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15 Dyno-Proven Horsepower Combos

Rear-Wheel Dyno Combos

Photography by Marko Radielovic

Every year we plant ourselves at the Castrol Syntec/Werx Motorsports mobile chassis dyno at the Car Craft Summer Nationals to observe our readers' cars on the chassis dyno. This year we also staked out the dyno at the Street Machine Nationals in Lima, Ohio, to broaden the scope of this article. A wide variety of cars, engines, and combos made their way to the rollers to prove their mettle. Keep in mind that these are real-world numbers subject to a whole slew of outside factors that affect horsepower. It should be no surprise that the Midwest is quite hot and humid during the summer, so power output was significantly lower than it would have been on a cool Fall morning. That said, at least all who participated were subjected to the same handicaps.

Now before we get letters from the AMC/Ford/fill-in-the-blank faithful about bias, we camp out at the dyno during the entire event, and we can only document the vehicles that actually step up. We avoided the high-compression participants, as we felt they weren't a reflection on the typical street combinations that the average guy would screw together. So sit back and take note of how much power the real world is cranking.

Pontiac: Mild

Car: '68 Pontiac GTO
Owner: Guy Hiney

Guy Hiney of Anoka, Minnesota, has proven that the 400ci Pontiac can be a contender with the right bolt-ons. Though his Goat pumped out less than he had hoped, 313 hp at the wheels is nothing to be ashamed of, and it's better than many larger and more radical combinations we've encountered. Guy's 0.030-over 400 has been outfitted with a 292H Comp hydraulic cam, a set of roller rockers on stock Pontiac head castings, and an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake with a 750-cfm Quadrajet. It just goes to show that Pontiacs, like all other American V-8s, respond to the usual performance upgrades.

Engine

Type: Pontiac V-8
Displacement: 406 ci
Compression: 10.0:1
Best e.t.: 13.0

Heads

Make and model: Production iron
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 2.11/1.77 inches
Rocker arms: 1.52:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 244 degrees
Valve lift: 0.501 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Carburetor: Q-jet
Ignition: Pertronix
Exhaust: 1 ¾-inch headers, 2 ½-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 355 hp
Dyno result: 313 hp, 362 lb-ft

Oldsmobile: Wild

Car: '84 Hurst Olds
Owner: Gary and Cindi Valland

This '84 Hurst Olds owned by Gary and Cindi Valland surprised us all. While it sounded nasty, we weren't prepared for the nearly 400 rear-wheel horsepower or the nearly 500 lb-ft of torque. In California where we are strangled with emissions laws, we don't expect a "late model" to sound quite like the Valland's Oldsmobile. The Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads are undoubtedly responsible for a good portion of this Rocket's 384 hp, as is the long-duration Camotion solid grind. Up top, Gary perched an Offy Portosonic intake and a Holley 780 Street Avenger carb. The often-overlooked Oldsmobiles are truly capable of outstanding performance with the right combination of parts.

Engine

Type: Oldsmobile V-8
Displacement: 468 ci
Compression: 10.5:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Heads

Make and model: Edelbrock Performer RPM, aluminum
Port work: Fully ported
Valve sizes: 2.19/1.68 inches
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 rollers

Camshaft

Make: Camotion
Type: Solid flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 252/260 degrees
Valve lift: 0.576/0.566 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Offenhauser Portosonic
Carburetor: Holley 780-cfm Avenger
Ignition: MSD distributor with MSD 6AL
Exhaust: 17/8-inch headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 400 hp
Dyno result: 384 hp, 480 lb-ft

GM LS1: Mild

Car: '00 Pontiac Trans Am
Owner: Mark Heid

The reason for including a late-model LS1 in this article is simple. In a world of high-tech overhead-cam engine technology, GM has built another pushrod motor, and an outstanding one at that. With a few basic modifications, the LS1 will deliver the goods--period. Mark Heid and fiance Bridgette's Pontiac Trans Am, like many across the U.S., has been bolstered with what amounts to computer mods and an exhaust system and that's it. It still cranked out well over 300 hp at the wheels. The LS1 is the next-generation Mouse, with a plethora of aftermarket companies developing quality speed parts to make the already stout performers even faster. Who says pushrod engines are dead?

