The build-off always starts off as a friendly staffer competition, but as the builds get closer to being complete, it boggles me how my cell phone will start ringing completely off the hook. What's he planning? How far is he into the build? Have you heard any dyno numbers yet? And believe me, the questions go on and on. It's not to say that this is a terrible thing; it's actually nice to have two guys who are being gung ho and making an attempt for bragging rights-at least until the next friendly shootout.

This month, we wanted to see how a small-block would fare against a big-block with a strict $6,500 budget. Right off the bat, everyone involved was saying that the big-block would trounce all over its little brother. However, it's all relative and really depends on the type of performance you're expecting and the chassis you plan to mate it to. Personally, I'm more of a big-block kind of guy so that should tell you who I was cheering for. Still, I have to admit that the small-block did a great job of letting all of us know it wouldn't go down without a fight.

If you want my personal opinion, both builds were created by thinking outside the box and presented incredible packages that can easily be replicated. That's right, we didn't stumble across a lucky bottom-end score through the classifieds, nor did we just happen to have a set of ported heads lying around to make budget. What you see is what you get, and should you want to follow suit, we've listed every single part number along with its cost.

You've seen what we did-and are about to see the final dyno numbers, so let me leave you with the following question: Given the same opportunity, what would you have done different? What combination would you have built? E-mail your thoughts and build specs to me at -Henry D

John's Engine
JMS Racing Engines 505ci Big-Block
Let's face facts, friends: $6,500 isn't a lot of dough with which to build a big-block, not to mention something with some decent performance numbers. Actually, I was looking for better than decent. A big-block has big advantages, but I'd have been nuts to dismiss my Mouse motor opponent. And so the crux of the issue quickly arose: Where would our money be best spent?

The first question, posed by Mike Johnson of JMS Racing Engines, our talent for this shindig, was this: What kind of motor do you want? A dyno queen was immediately ruled out. I wanted a big number, but not at the expense of real-world performance. I laid it out baldly. "I'd like 600 hp-or close to it-but I'd also like just as much torque and a Kansas-flat torque band, thank you." That's not asking too much, is it?

That settled, the big question, as kicked around by Mike and yours truly for a day or two, was pretty straightforward. Should we keep a stock stroke and try to score some good heads, or should we stroke the thing and cheap out on the heads? We chose Plan B. We'd add a quarter-inch stroke to our 454 base to create a grunt-happy 496, and Mike would port a set of 049 heads for us to use. Or so we thought.

Further digging turned up a set of new GM rectangular-port heads, fully assembled and with a spring upgrade from Aerohead Racing for $1,115. Visions of those big, fat 325cc intake ports dancing in my head, I called Mike to describe my find. His response? "Hell yes, let's do it." Just like that, we got to go with both Plan A and Plan B. This battle would be fought with a big stroke and lots of airflow.

We pretty much knew we'd be using a two-bolt main core, which Mike assures us is more than adequate for this power level, assuming main studs are used. Ditto the cast crank. Forged is great, but a properly prepped cast crank can handle much more than we're throwing at it. On the other hand, another change came when we decided to rescue a 454 core that was already 0.060 over, which would create a 505ci big-block. If a big bore is good, a bigger bore is better, right?

In essence, one thing remained, and that was to spec out a camshaft with Isky Racing Cams. This thing was destined to be a solid flat-tappet cam motor from day one, oil additive issues be damned. Given my powerband desires, Mike huddled with the brains at Isky and cooked up a 'stick...which produced exactly the power characteristics I wanted.

In the final analysis, creating a setup that works is what this project was about. What we did, in short, was maximize our combo within the budget constraints. Cam, heads, bore, stroke, compression ratio; everything was right. "We wanted a long torque band that kicks in right away," said Isky's Nolan Jamora. Yes we did, and that's what we got. "It's pretty impressive," chimed in Mike Johnson. "We did our homework, and that's all that matters."

Well, not quite all; we thumped the small-block, in case you haven't noticed. With 83 more cubic inches, a 4.250-inch stroke, and heads that outflow just about any small-block head, are you surprised?

505ci Big-Block- Dyno Details

Headers 211/48 Hedman long-tube headers with 18-inch extensions
Fuel 91-octane unleaded
CARBURETOR Mighty Demon 850 carburetor
Jets 80/91

