Editor's NoteThe concept of our new Battle of the Titans series is simple: To show entry-level car crafters how to make good power with basic parts and a limited budget without sacrificing quality or reliability. Over the next three months, culminating in our Nov. '03 issue with a three-way Chevy, Ford, and Mopar dyno shootout, our staff will build three everyman's motors that will stand on their own as well as be good foundations for later enhancements. Our subjects are a Mopar 360, a Ford 351 Windsor, and a Chevy 350, and to keep it simple, we're limiting all three to a few basic rules: stock blocks and rotating assemblies, factory cast-iron cylinder heads, Crane hydraulic flat-tappet camshafts, dual-plane intake manifolds, pump-gas streetability, and most important-a $2,500 budget for everything except the carb, ignition, and headers, including basic machine work. In the first three installments, we'll detail the buildups of each engine in the series, highlighting the parts selections, pricing, and machine work and assembly required for each, but we're keeping the dyno results a secret (even from each other) until we round up all three in November for a three-way showdown that will pit staffer against staffer in a battle for brand-name bragging rights. Battle of the Titans kicks off this month with Mopar Man Marko Radielovic's 360 buildup; next month we follow-up with Ford Fanatic Henry De Los Santos's 351 Windsor, and in October, GM Guru Terry McGean rolls out his 350 Chevy. -Matt King
The Mopar 360 buildup came first in the Battle of the Titans series by default. It was the only core we already had in our possession (sometimes it pays to be a pack rat) so it had a head start. Mopar's LA-series small-block 360 is a solid performance design featuring a healthy 4-inch bore, a relatively long 3.58-inch stroke, long 6.123-inch rods, and a desirable 18-degree cylinder head valve angle-the last three being things you pay a lot extra to get in a Chevy. Its stock 0.904-inch lifter diameter also helps cam grinders incorporate prodigious amounts of lift relative to duration into the cam profile, while the shaft-mounted rocker-arm system offers extra valvetrain stability. That said, we only had $2,500 with which to carefully select moderate, but quality, parts, and low-priced parts are fewer and farther between for a Mopar than with a bellybutton Chevy. Fortunately our budget didn't need to include such peripherals as carburetor, headers and ignition-those items will be standardized across all three engines in the series. We were able to specify quality Hooker headers and a Road Demon Jr. carburetor to round out our budget buildup, while an MSD distributor was borrowed from another project.
The biggest obstacle to making big power in this case was cylinder-head selection. Under the rules, our options were limited to factory production cast-iron offerings. Our choices were to either build a cheap short-block with good heads, or a good short-block with marginal heads. We chose the latter because we wanted a good foundation to build upon at a later date. Mopar Performance's Magnum RT performance heads seemed a logical choice for our 360, but proved to be more pricey than we were willing or able to spend on the top-end without sacrificing the bottom-end's quality. Reconditioned 360 castings were ultimately chosen to regulate the engine's breathing, but more on that later (see Cylinder Heads sidebar).
Our rules and budget dictated using the stock crankshaft, stock connecting rods resized and bolstered with new Pioneer rod bolts, Federal-Mogul hypereutectic pistons and rings, and a stock replacement oil pump. Many other stock parts, including most of the stock fasteners, from the core engine were reused as they were in good condition and only required a thorough cleaning.