Car Corner
Factory Big Block Crate Engines

October 1, 1997
By Scott Lewis

Recently Car Craft magazine did an article on three big block crate engines available directly from the factory. So if you are interested in big block power, now you can get some great engines straight from the manufacturer. I am an avid big block engine fan. Car Craft used the phrase "no replacement for displacement." Although it does not ryme, my favorite saying is "no substitute for cubic inches." Unless of course you throw on a supercharger. I have driven, or rode in, a few hot rods, and most of them were powered by small blocks. The one car that I drove with a big block was probably the fastest car I ever drove.

Now, I am not saying that small block cars are not faster than big block cars. So before you start the hate mail, just listen. The car I built and drove was a 73 Road Runner GTX with a 440 ci. engine. I built up the engine with a few carefully chosen aftermarket pieces, and felt it was running at about 425 horsepower (read more about this project car here). This car felt faster than anything I had driven before it, and might have been faster than my 93 Z28. No, this car was not the fastest car around. I realize that. But it was very fast for how easy it was to drive. It idled super smooth at 750 RPMs, where my mechanic set it, and it idled with a great lop at 500 RPMs, where I set it. By the way, throttle response was better with the idle set at 750, but I loved the lumpity-lump at 500 that I left it there. But the amount of tire screeching torque, even with a tall 2:93:1 ratio rear end, was enough to impress a lot of people.

The point is this... a big block makes boat-loads of torque at low RPMs. If you were to build a small block engine to 425 hp with a carburator, I bet dollars for donuts that the big block would feel faster, and spin the tires more. If you want torque then a big block it the best choice.

GM Performance Parts 502/502
PN: 12371204 (Basic Package)

PN: 12371171 (Turnkey package)

Ford Motorsport 460
Cobra Jet SVO Engine Assembly
PN: M-6007-C460

Mopar Performance 528 Crate Hemi
PN: Not available as of 9/29/97

Back to the present. Chevy is offering a 502 ci. big block create engine that cranks out 502 hp. Ford is offering a 460 ci. engine that belts out a 560 hp. And finally, Mopar has an all new 528 ci. Hemi that make 610 hp (yes, you read that right... 528 ci, and Hemi in one sentence). All this right from the factory. All you have to do is go down to your local dealer and drop down the cash.

I am a major Chevy fan. Remember though, the only big block car I have owned was a Mopar. Of these engines, my favorite is the Hemi. Why? Glad you asked. Read each section below for my impression of each engine. Don't forget to read the Car Craft article in their September 1997 issue.

GM Performance Parts 502/502

The Chevy engine is great, no doubt about it. This engine has the lowest compression ratio of the three engines, so it should be the easiest one to get running on the street. The cam is a bit mild, too. This engine has a number of new improvements for Gen VI blocks and heads. I would definitely spend the extra bucks for the turnkey engine over the basic package.. I wouldn't want to spend the time, money, and trouble getting all the little things that come with the turnkey engine. It would be worth the extra grand for the turnkey.

Some of the additions the turnkey engine includes are: intake manifold, carb, distributor, wires, spark plugs, starter, and water pump. Plus all the fasteners to attach these things, and the heads, to the block.

So although they call it a turnkey engine, it really isn't. The short block and heads are each assembled, but not together. In fact, a good deal of assembly will be required. I personally like this. There is a great feeling of accomplishment when you fire up an engine you put together with your own hands. This engine will give you a good deal of that feeling, since you will assemble a lot.

All in all, this engine should serve great duty in any Chevy engine bay. If I were going to build this engine, and I just might do that if my next project car is a Chevy, I would get a little bigger cam and replace the carborator with a decent fuel injection system.

Ford Motorsport 460 Cobra Jet SVO Engine

Ford's engine is based on their venerable 460 ci. engine. This engine comes more complete than the Chevy. The engine is completely assembled except for the carborator, ignition, and headers. The heads are aluminum like the Chevy.

This engine gets 11.5:1 compression ratio, and a fairly big camshaft. It is clear that Ford expects this engine to see a lot of use at the track, or other places were you can run 100 octane gas. Mind you, these feature are part of what helps this engine punch out an amazing 560 hp.

I would have a difficult time considering this engine. But then again, I am not a huge Ford fan. I love Mustangs, don't get me wrong. But I have not been a huge fan of all of Ford's offerings. The 460 would require some modifications to fit in almost any vintage Mustang. Although this would not be to hard with some years, it could present a big problem with others.

Since this engine seams almost destined to see race duty, and getting the quality of gas it is thirsty for would be difficult, I could not see putting it in a street car. If you like race car like performance, and could live with the gas bill, this engine is a bargain at a little over 5 grand.

Mopar Performance 528 Crate Hemi

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I said 528 ci. That's 102 ci. more than the legendary Hemis of the late sixties and early seventies. If that's not enough, consider that this engine belts out 610 hp, right out of the crate. This is the most horsepower available in any factory crate engine. Period! Do you get the idea that I like this engine.

A couple of years ago (maybe more, maybe less) Chrysler starting making all the pieces necessary to build a new legendary 426 Hemi engine. This must have been a huge boon to all those that wanted to build new Hemi engine for their classic musclecars. I remember thinking that it would be great to get an old Mopar and build a pseudo Hemi musclecar. You don't have to tell people it is original, but the mystique of a Hemi still carries one hell of a reputation.

Now Chrysler is doing it one better. Maybe two better. Like the Ford, this engine comes completely assembled except for carb, ignition, and exhaust. So how many people are thinking this would make a total sleeper of a musclecar. Think about it. Bye some old Plymouth Satellite, and drop in this 600+ hp giant, and dress it up as a Road Runner. Most musclecar fans with think it is a 426 Hemi Road Runner. But 600+ hp will sure surprise them.

This engine gets its extra displacement from a new block with siamesed cylinder walls that allow a larger bore, and a stoker crank. The block gets the necessary clearance work inside to make room for the huge crank, and the engine is internally balanced just like the 426. This means you should have no trouble dropping this engine in any car that would accept a 426 Hemi.

Looks like I should start looking for that 70-71 Cuda.


It is great to see that the auto manufacturers are doing so much for the performance enthusiast. I wish I had the money right now to build that 69 Camaro with the 502, or a 71 Cuda with the Hemi. I am only sorry that I was unable to provide you with more links. When I decided to give my take on the information supplied in the great article by Car Craft, I was hoping to link to information on each specific engine on the web. Alas, the auto manufacturers must see the web as a place to generate interest in new car sales only.

I was disappointed that Chrysler does not even have a page on the Internet for their Mopar Performance division. Just a one paragraph reference to them on the Mopar page. Ford isn't really any better. They don't have any information on any specific parts available through their Motorsport division, just a listing of dealers that handle Motorsport parts. Chevy is the best with this regard. You can download there entire GM Performance Parts catalog for free. You will also need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the online catalog. All this is available from their web site, so enjoy.

Car Craft listed the engine prices like this:

GM Performance Parts 502/502
Basic Engine - $6,200 (estimated street)
Turnkey Engine - $7,200 (estimated street)
Ford Motorsport 460 Super Cobra Jet SVO Engine
Retail Price - $5,495
Estimated Street Price - $5,199
Mopar Performance 528 Crate Hemi
Approximate price $16,000 (not from original Car Craft Article)

Related Links

GM Performance Part
Ford Motorsport