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Hot Rods Real world cost of SBC rebuild vs crate engine?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by tdskip, Mar 29, 2020.

  1. alanp561
    Joined: Oct 1, 2017
    Posts: 1,121


    What @gonzo said.
  2. I wanted some decent HP out of mine and the crates were not doing that well for me. My 355 core was a 350 that I had in a stock car, last run in 1984, fogged and stored. It still spun easily any time I tried it. But what a surprise when I tore it down. Opted for new pistons and rods, had the crank cut .010/.010 and the rotating assembly balanced. I had the shop assemble it to free me up to do other things on the car. He degreed the cam as well. I see a lot of 290 or so HP crates installed in cars and they run well.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  3. Lloyd's paint & glass
    Joined: Nov 16, 2019
    Posts: 2,477

    Lloyd's paint & glass

    If you're going back with a stock SBC, i agree with pulling the heads and looking at the bores. If it's worn enough to warrant being bored, then you're better off buying a short block financially, Unless you just wanna do the work yourself.
    bchctybob likes this.
  4. That's why I usually end up building it myself. I like HP... Once I get it apart, I always find things that need fixing. Then I almost always have to hop it up!

    Before I know it, I've spent another two grand and I already had most of the hard parts! :rolleyes:
    ekimneirbo and Tri-power37 like this.
  5. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,625


    It's not even a debate. If all you're looking for is a mild performance engine that is fun and reliable, buy the crate engine and be done with it. The GM 350/290 hp engine is $2700 from Jegs and will show up in your driveway in days.

    Think about it. To do a proper rebuild, you're looking at basic machine work, which includes getting the crank cut, cylinders bored and honed, block decked,, etc., plus a good hot tank, cam bearings installed... which is going to set you back a good $800-$1000. Then you add the cost of parts, which are reasonable for a chevy. In the end, if you're really good and do all the work yourself, you'll be in the engine for $2200. The lousy $500 savings will have cost you quite a bit of time, and you'd have no warranty.

    If you're building something exotic, or need the engine for a specific application, perhaps the crate engine route isn't for you. But if you just need it to work and be reliable, and be fun too, for the SBC it's crate engine all the way.
  6. TOOLS.....
    ekimneirbo and Tri-power37 like this.
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 711

    from okc

    Yeah tear it down, see what ya got before you start thinking what to do...may just need ring bearing and brass freeze plugs
    Flat Six Fix and Deuces like this.
  8. This was about $1000 less just a few months ago.

    Since the tariffs are doing their job and making things more competitive for the US business owners, it’s certainly worth letting your favorite machine shop quote you a rebuild. If these Mexican crates were still $1400,,,, that’s was a no brainer.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  9. lumpy 63
    Joined: Aug 2, 2010
    Posts: 1,304

    lumpy 63

    ^^^^^Man! that price really jumped up! Not worth that IMHO.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  10. Deuces
    Joined: Nov 3, 2009
    Posts: 18,502

    from Michigan

    Yeah but no vortec heads!!!!!
    Yay!!!! :D;):):cool:
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  11. Lloyd's paint & glass
    Joined: Nov 16, 2019
    Posts: 2,477

    Lloyd's paint & glass

  12. tdskip
    Joined: Jun 14, 2011
    Posts: 31

    from SoCal

    Great discussion, you guys are fantastic.

    I've seen quite a few mild SBC builds for around that same $1,400 price point @Lloyd's paint & glass but those are all remanufactured where as the $2,600 GM ones are new. Not sure how much of a difference that makes in the real world but I've seen reviews of the $1,300 ones that point to sloppy builds and short time failures. Not sure if that is 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 10. For a mild build saving the money is attractive but I'm more focused on it being right / reliable than anything. I don't want to dismiss any good options but the reviews have me skittish.

    Lloyd - to be extra clear I'm not criticizing that as an option, I appreciate you posting it.

    I'm itching to tear my existing engine apart but have a pretty good project backlog, so need help or replacement simply to make sure it gets done in a semi-timely manner.