Engine

Type: GM LS1 V-8
Displacement: 346 ci
Compression: 10.0:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Heads

Make and model: Stock aluminum
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 2.00/1.55 inches
Rocker arms: Stock 1.7:1 rollers

Camshaft

Make: Stock
Type: Hydraulic roller
Duration at 0.050: Stock
Valve lift: Stock

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Stock
Carburetor: Stock throttle-body
Ignition: Stock with Hypertech programmer
Exhaust: Stock manifolds, after-cat aftermarket system with cutouts

Performance

Owner's guess: 340 hp
Dyno result: 326 hp, 335 lb-ft

Mopar Big-Block: Wild

Car: '64 Dodge Polara 500
Owner: Rob Warden

Rob Warden's Polara is a big car, and big cars require big engines. That is exactly what Rob was thinking when he pieced together this 500-inch wedge based on a 440 block with a Mopar Performance stroker crank. With moderate 10.5:1 compression, a Comp solid-roller cam, an Indy dual-plane manifold, Holley 950 HP carb, and a good set of aluminum cylinder heads, Rob's big-block was able to punish the rollers to the tune of 443 hp while still sipping pump premium. Rob drives his B-body regularly and has turned very low 11s at his local strip.

Engine

Type: Chrysler V-8
Displacement: 500 ci
Compression: 10.5:1
Best e.t.: 11-teens

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Indy aluminum 440-1
Port work: Gasket match
Valve sizes: 2.19/1.88 inches
Rocker arms: 1.6:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Solid roller
Duration at 0.050: 252/258 degrees
Valve lift: 0.588/0.592 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Indy dual-plane
Carburetor: Holley 950 HP
Ignition: MSD distributor and 6AL
Exhaust: 2 to 2 1/8-inch step headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 517 hp
Dyno result: 443 hp, 503 lb-ft

Ford Small-Block: Mild

Car: '67 Ford Mustang
Owner: Chris Minerich

Chris Minerich was one of the few Ford guys at the Summer Nationals to put his car up on the chassis dyno. Chris and friend/crew chief Clint Warpula have put together a potent combo that remains completely streetable using a moderate Comp XE274 hydraulic cam, a good set of Trick Flow cylinder heads, and pump-gas compatible 9.0:1 compression ratio. The 351W then received an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold and a 750-cfm Speed Demon carburetor.

Exhaust is shuttled through 1 5/8-inch headers and a 2 ½-inch dual-exhaust system. Chris and Clint's masterpiece should be good for times in the bottom 12s if they can find traction with this potent mill. As if that weren't enough, his '67 Mustang also looks great.

Engine

Type: Ford small-block V-8
Displacement: 351W ci
Compression: 9.0:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Heads

Make and model: TFS Twisted Wedge, aluminum
Port work: Pocket ported
Valve sizes: 2.02/1.60 inches
Rocker arms: 1.6:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 230/236 degrees
Valve lift: 0.530/0.530 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Carburetor: Speed Demon 750 cfm
Ignition: Holley Systemax
Exhaust: 1 5/8-inch headers, 2 ½-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 275 hp
Dyno result: 328 hp, 356 lb-ft

Big-Block Chevy: Wild

Car: '70 Chevy Chevelle SS 396
Owner: Shane Wagner

We classified Shane Wagner's Chevelle as "wild" because of some of the parts he selected in his quest for street dominance, including the big Dart heads and large-by-huge Holley Dominator carb. Aside from that, his combination is fairly moderate from cam selection to compression ratio, resulting in an engine that would happily live on the street with nary a complaint--that is until Shane's right foot makes abrupt contact with the carpet, 487 hp is unleashed, and all hell breaks loose. But don't be fooled by the numbers, as Shane and engine-builder/friend Mark Dalquist feed it a steady diet of pump premium and drove the Chevelle 600 miles to the Summer Nationals.

