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Old 06-20-2013, 11:51 PM
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Engine Options 400 vs 454

Hello HotRodders,

I am fairly new to the hot rod world, i am sure somebody can help me out. I have a 1971 impala. Its got a 400 Small Block with 109k mi. Only going to be driven every other weekend. I Have 3k to spend plus more from a job i got a couple days ago.

Here is my scenario -

I want to swap the 400 small block for a 454. My reason's are because it would be newer, last longer, and for bragging rights. I would also like to get the car in some competitions in the future (Realistically speaking Im 20, am I really going to have the time,patients, and money for competitions )

My friend suggests I should spend the money on my current engine and beef it up for right now so I can play around and flex the muscles. This way ill be able to save my money for a car worth throwing a big block in.

I would love to hear what you guys say.

Respectfully,

B.T.N

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Old 06-21-2013, 12:08 AM
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I will do my best to channel my best "Techinspector" for you.

Figure out what your exact goal/plan is for it and then stick to it. Put your money into the car in this order:

- rear end
- transmission
- engine

My opinion? The 71 Impala is a big car. The 400 sbc is a good engine, but more cubes will move the car a lot swifter and a lot easier. The 454 is a great option. You said you're new to this, right? Stick around here for a while and just soak up the information. Get on amazon.com and order a couple books about big block chevy's, and the factory service manual for your particular car. The 454 was an option in these cars so any detailed official literature will be very helpful.

Once you get your 454, put it on the engine stand and tear it down. You can still drive your 71 with the stock 400 while you're putting your 454 together. You can keep the 400 that you pulled after the swap or sell it on craigslist to recoup some money. 400's are getting harder to come by and depending on your area, guys are generally foaming at the mouth to get their hands on one for a decent price.
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Old 06-21-2013, 12:40 AM
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Thanks! I learned something tonight.

I plan on keeping this a classic car. no 20+ inch rims. I would like to light the tires up every once in a while and have a nice mild/aggressive sound that most people crave and turn their heads to.
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Old 06-21-2013, 02:08 AM
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I'd before I did anything, do a compression test dry and wet to see what you are working with in that 400.
http://www.crankshaftcoalition.com/w...mpression_test
then as seen as you are 20. let me run down a few things that might help you..
3000.00 is NOT enough to buy,rebuild and install a 454 . if you have a 454 that's known good running engine then maybe.
the 454 will require all the front dress for a big block alt brackets, ac brackets, ps brackets if you have them great if not, this can get costly.
the radiator will need to be replaced with one for a big block or at least one for a smallblock impala wagon from that year with towing package. and that may include the changing of the mounts that hold it in, and fan shroud and hoses.
next you are exhaust either manifolds or headers,
tall valvecovers may not clear the brake booster or the a/c box on firewall if this is an ac car.
the trans in the car will work, but if you have a lead foot and it's also got a 109k it'll need a rebuild sooner than later.
then all the little crap that nickles and dimes you to death.
truck 454 oil pans if 454 was from a truck most likely won't clear the crossmember so that's more bucks and new motor mounts.
then if you add alum intake, bigger carb it adds up fast.
you can do it for 3k if you get a running good 454 with everything and work from there.
if the 400 in the car isn't tired it'll be cheaper to build up. and have almost as much power and more power than you'll hook to the road with the factory chassis under it.
around here good 454 cores are 500-800, running are over 1000+
how in love with this car are you..
it might be best to just see if the 400 is healthy and go from there, starting with a tune up. carb tuning and some distributor tuning(adj vacuum can and mec advance springs and weights.)
it just might surprise you what power you can get just from this basic tuning if the compression test comes back good.
a few hundred bucks and some time spent can really wake up an engine..

Last edited by gearheadslife; 06-21-2013 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 06-21-2013, 02:42 AM
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First of all love the car choice! If u decide to keep and hot rod the 400 you want to spend the money and put some longer rods in it then youll have the big block torque with a high winder small block and still have good cubic inch also. big blocks are heavy boat anchors and you have to build the **** out of them to get reliability you can put a 406 together pretty reasonably.!
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Old 06-21-2013, 07:16 AM
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bowtienoob,welcome to the forum.
either engine will work. If you have your heart set on a 454 then buy one and build it to suit your car. What I think would make you very happy is basically copy the GM LS-5 oval port 360 HP spec 454.a couple upgrades would include 2.19/1.88 valves installed in the stock heads,performer rpm intake,stock quadra jet carb(BB version)and save up for a 520-540 lift roller hydraulic cam.(flat tappet cams are not worth the hassle any more)You dont have to use headers,but I would.should make over 400 hp and probably 500# torque.with stock 3.36 gears and a posi should be able to put down 150' stripes on the pavement.
proble is,the engine will likely cost at least 5k,not counting what gear head said about brackets etc
NOTE: balance the engine and replace rod bolts,blocks need to be squared and decked
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Old 06-21-2013, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bowtienoob View Post
Hello HotRodders,

I am fairly new to the hot rod world, i am sure somebody can help me out. I have a 1971 impala. Its got a 400 Small Block with 109k mi. Only going to be driven every other weekend. I Have 3k to spend plus more from a job i got a couple days ago.

Here is my scenario -

I want to swap the 400 small block for a 454. My reason's are because it would be newer, last longer, and for bragging rights. I would also like to get the car in some competitions in the future (Realistically speaking Im 20, am I really going to have the time,patients, and money for competitions )

My friend suggests I should spend the money on my current engine and beef it up for right now so I can play around and flex the muscles. This way ill be able to save my money for a car worth throwing a big block in.

I would love to hear what you guys say.

