The Small Block Chevrolet
“The small block chevy is dead to the cool.”
“Everyone runs one.”
“It’s like a belly button.”
My pops and I used to campaign a ’67 Vette S/C car in the sportsman class of NHRA and in some of the “heavy hitter” classes of IHRA. Our motor was based around a super rare bowtie block with siamese cylinders and external cooling lines. Total cubes was around the mid 400s or so and compression was out of this world. Fed by a single Barry Grant prepped dominator, the little flywheel was seeing dyno figures north of 1000hp.
When ya hit the starter on this little monster, it was less like combustion and more like an explosion. There was no idle – I would have to keep the revs up and above the “stall” point while staging the car and applying the clutch. As soon as the competition was staged, the gas pedal was floored while the first stage of the rev limiter controlled the launch RPM. Light goes yellow, foot comes off the clutch, and all hell would break loose.
It was all I could do to keep that short wheel base straight while grabbing gears in an effort to keep the motor wrapping past 12,000 RPM. Exhilarating to say the least. Mostly, it’s the sound that I remember… There aren’t many motors with that many cubic inches that can even dream about reaching the type of RPM numbers we were. Anything past 7,000 made that motor scream in happiness… or was it pain? Absolutely unforgettable.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, just about every overhead offering was represented at the drag strip. As competition fueled evolution things changed:
- The Flathead became obsolete.
- The y-block never had a chance.
- The Olds couldn’t keep up.
- Not even Tommy Ivo could save the little valves in the Nailhead.
Some could argue (and have a pretty good point) that the Hemi is still with us from that period, but that’s another article all together. To me, the real consistency here is the small block chevy. Using the same basic design that was developed in the early 50’s and released in 1955, the small block chevy is still capable of doing things that 90% of the motors in the world can’t. Period.
I wonder if Vic Edelbrock truly understood the potential when he was messing with the prototype in early ’54. The small block may be dead to the cool, but it’s still alive and kicking for the quick. That’s tradition fellas…