Engine

Type: Chevy big-block V-8
Displacement: 468 ci
Compression: 9.85:1
Best e.t.: Not yet!

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Dart Iron Eagle
Port work: Fully ported
Valve sizes: 2.25/1.88 inches
Rocker arms: 1.7:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Solid roller
Dur. at 0.050: 248/254 deg.
Valve lift: 0.651/0.654 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Weiand Team G single-plane
Carburetor: Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator
Ignition: MSD distributor and MSD 6AL
Exhaust: 1 7/8-inch headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 450 hp
Dyno result: 487 hp, 480 lb-ft

Small-Block Chevy: Wild

Car: '68 Chevy Camaro
Owner: Tod Wollschlager

Tod Wollschlager's first-generation Camaro features the most interesting intake of this group. His 355ci Mouse sports an Edelbrock cross-ram manifold with two 450-cfm Holley carbs perched on top. Even though the compression was higher than we recommend for pump-gas use at 11.0:1, Tod reports that it does just fine on pump premium--probably due to the long-duration camshaft. Even with the stock camel-hump heads, Tod's small-block cranked out a respectable 284 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. Would his small-block make more power with a modern four-barrel intake? Perhaps, but you can't beat the nostalgia and the visual impact of the cross-ram.

Engine

Type: Chevy small-block V-8
Displacement: 355 ci
Compression: 11.0:1
Best e.t.: 13.15

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Chevy production
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 1.94/1.50 inches
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Melling
Type: Solid flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 240/250 degrees
Valve lift: 0.521/0.521 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock cross-ram
Carburetor: Twin Holley 450 cfm
Ignition: MSD distributor and 6AL
Exhaust: 1 5/8 inches, 2 ¼-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 360 hp
Dyno result: 284 hp, 324 lb-ft

Small-Block Mopar: Mild

Car: '69 Dodge Dart
Owner: Brent Mantz

Mopar Performance crate short-blocks are a bargain. Just add a good top end and let it rip. Brent Mantz of Medina, Ohio, recognized the practicality of purchasing a completed short-block over commissioning a machine shop to build one, and simply added a set of production cast-iron 360 heads bolstered with 2.02-inch intake valves, a Performer RPM intake, and a 750 Holley for nearly 300 horses at the wheels. Able to run in the low-13s at 106 mph, Brent's Dart will run even faster with traction. It was that simple.

Engine

Type: Chrysler small-block V-8
Displacement: 360 ci
Compression ratio: 9.5:1 (approx.)
Best e.t.: 13.20 @ 106

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Production iron
Port work: Gasket match
Valve sizes: 2.02/1.60 inches
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 stamped steel

Camshaft

Make: Mopar Performance
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 248 degrees
Valve lift: 0.508 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Carburetor: Holley 750 cfm
Ignition: Mallory Unilite distributor and MSD 6AL
Exhaust: 1 5/8- to 1 ¾-inch step headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 250 hp
Dyno result: 299 hp, 289 lb-ft

Chevy Small-Block: Wild

Car: '70 Camaro
Owner: Ryan Underthun

Ryan Underthun came very close to predicting the results of this dyno test, and he undoubtedly would have hit his mark under more ideal weather conditions. Ryan ran his 355-inch small-block on the motor and on nitrous oxide, gaining more than 100 hp with the button depressed. Despite the small-block's radical nature, pump premium is the fuel of choice when Ryan is not using the juice, as it sports a very moderate 9.5:1 compression ratio. A radical solid-roller cam, Victor Jr. heads, a Brodix single-plane intake, and a Holley Dominator carb are not pieces one would normally associate with streetability, but the low compression tames the combination considerably. Built to run on laughing gas, Ryan's Camaro is still capable of running 10.80s on the engine's own power.

