November 9, 2005

When it's time to rebuild your vintage Ford small-block, the long list of things required can have you examining the checkbook and those credit card balances. While it's true an engine rebuild involves a lot of time and money, you can still realize great performance and enhanced durability at a reasonable price if you plan and build wisely. Did you know you can build a 300-plus-horsepower V-8 for under $2,000?

Building this kind of power doesn't have to cost a fortune if you plan properly and choose the right combination of parts. There are also simple procedures you can perform during the building process that make light work of getting big power for the money. Horsepower and torque are like weight loss programs. We're so busy searching for the easy route that we forget the common sense approach. Diet and exercise is the surest path to weight loss. Choosing the right combination of parts and assembly procedures is the easiest path to making power. It's just simple common sense.

Today we're going to Trans Am Racing where Mark Jeffery will show us what's involved in a properly planned and executed Ford small-block build. We're going to show you how to get the most bang for your buck, and how we found stock replacement parts to be adequate for as much as 300-350 hp.

The engine we're working with sports a '68 C8OE 302 block. We're after a mild-mannered street engine that will still deliver 300-plus horsepower when the pedal hits the metal. To begin with, we will examine our selection of components for this budget build, and then look at some of the more important aspects of engine assembly where extra care will pay dividends in improved reliability and a longer service life.

Budget Parts That Work

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Look What You Can Get For $2,000-$2,500
With common sense planning and execution, look at how much power your small-block can produce for under $2,500. These are three dyno pulls that demonstrate how much power you can make and why.

Pull 1 demonstrates what our 302 can do with the modest build-up we have just performed. This is with an aggressive flat-tappet camshaft and 302 heads. Expect 285-300 hp with 350 lb-ft of torque. With carburetor and ignition tuning, you can make the most of these numbers.

PULL 1
RPM HP TORQUE
2,000 127 333
2,500 162 340
3,000 198 347
3,500 234 351
4,000 264 347
4,500 284 332
5,000 285 300
5,500 273 261
6,000 244 214
6,500 213 172

In Pull 2, we've opted for 351W heads with stock valve sizing. these cylinder head castings won't cost any more, and we expect a solid 300-plus horsepower, with 350-plus lb-ft of torque. for just a few bucks more, go with a 650-cfm Holley and a roller cam for eye-opening numbers.

PULL 2
RPM HP TORQUE
2,000 127 333
2,500 163 341
3,000 199 349
3,500 236 354
4,000 268 352
4,500 292 341
5,000 298 313
5,500 290 277
6,000 263 321
6,500 234 189

Pull 3 takes the 351W head further with larger 1.94/1.60-inch valve sizing. Check it out--327 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque. Again, we suggest a more aggressive roller cam, larger Holley, and deep-breathing headers for substantial gains in power. Expect 350-plus horsepower and 375 lb-ft.

PULL 3
RPM HP TORQUE
2,000 126 332
2,500 163 342
3,000 202 353
3,500 242 363
4,000 279 367
4,500 310 362
5,000 325 341
5,500 325 310
6,000 305 267
6,500 283 229

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The Build-Up

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