Jim Smart
June 1, 2004

Crate engines are a simple solution for the enthusiast on a budget and little time to spare for an involved engine build. These are ready-made engines planned and built to suit your individual application. The term "crate engine" has become rather loose through the years. It used to mean cheap prices and poor quality (and still does with some companies). But crate engine has also come to mean ready-to-install, high-performance engines and kits conceived for the performance enthusiast.

Crate engines aren't just about budget anymore. Oh sure, you can snap one up from Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW) or some of the regional engine builders for under two grand if that's what you are seeking. You can also bankroll a crate engine costing upwards of $10,000 for a more radical application. The choice is yours-and has never been greater.

Ordering a crate engine boils down to what you want the engine to be now and later on. Don't order a low-buck, 302ci, small-block V-8 with cast pistons if you plan on supercharging or running NOS. We can promise you will be disappointed when it is scattered all over the firmament. Buying a crate engine or building an engine from scratch always involves planning. You need to know what's going to be expected of this engine. If you're planning a hotter camshaft in the future that will take your engine to higher revs, you might want to think about hypereutectic or forged pistons, high-performance I-beam rods, a windage tray, a high-volume oil pump, and a host of other needs in your engine's support system. Bigger plans for the future call for a bottom end able to handle the punch. Cast pistons, shotpeened rods, and cheap bearings won't get the job done.

On the other hand, sometimes we plan and build too much into our engines, spending more money than we have to on a build-up. We go with high-end H-beam rods, a steel crank, and forged pistons when nodular iron, hypereutectics, and I-beam rods would have worked fine for our mission. Street engines, for the most part, don't need steel crankshafts and H-beam rods. Daily commuters and weekend racers-depending on the type of racing-can get by with nodular iron crankshafts and I-beam rods. If you're going to spin it to 7,000 rpm or pump up the power with nitrous or a supercharger, you're going to need that steel crank, forged pistons, and H-beam rods. Plan, accurately, for the mission-and don't lie.

Great Crates From JMC MotorsportsWe're all familiar with some of the more common crate-engine sources out there. But did you know you can order and take delivery of a custom-built, high-performance Ford V-8 engine from JMC Motorsports? All you have to do is tell JMC Motorsports what you want, and engine-building professional, John Da Luz, will handle the rest. JMC Motorsports stocks certain types of crate engines. They also will build an engine to your personal specifications. All you have to do is drop off your engine or order one from scratch. JMC Motorsports will handle the rest.

JMC Motorsports has many years of reliable high-performance engines to its credit, including Top Fuel, drag race and road race. Crate engines from JMC Motorsports range from low-budget mills with cast pistons to high-end powerplants with aftermarket heads and custom-forged pistons. Whether you live in Southern California or thousands of miles away, JMC Motorsports can build a custom crate engine to suit your mission. Prices vary depending on the type of engine you want to build.

For more information: JMC Motorsports, Dept. MF, 2277 National Ave., San Diego, CA 92113; (619) 230-8866; www.johnsmustangs.com.

World-Beater Street FighterCoast High Performance has been building world-beating, small- and big-block Ford crate engines for more than a decade. We're not just talking about traffic-light-to-traffic-light street performance, but race-proven procedures and components from the people who have been competing in road-racing and drag-racing for the better part of a lifetime. What's more, these folks are passionate about Ford performance.

Coast High Performance is home to the 347 Street Fighter high-performance, small-block V-8. The 347 Street Fighter isn't just one type of engine, but a family of small-block Fords bored and stroked to the same dimensions, but very different in terms of performance. Call it sibling rivalry of the best kind. The 347 Street Fighter and Street Fighter GT are snappy street engines you can sink your teeth into. Let's take a closer look.

