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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First post here. Quick history on me, I have been a Ford guy for decades and have lost touch with the small block Chevy generations, but am very familiar with the early versions.

I am looking at a first gen Camaro that has what the seller is calling a "crate engine" (this is at a classic car dealer). Claimed 350/350hp. Engine has the center bolt valve covers and intake manifold has vertical bolts. If I understand what I have read correctly, this engine is referred to as a Vortec. And these are the preferred heads for this style/generation small block.

So, can I get a quick explanation of these later model small blocks?
Is this engine a decent design?
Does it have power potential? say 400hp or more?
If this is in fact a complete "crate" engine that came with these heads, would it have hydraulic roller lifters?
4 bolt main?
crank ad rods any good? I would assume cast crank.
Screw in studs?
Is there a way to decipher exactly what it is from the numbers stamped on the block/heads?

Other claims are a Comp Cam, headers, Holley carb, dual exhaust... blah blah blah. I am not too concerned about the external stuff. If I decide to move forward with the purchase, I'll run it as is for a while. I am just trying to look forward a few months and determine if I should put any money in to this engine or swap in something else. I can tell from what I have already seen, ignition will probably get a upgrade pretty quick. Hey if it is a solid platform I may do it up pretty nice with EFI and some other stuff. And I will do compression test and a ton of other inspection points.

I have not seen the engine in person yet, but have enough pictures of the car and the engine that I will buy this car assuming it passes a closer inspection. The engine potential will have an impact on my offer.

One last thing, I can tell from the pictures it does have an air gap intake. From the videos of it running, it does have a pretty decent idle with some lope, and it actually sounds pretty nasty taking off under load. Engine has long tube headers, kind of thought that was pretty standard now a days. Also has a nice starter on it. My gut is telling me with this intake and starter, somebody didn't just buy the cheapest stuff they could, which could be an indication of this being a decent engine.

If this deal goes through, I'll post up pics in the other sections on this forum.
Thanks for having me, and read this far... pretty excited about getting back in a Chevy.
 

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First post here. Quick history on me, I have been a Ford guy for decades and have lost touch with the small block Chevy generations, but am very familiar with the early versions.

I am looking at a first gen Camaro that has what the seller is calling a "crate engine" (this is at a classic car dealer). Claimed 350/350hp. Engine has the center bolt valve covers and intake manifold has vertical bolts. If I understand what I have read correctly, this engine is referred to as a Vortec. And these are the preferred heads for this style/generation small block.

So, can I get a quick explanation of these later model small blocks?
Is this engine a decent design?
Does it have power potential? say 400hp or more?
If this is in fact a complete "crate" engine that came with these heads, would it have hydraulic roller lifters?
4 bolt main?
crank ad rods any good? I would assume cast crank.
Screw in studs?
Is there a way to decipher exactly what it is from the numbers stamped on the block/heads?

Other claims are a Comp Cam, headers, Holley carb, dual exhaust... blah blah blah. I am not too concerned about the external stuff. If I decide to move forward with the purchase, I'll run it as is for a while. I am just trying to look forward a few months and determine if I should put any money in to this engine or swap in something else. I can tell from what I have already seen, ignition will probably get a upgrade pretty quick. Hey if it is a solid platform I may do it up pretty nice with EFI and some other stuff. And I will do compression test and a ton of other inspection points.

I have not seen the engine in person yet, but have enough pictures of the car and the engine that I will buy this car assuming it passes a closer inspection. The engine potential will have an impact on my offer.

One last thing, I can tell from the pictures it does have an air gap intake. From the videos of it running, it does have a pretty decent idle with some lope, and it actually sounds pretty nasty taking off under load. Engine has long tube headers, kind of thought that was pretty standard now a days. Also has a nice starter on it. My gut is telling me with this intake and starter, somebody didn't just buy the cheapest stuff they could, which could be an indication of this being a decent engine.

If this deal goes through, I'll post up pics in the other sections on this forum.
Thanks for having me, and read this far... pretty excited about getting back in a Chevy.
Post a link for the car here, and we’ll take a look. Without it, there’s not much good feedback you’ll get.
 

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"Crate Engine" term used in classic car can be anything from a junkyard pulled truck motor just painted to a completely rebuilt "like new" motor

With that said center bolt valve cover is likely a Vortec SBC. It would be a 1 piece rear main seal, hydraulic roller cam motor which is good. Air Gap intake is good. Likely has a gear reduction type starter which is beneficial to higher compression motors, smaller and cranks faster, good.

But as mentioned without pics, casting #'s can't pinpoint the donor motor origin/year

Like buying any used car, you need to get it up high enough to check out from underneath and if you are not experienced to know what you are looking for other than shiney paint (no offense intended) have a qualified inspector look at it.

Consignment, auction houses unfortunately just hide behind "seller claims" so you need to do due diligence

Otherwise there is nothing wrong with a Vortec SBC
 

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Engine is non original and even if it was we have no way of knowing the condition or what it is inside. Without doucumentation you have kno way eother except to take the engine aoart and verify everything.

If, in your opinion, you like the way it runs, no funny noises, smoke etc. the best you can do is go with your gut.
 

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@ridesdirt Google ZZ4 350

This is probably what you are looking at. Although, it may have been modified quite a bit from its original form.

Font Parallel Number Rectangle Document


This is possibly the most abundant GM 'crate' motor ever produced. It is a center bolt, reverse-rotation design which was, generally, installed '86-'92 Corvettes.

