Welcome to Engines 101!

The first thing in Engines 101 is decide what we are looking for in a powerplant.

We want an engine that will RUN!!!

Getting a wicked engine and shoving it in a car is all some guys care about. Going fast for the least amount of effort. That's cool, but those cars rarely last that long. A few quick thrills, then they realize what a death trap it is and lose interest. Another unfinished project.

Plan ahead. That's what you learned in Automotive Wisdom. So build your plan. Brakes and suspension first. Get your drivetrain so that it will handle the power. Now let's concentrate on that engine.

There are two ways to speed: more power and losing weight.

If you are building a light car, the less power you need to go fast. Ask anyone who owns a T-bucket. The simplest engine is WAY more power than they can use. That's why drag cars are stripped of everything not needed. The lighter they can make them the faster they can go.

So what does that mean for us?

Try to keep it simple. Simple means dependable. Dependable means cheap crazy fun.

I once had a '47 Chevy that was subframed with a Camaro front clip, Camaro 10 bolt (2.73, open) and a stock 350 engine and trans out of a wrecked truck. Cheap...

In reality, the car didn't weigh as much as it looked. Even though the tired engine was tight and ran well, it still didn't make much power. But man, would it move that car!

Smokin' the tires (ok, one tire), power slides, flyin' down the interstate, I had a ball in that car. It was my daily driver for a long time even though I drove it like I stole it. I could go on a long trip in it and not think twice.

The engine wasn't big enough to hurt itself. I had factory parts that worked together. Good brakes and suspension. Great power to weight ratio. And above all cheap and dependable!

It was crazy fun and dependable. That's what you want to keep in mind when deciding on an engine.

Keep it simple. I could have rebuilt the engine and trans, added performance products, bumped compression, added better heads, trick cam, hot ignition, etc.

The thousands of dollars I would have laid out wouldn't have helped at all.


I couldn't get the power I had to the ground without smokin' the tires. To do that I would have had to go with better tires $$$, modify the body and frame to accept them $$$, modify the rear suspension to hook up $$$, upgrade the rear end to handle the power $$$, etc.

Now I am thousands of dollars deeper into this car to go a little faster. Actually now the car is more geared for the strip than the street. It's not as fun to drive on the street with deep gears, locker, and high stall converter. Forget a long trip.

So lets plan realistically. Keeping stuff close to stock is so much cheaper and easier. And usually just as fun! The factories turned out some great engines and a slightly warmed over engine in a lighter vehicle than it came in is just stupid fun...

This is the same theory that gave us muscle cars.

Return from Engines 101 to Hot Rod Engines

Return from Engines 101 to How-To-Build-Hotrods

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