    Hope everyone is having a good Sunday.
    chryslerfan55 and Deuces like this.
  13. dirty old man
    Joined: Feb 2, 2008
    Posts: 8,624

    dirty old man

    The crate engines certainly have their advantages, especially if you are short on time, shop space, and/or tools.
    But if you're wanting a hot rod engine and not just a street cruiser that never passes 4-5K rpm, then you need to take a close look at the components in that crate engine, as well as things like valve/piston clearance, deck height and squish, etc. All the stuff that can contribute not only to more power, but help the engine stay together when you make those runs at the nostalgia meets at the strip!
    Things like powdered metal con rods don't belong in a real hot rod engine, and if you think you might ever want to play with nitrous neither do hypereutectic or cast pistons. But many of those crate engines are equipped with them.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  14. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,588

    from illinois

    "Seasoned" core , what , salt&pepper , soy sauce , hot peppers ,?? Sorry , that's just one of those names/descriptive terms that I dislike ,its a friggin used block .! And crate engine , how about short block or long block or complete ...??
  15. Lloyd's paint & glass
    Joined: Nov 16, 2019
    Posts: 2,477

    Lloyd's paint & glass

    Oh I know brother. Don't know about your area, but i can still pick up a good 350 around here for $500 in the junkyard.
    chryslerfan55 and Tri-power37 like this.
  16. Fordors
    Joined: Sep 22, 2016
    Posts: 2,888


    Yes, I believe Eastwood to be a good, honest company. The issue with the engine warranty comes in when you have to ship your defective engine to ATK, the rebuilder, for evaluation. The rub is that they are based in Texas. That is one of the terms of their 24 month, unlimited miles warranty.
    I realize that building an engine is not for everyone but if I spin a bearing because I didn’t check clearances, or score the bores because I didn’t check and gap the rings that’s on me. Not some shop in East Wong Bong that I might know nothing about.
  17. Lloyd's paint & glass
    Joined: Nov 16, 2019
    Posts: 2,477

    Lloyd's paint & glass

    Yeah i understand, i just googled SBC short block and that long block popped up. Part of hot rodding for me is building my motors. Never touched and automatic transmission though ;)
  18. SEAAIRE354
    Joined: Sep 7, 2015
    Posts: 183


    I am a believer of the gm crate engine but not the production remanufactured engines. Over the years I’ve been forced to install several and for me the failure rate was more than they advertised. But that’s a numbers thing. And for the record all the problems were admitted by the reman company and not the installer. I would definitely take a peak and see what your current engine really needs before going reman.

    Sent from my iPad using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    chryslerfan55 and Deuces like this.
  19. Jones St.
    Joined: Feb 8, 2020
    Posts: 3

    Jones St.

    Local engine builder made a 383 happen for less than 4 grand. Custom Clay Smith cam/smog heads opened up to 2.02 all new parts. Broke in. Cam & lifter run. Oil then changed, out the door ready to run. Look hard at the 383 for far more torque.
  20. bigdog
    Joined: Oct 30, 2002
    Posts: 553


    Last one I built was a stock Dodge 360. Paid for the machine work, did all the assembly myself. By the time it was done I could have bought a crate motor for about the same price.
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  21. rockable
    Joined: Dec 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,975


    I like to build engines....a lot. But, the last build really frustrated me. I found out there were almost no machine shops around here that could do all my machine work, especially balancing. I've got two cars with crate engines and have never had a problem. One of those is a made in Mexico base 350 in my OT truck. It has about 20k miles on it and I never add oil. You cannot build an engine that requires new piston, lots of machine work and balancing for less than you can buy a crate engine, IMO.
  22. Mike Colemire
    Joined: May 18, 2013
    Posts: 1,225

    Mike Colemire

    I've heard good things on the Blueprint engines. I know they have a nice set of SBC heads, 2.02 int valves for around $800.
  23. I'd go for the crate engine. I'm so goddam tired of machinists that cant meet a schedule. They bitch about crate engines hurting their business, but they never do the job in a timely fashion themselves.
  24. I always build my own engines (and a hell of lot of engines for my customers). If something goes wrong inside my engine, I don’t want to be able to blame anyone else. Also, I have a great machinist. He does great work, is as meticulous as I am and is very realistic on timetables and cost. If I didn’t have him, my outlook might change.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  25. I like to build my engines, that's just me. I think that even if I bought a crate motor I would still tear it down and recheck everything and re-assemble. Case in point, I bought one of the last 350 short blocks that PAW still produced many years ago. Engine was balanced and supposedly "blueprinted" only to tear itself apart upon start-up. After disassembly I found lots of machining chips in the oil galleys. Had I followed my own advice and tore it down prior to assembly, I would have found that the block wasn't adequately cleaned prior to assembly. Live and learn, but I just feel better doing my own assembly work, plus I have a really good machine shop in Petaluma CA...
  26. lake_harley
    Joined: Jun 4, 2017
    Posts: 1,057


