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Step 4: Engine Work

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Most rodders will say get into building a motor straight away. I'd like to think differently. Rather than building early in the projects history, you really are better off leaving it to later. Who knows how many years it will sit there before finally being installed

A Runner

Buying a complete going car can be a very economic way of buying your engine. The sum of the parts, less what you can sell that is left, is less than buying the part individually. Plus you get to run or even drive your new purchase before it's pulled out. Many, many rods are powered by motors, transmissions and rear ends pirated straight out of a suitable modern donor car. Quite often depending upon the quality of the components, they will give a serviceable life for many more years in a hot rod which generally does not do the high mileage of most street cars. There are usually heaps bargains out there to be had as cars that have been well serviced, rust out or are damaged in accidents. Complete suitable cars start from around $1000 upto $3-5000, depending upon how good they are.
This level is easily accomplished by most rodders


Rebuilders are either complete motors, or blocks that require work to make them usable again. It can be a cheap way to get the basics of a motor. But if you do buy this way at least ask for the heads and sump to be removed so that you can do a visual inspection. This will include looking for broken parts or pieces or anything to indicate the engine may have had a hard time. If possible get some crack testing done as this may save you money in the long run. When building a highly modified motor, you won't be using most of the parts that came with the original motor anyway so why pay for them to gather dust in a corner of the shed. Quite often rodders are looking for special or unusual motors from a particular make or model or year and they will be referring to the engine number only to get what they want.
With all the components that you will be buying new and the machining costs, this can be a very expensive way of powering your rod. But at least you know what has gone into it. You can determine exactly what horsepower and torque figures you want. A friend recently had a 350 Chev rebuilt, to run with a 671 blower, it cost $8,500.
This level will require either a solid knowledge of motors or a professional engine builder

Crate Motor

The closest thing to plug and play in the hot rod world, most of the manufactures offer factory crate motors these days. They will even have a range of performance motors, with guaranteed horsepower figures. This can be, for some people, a very good way to buy their engine. There is no worrying about what parts best work together. However you many need to consider modifications to your wiring loom, especially for late model, injected motors with all the modern sensors required to make them go. If you have to ask how much they cost, you can't afford one....
Have wallet, will travel

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