I want a 500HP small block. What can you build me?
So you're looking for a small block with about 500 HP for your street car. What do I recommend?
Note: There's a lot of excellent info below, but there's a lot to read. To help streamline things I made videos on this very subject. Scroll down the page and watch the 2 videos. And remember, I'm retired now so I no longer build engines, but by all means, please use the info I provided to your advantage so you don't make any costly mistakes.
Making 500 HP isn’t what costs the $ in an engine. The cost in an engine is the components IN it to handle that amount of power RELIABLY. Reliably is the key word. Lots of engine companies out there boast about having 500 HP small blocks at bargain prices. The difference in most of them is the quality, strength and reliability of the engine and its components, plus the quality of the machining and the fit ‘n finish that went in it. Good, strong parts cost what they cost, just like good, strong tools cost what they cost. Can you buy a cheap set of Chinese made wrenches at Wal-Mart? Sure, but are they good quality and strong? Nope. I’m not saying you need to waste money buying overly expensive parts parallel to the quality and price of Snap-On tools, but you DO want to spend money on the quality & strength needed so it lasts and can WITHSTAND the power it is going to make so it is RELIABLE. Craftsman tools are a great example of that. A Craftsman wrench may not be as pretty as a Snap-On, or as light weight, but you can pry on it and bust stuck bolts loose with it just as much as you can any Snap-On wrench, and they cost a lot less than Snap-On. You just can’t do that with a cheap Wal-Mart wrenches because they don’t fit very well, so they fit sloppy and slip, and they aren’t very strong so when you lean on them, they break. Consider prying on a wrench the same as horsepower & torque. The more power an engine makes, the more load it puts on the parts. Well, when the load is high, you need stronger and better fit components to contain that power or the engine simply won’t last as long as it should, nor will it perform as well as it should.
A high quality forged 11:1 piston will make the same amount of power in an engine that a cheap, crappy cast aluminum 11:1 piston will make. 11:1 compression is 11:1 compression. The power yield is the same. The ONLY difference between the two is A) the price, and B) the strength and quality between the two. A cheap cast 11:1 piston WILL fail under high loads and RPM, where a more expensive forged 11:1 piston will last and withstand a LOT more abuse, load, RPM and heat and will just keep on going. That’s a great example of cost vs. power of an engine, just like cost vs. strength in wrenches. This same analogy also applies to cranks, rods, gaskets, bolts, push rods, lifters, rockers, rings, studs, timing chains, cams, etc., etc., and even the machining of the block and the quality of the assembly. There is a BIG difference between a “bargain priced” engine and one that costs more, but will last longer and take more abuse RELIABLY. An engine is a big investment. You want to do it right, once, and be done with it, otherwise a costly catastrophe IS going to happen. I didn’t build my reputation by building engines that don’t put-out the kind of power I say they will, nor by building “cheap” engines that fail because they weren’t built strong enough. There are plenty of other engine builders out there that do plenty of that! Just pick-up a magazine. They’re all over the place!
With all of that in mind, you have to look at the rest of the car. Anytime you increase the power output of an engine, you also MUST do other things to the car so it will perform the way it should WITH that engines AND so the rest of the car will stand-up to the added power. Drag cars are quick because of their short gearing, high RPM stall converters, chassis set-up, etc. Bonneville cars are fast because of their tall gearing, lower RPM stall converters, and chassis set-up. A 1,000 HP dragster won’t perform well at Bonneville, nor will a 1,000 HP Bonneville car perform well on a drag strip. They both have the same amount of power but neither car will perform worth a crap out of their element. Stuffing a 500 or so HP engine into a car that doesn’t have the exhaust, the gearing, the correct stall RPM in the converter, the correct gearing for the power band of the engine, or the chassis mods needed to plant the power to the ground for how the car is going to be driven, then it is going to be a complete and utter waste of time and it simply won’t perform like it should. It ain’t all about “horsepower”!
