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Chevy 454 - Blue Collar Build

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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s election season, and not surprisingly, the subject of the economy is being hotly debated. While the politicians squabble over capital gains tax rates, the Social Security trust fund, and raising the retirement age, the rest of us are just trying to eke out a modest existence and still have a little automotive fun on the weekends. In that spirit, we present the Blue Collar Chevy 454. Of the trio of big-block engines featured in this issue, our lowly Chevy 454 posts the least impressive power numbers. However, it was built on a shoestring budget. We reused as many parts as possible, and you’ll notice we included everything in the parts list—paint, oil, even the brake cleaner we used to hose down parts prior to assembly. While our horsepower figures aren’t impressive, the Chevy 454 engine starts easily, doesn’t leak, doesn’t overheat, sounds good, and was dirt cheap to build. And, man, does it make torque. You could stick this engine into the Chevy of your choice and smoke all the tread off your tires in a hurry. And sometimes that’s all an engine has to do.

The Blue Collar Chevy 454

By the numbers:
Bore: 4.250
Stroke: 4.000
Main bearing journal: 2.750
Rod bearing journal: 2.200
Firing order: 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2
Compression ratio: 7.98:1
Flat-top pistons 0.014 inch below the deck, 0.043 compressed gasket thickness, 120cc combustion chamber heads

On the Dyno

Yup, we were nervous on dyno day. But instead of needing a mop and bucket, we were able to just stand back and watch as JMS’ Jeff Johnson fired the engine and ran it through a standard cam break-in schedule. We were pleased to find no leaks, chuffing smoke, or deathly rattles. Instead, the engine settled into a smooth idle with the correct oil pressure. We weren’t sure what to expect for power; this is a small cam, but we chose it because our guy at Summit says it’s the company’s best seller for big-block Chevys. Why argue with numbers like that?

Obviously, Summit’s customers like torquey big-blocks, as this cam allowed our combination to make 511 lb-ft of tire-melting torque at a nearly off-idle 3,500 rpm. Horsepower peaked at a languid 4,900 rpm, and the 408 figure was better than we expected.

It’s hard to beat this combination for the price (see the accompanying chart for the breakdown). This build only cost $1,900 carb to pan, including the oil in the pan, and including the machine shop costs. Note that we didn’t include the cost of headers (they vary depending on your car) and tools because many of them can be rented or borrowed.

Stay tuned for more of the Blue Collar 454. We have plans for more compression, more cam, and a tune-up to the iron heads. We’ll see how far we can stretch our dollars in search of max power for minimal cost.

POWERHORSEPOWERTORQUE
3,000271475
3,100290491
3,200305500
3,300318507
3,400330509
3,500340511
3,600350511
3,700358508
3,800365505
3,900372502
4,000377497
4,100385494
4,200390488
4,300392487
4,400395472
4,500397464
4,600400457
4,700405453
4,800408446
4,900408436
5,000407427

PARTS

DESCRIPTIONPNSOURCEPRICE
Used 454 engineNAHot Rod Magazine$300.00
Engine re-ring kitFEM-205613M-00Summit 239.39
Cam bearingsSLP-1404MSummit24.95
Cam kitSUM-K1301Summit109.95
HEI distributorSUM-850001RSummit80.95
Timing setSUM-G6610Summit37.95
Water pumpSUM-312016Summit149.95
Intake manifoldSUM-226022Summit157.95
Street and strip carburetorSUM-M08750VSSummit249.95
Engine paintO’Reilly Auto Parts8.99
RTV sealerVER-99839O’Reilly Auto Parts5.49
Gasgacinch440AA&G Auto Parts5.59
Brake cleanerAutoZone3.99
WD-40AutoZone4.5
Sealed Power assembly lubeSLP-55-400Summit Racing4.25
Comp Cams Engine Break-In Oil, caseCCA-1590Comp Cams59.95
Oil filterJMS Racing Engines4.59
Spark plugs, Bosch Super Plus (8)BSCH-7972Summit Racing$15.60
Total$1,463.99

LABOR

DESCRIPTIONPNPRICE
Hot-tank and shot-blast engineJMS Racing Engines$100.00
Polish crankshaftJMS Racing Engines45
Assemble headsJMS Racing Engines300
Total$445.00

TOOLS

DESCRIPTIONPNSOURCEPRICE
StraightedgePRO-67421Summit Racing$83.50
Outside micrometer set, 0–3-inchSUM-90014Summit Racing51.95
Outside micrometer, 4–5 inchPRO-67434Summit Racing61.25
Dial bore gaugePRO-67411Summit Racing139.95
Balancer puller/installer kitWMR-W89711Summit Racing79.95
Cam bearing installerPRO-66820Summit Racing203.95
Deburring kitSears11.5
40-piece SAE tap and die kit39,384Harbor Freight17.99
Head-porting kitSUM-G1060Summit Racing29.95
Flex HoneBRH-GBD41232Summit Racing94.95
Ring compressorSME-90A4250Summit Racing26.95
Crank socketSUM-G1061Summit Racing20.95
Universal degree wheel66,787Summit Racing89.95
Oil pump pickup driverPRO-66480Summit Racing16.88
Engine DollySUM-910057Summit Racing32.95
Total $962.62

Sources

A&G Auto Parts; Gardena, CA; 310/323-2110

Harbor Freight; Camarillo, CA; 800/423-2567; HarborFreight.com

JMS Racing Engines; El Monte, CA; 626/579-4567; JMSRacing.com

Sears Craftsman Tools; Sears.com

Summit Racing Equipment; Tallmadge, OH; 800/230-3030; SummitRacing.com

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59 comments
Steven R. Thompson
Steven R. Thompson

Wish who wrote this this article went into more detail as if he knew something about engines....

