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Question of the Week: Small-block or big-block?


#1

You might not have much choice these days, but in the muscle car heyday there was an extremely wide breadth of V-8 engine options. From sub-300-cubic-inch small-blocks to 500+ big-blocks, many of the infamous muscle cars had the option a big-block or small-block. We want to know which you would choose for your ride.

Each engine comes with its own character, and small-blocks have the reputation for being high-RPM screamers with a good horsepower-to-size ratio. Big-blocks take the displacement advantage and put it to work by making the torque curve less of a curve and more of a plateau, with the RPM ceiling staying lower than a similarly prepped small-block.


A 327 small-block in a 1963 Corvette. Plenty of power- or is it?

The big-block optioned cars have traditionally held higher values to match their higher horsepower ratings. But the keen buyer might opt for the small-block in an effort to lose weight off the nose of a car, or get 95 percent of the experience for 50 percent the money.

There is a trade-off to each, so which engine would you choose for your ride? Big-block torque or small-block packaging?


#2

Big Block for sure! I realize that the Small Block LS series is absolutely dominating the modified scene, but a Big Block anything just fills the engine bay right, add cam and you have some of the best sounding engines out there. Technically speaking, there is no big block Pontiac, but that is my engine platform of choice.


#3

I couldn’t agree more. At 75 years old I’ve had several of each but the best was the twin 454’s I had in a boat which gave it the torque needed to get it going, and the 396 SS El Camino was hard to beat. Yeah, the sound. I had to put Borla pipes on my C-6 Corvette to make it sound correct.


#4

Im old school love my big blocks we always said no replacement for displasment lol. Im all mopar and have had my share of 440 383 and 426 and a413 wedge,I know the newer engines make more hp with less cubic inches and turbos and super charges but love my big old big block carbureted engines


#5

I guess I fall in the small-block camp personally.Idle is the only thing small-blocks lose to big-blocks in. Maybe it’s jus that none of the big-blocks I have experienced have really been worth the weight, but small-block seems to be a great package.


#6

Chose a 340 over standard 383 in my ‘70 Cuda. Wouldn’t go back and change. Had a ‘67 Vette, L79; great engine. Easy to work on, lots of room. Appreciate BBs but the SBs do have some advantages.


#7

Big block. Nothing against the small blocks, they are great. But for raw power and investment, I’ll go with the big blocks.


#8

I’m in the small block group. I guess it all depends on what you want out of the car. If it’s sound and straight line power big blocks are great. Since I like to autocross my classic cars and improve handling I opt for the small block to keep the weight off the nose.


#9

I have a Small block 340 …bottom end power…quick and light and awesome performance …a great all around sound too…


#10

I really liked my 1965 Impala convertible big block 396 until I replaced it with a small block 302 in my '68 Z28.


#11

I’m in the small block camp too! I own a '68 RS/SS Camaro with a 327 2bbl and 2 sd Powerglide! I have never found topend because it didn’t shift 'till I hit 80mph into high. totally scared me!


#12

I grew up with small block Chevy’s, but my love was the 400CID in my '66 442 ragtop. It would wind up like a small block, but with a bigger punch.


#13

Have owned a 68 435 Corvette and the 327 in a 66 so I’m saying that both are equal in performance and each had their advantages. I prefer the small block for cruising , but with the secondary springs in the outboard carbs softened up that big block really belted out the power…and that’s why it was easy for a novice to lose control. The factory was spot on to put in the hard springs to ease those outboard carbs in during spontaneous acceleration. I’d put my money on a 64 drum brake 365 hp with 4.11 gears and a close ratio!


#15

Big block, of course, because size – at least displacement – matters. My fave is MoPar 440, because it’s so lightweight and dimensionally small for its displacement. Or at least it was in 1970. The LS line has eclipsed it in both respects, nearly half a century later. But an LS is just a Chevy, and a 440 is a MoPar. If you don’t understand, don’t bother asking. Oh, and back up half a century from 1970 to see how years matter as much as displacement.

Next fave is Ford 460, the elephant. Why? Big, cheap power. Abundant parts. John Kaase. Ford Motorsports. 3 gallons per mile. What’s left to say? Except – all the Edelbrock stuff for 460 is top-notch for ANY level of street build you care to choose.

My current project is to put a 460 in a Triumph Spitfire. Yes, it was inspired by the side-oiler Shelby Cobra.


#16

BIG BLOCK! I’m running a 355 ci sbc with 415 horsepower but its the torque of the big block that launches these things. Of course we’re talking a 1932 Ford highboy 5 window coupe. The small blocks come on strong but getting off the line takes torque and that’s where the big block shines! I once had a T-bucket with a 550 HP 454 and it took off the line like a fuel altered! Thats what its all about, isn’t it?


#17

…big block, 4 speed, bench seat…doesn’t get any better
bj


#18

I have a L79 '68 Corvette and the engine has nice power, but only at higher RPM. I’d love to have a 427 with the low end torque. I vote for big block.


#19

I’ve had my share of Coronet R/T’s and Charger R/T’s from 68 to 70.
Last one, I had the 440 stroked to 492 cubes in a 69 Charger S/E car. Interestingly, with the A/C on and 3.23 gears and automatic it would run 11.73 at 113MPH (on a FAKE quarter mile on the dyno with a .38 lag time).
My answer to big block or small block is this: “Does anyone have a 68, 69, or 70 charger for sale with a BENCH seat and the modern HEMI running gear in it for sale??”
I’m old and crippled and bucket seats don’t cut it anymore unless they are in a SUV.!


#20

I have to vote small block! I have owned my '69 Z28 for 40 years and there is nothing better than listening to that DZ 302 sing through the chambered exhaust system. A friend of mine has an original COPO 427 Camaro with chambered exhaust also. Make no mistake, that BB COPO sounds great. But those SB rpms can’t be beat. Driving the Camaro with the SB helps the nimbleness too.


#21

I am partial to my 289 Hi Performance from our '66 Mustang 2+2 Fastback. It never lets me down and sound fairly mean with the dual Exhaust. And the car is so light, it really moves and is very responsive with the 750cfi - 4bbl Carburation.!