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Crate Engines & Blocks Guide

Posted in How To: Engine on May 1, 2005
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Psssst! Junkyard scrounging or rebuilding stuff can be overrated. Yes, we're admitting that dirty fact. Especially when it comes to the engine. There's probably no other part of your truck that can be less friendly to the novice or more frustrating to the experienced gearhead to diagnose, swap, or rebuild, and that's why man created the bolt-in crate engine. Actually, man originally created the factory replacement engine as a solution to damaged mills, with buyers replacing the block only out of necessity. But naturally that demand turned into an aftermarket monster, and nowadays you can have delivered to your door a dyno'd, direct-drop-in crate motor with brand-name performance parts for any reason you please, whether as simply a replacement or to make more or insane horsepower for towing, racing, or off-pavement play.

Just as there are a zillion tire, wheel, suspension, and body-bolt-on choices, engine upgrades abound, although buying a complete motor can sometimes be cheaper than trying to piece one together yourself. Just remember that big power might require heavier-duty components elsewhere on your truck (transmission and brakes, for example), and that smog laws in your state might poo-poo your swap if it's going to be used on the street.

Here's a guide to some of the hottest crate engines and blocks out there.

What it is: Next-Generation Complete Twin-Turbo 366ci small-block engines
Some details: They have CNC-machined aluminum front assemblies and low-profile aluminum air plenums with Banks' exclusive shuttle valve technology.
Oh, and...: As delivered, the engines are capable of 1,100 hp.
What it'll cost you: Retail price is $37,995.
Also: They are fully assembled, balanced, and blueprinted to the ideal performance tolerances.
How to get it: Gale Banks Engineering, 800/277-1991,

What it is: Jeep 4.6L stroker long-block
Some details: It makes 260 hp at 5,000 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, with an operating range of 1,400 to 5,700 rpm. The engine has a 9:1 compression ratio, Comp Cams hydraulic lifters and rocker arms, Speed Pro pistons, and a Melling high-volume oil pump.
Oh, and...: It runs on 91 octane.
What it'll cost you: Base price is $3,299.
Also: Optional parts they can install include a Recon timing cover, a DUI 4.0 Firepower ignition kit, Hooker headers, and a 66mm high-flow throttle body.
How to get it: Golen Engine Service, 800/591-9171,

What it is: Rebuilt 4.2L Jeep CJ/YJ long-blocks
Some details: The six-cylinder 258ci engines are completely rebuilt using quality parts.
Oh, and...: They come with gasket sets, a Melling high-volume oil pump, and a 12-month warranty.
What it'll cost you: Start at $1,095.
Also: The engines are not painted.
How to get it: Collins Brothers, 972/442-6189,

What it is: Little M block
Some details: It's brand-new, fully machined, and virtually ready to assemble with off-the-shelf small-block parts. It has extra-thick cylinder walls and a competition oiling system.
Oh, and...: You can choose nodular iron or steel four-bolt main bearing caps and 4.00- or 4.125-inch cylinder bores.
What it'll cost you: $2,184; the Little M Sportsman is $2,027.
Also: The precision machining eliminates the time and expense of blueprinting a stock block.
How to get it: Dart Machinery, 248/362-1188,

What it is: Vortec Chevy 350ci long-block crate engine
Some details: It's assembled with brand-new components, and has four-bolt main caps, a nodular-iron crankshaft, and a hydraulic roller camshaft. It cranks out 255 ponies at 4,600 rpm and 330 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. Compression is 9.4:1.
Oh, and...: It does not include the intake and exhaust manifolds, water pump, pulleys, distributor, spark plugs, flywheel, and clutch. You will get the timing cover, oil pan, and valve covers.
What it'll cost you: $1,995 or $2,495.
Also: It fits '96-'00 trucks (VIN code "R") with PFI fuel injection, up to 8,500 GVWR.
How to get it: Chevy 350, 800/820-4228,

What it is: GM 350ci short-block crate engine
Some details: It includes a crankshaft made of nodular iron, aluminum pistons, ZZ4 connecting rods, and Edelbrock aluminum heads (so you can use regular pump gas) with a 64cc combustion chamber and straight spark plugs.
Oh, and...: It makes 320 hp at 5,500 rpm and 382 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
What it'll cost you: $2,395.
Also: The engine in this photo has the optional ZZ4 heads.
How to get it: Go Auto Center, 214/634-3900,

What it is: 514ci Performance Crate Engine
Some details: This mill has 9.8:1 compression, Super Cobra Jet aluminum cylinder heads and valvetrain, Victor Jr. single-plane intake manifold (that requires a Dominator carb), and also includes spark plugs, valve covers, and a high-performance solid-roller mechanical camshaft.
Oh, and...: Expect 625 hp at 6,250 rpm and 600 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.
What it'll cost you: $7,895.
Also: You may need to switch to a performance oil pan and pickup, and if a mechanical fuel pump is to be used, the front cover must be changed and a fuel-pump eccentric added to the front of the camshaft.
How to get it: Ford Racing Performance Parts, 586/468-1356,

What it is: 383 Off-Road Plus engine
Some details: The new-parts list includes a GM heavy-duty 350 four-bolt-main engine block, Crane Cams valvesprings, a Holley 110-gph mechanical fuel pump, an Edelbrock 750-cfm carb, and a Mallory HEI distributor and coil.
Oh, and...: Look for 402 hp at 5,300 rpm and 448 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm on 91 octane.
What it'll cost you: Long-block with manifold and tin: $5,499; turnkey package: $6,399.
Also: Some GM body styles don't have enough firewall clearance for the distributor, so verify before you order so they can make the necessary changes before sending it to you.
How to get it: Beck Racing Engines, 602/477-1700,

