How to get a SBC around 500 HP for $2,000.00 - Chevy Nova Forum
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Old 6th-June-2011, 12:19 AM   #1
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How to get a SBC around 500 HP for $2,000.00

This thread is about how people can build lots of small block power for a lot less than most folks think. Sure the aftermarket manufacturers want us to believe their stuff is a requirement if you want this kind of power but that's not always true. Here's what can be done: 475 to 500 HP on pump gas using factory block, crank, rods and heads for around $2,000.00. You're going to buy pistons, cam, bearings, etc and have some machine work done anyway right. The standard rebuild stuff should be all you need. Of course we won't include a carb, distributor, headers, etc. You should have this stuff already if you are just repowering a running car.

Here's the disclaimer, you have to do most of the work yourself. Not the machine work, just assembly and stuff like that. You'll bust the budget for sure if you pay someone to do all that. Now I'm looking for input from everyone who has recently had machine work done or bought any internal engine stuff lately. This'll give us a feel for how much stuff costs in different parts of the good ole USA. I'm in south Mississippi and it seems things can be considerably cheaper here than other places. For instance, it costs $12.00 per hole to bore a block here. That's $96.00 for a V8 engine. If you have to pay a lot more, $2,000.00 might not quite make it. We'll see.

Now for all you naysayers, before you get all negative on us, you need to know it's already been done. Probably by more people than what care to admit. I'll give up the details on our most recent build as we get going and I'll tell you this much now. Our '75 weighs in at 3480 pounds with the driver. It's got a small block, powerglide trans and a ford 9 inch rear with 3.89 gears and is running 11.20's in the 1/4 mile at 119 MPH on 93 octane from the local Shell station. We have close to $1,700.00 in the engine including the core.

First thing I'd like to hear input on is the heads. Remember, it's got to be factory heads. They say the vortec heads flow real well. Good enough to make these numbers with a little home porting. Yep, I said home porting. This internet thingy is full of instructions on how to do this. Also the late 80's or early 90's corvette aluminum heads may do it too. Anybody use these combos? We used the LT1 platform for our build because the stock heads flow great with a little porting, they're aluminum and they have a 54cc combustion chamber. I really like the LT1 for this kind of build because the cores are cheap and plentiful. Oh yea, and they all have a one piece rear main seal. This is huge, but, we'll get into that later.

What do ya'll think so far?
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Old 6th-June-2011, 01:24 AM   #2
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love to hear how its done!!
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Old 6th-June-2011, 10:13 AM   #3
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How about a LQ4 complete, can be had in some places for just under a grand or so and a 100-150 shot of nitrous.

maybe even get lucky and find and LQ6 and be even closer to that goal.
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Old 6th-June-2011, 11:05 AM   #4
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love to hear how its done!!
x 2on that one
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Old 6th-June-2011, 12:42 PM   #5
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What casting number of LT1 cylinder head are you using?

This is a 350 CID combination, right?

Solid lifter camshaft?
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Old 6th-June-2011, 03:30 PM   #6
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u could do it pretty easy IMO ,,, use 400 rods , a 3.75 crank , with a factory hyd roller block ,,, find a set of vortec heads ,, get a hyd roller cam ground with around 240@.050 on a 108 , lift with vortec heads isn't important over 500 lift unless u do a great home port job ,,, a hurricane intake , 750 vs carb ,,, i'd say if your not there your real close
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Old 6th-June-2011, 04:07 PM   #7
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Agreed ^^^^^^^^ ....... when made into a 383-388 CID.
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Old 6th-June-2011, 04:12 PM   #8
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i have said for years that i never spend more then $10 per HP.. and yes the "experts" on here have ridiculed me for it. but if you are good at what you do and can find deals its not that hard!

example, i just picked up a new,quality 383 rotating assembly for 50cents on the dollar..so total cost in my 383 short block with all forged parts less then $1200 and thats with machine cost for the block!
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Old 6th-June-2011, 05:19 PM   #9
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Low buck horsepower

Hi,
It can definately be done. As stated you need to be able to do much of the work yourself. You also need to be patient and smart in finding good deals on parts. When I see a really good deal on something I might need in the future I usually grab it. If I don't use it I can always sell it in the future. A 383 or 400 can make 500 Hp with a decent set of heads and a roller cam pretty easily.
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Old 6th-June-2011, 06:36 PM   #10
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You've succeeded at building 500 hp for $2000 or you are attempting to do it?

Many magazines have done cover articles that claim similar results but close scrutiny shows they take some liberties with the budget.

There is a difference between a good, reliable wide power band 500 hp engine and one that is a short term, peaky grenade. Cutting corners to save money isn't a true cost saving in the long run. I do all my own work and I couldn't duplicate Artie's 500 hp /500 lb/ft 383 for 3 times your budget. I could build one that makes 500 hp but won't run below 4500 for maybe twice your budget, but it wouldn't be fun to drive on the street for long. A big shot of nitrous would get the power but it would be hard keep the total under $3,000 much less $2000 unless it was a junkyard engine with no rebuilding.
There's a wide latitude in what constitutes "rebuilding" an engine.
For example, boring and honing isn't a simple commodity that is only judged by price. Some shops only use a boring bar and hand hone which may yield adequate results for budget transportation, but it's not high performance quality. Quality parts cost money for a reason.

