Car Craft
Click here to find out more!

350 V8 - Cheap Street Chevelle

Building A LowBuck Engine For Street/Strip Use

In the October '94 issue of Car Craft, we introduced our Cheap Street Chevelle. The logic behind Cheap Street was to build up a nice street machine for limited cash outlay.

We skipped all the fancy gee-gaws and stuck to the basics by installing tried-and-true parts including an Edelbrock Performer dual-plane manifold, Cyclone headers, a dual exhaust system with DynoMax mufflers, a PAW camshaft and lifter kit, a Performance Distributors HEI distributor, Jacobs ignition wires and a pair of World Products S/R Torquer cylinder heads. In addition, we rebuilt the stock 750cfm Quadrajet carb, installed a Turbo Action shift improvement kit and swapped in Drive Train Specialties 3.73:1 gears and an Eaton Top Spec limited-slip carrier.

When we bought Cheap Street Chevelle, it didn't run. After some work and a tune-up, we garnished a best e.t. of 16.62 seconds at 83.23 mph. By the time we completed our upgrades (featured in three issues of CC), we had our rig running 13.89 at 96.70 mph--not bad for a car with 140K miles. Just before we arrived at the dragstrip, we heard a loud knocking in the bottom end, but we flogged our car anyway.

It did run the 13-second e.t. goal, but we had hurt the worn-out stock bottom end in the process. Editor Schifsky told the staff to build a new bottom end, but what the bottom end consisted of was up to our readers. We got stacks of mail offering advice, but the overwhelming request was to reuse the 350 V8 and install a low-buck bottom end kit (crank, rods and pistons), while reusing all of the top end goodies (heads, intake, carb, and so on). Jim Hutchins from South Point, Ohio, wrote, "I understand that your Chevelle has a rod knock. I also understand that it is supposed to be a low-buck street machine that will earn you some respect. I, like a lot of readers, have bills and a mortgage and can't afford a lot of high-dollar upgrades. Install a bottom end rebuild kit with good bearings, low-buck forged pistons, good rod bolts and a high-volume oil pump. The cost of expensive machine work is out of reach for most of us, so please try to keep it to a minimum." Jim went on to tell us that his project car has many of the same motor mods that we had on our Chevelle, but like us, he had spun a rod bearing and needed a rebuild. Jim ended the letter by saying, "I am patiently waiting to see how your engine runs so I can copy it, hopefully with great success." Well Jim, ask and you shall receive.

We called Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW) and ordered a flat-top piston crankshaft special. The kit is normally $384 with cast pistons, but we opted to upgrade to forged pistons, so our kit cost $464. The forged pistons allowed us the option of adding nitrous oxide injection (or other similar upgrades) at a later date. We took our cylinder block to Skercevic Automotive Machine in Ventura, California, to have it cleaned, bored and honed. In addition, we spent a few extra bucks to have the crank assembly balanced. Once the engine was rebuilt, we took it to Duttweiler Performance to test its power output on a dynamometer. We realize that dyno-testing an engine is probably out of the price range of most readers, but we did it to show you what horsepower you can expect when using an engine combo such as ours. Heck, if you like the power figures, simply use the same parts we did and you'll be ready for action. The peak power numbers we got were perfect (read Duttweiler Dyno sidebar in this story), the engine had a smooth power band, and our combo had a nice musclecar idle.

Besides the bottom end engine rebuild, installing a new torque converter was our only other major upgrade. Our stock unit would barely stall up to 1500 rpm, which was killing our e.t.'s at the dragstrip. We upgraded to a TCI Break-A-Way 11-inch torque converter that was a direct bolt-on and gave us a 2600-2800rpm stall speed--perfect for street/strip use.

While the engine was out of the Chevelle, we scrubbed the engine bay to remove all of the grease and grime that had built up over the years. Then we detailed our engine bay with VHT paint. In addition, our underhood wires resembled a rat's nest, so we repaired and routed wires so they functioned properly. Once the engine bay was detailed, we installed our rebuilt engine. Directly thereafter, we cruised Cheap Street Chevelle to the dragstrip, ran dozens of back-to-back runs, and drove to a cruise-in for lunch. The only downfall was that the springs from the worn-out seat were poking us in the butt. We'll fix that in the coming months with a low-buck stock interior kit. Is there something else you'd like to see? If so, write: Cheap Street Chevelle, Car Craft magazine, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!
1 comments
derrin13
derrin13

I have a 70 chevelle that is pretty much 350 stock. i'd like to do what you did to get around a 13s car. how much did this cost?

Car Craft