What it is: KB500 Chevy-style block
Some details: It's an aluminum version of the big-block Chevy engine, and the package includes the fully machined block with sleeves sized to your specs, main caps, installed cam bearings, and other race-ready hardware. The maximum bore-and-stroke is 4.500, and it comes in standard or .400 tall styles.
Oh, and...: It's good for applications up to 1,700 horses, and is a dry-liner block (the block is made to run in applications that need to circulate water without the worry of water getting into the oil).
What it'll cost you: $4,830.
Also: Stock or aftermarket 454 Mark IV or Gen IV parts bolt to this block.
How to get it: Keith Black Racing Engines, 562/869-1518,

What it is: Pro Series Engines
Some details: Performance engine packages for Toyota four-cylinder engines: 20R, 22R, 22RE, 2RZ, and 3RZ.
Oh, and...: The engines are designed to bump ponies and torque utilizing the stock Toy intakes and exhaust.
What it'll cost you: They start at $3,487.05.
Also: Improvements can include mid-range torque, mid-range horsepower, and low-rpm throttle response.
How to get it: LC Engineering, 877/505-2501,

What it is: Performer Engine No. 45400
Some details: It's built from a new GM Goodwrench 350 short-block with four-bolt mains and Edelbrock parts, such as the Performer Series 600-cfm carb, manifold, aluminum heads, camshaft, and the Elite Series aluminum valve covers. There's also an MSD Pro-Billet distributor. It has a 9:1 compression ratio.
Oh, and...: It makes 320 hp and 382 lb-ft of torque.
What it'll cost you: $4,695.99.
Also: It's shown here with the optional water pump.
How to get it: Northern Auto Parts, 800/831-0884,

What it is: GMPP HT 383ci stroker small-block
Some details: It's assembled with all-new components for a 383ci "stroker" small-block, and the specially modified block and 3.80-inch-stroke crankshaft enable its displacement. The block is cast iron with four-bolt main caps, and has cast-aluminum pistons and 9:1 compression ratio.
Oh, and...: The V-8 makes 425 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, producing more than 400 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm.
What it'll cost you: $4,000 to $6,000.
Also: It's ideal for trailer towing. Why? Because of torque.
How to get it: GM Performance Parts can be purchased from any GM dealership or authorized center: 800/GM-USE-US,

What it is: Performance Engine
Some details: It's an upgrade for GM throttle-body fuel-injected 305- and 350ci applications. The engine is outfitted with all-new internals, including hypereutectic pistons, moly rings, a high-volume oil pump, hi-po rod bolts, performance gaskets, a double-roller timing set, and a Class II performance cam.
Oh, and...: It'll make around 300 horses.
What it'll cost you: About $2,549, plus $350 for the computer chip.
Also: It's designed to work with your original wiring harness and throttle-body fuel-injection system with just a computer-chip change.
How to get it: Jasper Performance Products, 800/827-7455,

What it is: 5.7L Hemi crate engine
Some details: You have your choice of MPI and carbureted, and both are built with all-new components and are fully assembled, from throttle body/carb to oil pan. Parts include chrome valve covers, a cast-iron block painted Hemi Orange, and a heavy-duty cast crankshaft.
Oh, and...: Both are worthy of 360 hp at 5,700 rpm and 360 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm.
What it'll cost you: $8,795 for the MPI version and $8,395 for the carb.
Also: It's "plug and play," which means there is a wiring harness that fixes the problem of running modern engine technology in older rigs that don't have current engine-management systems.
How to get it: Mopar Performance Parts,

What it is: HP 290/350 crate engine
Some details: The block has four-bolt main caps, cast-aluminum pistons, cast-iron cylinder heads with 1.94-inch intake, and 1.50-inch exhaust valves with 76cc combustion chamber. The heads have the conventional 90-degree with 12-bolt intake-manifold attaching design used from 1955 to late 1980.
Oh, and...: It puts out 290 hp at 5,100 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm.
What it'll cost you: $1,695.95.
Also: It runs on 87 octane.
How to get it: Pace Truck, 888/522-8131,

What it is: 450 HP LS1
Some details: Power features include a GM Performance "Hot" cam and valvespring kit, ARP rod bolts, and double-roller timing chain with billet gears. Standard features are six-bolt main caps, all-aluminum block and heads, and a complete ignition and fuel system as well as accessories, such as the starter and flexplate.
Oh, and...: The 5.7L V-8 makes 455 lb-ft of torque.
What it'll cost you: $9,900.
Also: Options include a power-steering pump with AN fittings and an A/C compressor-pump kit.
How to get it: Turn Key Engine Supply, 760/941-2741,

What it is: Engines on auction
Some details: New and used parts, rare to common...if you haven't wasted half a day screwing around on this site, you don't know what you're missing. It's the fastest-growing area of eBay, with 26 subcategories.
Oh, and...: It's not just your neighbor selling an engine or block-catalog companies. Distributors, recyclers, and manufacturers post stuff too.
What it'll cost you: It depends.
Also: Companies like Pep Boys and J.C. Whitney sell on this site.
How to get it: eBay Motors,

What it is: 496ci Chevy big-block
Some details: The engine produces a flat torque curve, peaking with 537 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm.
Oh, and...: It's especially happy in a towing or off-road environment.
What it'll cost you: $6,814.
Also: It's turnkey and dyno'd.
How to get it: Speed-O-Motive, 626/869-0270,

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