Engine

Type: Chevy small-block V-8
Displacement: 355 ci
Compression: 9.5:1
Best e.t.: 10.80 (on motor)

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Edelbrock Victor Jr., aluminum
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 2.05/1.60
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Ultradyne
Type: Solid roller
Duration at 0.050: 279 degrees
Valve lift: 0.630 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Brodix Dominator single-plane
Carburetor: Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator
Ignition: Mallory distributor and MSD 6AL
Exhaust: 1 7/8-inch headers, 3.5-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 410 hp on motor, 550 hp with nitrous oxide
Dyno result: 379 hp, 386 lb-ft on motor; 502 hp, 485 lb-ft on nitrous

Oldsmobile V-8: Mild

Car: '66 Oldsmobile Cutlass
Owner: James Selby

Oldsmobiles are all about torque, and James Selby's Cutlass is no exception. A frequent participant in the Street Machine Nationals series burnout contests, James' Olds always produces prodigious amounts of tire smoke seemingly effortlessly. The 11:1 compression seems high, but the long-duration Comp Cams camshaft bleeds off enough cylinder pressure to safely run on pump gas. Featuring a gasket-matched but otherwise stock set of "C"-casting cylinder heads, an Edelbrock Performer intake, and an Edelbrock 850-cfm Quadrajet, James' behemoth is still able to knock down low-12-second quarter-miles. And it does great burnouts!

Engine

Type: Oldsmobile V-8
Displacement: 461 ci
Compression: 11:1
Best e.t.: 12.29 @ 110

Heads

Make and model: Production iron "C" castings
Port work: Gasket match
Valve sizes: 2.08/1.68
Rocker arms: 1.6:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 244 degrees
Valve lift: 0.518 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer
Carburetor: Edelbrock Quadrajet 850 cfm
Ignition: GM HEI distributor and MSD 6AL
Exhaust: 1 ¾-inch headers, 2.5-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 315 hp
Dyno result: 296 hp, 412 lb-ft

Mopar Big-Block: Mild

Car: '68 Plymouth Roadrunner
Owner: Bob Gossen

Bob Gossen of Stacy, Minnesota, chose Chrysler's venerable 440 torque monster to power his portly Roadrunner. Using Mopar Performance's tried-and-true 509 juice cam, a pump-gas friendly 10:1 compression ratio, ported smog-era production cylinder heads, an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, and a 750-cfm Holley fuel mixer, Bob was able to squeeze out an eager 340 horses at the wheels. The torque topped out at 400 tire-melting pound-feet.

Engine

Type: Chrysler big-block V-8
Displacement: 440 ci
Compression: 10.0:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Production iron "452" castings
Port work: Fully ported
Valve sizes: 2.14/1.81
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 stamped steel

Camshaft

Make: Mopar Performance
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 248 degrees
Valve lift: 0.509 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Carburetor: Holley 750 cfm
Ignition: MP electronic distributor with orange control box
Exhaust: 1 7/8-inch headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 345 hp
Dyno result: 340 hp, 400 lb-ft

Chevy Big-Block: Moderate

Car: '67 Chevy Chevelle
Owner: John Sinna

Conventional wisdom among Rat-motor aficionados on the street is that the production oval-port heads are superior to the gargantuan rectangular-port offerings. John Sinna chose Chevy's oval-port castings with minor bowl porting, a Crower solid grind, and 9.8:1 compression to produce 409 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. A streetable RPM Air Gap intake manifold further contributes to his Chevelle's street manners. Are oval ports better on the street than rectangular ports? That depends on the combination of parts and the purpose of the motor. We can safely say that John Sinna has created a very effective Rat motor using oval-port heads.

Engine

Type: Chevy big-block V-8
Displacement: 468 ci
Compression: 9.8:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: GM production iron oval-port castings
Port work: Pocket ported
Valve sizes: 2.10/1.88 inches
Rocker arms: 1.7:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Crower
Type: Solid flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 292 degrees advertised duration
Valve lift: 0.625 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap dual-plane
Carburetor: Demon 850-cfm Speed Demon
Ignition: GM HEI distributor
Exhaust: 2-inch headers, 2.5-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 440 hp
Dyno result: 409 hp, 443 lb-ft

Chevy Small-Block: Wild

Car: '70 Chevy Chevelle
Owner: Mark Gjavenis

Judging by Mark Gjavenis' timeslips, his purple bomber is very traction limited as shown by the high trap speeds relative to the elapsed times. It takes a lot of grunt to move a '70 Chevelle at 117 mph, and Mark's small-block is more than up to the task of cranking out a pavement-rippling 408 hp at the wheels, with nearly 400 lb-ft of torque on tap. Relying on a 0.030-over 400 with a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads, a Comp solid-roller cam, a Victor Jr. intake and an 850 Demon carb for motivation, this Mike Segar-built small-block is a powerhouse.