I love my ZZ4. Wouldn't trade it.

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the info guys.

@TomcatSTL this is the type info I was looking for. Thank you Sir. Flashing back I do remember when the ZZ4 came out. Most of my interest and education is for the earlier small blocks - think pink rods and double hump heads.

@SoCal805 yeah, that's what I was interested in - one piece main seal, hydraulic roller etc. And I wasn't really hoping this forum would decipher what it really is, I was hoping for direction to where I can decipher what it is based off the casting numbers I find, I like doing my own leg work!

@scblucam I have to disagree. Having owned several collector cars, I often find people who build their own cars often over value their work, and they have an emotional connection to the car. At a dealer "it is what it is". Now, the consignment dealers - I will 100% agree with you, but there are literally hundreds if not thousands of small privately owned collector car dealers, these can be an excellent source for solid cars. Quick example - Southern Motors in MI sold a numbers matching '68 Butternut Yellow SS 396/325 4 speed car with deluxe interior for 52K last week! - the car was absolutely beautiful. I actually would have bought this car, but I was too slow. (hope it is okay to mention a dealer - I did not say anything positive or negative about them)

I am not concerned that the engine is not the original engine, that is obvious. Also the condition of the engine is easy enough for me to determine with a few tests. I just want to know how to figure it out and if there are some characteristics that all or most center bolt small blocks have, I am looking for that... If it turns out to be a ZZ4 I would be very happy with that. I did a quick refresher google of the ZZ4 355hp / 405 tq. And easy to get more. A ZZ4 with a specific Comp Cam, push rods and rockers will get you to 400hp. I am thinking there is a good possibility this is what the dealer is referencing to on the car I am looking at.

Thank you all! This is a huge help. Much more to come pending a couple small speed bumps...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
another clue I have noticed is the passenger side of the intake appears to not have two center bolts in the bolt pattern. Is this a clue to anything? googling is telling me "the vortex" heads, they flow good but prone to cracking if engine is overheated.
 

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OP

it could be vortex heads bolted to an original or gen 1 sbc. nothing wrong with vortex heads and many a gen 1 sbc has had them over the course of their lifetime

is the dip stick on DS or PS?

Block casting # would say a lot on wtf the engine is. It would have to be an 86 or newer block to be 1 piece RMS and 87 to be a full roller cam motor

any paperwork with the car?
cam card?

pics and casting #'s would be a huge help in getting clearer 411
 

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"Crate Engine" term used in classic car can be anything from a junkyard pulled truck motor just painted to a completely rebuilt "like new" motor

With that said center bolt valve cover is likely a Vortec SBC. It would be a 1 piece rear main seal, hydraulic roller cam motor which is good. Air Gap intake is good. Likely has a gear reduction type starter which is beneficial to higher compression motors, smaller and cranks faster, good.

But as mentioned without pics, casting #'s can't pinpoint the donor motor origin/year

Like buying any used car, you need to get it up high enough to check out from underneath and if you are not experienced to know what you are looking for other than shiney paint (no offense intended) have a qualified inspector look at it.

Consignment, auction houses unfortunately just hide behind "seller claims" so you need to do due diligence

Otherwise there is nothing wrong with a Vortec SBC
We can agree to disagree what a crate engine is. But when I worked at the GMC truck dealer and replaced an engine, the new one was called a crate engine because it came shipped in a ........wooden crate. Small block and the super powerful 366 cubic inch big block truck engine shipped the same way. Same with the ZZ series.
 

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We can agree to disagree what a crate engine is. But when I worked at the GMC truck dealer and replaced an engine, the new one was called a crate engine because it came shipped in a ........wooden crate. Small block and the super powerful 366 cubic inch big block truck engine shipped the same way. Same with the ZZ series.

well you and I would agree on what a "crate engine" is...

to quote the OP
I am looking at a first gen Camaro that has what the seller is calling a "crate engine" (this is at a classic car dealer).

I was responding to what the OP posted about "who" claims it's a "crate engine"....as that source, cough, will take liberty in vehicle description. Consignment/dealer source is, IMHO, liberal with terms. Ideally the selling source has some paperwork documentation for the "crate engine" it advertises to OP
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
We can agree to disagree what a crate engine is. But when I worked at the GMC truck dealer and replaced an engine, the new one was called a crate engine because it came shipped in a ........wooden crate. Small block and the super powerful 366 cubic inch big block truck engine shipped the same way. Same with the ZZ series.

agree with that, the term "crate engine" has for sure changed over the years. I understand it same as you stated, but today a google search will find just about any thing including a turnkey serpentine EFI engine. So pretty much any definition of the term can be skewed today... I took the info as a "long block purchased from GM", and I think that is the way the info was relayed to me.
 

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@SoCal805 I'm on it.

Dip stick on passenger side - meant to add that earlier.
Chevy went PS distick on SBC 1980....so it still could be a 2 piece, flat tappet motor...but a good sign it could be an 87 or newer vortec motor which is both 1 piece RMS and full roller

not sure if casting # would say specific 4 bolt main or either or 2 or 4

once you get #'s you can do a search
 

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agree with that, the term "crate engine" has for sure changed over the years. I understand it same as you stated, but today a google search will find just about any thing including a turnkey serpentine EFI engine. So pretty much any definition of the term can be skewed today... I took the info as a "long block purchased from GM", and I think that is the way the info was relayed to me.
Long block is correct for a crate engine.….at least until others adopted as something else.
 
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