I tried doing a budget build (see "Kev's $500 350" thread in Best of PT) with much lower HP goals and it didn't work out. The better and cheaper solution was a low cost, mass produced GM crate engine with a 100 shot of nitrous. I don't know how you could match the value dollar for dollar.

But, hey maybe it will work. Looking forward to your results.
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Building a small, high rpm engine
with the perfect bore, stroke and rod ratio is very impressive...
like a highly skilled Morrocan sword fighter with a Damascus Steel Scimitar.

Cubic inches is like Indiana Jones with a cheap pistol.
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Old 6th-June-2011, 06:47 PM   #11
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u could do it pretty easy IMO ,,, use 400 rods , a 3.75 crank , with a factory hyd roller block ,,, find a set of vortec heads ,, get a hyd roller cam ground with around 240@.050 on a 108 , lift with vortec heads isn't important over 500 lift unless u do a great home port job ,,, a hurricane intake , 750 vs carb ,,, i'd say if your not there your real close
i've saw 383's built like this see 6500 and last a number of years ,,,

a expert opinion ,, they don't want to attach their name with such an engine , i can see that ,,, but they do pretty dern good for what you have in them
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Old 6th-June-2011, 07:50 PM   #12
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why does it have to be factory heads?
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Old 6th-June-2011, 10:49 PM   #13
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Alright guys, lots of good information here and lots of questions. First off I forgot to mention it's got to be N/A. No juice, turbos, blowers, etc. Someone asked why factory heads. Because there are so many available for cheap. Aftermarket heads are expensive and can get out of reach for the average person. Or they're worn out and need lots of work and dollars. There are deals out there if you look, but not everyone gets a deal. Someone found an aftermarket rotating assembly cheap. Yep, but not everyone can. That's why I'd like to stick with as much mass produced components as possible. Stuff that's available to anybody. Another thing we are going to do shortly is bust a few myths that seem to be roaming around cyberspace. Like factory stroker cranks. Let me rephrase that, mass produced factory crankshafts that fit in a 350 block with a 3.75" stroke that are hitting the junkyards right about now. That's another topic though.

Another guy asked about our LT1 build. The heads are 12551561 castings and it's a 383 CI with a hyd roller. (see comment about the crank above).

Next we need to address sustainability and durability. The comment about building cheap vs building inexpensively is very important. Our car is strictly built for drag racing. It never sees street time. It's either idling around the pits or wide open down the strip. If you plan on doing this, it needs to be quality. We did the build with this in mind. No cheap stuff and no cutting corners. Here's the deal though, it has a 3500 stall with a 3.89 gear so it launches okay. Not great, but not too awfully hard either as seen in the 60 ft times of 1.63. Then we shift at 6000 and go through the traps at 6000. This isn't too hard on the engine or the car. We know there's probably more to be had out of the combo, but I see no reason to go looking. Hey, it's bracket racing.

Here's what we got and I think it can be done with stuff other than the LT1. We got it close to 11:1 compression ratio with single eyebrow flat tops (for pump gas purposes). The heads are home ported aluminum stockers with stock valves. We took an old victor jr intake that had a corner broken off at the bolt hole and modified it to fit the bolt pattern of the LT1 heads. We used the set of Hedman headers that were already in the nova and the ports lined up close enough to work. Then we got a Comp Cams hydraulic roller 236/248 @ .050 and .525/.541 with 110 LSA and new .600 lift valve springs. The lifters are the original LT1 rollers as well as the rest of the valve train. This seems to allow the engine to breathe good enough for what we wanted. However, if we were to wind it on up to 7000 RPM, it probably wouldn't do well or last long.

This engine hasn't been dynoed and it probably never will be but looking at the results has us thinking it's close. I am wondering if similar results can be had with a 400 and vortec heads as mentioned earlier. Will the vortecs flow good enough? Or any other factory head? Can you get that high of a compression ratio and still run 93 octane? Or even a 383. Like someone once said, there's no replacement for displacement so bigger would probably be better.

Oh yea, one more answer. To the question of have we succeeded at building 500 hp for $2000 or you are attempting to do it? We're close. However, others have. And they have done it with the LT1 platform engine. (this actually wasn't my idea).
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Old 7th-June-2011, 08:04 AM   #14
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Our car is strictly built for drag racing. It never sees street time.
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Old 7th-June-2011, 08:47 AM   #15
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i've saw so much do good for years others say wouldn't last anytime in this ,, 400 cranks turned down , 400 short rods ,, 350 cast replacement pistons , like the KB claimers ,, saw 'em run and do well for years ,,, weren't balanced ,, is this good to do ,, no ,,

get good quality machine work done , careful assembly , goes along way IMO

this isn't a motor to brag to your friends about , except the way it runs

my brother and i built a motor like this for his 69 z28 ,,( 302 long gone ) ,, its still running over 10 yrs later ,, its been taken to 6700 many times ,, no problems ,, it was balanced , 400 rods , 400 crank turned to fit a 350 block , KB claimer pistons , its doing very good,,,, he was doing a partial resto on the whole car ,, budget tight for the motor , so this is what he wanted to spend on it

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