Respectfully,

B.T.N
This is one of those things where either way is costly but a 454 probably can't be done for 3000 dollars where with careful money management rebuilding 400 the way it should have been built if you already have the complete motor with good castings can be well built for that much money.

The biggest obstacle to overcome with a 400 is the short connecting rod (5.56 inches). This rod has poor geometry between the piston and crankshaft which develops excessive skirt to wall forces that tend to increase wear on these parts therefore absorbing more power than desirable. So the answer here is to select a piston that allows a longer rod 5.7 to 6 inches. With modern high silicon alloys like 4032 used in forgings, the ring pack can be pushed way up toward the crown making room to raise the pin. (Example MAHLE Small Block Chevy 400 Flat Top Powerpak Pistons, 6 Inch Rods - Speedway Motors, America's Oldest Speed Shop ) This allows the pin bore to move up without having to intersect the oil ring which then requires an additional support ring be added which is OK for a high maintenance race engine but doesn't provide the long term durability needed in a street driver. Actually pushing the ring pack and pin bore up do a lot of good things for power production but until these stiffer high silicon alloys available in today’s forgings and casting, this presented too many issues with surviving the ring lands and rings that close to the combustion process.

Heads for this engine is another big issue; Good heads are expensive and good 454 heads even more so. A very decent head on the 400 is the reasonably priced Comp Products 210 cc port 64 cc chamber aluminum head White Performance Detail Description . These need to be drilled to use the 400's 6 cooling holes between the siamesed cylinders which is not big deal, done at home with a hand held motor and bit. This head likes fast ramp, high lift cams which makes a modern street strip roller very attractive. They bolt to the pre-1987 intakes which gives you a huge choice. An engine of this size will like a 1-3/4 inch tube, long tube header.


So with the use of modern materials and product designs the 400 can be rebuild into an extremely potent engine for less cost, and lower weight than a big block.

You may not have 454 bragging rights but most 454's will only see your tail lights so you don't need to talk much, just drive.

Bogie
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Old 06-21-2013, 11:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bowtienoob View Post
Hello HotRodders,

I am fairly new to the hot rod world, i am sure somebody can help me out. I have a 1971 impala. Its got a 400 Small Block with 109k mi. Only going to be driven every other weekend. I Have 3k to spend plus more from a job i got a couple days ago.

Here is my scenario -

I want to swap the 400 small block for a 454. My reason's are because it would be newer, last longer, and for bragging rights. I would also like to get the car in some competitions in the future (Realistically speaking Im 20, am I really going to have the time,patients, and money for competitions )

My friend suggests I should spend the money on my current engine and beef it up for right now so I can play around and flex the muscles. This way ill be able to save my money for a car worth throwing a big block in.

I would love to hear what you guys say.

Respectfully,

B.T.N
This is one of those things where either way is costly but a 454 probably can't be done for 3000 dollars where with careful money management rebuilding 400 the way it should have been built if you already have the complete motor with good castings can be well built for that much money.

The biggest obstacle to overcome with a 400 is the short connecting rod (5.56 inches). This rod has poor geometry between the piston and crankshaft which develops excessive skirt to wall forces that tend to increase wear on these parts therefore absorbing more power than desirable. So the answer here is to select a piston that allows a longer rod 5.7 to 6 inches. With modern high silicon alloys like 4032 used in forgings, the ring pack can be pushed way up toward the crown making room to raise the pin. (Example MAHLE Small Block Chevy 400 Flat Top Powerpak Pistons, 6 Inch Rods - Speedway Motors, America's Oldest Speed Shop ) This allows the pin bore to move up without having to intersect the oil ring which then requires an additional support ring be added which is OK for a high maintenance race engine but doesn't provide the long term durability needed in a street driver. Actually pushing the ring pack and pin bore up do a lot of good things for power production but until these stiffer high silicon alloys available in today’s forgings and casting, this presented too many issues with surviving the ring lands and rings that close to the combustion process.

Heads for this engine is another big issue; Good heads are expensive and good 454 heads even more so. A very decent head on the 400 is the reasonably priced Comp Products 210 cc port 64 cc chamber aluminum head White Performance Detail Description . These need to be drilled to use the 400's 6 cooling holes between the siamesed cylinders which is not big deal, done at home with a hand held motor and bit. This head likes fast ramp, high lift cams which makes a modern street strip roller very attractive. They bolt to the pre-1987 intakes which gives you a huge choice. An engine of this size will like a 1-3/4 inch tube, long tube header.


So with the use of modern materials and product designs the 400 can be rebuild into an extremely potent engine for less cost, and lower weight than a big block.

You may not have 454 bragging rights but most 454's will only see your tail lights so you don't need to talk much, just drive.

Bogie
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:07 PM
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Bowtienoob, if you like the car, and it sounds like you do, and you want a big block, and that's a good thing, then go for the BB and your impala. You'll be satisfaction ahead later on. As long as what you want does not leave you walkin' if that's a problem, do what YOU want!
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:34 PM
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Now for what I would do........drive the impala as your daily driver/transportation. Save your 3k and then save some more. Give yourself some time to check out all the optional rides, styles, models, engines, hot rods, etc.....you get the idea! Don't spend your savings in the mean time. If you dedicate some of your time to the quality of looking around, learning about automobiles and then you realize you are serious about doing up a nice cruiser/hot rod then settle on something that just trips your trigger within your budget and the options you'll have for your self later if you find you like the hobby. Like I said that is me talking knowing what I know and what I would do. I know I would be a lot happier picking out what I want instead of settling for something and regretting my choice later. Of course you have to be reasonable for your situation.
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