No Spacer
Advance 34 degrees  
Max torque 592 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm 
Max power 616 hp at 6,000 rpm 
Average torque 560.3 lb-ft 
Average power 531.0 hp 
Power 1.22 hp/ci 
RPM lb-ft hp
4,100 566 442
4,200 573 458
4,300 579 474
4,400 583 489
4,500 587 503
4,600 591 517
4,700 592 530
4,800 592 541
4,900 591 551
5,000 588 560
5,100 586 569
5,200 583 578
5,300 580 585
5,400 575 591
5,500 571 597
5,600 566 604
5,700 561 609
5,800 555 613
5,900 547 615
6,000 539 616
6,100 530 615
6,200 521 615
6,300 510 612
6,400 498 607
6,500 487 602
TEST 2  
Added 1-inch HVH Spacer   
Advance 34 degrees 
Max torque 594 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm 
Max power 622 hp at 6,100 rpm 
Average torque 561.9 lb-ft 
Average power 532.9 hp 
Power 1.23 hp/ci 
RPM lb-ft hp
4,100 567 443
4,200 573 458
4,300 579 474
4,400 584 490
4,500 589 505
4,600 592 519
4,700 594 531
4,800 593 542
4,900 592 552
5,000 590 562
5,100 588 571
5,200 586 580
5,300 582 588
5,400 577 593
5,500 573 600
5,600 568 606
5,700 563 611
5,800 557 616
5,900 550 618
6,000 543 621
6,100 535 622
6,200 526 621
6,300 515 618
6,400 503 612
6,500 490 606
505ci 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 Aerohead Racing, JMS Racing Engines, and Summit Racing.
Displacement 505.3ci
Bore x stroke 4.350 x 4.250
Compression 10.51:1
Rod, center-to-center 6.385
Piston deck height 0.00
Chamber volume 118cc
Rod-bearing clearance 0.0024
Crank endplay 0.009
Piston-ring endgap 0.024 top;
  0.022 second
Piston-to-wall clearance 0.0045
Main-bearing cap torque 90 ft-lb*
Rod-bolt torque 63 ft-lb*
Head-bolt torque 70 ft-lb*
John's Cost
MFG PN Description Price
ARP 135-9801 Accessory bolt kit 80
  135-2501 Balancer bolt 21
  135-3601 Head bolts 56
Aerohead Racing new GM 14097088 Cast-iron heads 895
    Install ARP 71/416-inch studs  
    & Manley guideplates 100
    Valvespring upgrade 120
Edelbrock 2902 Victor Jr. 454-R 230
Fel-Pro 1017-1 Head gaskets 80
  1275 Intake gaskets 15
  1606 Valve cover gaskets 16
Isky Racing Cams 202-H Lifters 107
  203-96 Pushrods 120
JMS Racing Engines   496/505 short-block 3,295
JMS Racing EnginesIncluded ARP main-bearing cap studs; Federal-Mogul bottom gaskets, cam bearings, rod bearings, and timing set; Isky solid flat-tappet camshaft; RPM International nodular iron crankshaft w/ 4.250-inch stroke and forged H-beam rods, 6.385 inches; KB Performance 0.100-over Premium Forged pistons and rings.
    Labor to finish engine assembly 600
    Flexplate 35
Summit SUM-164800 Adjustable Timing Pointer 25
  SUM-G6930B Aluminum roller rocker arms, 1.7:1 210
  SUM-G3312 Chrome valve covers 30
  SUM-162454 OEM Harmonic Balancer 84
  SES-3-90-08-910 Summit Moroso Oil Pan Kit 210
  SUM-G3201 Chrome timing cover 11
  SUM-G3405 Valve cover breathers (2) 20
    Total $6,360

BOB's engine
Larry's Track Pro 422ci Small-Block
Building a small-block on a $6,500 diet to make big-block power means you'd better come to the party with a decent amount of displacement. With this lofty goal, I penciled out a plan to gain 422 ci from a production 400 small-block with a Scat 3.875-inch-stroke crank, Scat 6.00-inch rods, and off-the-shelf Ross forged pistons. Through the help of Jim Escamilla of Larry's Performance, we uncovered a useable 400 small-block core. This block was a 3951509 two-bolt item, originally installed in a '79 Chevy delivery truck, and it only required general machine work and a 0.040-inch bore job to be squared-to-the-world and ready for assembly. If a modest budget and shrinking calendar were not the limiting factors, I would have opted for even more cubic inches.

The central goal for this competition was to make as much big-end power as possible and run it on high-test (91-octane) pump gas. This meant it would not be a well-mannered street-performance motor with a big, broad power curve. Instead this would largely be a single-purpose powerhouse, a welcome breaking away from decorous convention.

With these parameters drawn, I selected a series of performance parts designed to make lots of power above 4,500 rpm. I considered several cylinder heads for the test that would flow a large amount of air, were easily obtainable, and came at a budget price. Next I wanted a cam with off-the-map lift numbers and lots of duration. On the intake manifold side, the engine needed to draw hordes of air and fuel quickly into the engine. Because the price of carburetion wasn't part of the $6,500 budget, I decided to mount a pair of 750-cfm double-pumper four-barrels to a tunnel-ram intake manifold. Again, this engine's single purpose was to make as much upper-rpm power as possible. On a street- or weekend-performance car, this engine would be a hassle to drive, sort of like using a racehorse to pull a cart.