Engine

Type: Chevy small-block V-8
Displacement: 406 ci
Compression: 11.0:1
Best e.t.: 12.02 @ 117

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 2.02/1.60
Rocker arms: 1.5:1 rollers

Camshaft

Make: Comp Cams
Type: Solid roller
Duration at 0.050: 254/260 degrees
Valve lift: 0.588/0.588 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Victor Jr. single-plane
Carburetor: Demon 850 cfm
Ignition: MSD distributor
Exhaust: 1 ¾-inch headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 395 hp
Dyno result: 408 hp, 394 lb-ft

Chevy: Extreme

Car: '29 Ford Coupe
Owner: Carl Finney

Some of you may remember Carl Finney's Rat-powered Ford Coupe as our '03 Dyno Challenge winner in the power-adder category at the Summer Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota. Of all the combinations we have outlined, Carl Finney's big-block is the most over-the-top. Built to run on prodigious amounts of nitrous oxide, his 540-inch Rat features pump-gas friendly 10.0:1 compression and detonation-suppressing aluminum cylinder heads. While the cam seems a tad radical, it is quite moderate by race-cam standards and not objectionable considering the displacement of this beast. No doubt the superior flow characteristics of the 335cc AFR heads contribute heavily to the final output, whereas an NOS nitrous unit helped the fat Rat lay down a cool 900-plus horsepower at the wheels.

Engine

Type: Chevy big-block V-8
Displacement: 540 ci
Compression: 10.0:1 (Approx.)
Best e.t.: 9.52 at 147 mph (on the motor)

Heads

Make and model: AFR aluminum
Port work: CNC-ported
Valve sizes: 2.30/1.88 inches
Rocker arms: 1.7:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Crane
Type: Solid roller
Duration at 0.050: 254/265 degrees
Valve lift: 0.745/0.757 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Super Victor
Carburetor: Holley 1,250-cfm Dominator
Ignition: MSD Digital 6
Exhaust: 2 1/8-inch headers, 3 ½-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 600 hp on motor, 850 hp on nitrous
Dyno result: 582 hp, 547 lb-ft on motor; 904 hp, 828 lb-ft on nitrous

Pontiac V-8: Mild

Car: '71 Pontiac GTO
Owner: Kai Jones

Even in stock form, Pontiac's 400-cube engine is good street piece. Throw a few performance parts at it, such as headers, a Performer RPM intake manifold, and a high-performance hydraulic cam, and you end up with a stout street performer. This is what student Kai Jones did to his '71 Goat. Hoping for 300 hp, he missed his mark by less than 15 ponies. With 287 hp on tap feeding through a Muncie four-speed trans, Mr. Jones gets more smiles-per-mile than many other cars on the road.

Engine

Type: Pontiac V-8
Displacement: 400 ci
Compression: 10.0:1
Best e.t.: Unknown

Cylinder Heads

Make and model: Production cast iron
Port work: None
Valve sizes: 2.11/1.77 inches
Rocker arms: 1.65:1 roller

Camshaft

Make: Lunati
Type: Hydraulic flat-tappet
Duration at 0.050: 228/235 degrees
Valve lift: 0.465/0.465 inch

Induction, Ignition, and Exhaust

Intake: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Carburetor: Demon 750 cfm
Distributor/Ignition: GM HEI
Exhaust: 1 ¾-inch headers, 3-inch dual exhaust

Performance

Owner's guess: 300 hp
Dyno result: 287 hp, 350 lb-ft

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