pulled the old wires and removed the plugs with a 5/8-inch spark plug socket. The old wires won't be necessary to keep around, but we did hold onto the plugs since they were still in pretty good condition.
This Delco-Remy HEI distributor...
This Delco-Remy HEI distributor was past its due date. We removed the distributor clamp with a 9/16-inch wrench and yanked the old HEI out along with its less-than-satisfactory wiring to the electric-choke setup on the old Carter; this was the reason the engine would shut down intermittently.
The steel rockers were next...
The steel rockers were next on the chopping block. Using a 5/8-inch deep socket, we began to remove all of the factory-style rockers. Consolo then removed the rockers, starting with the ones that weren't under compression.
To increase valve lift without...
To increase valve lift without swapping out the cam, we grabbed a set of Comp Ultra-Gold 1.6:1 ratio roller rockers (PN 19002-16). The increases ratio will keep the valves open a little longer, allowing more air and fuel into the cylinders for added power. These rockers are available off-the-shelf for $240, CNC-machined, and notched to clear most performance aftermarket valve springs.
|SHOPPING CART |
|MFG ||DESCRIPTION ||PN ||COST |
|COMP CAMS ||Ultra-Gold 3/8-inch 1.6 rockers ||19002-16 ||$240 |
| ||Aluminum valve covers ||220 ||120 |
|HOLLEY ||650 HP carburetor ||0-82651 ||500 |
| ||Phenolic spacer ||17-59 ||48 |
|LOU'S PERFORMANCE ||Dyno time ||N/A ||175 |
|MSD IGNITION ||Pro-Billet distributor ||85551 ||228 |
| ||Blaster 2 coil ||8202 ||36 |
|6AL ignition box ||6420 ||203 |
|Wiring kit ||31239 ||79 |
|Pro-Crimp tool ||35051 ||70 |
| ||TOTAL ||$1,699 |
Finally, we could start plugging...
Finally, we could start plugging the new go-fast goodies. We started with the Comp 1.6:1Ultra-Gold roller rockers, positioning them all on the pushrods and locked them down using a 5/8-inch socket. Since the engine came with a hydraulic cam, we didn't need to worry about adjusting for lash.
With the roller rockers installed,...
With the roller rockers installed, we then dropped in the billet MSD distributor (PN 85551). It was literally only a matter of pulling it out of the box and sending into the heart of the block. Consolo did make sure to mark the cap with the body for reference on timing. Once in, we installed the distributor clamp and tightened it with a 9/16-inch wrench.
Consolo preferred to make...
Consolo preferred to make his own custom-length wires. Not only do they fit better, it looks much nicer and more organized. To make the job easier, he ran the wires along the side of the engine and cut the wires in order to fit them to his liking.
When building custom wires...
When building custom wires for your application, your toolbox needs one of these: MSD's ratcheting Pro-Crimp (PN 35051). The interchangeable jaws allow for an array of crimps, and the hardened steel frame, molded handles, and slip-free grip allow for repeatable crimping performance.
Before we set the carburetor...
Before we set the carburetor down, we made sure to install Holley's phenolic 1-inch spacer with its supplied gaskets. The spacer should help with air/fuel atomization, which creates a more efficient burn in the combustion chamber.
Every project car should have...
Every project car should have a competent ignition to work with. Complete combustion is crucial in freeing up those ponies. The MSD 6AL (PN 6420) will take full advantage of the Pro-Billet distributor for easier starting and reduced plug fouling, and will even improve your fuel economy. All it needs is a 12V power source with an 18V max. Added function includes a rev limiter that can be adjusted with plug-in modules. We also paired the box with a Blaster 2 coil (PN 8202).
While we could have installed...
While we could have installed the MSD 6AL box in the traditional spot on the firewall, we opted to install it on the driver side of the radiator with the vibration mounts and hardware. We positioned the box with the wire loom facing down, and used White Out to mark where we needed to drill the mounting holes. From there, locking it down and wiring the box was only a matter of using the supplied hardware.
To hide the wires from the...
To hide the wires from the 6AL box, we ran them with a plastic loom protector up and over the driver-side fenderwell and along the firewall. The wires included two for the coil terminals (orange for positive, black for negative), white for points (was not used), and heavy black for the ground. A red wire connects to a 12V power source, preferably to the ignition key or switch, while a heavy red wire connects to the positive side of the battery. The violet and green wires are routed together and clip directly to the MSD distributor.
To fit our new roller rockers...
To fit our new roller rockers from Comp, we also picked up a set of Comp's aluminum valve covers (PN 220). It's important to note that the covers do not come with a hole for breathers; in this instance we drilled a 11/4-inch hole.
We opted for a Holley 650...
We opted for a Holley 650 HP carburetor (PN 0-82651) for its no-nonsense, plug-and-play ability. As luck would have it, the previous throttle linkage was a direct fit, only requiring us to fasten the transmission kickdown, which incidentally also fit beautifully with absolutely no modification.
The last bit to this install...
The last bit to this install was getting fuel to the carburetor. Since this 350 had an older Carter carburetor, we needed new duel fuel lines to feed the 4150 Holley 650 HP. Fortunately, we were able to borrow one from the shop; however, you'll need to purchase a universal line, which is also available from Holley for just $30 (PN 34-16).
After double-checking all...
After double-checking all of the components, it was time to fire the Chevelle up. With the initial crack of the throttle it was obvious the engine was much happier. We took a trip down the street and while the drivability had been significantly improved, it was the dyno that would truly reveal the results of our efforts. With the new components, the Chevelle produced 222 ponies and 290 lb-ft, netting us with a total gain of 28 hp and 26 lb-ft to the tires! Something else you may notice, is the smoothness of the entire powerband, when compared to the original pull.
Not only does our Chevelle...
Not only does our Chevelle shred tires into Second gear now, but the intermittent electrical problem has been resolved and the car runs like a champ. As a bonus, the new modifications also gave us a much cleaner and more modern look with minimal cash outlay.