Nuthin’ Fancy

Ryan Newman grew up with a steering wheel in his hands. From the age of five, he has been behind the wheel of a racecar. Now, almost 20 years later, Ryan drives for Penske Racing South on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. In 2003, Ryan won eight races, 11 poles and was named Speed Channel’s Driver of the Year. In 2004, he will be driving a Dodge sponsored by primary sponsor Alltel with associate sponsorship form Mobil 1 and Sony Electronics on 38 weekends.


Performance enthusiasts are a funny bunch. They all seem to agree that “as much as possible” is the correct answer when asked, “How much power do you want?” But they certainly
disagree about the best way to get there.

Right Rod

If you attend car events in California, such as NHRA’s California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, the West Coast Kustoms show in Paso Robles or the L.A. Roadster Show in Pomona, you will notice that rat rods are a growing segment of the hot rod hobby. Years ago, when they started becoming a common sight at many of the shows, the mechanical aspects of most of the cars were scary at best. You could see cars with no springs, some without floorboards, and many constructed with less-than-­desirable stick welding. It is this type of construction that created the name “rat rod.” Fortunately, over the past few years there has been an attempt to upgrade the construction of rat rods, even though the enthusiasts want to use as many original parts as ­possible.

539HP 383 On Pump Gas

Time and time again, our advice to those interested in learning about stout-running engines is that it’s the total combination that makes it all happen—considering, of course, that components are prepped, cleaned and assembled as if in a “clean room.” 

High Performance Rebuild

The small-block Chevy has enjoyed a long, happy life. Sure, the current LS1/LS6 version is quite far removed from the original, but thousands upon thousands of little mouse motors continue to provide the sole means of motivation to everything from stationary irrigation pumps to Le Mans-winning C5R Corvettes. Naturally, this list also includes all manner of boulevard bruisers, street stompers and resto rockets. Heck, we’ve even seen little Chevys under the hood of “Brand X” machinery. The continued popularity of the small-block Chevy is not surprising. Take a look at the combination of power potential and parts availability and multiply that by the cost quotient, and you have the makings of a real success story. Add to this equation the millions of project motors just sitting around  junkyards throughout the world, and it is easy to see why enthusiasts continue to embrace the mighty mouse motor as the performance powerplant of choice.   


Thirty-five years and $636 ago, we bought an 80,000-mile ’62 fuel-injected Corvette in Fresno, California. Sadly, the car had been stolen once. The fuel injection was gone as well as the T-10 four-speed transmission. A pair of bare 461-X heads was in the trunk. The engine was found to have a rocking rear cam bearing, which caused oil to shut off to the rocker arms at high rpm. At the time, the prognosis was that it could not be fixed, so the motor was replaced with a ’68 350hp 327. Since 1976, the car has been in storage, along with the original engine.  

Choosing The Right Cam

Cam-speak is a language all its own. Well, maybe not from a linguistic point of view, but it is a specialized dialect of car-guy talk. Although spoken by a good portion of enthusiasts, Cam-speak is really fully understood by only a handful of those same enthusiasts, as it is a very specialized, nuanced dialect.

A Bit of History

Hundreds of thousands of these “little” big-blocks were sold in the 1960s. In 1965-66 alone, over 150,000 came in the Impala, Biscayne and Bel Air big cars. Few paid attention to them because the hot engine of the day was the L-78 with high-rpm, rectangle-port heads. But when stock eliminator drag racers began flogging the L-35, it responded magnificently.


What makes more power: carburetors or computers? While the ultimate answer is that a sophisticated electronic fuel-injection system will virtually always outpower a carburetor, the real question may be whether the power gains are worth the extra expense and complexity of installing an EFI system.


You can drive this bad boy coast to coast and burn all the rubber you want in between.” That was Day Automotive’s Tony Shaffer proclaiming the abilities of his shop’s 482/409. Soon thereafter, we were entering the confines of Day Automotive in Independence, Missouri, where Shaffer and crew had just completed the engine in seven days. It represents what can be accomplished power-wise with the right combination of parts, plus some internal modifications. And with a 10.0:1-compression ratio, it’s very street-friendly.  

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