Donnies Mustang
Donnies Mustang

598 all aluminum ford boss 9 engine backed by a six speed. It's a pump gas engine 740 solid roller with the ez fast 2.0 efi. It was built to spray another 500 hp if need be. It's going into a street version of the old Mickey Thompson blue 69 mustang. It will have the stretched wheel base and engine where the radio should be. It will see some drag racing then the Texas standing mile.

Brandon Lewis
Brandon Lewis

468 11:1 dome pistons solid lift cam 850 Holley DP 049 heads 2.19/1.88 valves gasket matched air gap intake eagle bottom end roller rockers and have my quench at 40-45....its a Hell of a running motor and on pump gas(with a lil 112 mixed in lol)

Gerry Cox
Gerry Cox

393 stroker 540 hp tremec an 430 gears for my Mustang.

Samuel Williams
Samuel Williams

They could have done better on the hp of this one tho. Needs a bigger cam.

Samuel Williams
Samuel Williams

Bigblock chevys have the most potential, been running them for years and the only people that ever give me any trouble were also running bigblock chevys.

Allen Jason Watts
Allen Jason Watts

My buddy did something similar with a 250 shot. He has a lot of bottles thru it without any issues....

Cam Beaton
Cam Beaton

Where do you buy 454s for 300 bucks? I'll take ten!

Brian Craig
Brian Craig

It looks like the original engine had peanut ports, and the finished engine has big ovals...I don't see this mentioned in the article?

Paul Gemellaro
Paul Gemellaro

4.6 3V. Just got a well maintained low mile long block for free. Adding lower compression forged blower pistons and rods. A couple more pounds of boost from the Vortech.

Sean Draves
Sean Draves

The bad ass small blocks get more power with less weight=getting there first

Carl Hansen
Carl Hansen

That's only $4.65 per HP....not gonna get much better than that! How much are all you "bad-ass" small block guys paying to make that kind of power? Even if you can get close, it's not going to be nearly as strong/durable.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith

I got a fresh '91 454 sittin on a pallet right now. "Teacha teacha tell me how ya do it" lol

Tom Crouse
Tom Crouse

489ci. 13.1 big ass roller, dart heads, 1050 dominator.

Todd Nyquist
Todd Nyquist

The same thing!! 468 forged flat tops, #290 oval ports, used springs ss valves used crower roller rockers #289 2 bolt block Steel crank GRP alum rods 850 spread bore hogged out street master and a used accel dual point! wanna race?

JD Hogg
JD Hogg

did you bush the lifter bores?

Dan Swindell
Dan Swindell

A 327 might do it......at 7, 000 rpm. Useless on the street

Dan Swindell
Dan Swindell

Basically a stock truck bbc with a little cam. Not too bad, perfect for a daily driver. Not everybody needs to run 9's to the beer store. As for a stock ls6 source one that cheap ready to run and i'll say you stole it

John Flanagan
John Flanagan

500 ftlbs ain't nothin to sneeze at. You can keep your hp#s, streets want torque. Torque is king

Steve Scheidemantle
Steve Scheidemantle

I have seen 327's with more horses & torque. Dont waste your money to build an engine that's better as a paperweight.

Brian Durand
Brian Durand

5.0 modular 1000 hp capable stroker, trick flow heads, arp bolts, high flow oil pump, 7qt oil pan, custom ground supercharged cams, long tube headers, victor jr intake, maxed out Si trim vortech, air to air Intercooled. That's the basics anyway.

Frank Mahon
Frank Mahon

66 Olds 330....actually already built, for my 87 Salon....which cost a heckuva lot more than $1900....:(

David Mcnichols
David Mcnichols

A 327 with a dart lil m block pro 1-215 heads and all the good stuff

Ryan Allen
Ryan Allen

14:1 496 BBC with a 250 Shot of Nitrous

Robert Dean
Robert Dean

A 454ci engine that only makes 408HP makes me want to vomit!

Tyler Daniell
Tyler Daniell

Building an rv cam 355. Complete rebuild including cam and lifters is $875

Hal Marshman
Hal Marshman

gathering the parts now for my LQ9 6.0L turbo build for my 67 chevy II

Ted David Burrell
Ted David Burrell

I'm delaying sprucing up my 318 V8 until I get a garage or warm weather.

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