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Yes, another one of those threads, but I am interested in hearing you alls opinions here. This isn't really a BBC vs LS thread, its more like the current state of engine building in these times thread.

I bought a 70 Nova that I have been waiting to buy for a long time. It has signs of being an original SS big block car, but who knows. It has a 396 in it NOM. It's pretty weak and I am planning many changes. This is my first BBC car so kind of want to build one for that so I have been researching crates but also visited a local builder that has a great reputation. I told him I wanted something very streetable, roller cam, aluminum heads, Holley EFI. He suggested a 509 and built 2 options but both are over 11-13k. I thought this seemed very high considering I can get a GM 572 for that much or even cheaper a 502. He says that I'm getting better than GM parts though the block is the same. Damn, an LSX454 is cheaper!

Is the price to build a motor just crazy high these days? The labor is about 3k in both setups and EFI and dyno are 2 of it. I just can't believe prices are that much more than a crate motor. Are these out of line? Are the skip whites and shafiroffs doing so much business that they are even cheaper than local shops? Should I just go LS since I am looking for streetability and fuel injection? I'd like to do business there, but does my willingness to support local shops cost me that much here?
 

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1970 Nova SS 350 Brandon, MS
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I'm more of a purist so my vote is to mildly build your 396. If you stay conservative and don't go crazy trying to get massive HP, you should be able to sensibly build your 396 for MUCH less than the crate engine.

What are your goals for the car? Cruiser, track toy, garage queen, Mecum candidate,?? The answer to this question should help decide which route to go with the engine.
 

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I went through this last year, I bought a 67 ss with a nonoriginal 327 that needed a rebuild. I opted for the connect and cruise LS3 with the 4l65 trans and wiring for 11900. I love it and am now an avid LS fan. Although I looked the other day and it looks like the same setup is now 15K. If you go crate I would recommend Pace Performance, also question their list prices, mine was listed for 13200 but if I put an x at their recommendation after the part number it was 11900. I know this setup is good for 200K miles, dont think your local builders can state that.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm more of a purist so my vote is to mildly build your 396. If you stay conservative and don't go crazy trying to get massive HP, you should be able to sensibly build your 396 for MUCH less than the crate engine.

What are your goals for the car? Cruiser, track toy, garage queen, Mecum candidate,?? The answer to this question should help decide which route to go with the engine.
The 396 is a turd. Pretty sure the heads are 454 mid 70s heads so its a real snoozer. Could likely also sell it for a couple grand as it runs just fine.

I just want a reliable, driveable street car with useable power. If its not fun to drive it was all a waste for me. Thats why high numbers with unusable street power don't interest me though I've had pretty quick 500+ hp cars in the past so I def want something capable of 11's though I have no plans to drag the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I went through this last year, I bought a 67 ss with a nonoriginal 327 that needed a rebuild. I opted for the connect and cruise LS3 with the 4l65 trans and wiring for 11900. I love it and am now an avid LS fan. Although I looked the other day and it looks like the same setup is now 15K. If you go crate I would recommend Pace Performance, also question their list prices, mine was listed for 13200 but if I put an x at their recommendation after the part number it was 11900. I know this setup is good for 200K miles, dont think your local builders can state that.
Thanks for your take. Honestly, I would love to build a big BBC but I know deep down for what I want I should probably go LS. I have a C3 LS1 project going as well though so thought I would keep it different though I still won't have a classic car without fuel injection.
 

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I have no illusions about being the fastest on the street, king of the 1/4 mile or the one to beat on a road course. Just drive it, have some fun and maybe turn a few heads when I drive by.
I鈥檝e gone both ways with my engines. My first purchase, from the local GM performance parts counter, was a ZZ4 350 crate engine. A well appointed and trouble free motor. No regrets. My next engine was a 454, built by a friend that specializes in big blocks. He built a stout cast iron head, flat tappet 450 hp (dyno) tire shredder for not much more than the 375 hp 350 aluminium head, roller cam crate.
All I can suggest is decide how much you really need more than 500 hp under your foot because the parts to get you 500 or 600 plus hp can push up your build cost substantially.
 

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You are correct in your observations. Machine shop costs and labor DO put a big dent in engine cost. Based on that you cannot beat a crate engine. They buy the parts in bulk and can knock out one after the other, setting the machine up once and machining component after component. When the shop has to set up the boring machine for a big block chevy and then a small block ford and then a 360 dodge that all takes time. But when they can bore 20 blocks one after another and then move through them it cuts down on costs. Now granted, the parts are sometimes cheaper quality but they are adequate. Not everybody needs JE forged pistons and H beam rods and a forged aftermarket crank to build a 450 hp engine. Also, the tolerances in a crate engine are not as tight as if a machine shop built it but again, they are adequate. They are not custom fitting lifters to the bores or checking each rod and main bearing and splitting sets to get clearances exact, but again, not necessary for a street engine. I have a hard time myself having worked in a race engine shop to NOT go to have an engine done at a machine shop. But I can't argue costs. And I have been trying to get out of the Race engine mentality for street cars. For example, my 355 in my Nova was a basic approx. 400-425hp engine. I had an Eagle forged crank, Scat I beam 7/16 rods, SRP pistons, Lunati hydraulic roller, Morel lifters, AFR 195 heads, Harland Sharp rockers, and an $8000 bill when I was done.
 

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call me crazy, but if that 396 is running now, i'd take it out, freshen up the short block. Put some new aluminum heads on it and an appropriately matching cam / intake and button the thing back together and call it good. You will have plenty of fun, plenty of low end torque, and ruin as many tires as you'd like.

If you want to drive it across the country and get 2 million mpg, I get the LS idea. But for me going to the local cruise in or drag night, it will never pencil out.
 
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