So with all of that taken into consideration, the next step is to figure out how you want the engine to make its power. First and foremost, there is no replacement for displacement! Trying to get big power out of a small engine is going to make the engine “peaky” and not have much torque. Torque is what moves the car, not “horsepower”. Too many people only look at horsepower numbers when in fact, they should be looking at torque numbers. 0-60 MPH or so is ALL reliant on torque. Unless you are constantly launching and driving around, at, or above, 5,000 RPM all of the time, then horsepower isn’t what you are looking for. Sure you WILL be above that RPM from time to time, but 95% o the time, and on ALL launches from a dead stop, you WILL be below that RPM. The only thing moving the car below 5,200 RPM is torque. Higher torque numbers also mean you don’t NEED to run as low of a rear gear as you would with a more peaky horsepower engine, and it won’t require as high of a stall RPM in the converter. Too many people look at drag cars and think that they run perform well on the street, and in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. Drags cars HAVE to launch at their peak power RPM to get a good 60 foot time, otherwise they fall on their face. They NEED short gears to GET that engine up in it’s maximum RPM where it makes it’s maximum horsepower. They rely on things like very high RPM stall converters up in the 4,500 – 6,000 RPM area. Without that and the gears, the car WILL fall on its face because "high horsepower" drag engines are very “peaky” in power and HAVE to operate at their peak RPM to GO anywhere. They also rely on things like trans brakes. You can’t get a good 60 foot time in a drag car without a trans brake. NONE of those things are what you want to run on the street, nor how you want to drive a street car. So a lot of things need to be taken into consideration when shopping for a power plant for your car. Not just by you, but by me as well so “I” can set you up with a winning combination that absolutely kicks ass, will last a long time, and will perform at its best for the way you will be driving your car.
So, back to what may suit you the best for what you are looking for. You “can” get 500HP out of a 350 BUT because it is a small cubic inch engine it IS going to be peaky and won’t have much torque. That means if you want 500 HP out of it, you WILL need to run short (low) rear-end gears, (good-by freeway and high speed driving!), a high stall converter, and it will only make its power when its up in the high RPM range. You do NOT want a “chain saw” of an engine in your car! Chain saws make NO torque and they only way they can cut wood is at wide open throttle at their peak RPM. As soon as that chain gets stuck, it’ll bog down and stop because it doesn’t have enough “torque” to rip that chain loose to keep cutting. Imagine having a car like that. It would suck! Dirt bikes are the same way compared to a Harley that makes enough torque to smoke the tire with two 300 LB riders on it! You do not want a car that performs like a peaky dirt bike!
You “can” go with a small stroker to increase the torque, such as a 383 cubic inch version of a 350, but all of the cost, time and effort to gain a mere 28 cubic inches isn’t really gong to make THAT big of a power difference. Going with something like a 427 or a 434 small block based on an after market performance block is a MUCH better way to go for making raw torque, big horsepower and having absolutely complete reliability because the block is MUCH stronger than a stock block. It’ll take MUCH more abuse. It’ll also allow you to have a MUCH larger bore and crank stroke, it is MUCH more stable, which assures things like better ring seal which increases HP, and bearings last longer because block deflection and core shift are much less compared to a weaker / less stable stock block. All around it is just a MUCH better way to go. The disadvantage is that it isn’t “cheap” to do when you do it right. There’s no sense in buying a nice, strong after market block to build something like a 427 or a 434 and then stick a bunch of cheap, weak parts in it that will surely end-up failing and will probably destroy your nice block in the process.
Going with a supercharger is a great way to go for making power too, but again, you MUST increase the strength of the engine if you want it to last. By the time you add all of the strong components up and the cost of the supercharger, you “could” have gone with a REALLY nice 427 or 434 stroker and have a simpler set-up. Of course building a really nice engine based on an after market block AND adding a supercharger to it is the ultimate way to go BUT it is also a very expensive way to go. Hey,.. If having a killer engine like that was cheap and easy, EVERYONE would have one in their car, and that just isn’t the case.
