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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
ok guys. Im 16 and about to start my first engine build. I had most of the parts i needed writen and priced out. I wanted to start out with a small block 400, since my 72 chevelle originally came with a 350, and i wanted to get in the 400s, but didnt want something too big. well, i guess I didnt do all my research properly. I was on youtube (of course), and came across a video of a guy who had what looked to be a 396 or a 454 in his 70 chevelle, with a/c. I never knew that big block chevelles came with a/c, and he has the exact same unit as mine. Im stuck on the question of, how much bigger are the physical dimensions of a big block compared to a small block? can I fit a 396, or even possibly a 454 in a chevelle that originally came with a small block? Its causing me to almost completely rethink my build. :confused::confused::confused:
 

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Absolutely. You will have to use different mounts and there are other upgrades needed, such as in the suspension area, and possibly to your drivetrain, but it can be done. People do it all the time. There are a few built big blocks listed right now in the classifieds, too.
 

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Yes you can and yes you should ! If you haven't purchased the small block I would absolutely go the big block route. You will however need to change a few more basic elements of the car as Highway Star has noted....but in the end "There is no replacement for displacement!"

I say Go For It! :thumbsup:
 

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I hope you have better luck than I did with my first motor I built, 406....I was 16 as well got it started broken in and ready to go....back out of the garage and dropped a valve into the cylinder (shouldve rebuilt the heads)_...destroyed everything, I still have the bent rod and shards of cast piston....My next motor (fuel injected 355)I went all forged and all new and havent had a problem...in my opinion BB's arent worth much to me unless they are huge unless its a 427 cuz i think they are cool sounding to say lol
 

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Man, I remember my first engine. I was 14, and it was a 348. This was back in the '60s:) It took me over a year to finish. It actually ran and did pretty good in a '58 Bel Air 4-door.

Lookking back, if I knew then what I know now, here's the input I'd give you.

Build a relatively mild, basic 350 small block. Use it to learn the basic rebuilding techniques and proceedures. You can apply what you learn to ANY engine.

Buy a couple specialty tools like a torque wrench, gasket scrapers, micrometers, maybe a valve spring compressor, etc. It wouldn't hurt to prowl E-bay for some micrometers (0-1", 1"-2", 2"-3", 3"-4", 4"-5") that read down to the .0001" increments. Often, you can pick up a set pretty cheap. Also, a dial Vernier caliper in 0-6" range that reads to .001, a depth mic, and an inside mic.

Doing a basic, mild rebuild on the small block will allow you extra money for tools, and keep you from becoming frustrated. MOST importantly, basic measuring tools will allow you to check your machine shop's work. Anyone can and will make mistakes. It's always better to catch errors before assembly. Plus, investment in tools will enable you to properly build bigger and better stuff over the years. Remember, the more radical the build, the more custom fitting and machining, and more measuring.

A good, solid 355 with a moderate cam, some economical-but-very good Enginequest (or similar) replacement heads, headers, dual plane intake, and small 4 barrel carb will make good power, be decent on gas, and be reliable to drive as a daily car. Plus, it will allow you to learn the basics of engine building and tuning.:thumbsup:

JMHO!

You can PM me directly if you have specific questions, and I'd be glad to help if I can.:)

Randy
 

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Have to agree, for the most part with Randy. Your first engine build should be more about learning and not so much about power. Sure, some guys will go for the gusto the 1st. time around but it will usually cost twice as much as it should, cause you are not aware of the details. And, for the most part, they come with experience and/or money. But most of the time,MONEY.

You should really read as much as you can, and understand as much as possible, before you start building an engine. Tools are a necessity.

Try to stay conserative. Don't go and try to build a 5 or 600 hp. engine, for the 1st. one. Try to build it for torque. Seat of the pants feel.
Nothing runs or pulls like a B.B. but nothing is easier to build than a S.B.

And a 400 S.B.; Oh Yea!

Reminds me of the first V-8, I built. Would have loved to had that sucker in a Chevelle. 412ci.'s of tire shreading torque. I spent more money on tires the first year than the engine cost to build. That engine costed $1400, carb to oil pan, no lie. And, $500 of that was for forged pistons.:p
 

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Get a 454. Do a basic rebuild with mild perf parts. Or if you shop/inspect, you could get one that only needs to be freshened-up. Get some related goods so it launches.
I am the king of bang for the buck....see vid below, runs better now than that vid.

454 drops in with little effort...I'll be the Low Buck Advisor!:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yea, im doing it for the learning experience, but I want my first build to be a good one, an engine that a will use time and time again on the streets. Im probably gonna stick to the 400. At least I know Its gonna fit without many modifications. do any of yall have any good engine combos that give you good torque for the seat of the pants feel, but also gives lots of ponies so that when i come up againsts someone on the street, I at least have a little bit of hope that ill win. That little 350 of mine isnt doin too well in any of those areas....
 

