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Building a 600HP Big-Block for $4000

Blue Collar 454

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Test Day

At Westech, we installed an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold and MSD distributor, filled the crankcase with 6 quarts of Comp's engine break-in oil, fired the engine, and ran it through a break-in cycle. Even with relatively high valvespring pressure (150 lb-in installed height/350 lb-in open), our flat-tappet cam broke in fine. With the right assembly lube, break-in oil, and a proper break-in procedure, there's no need to fear using a flat-tappet cam.

Westech's Steve Brulé used 114-octane Rockett Brand gasoline for break-in and the first several dyno pulls, and our engine surprised us with a peak horsepower number of 613 at 6,600 rpm. Brulé eased off the throttle at what appeared to be the onset of valve float. With lighter valvetrain components and/or more spring pressure, we think this engine will continue to make power up to 7,000 rpm—something we will experiment with soon.

Brulé then surprised us even more by reducing the total timing to 28 degrees and running the engine on Rockett 91-octane gasoline. Blue Collar cranked out 567 hp with absolutely no indication of detonation.

*This engine actually costs a bit more than it needs to because we are using parts left over from some roller cam R&D tests. The good news is that you can build it for less and make the same amount of power. According to Comp's web page for our cam grind, the company recommends less-expensive rocker arms, pushrods, and timing set than the ones we used. You can also save some money using Fel-Pro's composite head gaskets, which cost about half the cost of MLS gaskets. We still recommend the tool steel retainers, however. Recalculating our total with Comp's recommendation and composite gaskets comes to a grand total of $3,766.05—an awesome price for a ready-to-run, 600hp, big-block Chevy, especially one you could drive to the track. If you can spend more, the added insurance of our Ultra Gold rocker arms and boost-ready MLS gaskets mean you will have room to grow if you want to squeeze more power out of this combination, which we plan to do soon.

Parts List

Description P/N Source Price
Used 454 NA Hot Rod Magazine $300.00
Sealed Power engine rebuild kit CSMHP771-300 Summit Racing 789.97
MLS head gaskets Fel-1071 Fel-Pro 151.94
Cylinder head bolts ARP-135-3601 ARP 82.66
Main cap bolt kit ARP-135-5002 ARP 41.72
Connecting rod bolts ARP-135-6401 ARP 68.96
7⁄16-inch rocker studs ARP-135-7102 ARP 47.98
Comp solid flat-tappet cam CCA-11-406-5 Summit Racing 191.99
Performance Series solid lifters CCA-2900-16 COMP 99.97
Intake valves: 2.250-inch CCA-6022-8 Comp 99.97
Exhaust valves: 1.880-inch CCA-6023-8 Comp 89.97
Valvespring locators CCA-4759-16 Comp 34.97
Valvesprings CCA-954-16 Comp 129.97
Valvespring retainers CCA-1732-16 Comp 149.97
Viton valve seals CCA-517-16 Comp 17.97
Roller rocker arms CCA-17021-16 Comp 299.97
Valve locks CCA-611-16 Comp 21.97
Pushrod kit CCA-7154-16 Comp 195.97
Timing set CCA-7110 Comp 103.97
Water pump, aluminum SUM-310125 Summit Racing 139.97
Intake manifold EDL-2904 Edelbrock 279.97
950 HP carburetor HLY-0-82951 Holley 699.99
Engine paint NA O'Reilly Auto Parts 8.99
RTV sealer VER-99839 O'Reilly Auto Parts 5.49
Sealed Power Assembly lube SLP-55-400 Summit Racing 4.25
Comp Cams Engine Break-In Oil, case CCA-1590 Comp Cams 59.95
Oil filter PH-30 Fram 4.59
Spark plugs NGK R5673-9 NAPA 27.92
Total as Tested 4,061.01

By the Numbers

Blue Collar 454:

Bore 4.280 inch
Stroke 4.00 inch
Cylinder head volume 120 cc
Piston dome volume 49 cc
Deck clearance 0.009 inch
Gasket compressed thickness 0.051 inch
Gasket bore diameter 4.380
Compression ratio 12.32:1
Final displacement 460 ci

We dropped a cylinder head on the driver side without a gasket and cycled the engine through a couple rotations of the crankshaft with the valves set at zero lash and a pair of checking springs. The exhaust valve left no impression on the CC-approved Silly Putty we smooshed on top of the piston. The intake valve showed 0.070-inch clearance, which, combined with our 0.041-inch compressed-thickness head gasket, is plenty of clearance.

With the knowledge that our clearances were in spec, we cleaned the deck of the block and the tops of the pistons with a Scotch-Brite pad and wiped everything with brake cleaner, then automatic transmission fluid in preparation for final assembly.

While we had the Silly Putty out, we also checked the oil pan–to–pickup clearance, which was acceptable at about 3⁄4 inch.

We are planning to hit this engine with about a 200 shot of nitrous in a later test, so we opted for Fel-Pro's MLS head gaskets. Naturally aspirated builds can save a few bucks by using standard gaskets. We are using Comp's two-piece timing cover for this build because this engine has recently been used to test several of its new cam designs. We left it out of the parts list because the stock cover would work just fine here. We actually would have put the stock one back on, but we couldn't find the fasteners.

We installed the cam "straight up" (with no advance or retard) and verified the intake lobe centerline, which was spot on with Comp's spec of 114 degrees after TDC. The intake and exhaust opening and closing events were also perfect. Note that we haven't installed the poly locks on the rocker arms yet. It's easier to rotate the crankshaft without the load of the valvesprings.

We assembled the rest of the valvetrain using plenty of assembly lube on the lifters, rocker arms, and pushrods and set the valve lash to 0.028-inch intake and 0.030-inch exhaust, per Comp's specs.

Comp Cams
3406 Democrat Road
TN  38118
Holley Performance Products
1801 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green
KY  42101
Summit Racing
15412 E. Valley Blvd
City of Industry
CA  91746
Westech Performance
11098 Venture Drive
Unit C
Mira Loma
CA  91752
26555 Northwestern Hwy.
MI  48034
JMS Racing Engines
El Monte
2700 California St
CA  90503
PerTronix Performance Products
440 East Arrow Highway
San Dimas
CA  91773
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Dont you think you lost HP by using a square port intake on a oval port head??? why not use oval port intake.....your HP and torque numbers couldve been alot better.....and with alittle more time and home machining a person can port match intake and heads and get pretty respectable flow, HP, and torque numbers... and with little on no cost.... 

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