How to choose a SBC engine

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by: Cobalt327, Jon, Matt167, NovaRacer, TriadDawg
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Engine choices can be hard when there are so many to choose from. The choice of a SBC can be an easy one if you want a cheap reliable engine that can produce a good amount of horsepower. As a SBC can come in a size as small as 262 CI all the way to well over 400 CI in custom built engines, they all have their purpose. You wouldn't put a 262 in a truck, but you may put it in a Monza if you want MPG.

  • 262 CI: Used in 1975, low hp, smog engine designed for reliability with high MPG. Only used with the Chevrolet Nova and Monza (with 4.3L badges when optioned with the Monza) - NOT to be confused with the 1985-2014 4.3L V6-90 which has the bore/stroke of the SBC 350.
  • 265 CI: Chevrolet's first SBC. Far surpassed in performance by the 283 and 327 engines that came shortly after. Consider this one for restorations only (unless you like a challenge).
  • 267 CI: Used from 1978-1981, low hp, smog engine designed for reliability with high MPG.
  • 283 CI: Chevy's first engine to produce 1hp per CI. Provides hp in the higher RPM, good for light cars and higher RPM in performance applications.
  • 301 CI: This is a 0.125" overbored SBC 283, it needs a block with thick cylinder walls (recommend sonic testing first) and is no longer recommended (or necessary) practice, instead the preferred method is to use a 350 block and a 283 crank with spacer bearings if you want to build one. Actual displacement is 301.6 cid.
  • 302 CI: The first Z/28 engine (1967-'69). Great for high RPM hp and was mandated for T/A racing. Original SBC 302 engines and 302-specific parts are usually very expensive.
  • 305 CI: Decent engine, many consider it too small for hi-performance, but decent enough for street performance in a lightweight car. Main deficit is the bore diameter limits valve size.
  • 307 CI: Effectively a large-journal 327 crank with a 283 bore size. Limited performance potential.
  • 327 CI: Considered a good engine for higher RPM hp, can be built for street performance.
  • 334 CI: 305 block with 400 crank. Most practical where emissions require specific engine/vehicle combinations (like CA).
  • 350 CI: America's most popular SBC. Not much needs to be said, they fit most budgets and expectations, great all around engine. Mid-1980s onward have a 5.7L embossed on the bellhousing lip.
  • 353 CI: 400 block with 327 crank.
  • 377 CI: This is a 400 block with a 350 crank and either custom crankshaft, or factory spec main journal crank using special bearings or bearing spacers.
  • 383 CI: 350 block with a 3.75 crank. Popular performance combination. Initially required external balancing but internal balance cranks are common today.
  • 400 CI: Stock cranks are external balanced, crank manufacturers are currently producing internal balanced cranks.

The original standard bore and stroke for each:

  • 262 CI: 3.671" x 3.100"
  • 265 CI: 3.750" x 3.000"
  • 267 CI: 3.500" x 3.480"
  • 283 CI: 3.875" x 3.000"
  • 302 CI: 4.000" x 3.000"
  • 305 CI: 3.736" x 3.480"
  • 307 CI: 3.875" x 3.250"
  • 327 CI: 4.000" x 3.250"
  • 350 CI: 4.000" x 3.480"
  • 400 CI: 4.125" x 3.750"

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