Car Corner
What do to when you have a 350 small block without a car

June 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis

Now that my transmission mount and garage door opener are fixed, I can start to think about what I want to do with my 350 engine. Long time readers (and I mean long) of this column know I have a 350 engine sitting on a stand just itching to be put in a car.

First a little background. I rebuilt a 350 small block engine for a 1970 Chevelle back in 1986. When I entered the military I drove the car from New York to Texas. I continued to drive the car for 10 months without any  problems.

The block was a 350 - 4 bolt main, with a steel crank. I got it from my mechanic for $75. It was replacing a dying 307 engine. To keep this short... I ran out of money 2/3 through the buildup and had to install cheap remanufactured 307 heads on this killer short block.

A year of driving the car, and it was time to finally give it the horsepower it deserved. I picked up a set of "fuelie" heads equipped with 2.02 stainless steal valves. Since the car was apart I also added a bigger camshaft, and all the valve train pieces. It cost me just under $1000.

The combination was not running up to expectations, and while I was trying to work out the bugs two events happened that put the Chevelle in storage. 1) The transmission died. The car would not move. 2) I had my once in a life time chance to move out of the dorms and get an apartment.

I needed more reliable transportation. The Chevelle went into storage, and I got a Toyota Celica to get to and from work.

Eventually I gave the car away. I pulled the engine and took the wheels and tires off the car. They are now sitting in a friends garage.

I want to do something with the engine. I would love to put it in a car. But what car?

Here is a list of cars that I wouldn't mind putting the engine into. All cars are preferred with a V-8 and manual transmission unless stated otherwise. Running condition is nominal. If it starts and can engage the clutch, it is good enough. I will be replacing the engine, and the trans would only have to last a short time while I plan for a late model 5 or 6 speed. A/C is optional. Vintage Air can retrofit A/C on just about any car for less than it would cost to repair an old A/C system. The only reason to have A/C is for the duct work though the dash. Bodies must be rust free without any major damage. Paint can be in any condition. Interiors should be complete, but can be worn.

69 Camaro
This is my favorite year for the older Camaros. I do not like the hide-away headlights. I would prefer a convertible. All this for about $2,000.
70 - 73 Camaro
This must be a split bumper version. I think the split bumper came with the RS package. This is essentially my second favorite body style for old Camaros.
Late 70's early 80's Malibu
This car must have the 90 degree V-6 engine. The engine mounts are the same as the V-8 making the swap easy. It would have to be a two door. I think this body style would make a good sleeper.
Late 70's - early 80's El Camino
Same as the Malibu in these years. The V-6 is a must. This could be my way of getting a truck without getting a truck.
Late 70's - early 80's El Camino
Same as the Malibu in these years. The V-6 is a must. This could be my way of getting a truck without getting a truck.
Early 80's to Late 80' S-10/S-15
These make great sleepers with a V-8. Body must be straight The bed could be in almost any shape, since it will get a bed liner and/or a tonneau cover.
72 or earlier El Camino
For the truck without a truck factor.
66 - 67 Chevy II Nova
This would have to be the "fast back" version. I have never been a fan of the formal upright roof line.
62 - 65 Chevy II Nova
Good sleepers. V-8 preferred, but this would probably be a "chopped up" car. Straight six will do.
68 - 72 Nova
As you can see I like the Chevy II/Nova cars. My best friend's sister (when I was growing up) had a 70 Nova with a 396 Big Block. It was a cheap swap with small block springs, but it looked cool with that rake. The car was fast, but did not live up to its potential when my friend abuse it heavily. I liked the look enough that I always wanted to build something similar. Remember, most Novas were barely 3000 lbs. Light weight makes it easy to go fast.
66 - 67 Chevelle/La Mans/Cutlass/Skylark
I really like the square look of these years. Especially the Cutlass in convertible format. Convertible preferred for any of these.

If you know of a car that fits the list, let me know. Keep in mind that I only have about $2,000 to spend on a car that will be largely disassembled/reassembled over a two to three year tie period. One thing I have learned since my younger car building days (I am 34 now) is patience. It is actually the best thing a car building can learn.