Crate engine or build an engine ? - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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Crate engine or build an engine ?

I currently have a big block in my 69, non original motor. So what you guys think is the best bang for your buck to buy a crate engine or building an engine. Now I don't know much about engines just starting to read about them in books. I know the easy way out would be a crate but they are so expensive 572 , 502. If i have one built i would want something for the street ,i want better than stock specs kinda lopey. I also want something that will last and has least amount of maintiance, if possible. Any ideas? What have been your experiences ? What you guys running ? Thanks
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 08:36 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

You can buy some pretty high HP motors by going crate. I rebuilt my own motor, but I'd done it so many times over the years. But the last one I build before this one was 20 years ago. The money I put into the motor I probably could have bought a crate engine. It's your call, but if you decide to build it yourself just don't short cut anything. Its more gratifying to do it yourself, and you have to learn at some point.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 08:52 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

Since your car already has a big block, and it doesn't sound like you are looking for a lot of power, I would just build what you have.

What is the big block in your car, 396, 427, 454?

'69 Camaro - 427 SBC Dart Iron Eagle 9.325" block, Crower crank, Crower 6" billet rods, JE pistons (9.5:1), Hellfire rings, AFR 245 heads, T&D steel body shaft rockers, Jesel belt drive, custom ground 4-7 swap solid roller 274/286 @ .050" with .704" lift, Dart single plane, E85 1050 Dominator, Stef's #1705R oil pan, F2 Procharger, Lemons 2" primary 3-1/2" collector, Coan 9" converter
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 09:08 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

I am just finishing up building my 1st engine a, 406 small block. It has taken a lot longer and a lot more money than I originally thought. I am glad it is almost done.

I think the decision depends a lot on what you want. If you want just a little more power than stock then I think I would go with a crate engine. It is hard to build one as cheaply as you can buy one. If you want something fairly serious I think you can save some money doing it yourself.

If you build it yourself you know the quality or the parts that are used and you know that everything has been checked and verified. If you buy a crate engine you may not know for sure what parts are used and you have no way of knowing what was checked and verified.

I have spent about 6 months reading and asking questions on this forum and others while putting my engine together. I have probably spent $400-$500 in tools to measure and build the engine. You don't need these tools but they help do a more accurate build.

The process is a lot of fun but is very frustrating at times. It is also very time consuming. It would be a lot easier if you know someone that can help you from time to time. There were several times I ran into problems and it was very frustrating trying to figure out how to deal with them. It would have been much easier if I had someone with experience to help out from time to time.

Both ways have pros and cons you just have to figure out which pros and cons are more important to you. If money is not an issue I think the best engines are those built by professional builders with a good reputation. But that can get VERY expensive.

Good luck with your decision.


67 RS, 406 small block, TKO600, Moser 12-bolt (3.73)
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 09:25 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

No one puts a warranty on my work so I just had one built to my specs. You don't have to just settle for picking a crate off a webpage. If your core is good you're money ahead by doing a custom rebuild on what you have.

'69 Camaro
Dart 400-AFR 195-224/224 HR-Powerjection III TB with F.A.S.T. Sportsman XFI
TKO 600-Moser 3.42-Detroit Truetrac
'69 Camaro Beater-SFT 327-M20-Moser 4.10-sold
'02 Z/28 vert-stock-sold and totaled
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 09:35 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

Build one. You'll have every part you want and will have piece of mind.