Street Fighter GT* Cast-Steel Crankshaft* CHP CNC Beam Forged 5.400-inch Connecting Rods* Probe SRS Forged Pistons* Pro Mustang Hydraulic Roller Camshaft* Performance-Prepped Cylinder Heads* 4.040-inch Bore* 3.400-inch StrokePrice: $1,999.99 (Short-Block)Price: $3,999.99 (Long-Block)

Street Fighter* Cast Steel Crankshaft* CHP CNC Beam Forged 5.315" Steel Connecting Rods* Probe SRS Forged Pistons* Dished & Blower Dish Piston Available* Pro Mustang Hydraulic Roller Camshaft* Edelbrock Performer Cylinder HeadsPrice: $2,299.99 (Short-Block)Price: $4,799.99 (Long-Block)

The 347 Street Fighter GT and Street Fighter engines are also available as kits that you may assemble yourself for less money. Although it may seem like you are saving money by assembling the engine yourself, there are bound to be things you are going to miss, which could wind up costing you plenty later. There's a lot to be said for having a professional build it for you. It's peace of mind money can't buy.

Although our focus here is the 347ci Street Fighter series, Coast High Performance (CHP) offers other displacements: 306, 331, 393, 408 and 427ci. CHP also offers 385-series, big-block crate engines displacing 521, 532, 545 and 557ci-yielding quite the powerhouse of convenient brute crate force. Also new from CHP are 4.6L and 5.0L SOHC and DOHC Modular V-8s. CHP has plenty of accessories and components on hand, offering you the convenience of one-stop shopping for your crate-motor experience.

For more information: Coast High Performance, Dept. MF, 2555 W. 237th St., Torrance, CA 90505; (310) 784-1010; www.coasthigh.com.

Crate Tips*When ordering a crate engine, be very specific about specs and get it in writing. Know exactly what is included in your crate engine purchase.

* Confirm what is included in the price of the engine. Shipping costs are normally not included. Shipping costs can get downright expensive-amounting to hundreds of dollars, depending on how far you live from the builder.

* If casting numbers and dates are important to you, confirm specifics with the builder before placing your order. Most crate engine builders will send you whatever they have for your '65 Mustang, which means it could be any block/head casting from 40 years of small-block production.

* If your crate engine includes the camshaft, what are the camshaft specifications? Camshaft specs have a huge effect on power and performance. Will the builder allow you to choose the camshaft?

* If your builder offers kits, short-blocks and long-blocks, confirm what is included with each. for example, kits and short-blocks don't normally include the oil pump. Long-blocks don't normally include the oil pan and timing cover. Most of these include the gasket set.

* When ordering your crate engine, seriously consider a roller hydraulic camshaft for both efficiency and performance. It is money well spent.

* Always opt for the best gaskets available. The emotional rush of spending less is quickly forgotten when there's oil on the driveway or the popping of a blown head gasket.

Seal The DealFew of us think about the importance of proper gasket sealing, that is until there's oil on the garage floor-or worse, coolant in the oil. When you are practicing your talents on a freshly delivered crate engine, your focus needs to be proper installation of gaskets. Too many of us get this one wrong time and time again.

Gaskets need to be of the best quality to ensure best results. But, there's more. Proper installation of these gaskets and seals is just as important. Despite all the best gasket technology available, intake-manifold gaskets need additional help in two areas: coolant passages and end rails. Coolant passages and even intake ports can use a light dressing of gasket sealer to ensure proper sealing. This allows for irregularities in the machined surfaces.

End rails need a different treatment entirely. The cork end-rail gaskets included in most gasket seats don't seal these areas effectively. Sometimes, these end-rail gaskets tend to pop out from blow-by pressure. When you're dressing your crate engine, throw the end gaskets away. Instead, use a healthy bead of The Right Stuff or silicone gasket sealer along these rails. As the sealer cures, it expands, closing up any potential leaks.

Blue Oval PowerDid you know you can order Ford Racing Performance Parts crate engines and parts from Mustangs Plus? Mustangs Plus is an FRPP authorized dealer, which means you can order anything in the FRPP catalog from Mustangs Plus. What does this mean for you? It means you can drop a brand-new FRPP crate engine into your vintage Ford and start fresh with new iron. Thumb through the Mustangs Plus catalog and you will find all kinds of accessories and groovy bolt-on parts to compliment your engine installation.

