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Marine Chevy 350 Small Block Engine - Engines We'd Like to See More Of

Posted in Features on February 1, 2003
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Photographers: Courtesy Of Hesco Inc.

You've seen the common motor swaps before. A Chevy 350 into anything, a Ford high-output 5.0 into a Bronco, a Buick V-6 into a Toyota. You might even know these by heart nowadays. So will this be the route you choose when doing a swap, or will you be daring and stray from normality? Just because something is more popular does not mean it's the best. We certainly do not want to take away from these tried-and-true swaps, since they have practically been the foundations for engine buildups in 4x4s since the '80s. In fact, we've touched on many of them in our pages.

But for this story, there are four engines in particular that we'd like to see more of. These engines have been seen, but only about as often as you see your mother-in-law. And of course, just because they have not been widely used in the past does not merit exile from under the hood of your 4x4. So we are here to ask the readers to help change that trend of rarity and start taking these four motors into consideration.

Marine Chevy 350Why a marine motor? A marine small-block might be just the thing you're looking for in the name of reliability. A marine engine is similar to an automotive engine, but with enhancements that make it more durable for the harsh marine environment. The differences include the cooling system, the electrical system, the exhaust system, and the fuel system.

The cooling system in a marine engine is an open system that sucks water from an outside abundant source (i.e., the ocean), which is tremendously corrosive to the water pump. Therefore the water pumps have bronze impellers, ceramic seals, and stainless steel backing plates to keep them alive as long as possible.

The electrical system is completely sealed to prevent arcing of undissipated gases in the enclosed engine compartments on boats.

The exhaust systems obviously need to be pulled off and replaced with headers or exhaust manifolds if using the engine in a 4x4. But you'll want to leave the fuel system alone. Marine engines have carburetors that include J-type fuel bowls. These bowls are extremely resistant to vibration and pitching that is witnessed on boats, so would probably have carried-over benefits into the off-road scene.

Furthermore, marine engines have special heads and camshafts for a completely different torque curve and develop most of their power at low rpm. This can again be very useful in the off-road scene.

Last but not least, you can buy these marine engines in reverse rotation configurations. We haven't seen it done yet, but it would be killer to see someone figure out how to reverse-mount a marine 350 and find a way to transmit power to both axles. We don't think a conventional tranny would handle the reverse motion in its gear system without some serious modifications, though.

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