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There's nothing wrong with the 350, buy a 3.75" crank kit and build a 383 if you want to, or stick with the 350. The 350 in my malibu made approximately 465 hp at the crank on 93 octane gas. Enough to go high 11's.
 

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Just did a 383 for my first motor. got most all of the running parts used from local motorheads for some bargain prices which left room to buy all of the expensive small things that come later. dont go wazoo with hp or your gonna spend more cash replacing weak parts then the actual motor
 

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I'm inclined to agree with the guys who say to make your 350 into a 383. Kits for that are readily available and that would be a huge improvement.

I know I sound like an old guy, but watch what you take to the streets. Now that I have two little ones in the back seat with me I see driving differently than I used to. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
well that would be a great idea if it wasn't my daily driver... I'm kinda lookin for somethin to build while I'm drivin my chevelle. can't really afford to have my running engine out of the car and in pieces right know. but thanks anyway. if my build goes as planned, I might make my 350 into a 383 and then sell it.
 

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Don'y disregard the potential of a small-block. It's all about power vs weight, and small-blocks are pretty light. Small-blocks are also pretty darn cheap, and common, and easy to work on and get parts for.

If you're trying to learn, a 355 will teach you a lot!

Some of us are perfectly happy with small-blocks, since we want our cars to handle in addition to going straight...less weight over the front tires sure helps that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I have to agree with you. small blocks are great, and having less weight in the front will make it a better driver, but im just not happy with my 350. im just gonna bump up the ci's to 400, keep it a small block, and add a good top end kit from Dart. thats where im getting my block from too. their 372 with one of their top end kits makes from 500 to 700 horses, but thats with the addition of a good cam,cr, and what not. that makes me imagine what that little 400 can do! lol. best part is.... no mods to suspension or tranny, at least none that i know of..... so it should just bolt right in when i get done.
 

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I have to agree with you. small blocks are great, and having less weight in the front will make it a better driver, but im just not happy with my 350. im just gonna bump up the ci's to 400, keep it a small block, and add a good top end kit from Dart. thats where im getting my block from too. their 372 with one of their top end kits makes from 500 to 700 horses, but thats with the addition of a good cam,cr, and what not. that makes me imagine what that little 400 can do! lol. best part is.... no mods to suspension or tranny, at least none that i know of..... so it should just bolt right in when i get done.
here you go , i built a 406 for my 68 elcamino , it had 10.2 hyper pistons ,protopline iron 220 heads ,a puny hydraulic flat tappet cam [email protected] and .470 lift & 106lsa . a old holley dual plane manifold and old 780 holley . gears were streetable 3.73 ,and a th350 with 2400 converter . this thing ran 12.53 best and 12.80 average @110mph . with smaller 200 heads it may have been quicker ! Other than poor fuel economy ,This was a daily driver with a slight choppy idle .
 

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My 69 chevelle came with a 350 and a th350 A/T. I now have a 650hp 496 (stroker 454) with a viper 6-speed. You can do just about any drivetrain imaginable these days. For being 16 and your first build stick with the 400. punch it out .030 (406). They are powerhouses. Keep it around 425-450hp, it will blow your mind. And small blocks are WAY cheaper to build. You can retain your mounts, exhaust, harnesses, all kinds of stuff. Swaping a big block isnt just "mounts and some stuff". If done properly you will spend much more on the big block swap. A killer 406 will dominate moslty anyother car in your high school parking lot for sure. The post above prooves it. A .470 lift 226 duration cam is TINY, and he ran a 12.53.... thats hauling ass. You get a healthy street/strip cam, that car will scare a lot of people.

Feel free to PM me with any questions, Ive built a lot of engines and would be glad to help with dyno numbers or parts questions.

Tim
 

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I'm 17, and just got ahold of a '68 396, unbored, with a fat pair of 454 heads.

Should be fun :yes:
 

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When I built my first engine, a lowly 307, it really was a learning experience. Thats the key thing: experience. I cant count how many times people asked "why a 307"? First, I was so broke, I had to borrow someones truck to tow it home. I was literally working minimum wage, and the majority of my money went into my car. And, the 307 was the engine that came in there. Had I to do it over again, yeah, I would have done a 350 or 400 and been that much more ahead HP wise. But, getting that little 307/TH350 3.08 one legger to go 15.32 at 89 mph in the quarter, was all about the tuning. Yeah, had I spent the time and money to find a 350 or 400, I would have been faster earlier, that I know. But the lack of money, and having more time, allowed me to science out that combo to dang near it's maximum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
ok, so i know this probably isnt the first thing i need to be looking for, but does anyone know of any good heads i can use that are cheap and will give me supreme performance, or at least something relatively close? and possibly a list of parts i need and what i need to look for first, or things i need to look for in order.... i have knowlege of the basic parts i need, but theres probably a lot of other parts i havent even thought of yet...
 
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