1968 Camaro
Then: N/A, 436 ci, Stock Block, Track 1's, Stock Suspension, Ranchos, 3250 lbs... 1.33 60 ft / 9.69 @ 138 mph
Now: Boost...
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 11, 10:04 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

Get your engine in the hands of a master engine builder, give him your wish list (and money) and stand back and wait for it. It will be sweet. I just finished a rebuild on OEM 2001 LS1 and it came out spectacular. 503 RWHP 501 RWTQ with a mild lope at idle and a torque and hp curve that runs table top smooth to 7,000 RPM

2001 Camaro SS- 6spd T-Tops,1SD,ASR. 422WHP/412 WTQ MODS: Dart PP heads,220/224 cam. SFC,TA,STB. LCA, Adj. PHR. SLP- MAS, Koni SA's, Coil-Overs, Pro 5.0, Kooks LT's. Corsa,T/A Girdle, ZO6 brakes, SS brake lines. AR TT-II M's, Racetronix fuel pump.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 11, 12:41 AM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

If you don't know much about mechanics/engineering, you will get screwed if you go locally, seen it happen so many times, even by friends, and reputable shops.
I would either go through GMPP, Reher-Morrison, Shafiroff, or someone reliable who builds crates. There are alot of good companies out there that can do it, some of the guys on here even own/do some of the work. The warranty may be worth the extra bit of cash. If you can get the watchful eye of a master mechanic to guide you through it, that would be good too, it's a good skill to have. Still need to take all the rotating parts in for inspection/balancing.

The only Mustang I'd ever own is a Fender.

'68 333" Camaro
'14 5.0 Mustang
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 18th, 11, 10:10 AM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

If you have some mechanical skills, by all means build it yourself.

"How to Build your Big Block Chevy" by Tom Wilson is just like a cookbook. Just follow the steps.

I would recommend using Edelbrock oval-port heads($1700) and buying a 4.25" stroker kit ( about $1500).

You could build an aluminum headed 496 for $4000. That's about $3000 cheaper than a crate engine; plus you will know what the clearances are and that it was built right !

There have been countless posts by people that got screwed by engine builders. If you want it done right, do it yourself.
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 10:32 AM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

A lot depends on how many of your current parts you want to re-use. If you have a 396 but want a 454, just buy a crate engine. If you just want a little more power but can reuse your block, crank, rods, heads and maybe more, the a rebuild will almost certainly be cheaper.

69 Camaro, 3450lbs., 400, Cal Tracs, Coan 10", TH400, 3.50 gear, no trailer
D1SC blow thru, pump gas, 9:1, ~10 PSI,
1.325 60', 5.988 @ 115.4
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 12:43 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

If you dont know how to build an engine, then in the long run, its probably cheaper to buy a crate engine. I would recommend the GM 454 HO motor. It has 425 net horsepower and 500 ft/lbs of torque. Plus it runs on regular unleaded and has a warranty. Its a brand new engine built by GM. . . . If you want more power, GM sells the same engine with aluminum heads. . . . If you want a stroker motor, Carolina Machine Engines sells a 496/500 horse engine that seems reasonably priced.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 01:47 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

FWIW-I shopped around, and around, and around. I got ahold of the "best" engine builder in the state. I paid what I thought was a alot of money, $2,000 for labor and machine work plus parts and dyno. In the end I have a ton of money in a motor that I have had several problems with. If I could do it all over again I would buy a crate motor. I would also spend about $1,000 bucks more than I can afford because a year from now I'm gonna wish I had.

69 327/332hp Le Mans Blue

71 C-10
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 03:32 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

GM crate motors are a bit expensive but you get a good warranty and they are built to last. Many engine shops build "spec motors" that are essentially a crate motor. Select the combination of parts they offer and they build it for you. I went this route even though I have the skill and knowledge to machine and build from scratch. Why ? Time and cost. Just shop around and check references to make certain you get what you are paying for.

Russ (RJ)
The Garlic Capital, Gilroy,CA

(sold June 15,2014) 1968 RS convertible that is not quite stock
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 04:05 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

Give Mark Jones (AKA:Vortecpro) a call

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1.546 60'.....7.132 @ 94.43 660'.....11.327 @ 116.79.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old Jun 20th, 11, 05:36 PM
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Re: Crate engine or build an engine ?

Vortechpro, they speak very highly of him on the Team Chevelle site, would be worth a call.
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