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How To Build A Cheap Small Block - $650

Not Every Car Crafter Needs A High-End Race Engine, So We're Going To Dive Into . . .

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If the engine is still in the vehicle, look for one with as few miles as possible. Finding cheap small block with less than 100,000 miles may be difficult but not impossible. We own a 350 engine in a 1/2-ton pickup with 100,000 miles that uses very little oil and has acceptable fuel mileage that would make a perfect budget rebuilder.

Last month, we showed you how to diagnose a used engine. It's best to dig a little deeper to pull the heads and check out cylinder wear. If any cylinder exhibits a deep ridge at the top of the ring travel where maximum bore wear occurs, avoid this engine. The ridge indicates excessive cylinder bore taper that will not seal well with just new rings. The fingernail test is a good way to check for bore wear, but be sure what you are feeling isn't just mild carbon buildup. Scrub the carbon from the top of the cylinder and you may find minimal wear. Also look for excessive sludge in the lifter valley and valve covers. Excessive sludge usually indicates that the engine was not well cared for and means you need to keep looking.

Cheap Small Block: The Jerk And Clean
Before you take your cheap small block apart, the best plan is to mark all the rods and caps. The factory usually marks the main caps, but if not, indicate one through five and also note the orientation of the cap to the front of the engine. This is usually marked with an arrow, but if not, you'll need to create something, since this is critically important. Disassemble the engine slowly so you can eyeball any potential problem areas. The smart move is to completely disassemble the engine and have it professionally cleaned by a local machine shop. The only issue here is that this adds cost not just for cleaning but also to install new cam bearings. In our search to minimize cost, we're going to clean the engine ourselves and leave the old cam bearings in place.

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37 comments
Stewart Ambrozewicz
Stewart Ambrozewicz

So much complaining, forget "true rebuild" and "why bother building anything else but an LS engine" and just do it for the love of the car and for the challenge of building an engine at or under $650.

Ken Woodward
Ken Woodward

I had one of those too. If that's a '66.

Chip Bonham
Chip Bonham

Always liked the "Cheap & Easy for the average car guy" approach you all have had lately! Those AMC issues w/ D. Glad were excellent! $650 build a little harder to do w/ a Ford or Mopar (LOL), Lot of great ideas & thoughts in there tho.......Best Mag out there for sure.

Joshua Pugh
Joshua Pugh

And this is why everyone builds chevy's.

Jennifer Tyndall
Jennifer Tyndall

What he's doing is a shirt and tie backyard job! Anybody with a can of orange paint can do that or blue if you are a Ford guy!!

Kevin Tyree
Kevin Tyree

Who cares... It's just a piece of chevy...

Jennifer Tyndall
Jennifer Tyndall

You can't bore the block, grind the crank , resize the rods and rebuild the heads for $650!!! And if you don't do that it's not a rebuild done the right way!!!

Bill Skoros
Bill Skoros

Would be nice if they figured in a block from a junk yard into that price. I cant think of a friend that has an extra block just laying around. Plus with some of the build up of LS1 engines i have read, id be hard pressed not to go the LS route.

Tony Mealor
Tony Mealor

Yeah it can be done I've done it....but if you don't think machine work is a must you're fooling yourself...it'll bite you in the back side every time!

Rod Launer
Rod Launer

Christopher Kill, this was originally run in May, 2010......

Weston Cutler
Weston Cutler

Its impossible....true rebuild..machining costs that much!

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

I rebuilt my LT1 for under $1000 and thought I did good. The rebuild consisted of a whole different block and rotating assembly. But still.

Gene Stribling
Gene Stribling

the 50+ year old chevy motors will never go away will stay in 90% of the cars and truck's

Gene Stribling
Gene Stribling

NO NO NO we will never go to a junk ( LS )Motor my jeep run's like new and we will keep it till I pas away?

Kyle Armstrong
Kyle Armstrong

lol i can get a 5.3 for 400$ complete and clean it up and jam a cam in it and rape an old 350 anyday lol. BUT i love old 350's. cant live without ether one. :D

Jake Ingalls
Jake Ingalls

But Karl, how much are you gonna sink into a Gen 1 to make 450-500hp reliably? Like I said, if your car already has a decent gen 1 and you don't want much more power than stock you have a reason to keep it.

Flavio Leon
Flavio Leon

its just a newer setup...all things move forward...we cldnt just stay gen1. i like them both. ls is about to become vintage too.

Flavio Leon
Flavio Leon

There u go ...there u go...getting gritty with it old school style...shove that toilet brush in there and let the old lady scream!!!

Chris Marshall
Chris Marshall

Yeah but how about the cost involved in the switch to ls from a gen 1 in a 70 nova

Luis Matías
Luis Matías

With all those chevy engine's you can make a cheese cake.

Jake Ingalls
Jake Ingalls

I figure that unless you already have a gen 1 sitting in the car, are running a racing class that requires it, or are restoring to retain the oem engine there is absolutely zero good reason to run a gen 1 anymore. They require too much massaging to make what a ls truck engine does stock, let alone with mods and aren't even strong enough to handle serious mods with stock internals, unlike many other engines. You can get a 5.3l engine for $500 all day long.

Lindsay McGeorge
Lindsay McGeorge

Why??? I REFUSE to build another non LS engine. Stock heads are garbage and aren't worth the effort. The technology is 60+ years old. For the extra money it would cost to build up a 6.2L LS you're ahead of the game by leaps and bounds. And the stock heads on an LS flow pretty darn good compared to old shitty SB heads. Just not worth the effort anymore.

Baharudin Din
Baharudin Din

Clefz Anderz Isfa Dean jom koret haed ada tempat ni hahaha

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