    Well, this has about been discussed to death but I'll add my comment too. I rebuilt a 350 Chevy this past Summer. Gave $100 for a core engine....badly cracked block, so the gentleman gave me another one for free. Heads were cracked too, so got a pair of "smog heads" from a friend who wouldn't accept any payment for them. Had another friend who has an automotive machine shop hot tank the block and heads. I bought all of the rebuild parts from a race parts warehouse I do business with for circle track parts. After cleaning, the machinist bored the block, did the valves and replaced a couple that were marginal, polished the crank, installed cam bearings and assembled the heads with new springs suitable for the cam I bought. It got a new mild performance grind hydraulic cam and lifters, main and rod bearings, stock timing chain and gearset, new cast pistons and Hastings rings, new oil pump, and FelPro gasket set. I rebuilt the quadrajet and put it on a stock cast iron manifold. Installed a new "mild performance" fuel pump, new aluminum water pump and used a couple rattle cans to paint it. Total was about $1700-1800 including the core engine, all parts, freight charges for parts ordered in, and all of the machine work.

    Someone earlier in the thread eluded to spending time vs. money. I'm not a poor man, but certainly not what I'd call wealthy, but I felt it was a good price to pay for a completely rebuilt engine and all I had to do was spend some time instead of the extra money to have a crate engine delivered.

  27. E07364BC-4AD1-4BA7-BB46-EEF601188047.jpeg

    Sorry about the pic,,,it is one of my favorites,,,just funnin some !

    I’m with Squirrel on this one .

    By the way ,,,,make sure the engine really needs work .
    Recently my son was telling me how bad his OT truck (98 Mopar ) has been acting lately.
    Just certain it was time for a rebuild again .
    I got him to calm down and think about it,,,,and study the facts .
    What was it really doing ,,,,and what are the symptoms ?
    Lol,,,,it turned out the tune up was old,,,new wires and all,,,,still not any better .
    Finally,,,I convinced him to change the plugs,,,,they really had several thousand miles on them .
    After,,,,,he said he couldn’t believe what a difference they made,,,,he is happy with his engine again,,,,and it only took a set of spark plugs !

    Flat Six Fix and Deuces like this.
  28. PackardV8
    Joined: Jun 7, 2007
    Posts: 889


    I've only been building engines for sixty years now and my first engines were on a dirt floor and by guess and by Chilton. They ran, but that was about all you could say for them. It wasn't until I began working in a machine shop which had all the capabilities that I could appreciate how good a rebuilt engine can be.

    Line hone the main bores, drop in the crank and it spin soooo freely.

    Square deck a block on the BHJ fixture and you'll be gobsmacked at how out of whack they all came from the factory.

    Use a torque plate and diamond hone the cylinders. The assembled short block will take way less torque to spin over.

    Doing the machine work as good as it can be only adds a few hundred dollars to the short block, but now everything we do is done that way. Most of the costs to R&R, clean, assemble are the same, so it makes good sense to put a few more bucks into the machine work.

    Your money, your build, your decision.

    jack vines, who mainly builds Studebaker and Packard V8s these days
  29. Tri-power37
    Joined: Feb 10, 2019
    Posts: 510


    I have never rebuilt a engine but would love to learn how from watching someone who knows what they are doing. I have installed many long block and short block engines some remanufactured and some new crate engines. All of them went out the door and did there job except for one.

    This nice old guys LTD got a remanufactured 302 that started right off the bat with a nice little knock. What warranty means to these companies is that you take the engine out strip it down to the long block again send it back to them at your expense . They tear it down and figure out what you did wrong on install or start up, they will repair it at your expense or sell you a new one. But don’t ever think you will get another one for free.

    I actually like crate engines I have a goodwrench 350 in a 37 Chevy that has given great service for 20 years but I bought a nice used 283 a few weeks ago that I want to have it rebuilt - to replace the 350. Interesting thread.
    Deuces likes this.
  30. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 3,890


    before I retired I ran the shop at the federal law Enforcement training center. we had about 300 of the box top Caprices at that time. when we needed a new engine for one we didn't have time to tie up a mechanic for the time it took to build an engine so we went Chevrolet and bought the 350-330 horse long blocks.
    We never got a warranty because of the way we ran them, but in all the time we installed them before they got replaced with newer cars we never had to replace one and you will not find a harsher environment to put abuse on a motor.
    Different driver every 15 minutes. wide open in second gear for 6-8 hours at a time only stopping for driver changes and lunch. then idle for hours in the south Ga. summers with the A/C on.
    Right after 9/11 we were training 25,000 students per year. I have put new tires on a car 3 times in one day and those were Goodyear Eagle's.
    That would be the crate motor I would buy if I were in the market for one. the last motor I built the machine work on the block was $ 700.00 . Boring , cam bearings , line boring, square deck the block.
    That was the frequent customer discount . A walk in would probably be about double that.
    chryslerfan55 and Deuces like this.

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