By the time I had the engine completed and ran a tally, the numbers fell just dollars below our $6,500 cap. Had there been a little more time, I would have liked to spend some time on a flow bench improving the cylinder head's flow capabilities, and with the big cam it would have been possible to run more compression in this engine on the dyno. As with any engine build, though, you walk away with a to-do list for next time. What's especially noteworthy with this 422 is that after we finished the dyno pulls, the little powerhouse outperformed its competition with 1.36 hp per cubic inch. All in all, I think I would have traded that triumph for the higher horsepower mark.

Small-Block Dyno Details

Headers 171/48 Headman headers
Fuel 91-octane unleaded
CARBURETOR Dual 750-cfm Holley carburetors
Jets Test 1: 71/80 Test 2: 72/77

TEST 1  
Advance 37 degrees 
Max torque 522 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm 
Max power 526 hp at 5,900 rpm 
Average torque 501.3 lb-ft 
Average power 480.2 hp 
Power 1.24 hp/ci 
RPM lb-ft hp
4,100 510 398
4,200 511 409
4,300 514 421
4,400 517 433
4,500 519 445
4,600 521 457
4,700 522 467
4,800 521 476
4,900 518 484
5,000 515 490
5,100 510 496
5,200 506 501
5,300 500 505
5,400 494 508
5,500 487 510
5,600 482 514
5,700 478 519
5,800 474 523
5,900 468 526
6,000 460 525
Advance 42 degrees 
Max torque 543 lb-ft at 4,700 rpm 
Max power 574 hp at 6,100 rpm 
Average torque 518.8 lb-ft 
Average power 515.8 hp 
Power 1.36 hp/ci 
Changed oil to Royal Purple  
Lashed valves 0.020/0.032  
RPM lb-ft hp
4,100 530 414
4,200 530 424
4,300 531 435
4,400 534 447
4,500 537 460
4,600 541 474
4,700 543 488
4,800 543 496
4,900 542 506
5,000 540 514
5,100 536 520
5,200 531 526
5,300 528 533
5,400 526 540
5,500 523 548
5,600 521 555
5,700 517 561
5,800 512 566
5,900 506 568
6,000 501 572
6,100 494 574
6,200 486 574
6,300 478 573
6,400 469 572
6,500 461 570

422ci 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 Larry's Performance and Summit Racing.

Displacement 422ci
Bore x stroke 4.165 x 3.875
Compression 10.7:1
Rod, center-to-center 6.00
Piston deck height 0.019
Chamber volume 70 cc
Rod-bearing clearance 0.0024
Crank endplay 0.0045
Piston-ring endgap 0.022 top;
  0.024 second
Piston-to-wall clearance 0.004
Main-bearing cap torque 75 ft-lb*
Rod-bolt torque 55 ft-lb*
Head-bolt torque 75 ft-lb*
BOB's Cost
MFG PN Description Price
ARP 134-3601 Head bolts 60
  534-9701 Accessory bolt kit 76
Comp Cams CCA-12-000-9 Mech. roller camshaft 296
  CCA-891-16 Roller lifters 356
  CCA-1304-16 Pro Magnum rockers 276
  CCA-7993-16 Hi-Tech pushrods 126
  CCA-4808-8 51/416-inch guideplate 23
  CCA-943-16 1.550 Inter-Fit valvesprings 300
  CCA-611-16 111/432-inch Super Locks 23
  CCA-4506-16 Rocker-arm studs 63
Edelbrock 77649 Victor Jr. aluminum heads  
    (bare w/valves) 1,160
  7070 Intake manifold base 270
  7073 Intake manifold top 96
Larry's Performance Products   Short-block 2,600

Included machine work and assembly, SCAT forged 3.875 crank, King silicon bearings, Scat 6-inch rods, Ross Forged pistons and rings, complete gasket set, two-row roller timing chain, and ARP main bolts.

  N/A Valve covers 90
  N/A 8-inch balancer 55
  N/A Titanium retainers 100
  N/A Timing tab 2
  N/A Flexplate 40
Milodon MIL-18750 Oil pump 55
  MIL-18316 Oil pump pickup 55
  MIL-30908 Oil pan, 6-quart 240
  MIL-65555 Timing cover 37
Summit SUMs-G3400 Valve cover breathers (2) 14
    Total $6,413
Aerohead racing KB Performance Pistons
4909 Goni Rd.
Carson City
NV  89706
Automotive Racing Products (ARP)
531 Spectrum Circle
CA  93030
Larry's Performance
COMP Cams Milodon
2250 Agate Ct.
Simi Valley
CA  93065
Edelbrock Corp.
2700 California St.
CA  90503
Ross Pistons
625 S. Douglas
El Segundo
CA  90245
Federal Mogul/Fel-Pro Gaskets RPM International
High Velocity Heads
Scat Enterprises
Holley Performance
Bowling Green
Summit Racing
P.O. Box 909
OH  44309-0909
Isky Racing Cams
Westech Performance
JMS Racing Engines