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Building a Hemi for Less - Build A Budget Hemi

Don't let the rich guys have all the fun. If you can find a Top Alcohol crankshaft, you can build this engine for Chevy money.

Photography by Steve Magnante

Whether you're a lifelong Mopar fanatic, a recent convert, or just a guy who knows an excellent engine when he sees one, you want a Hemi. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to scratch the itch, the most cost-effective being a preassembled 426 Hemi crate engine from Mopar Performance. Listed as PN P5249667AC and selling for about $13,500 on the open market, the Mopar Performance 426 Hemi crate makes 465 hp and 485 lb-ft. By most accounts, it's the least expensive Hemi strategy on the planet. Or is it?

What if we told you-for a couple hundred bucks less-you could get a whole lot more? How 'bout 520 cubes, billet internal parts, and 684 hp and 625 lb-ft on 91-octane unleaded pump gas? It's true. The plan centers on a set of very special aluminum Hemi heads designed and manufactured by Stage V Engineering. Known as Hemi Conversion heads, you put 'em on a common-as-dirt 440-Wedge block and-with a matched piston, camshaft, and induction swap-the end result is a wedge that looks and runs like a big 'ol honkin' Hemi.

No, the two-bolt 440-Wedge doesn't offer the cross-bolted main caps and extra beef of the 426 Hemi block, but with minor preparation-and expert machine work-the wedge block will safely handle up to 750 hp. Aside from the main cap situation, the Hemi Conversion strategy outlined here is all gravy versus the original 426. The perks include billet crank and rods instead of forged steel, aluminum heads instead of cast iron, 520 cubes instead of 426, dual quads on a Street Hemi manifold instead of the 426 crate's single quad, roller rocker arms instead of scrubbers, leak-free cast-aluminum rocker covers instead of stamped tin, a healthy, solid roller cam instead of a hydraulic flat tappet, 113 pounds less weight (607 pounds versus 720 pounds fully assembled), and the peace of mind that you-or your engine builder-put it all together.

Check out the pictures and follow along as Joe Jill and the crew at Superior Automotive bolt together a 520-cube Hemi Conversion motor that goes several steps beyond the original 426 Hemi-for similar money.

Stroker Hemi Conversion Ingredients And Price ListDisplacement: 520 ciHorsepower: 684.6 hp at 6,300 rpmTorque: 625.7 lb-ft at 4,600 rpmCompression ratio: 9.8:1Ignition timing: 34 degrees BTDCBore/stroke: 4.350x4.375Bore/stroke ratio: 0.994:1Rod/stroke ratio: 1.55:1Maximum safe engine speed: 7,000 rpmRecommended shift point: 6,500 rpmCost to build: $13,355.32

’69 Chrysler 440-Wedge Used $150.00
Keith Black 5/8-inch stroker Used 500.00
Federal-Mogul main bearings 119M-010 115.00
MP stock-type balancer 3830183 301.39
Crower 4340 billet steel rods 93911B 1,133.00
Clevite 77 rod bearings CB743H 96.00
Arias forged pistons 291-828-01 752.00
Arias piston pins 0.990x 2.75 80.00
Total seal rings RS-9798-35 149.00
ARP 9/16 main-cap fasteners 140-5401 55.95
Dura-Bond cam bearings PDP-17 22.88
Milodon intermediate shaft 21525 148.39
Lovatt Akadize piston coating N/A 160.00
Bottom End Total: $3,663.61
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