A good, well built 350 making in the 400 HP or so area, that will also make some good torque, is going to cost in the area of $8,000 - $9,000 or so. By decreasing the amount of “peak HP”, you can increase the torque and drivability at lower RPMs, where the engine and car will be at most of the time, so a more realistic 400 HP area is a MUCH better way to go on the street than upwards in the 500 HP area. It's a MUCH better, more well rounded engine that will outperform something with a higher amount of power yet a more peaky power curve. A similar quality built 427 or 434 built that would make 500 to upwards of 540 or so HP pretty easily can get you into the $12,000 - $13,000 or so area REAL fast. Can one be built cheaper? Sure, there are some options you can do to cut the price down a bit such as going with a flat tappet valve train, or going with hypereutectic pistons (only on naturally aspirated engines), etc., but pretty much if you picked-up a typical Summit or Jeg’s catalog and priced-out all of the parts needed to go into an engine like this, and figure-in the machining, the fit ‘n finish and the assembly, it’s going to cost in that same area. NO ONE can wave a magic wand over a high quality product like that and make it any cheaper than what the parts and labor cost, period, just like no one can see you a set of quality wrenches at the same cost as a set of cheapie, Chinese made Wal-Mart wrenches. You get what you pay for, plain and simple!
Now, there are PLENTY of engine builders out there advertising and boasting about BIG power numbers for their engines, such as 535 HP 350’s, 550 HP 383’s, etc. I have to say that they old saying of “dyno’s don’t lie” is a bunch of BS! Dynos DO lie and can be manipulated to read anything you want. There are a LOT of engine companies out there that advertise big power numbers that are absolutely BOGUS. Some will say “dyno proven”. All that means is at one point in time they dyno’d a similar engine and based the rest of them off of that combination. It does NOT mean that engine was dyno’d, nor does it mean YOUR engine will make the kind of power they got from the one they dyno’d, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, it does NOT mean the dyno number is truthful! ANY dyno can be made to read whatever number you want simply by manipulation the load on the water brake, and/or the input data that it is basing its calculations on. I have seen WAY too many cars with “500 HP” 350’s get their doors blown off by what I consider to be 400 HP 350’s. Selling engines with BS power numbers is NOT what I do, nor how I got my reputation! Do NOT base your buying decision on some lame, bogus dyno number! Many of us “honest” engine builders LAUGH at the BS ads we see in magazines claiming ridiculous power numbers because we KNOW they are BS. Even big companies that do big time advertising sell those types of engines, whether they are Chevy or Ford engines. I just want you to be informed! I don’t need to BS a bunch of numbers. My track record and world wide reputation speaks for itself. I don’t NEED to buy big ads in magazines and boast ridiculous power numbers to make sales.
Could I have just blurted-out a generic price for a generic 500 HP engine that sounded good to make a quick sale? Sure, but I don’t work that way. If you want a truly BAD ASS engine that is specifically designed for your car and they way you will be driving it, I can certainly set-you up with one. Quite often more power will NOT make the car perform better than a well rounded engine will that has less power and more torque.
There are all kinds of options you could go with and the sky is the limit, but I also don’t want to see you throw money away by buying parts and components that are beyond what you need to make the engine strong and reliable, or that only make high RPM horsepower. I want you to get the best quality at the best bang for the buck, and a well rounded performer so it performs at its best, will last a long time, and so you’ll go out and brag about it to everyone so I can get some more HONEST business from it down the road. That’s how I do business and how I built my unparalleled BAD ASS reputation.
There’s a lot there to read and ponder, but I want you to be informed so YOU will make the right decision and won’t regret getting something you THOUGHT you wanted but later learned you should have gone with something else.
I hope all of that helped. When you’re ready for a truly BAD ASS engine, let me know and I’ll set you up with one.
For the best deals on your performance parts and accessories with the best service, choose where I order all of my components from... Competition Products!