For more information: Mustangs Plus, Dept. MF, 2353 N. Wilson Way, Stockton, CA 95205; (800) 999-4289, (209) 944-9977; www.mustangsplus.com.

Performance Automotive WarehousePerfomormance Automotive Warehouse (PAW) will sell you an engine kit you can assemble yourself-this includes a fully machined block and heads. For a few dollars more, PAW will assemble the engine and ship it to your doorstep. The choice is yours.

The basic PAW engine kit consists of high-quality parts from companies like Federal-Mogul and Fel-Pro. Forget cheap cast pistons. PAW uses forged pistons in its kits. Matched valvetrain components arrive with each kit. Brass freeze plugs, not steel, come in each kit. Everything is there for you to build a short- or long-block. And because we have worked with PAW a lot through the years, we speak from experience. We can tell you, with confidence, the PAW engine kit or crate engine is an excellent value.

For more information: Performance Automotive Warehouse, Dept. MF, 21001 Nordhoff St., Chatsworth, CA 91311; (818) 678-3000; www.pawengineparts.com.

Big Twist CrateLegendary 427ci power is available in a great crate powerhouse from Smeding Performance & Machine Shop. If you're trying to figure out how to stuff a big FE-series big-block in your Mustang, Falcon or Fairlane, do not despair, because this 427 is a 351W stroker. Smeding Performance brings you the solid power of a big-block without the size and weight penalties. We're talking 480 horsepower for $7,495. How does Smeding Performance do it? They do it with a SVO Sportsman block, 4.030-inch bores, 9.500-inch block deck height, 4340 steel crank, 6.125-inch rods with ARP 71/416-inch bolts, forged pistons, custom-ground hydraulic roller camshaft, Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads and induction. This is a bitchin' crate-engine package. all you have to do is take delivery. The rest has been accomplished by Smeding Performance & Machine Shop.

If 427 ci and 480 hp is too much, check out the 380-horse Smeding 347 Extreme stroker small-block for $5,495. For less than $6,000, you get a brand-new 5.0L block with the one-piece seal, nodular iron stroker crankshaft, 4130 I-beam rods with 31/48-inch ARP bolts, forged pistons, hydraulic roller camshaft, and Edelbrock Performer RPM heads and induction.

For more information: Smeding Performance & Machine, Dept. MF, 3340 Sunrise Blvd., Rancho Cordova, CA 95742; (916) 638-0899; www.smedingperformance.com.

Blue PrintBlueprint Engines is a relative newcomer to the crate-performance arena, but they bring a new twist to the party. Blueprint offers two dyno-tested, turnkey-engine packages literally ready to bolt-in. Each package comes complete from oil pan to carb, water pump to bellhousing flange, and has a 24-month, 24,000-mile warranty. And when we say dyno tested-we mean it. Each engine comes to the new owner individually tested on a dyno and packing its own "brag sheet."

The internals are as beefy as the rest of our crates. The cast-component 347 comes with a two-bolt main block, Scat crank and rods, Keith Black Hyperuetectic pistons (ergo the cast nomclature), a Melling oil pump, a hydraulic flat-tappet cam, and aluminum cylinder heads. The cast-component 347 uses a Professional Products polished intake, an Edelbrock {{{600}}}-cfm carb, and a 110-gpm fuel pump to generate 339 horses and 404 lb-ft of torque on an easy-at-the-pump 9.0:1 static compression ratio. All for $5,450.

The forged-component 347 comes with a two-bolt main block, Scat crank and rods, SRP pistons, a Melling oil pump, a hydraulic roller cam, and aluminum cylinder heads. The forged-component 347 uses a Professional Products polished intake, an Edelbrock 600-cfm carb, and a 110-gpm fuel pump to push out 401 horses and 448 lb-ft of torque on an easy-at-the-pump 9.3:1 static compression ratio. All for $6,987.

For more information: Blueprint engines; (800) 486-4708; www.blueprintengines.com.