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  • Chevy 454 Engine Cheap Rebuild at Home

Chevy 454 Engine Cheap Rebuild at Home

Fixing a big-block Chevy 454 at home on a budget.

John McGann
Jan 22, 2021
In case you haven't noticed, it's election season, and not surprisingly, the subject of the economy is being hotly debated. While the politicians squabble over capital gains tax rates, the Social Security trust fund, and raising the retirement age, the rest of us are just trying to eke out a modest existence and still have a little automotive fun on the weekends. In that spirit, we present the Blue Collar Chevy 454. Our lowly Chevy 454 was built on a shoestring budget with a very mild Summit Racing hydraulic camshaft and only a reconditioning of the factory crankshaft and oval-port cylinder heads as pulled out of a 1970s Suburban. We reused as many parts as possible, and while our horsepower figures aren't super impressive, the Chevy 454 engine starts easily, doesn't leak, doesn't overheat, sounds good, and was dirt cheap to build. And, man, does it make torque. You could stick this engine into a 4x4 of your choice and smoke all the tread off your tires in a hurry. And sometimes that's all an engine has to do.

The Blue Collar Chevy 454

By the numbers:
Bore: 4.250
Stroke: 4.000
Main bearing journal: 2.750
Rod bearing journal: 2.200
Firing order: 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2
Compression ratio: 7.98:1
Flat-top pistons 0.014 inch below the deck, 0.043 compressed gasket thickness, 120cc combustion chamber heads

On the Dyno

Yup, we were nervous on dyno day. But instead of needing a mop and bucket, we were able to just stand back and watch as JMS' Jeff Johnson fired the engine and ran it through a standard cam break-in schedule. We were pleased to find no leaks, chuffing smoke, or deathly rattles. Instead, the engine settled into a smooth idle with the correct oil pressure. We weren't sure what to expect for power; this is a small cam, but we chose it because our guy at Summit says it's the company's best-seller for big-block Chevys. Why argue with numbers like that?
Obviously, Summit's customers like torquey big-blocks, as this cam allowed our combination to make 511 lb-ft of tire-melting torque at a nearly off-idle 3,500 rpm. Horsepower peaked at a languid 4,900 rpm, and the 408 figure was better than we expected.
It's hard to beat this combination for the price (see the accompanying chart for the breakdown). This build only cost $1,900 carb to pan, including the oil in the pan, and including the machine shop costs. Note that we didn't include the cost of headers (they vary depending on your car) and tools because many of them can be rented or borrowed.
POWER HORSEPOWER TORQUE
3,000 271 475
3,100 290 491
3,200 305 500
3,300 318 507
3,400 330 509
3,500 340 511
3,600 350 511
3,700 358 508
3,800 365 505
3,900 372 502
4,000 377 497
4,100 385 494
4,200 390 488
4,300 392 487
4,400 395 472
4,500 397 464
4,600 400 457
4,700 405 453
4,800 408 446
4,900 408 436
5,000 407 427

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