Rather than starting with a bare block and scrounging all the other components, we went to the boneyard and scored a complete engine. We like to pull motors that look as if they've never really been messed with to improve the chances that the insides are virgin and intact. This 350 came from a '77 Malibu wagon and its appearance proved legit--the standard-bore block was so nice it could have been rebuilt with standard slugs, but we opted to go 0.030-inch over.
Obviously, when you're building on a budget, you need parts at the best possible prices. We discovered that Northern Auto Parts in Sioux City, Iowa, offers engine kits at extremely reasonable prices, and its Chevy 350 kit in particular seemed like the ultimate bargain at $155. That price gets you a set of cast Federal-Mogul pistons; Hastings rings; Federal-Mogul rod, main, and cam bearings; a stock Melling timing set; a Melling oil pump; a Victor-Reinz gasket set; a stock Federal-Mogul cam and lifter set; and a set of frost plugs. The cool part is that the customer can upgrade individual items to his own liking, with the price adjusted accordingly. We opted for better Speed-Pro hypereutectic flat-top pistons, Hasting performance moly rings, a Cloyes double-roller adjustable timing set, and a Crane cam kit, and the kit was still only $411--an absolute steal.
We disassembled the engine ourselves, cleaned off the heavy gunk, and delivered the bare block with the crank still in place to JMS. Since it was relatively clean and free of rust, Jeff Johnson and Will Didier were able to run it through the clean-up department with only a quick pass through the hot tank.
Block-guy Sal Alcarez inspected the cleaned block and performed the Magnafluxing process to ensure there were no cracks before mounting it in the boring bar. The bores were taken out 0.030 inch, leaving room for future freshening. We briefly considered going to 0.060 inch for a couple extra cubes, a shade more compression, and slightly increased unshrouding of the valves, but we decided the gains would be minimal at this power level.