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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I have a 1957 Chevy Bel Air 4 door hardtop that my dad gave me back in 1983. It is time for an upgrade. I want the car to start with ease, have some more power, and be able to take longer trips around the country. I thought about rebuild vs. new and decided on new.

These are the upgrades I'm considering: GM Performance 350 small block crate, 390hp, roller cam, Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4; Performance Automatic TH400 street smart transmission; Sanderson shorty headers and Magnaflow Street Series exhaust; and F9 housing/axle.

Any thoughts on this combo or alternative combinations I should consider?

Thanks.
 

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Driveline choices are near limitless..of course, budgets usually are not! Your choices are good ones. The 9” might be overkill unless you run drag radials, but others will see that differently. If long trips are in your plans, some sort of OD trans might be nice.

A takeout 6.0l LS and trans might be worth looking at. It has more...well, everything (power, reliability, etc) than the 350 crate, and could likely be done for less (albeit a bit more work). It’s not as attractive to some as the gen 1 small block, so not sure how important that is to you.

Without a more detailed list of “wants,” it’d be hard to say what is “best.” Once you decide on your budget, and which things are most important to you (is power more important than mileage? Is the “vintage” look and feel under the hood important? Etc), it’ll be easier to narrow things down.
 

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Any small block Chev engine with a modern auto tramsmission will last you for ever in a day, the diff ration depends on what type of driving you are doing, highway, traffic keep in mind what ever ratio you choose it can be updated if your not happy.
 

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As said, there are a million combinations that would work for a million types of driving. If you're looking for something that would work well around town with some peppy acceleration but still cruise to Bowling Green for Nationals, any SBC (283/327/350) with an overdrive trans and stock rear in 3.36 should be fine. Like BO185 said, the 4L80E is a fine choice but needs a controller. If you're not wanting any electronics, then the 200-4R or TH700R-4 would work well.
 

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There are three LS type modern engines, the most common being a 5.3. They are computer controlled and along with the 4L80E automatic I think would give you the best combination of availability, durability, driving economy and no oil leaks! Your up front cost may be more, but I think in the long run nobody regrets making that choice. Now that I've opened up that can of worms, I'd like to hear form those who do regret making the conversion. Anyone?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Driveline choices are near limitless..of course, budgets usually are not! Your choices are good ones. The 9” might be overkill unless you run drag radials, but others will see that differently. If long trips are in your plans, some sort of OD trans might be nice.

A takeout 6.0l LS and trans might be worth looking at. It has more...well, everything (power, reliability, etc) than the 350 crate, and could likely be done for less (albeit a bit more work). It’s not as attractive to some as the gen 1 small block, so not sure how important that is to you.

Without a more detailed list of “wants,” it’d be hard to say what is “best.” Once you decide on your budget, and which things are most important to you (is power more important than mileage? Is the “vintage” look and feel under the hood important? Etc), it’ll be easier to narrow things down.
Appreciate the feedback. Longer trips are on the agenda so thinking about OD is a good catch. I lean toward more traditional but will look at the LS also. Ha. Who doesn't want more power! Definitely want more power over mileage. No drag racing but want to drive it any time I want and take off for a long weekend any time I want. Thanks again for the thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Any small block Chev engine with a modern auto tramsmission will last you for ever in a day, the diff ration depends on what type of driving you are doing, highway, traffic keep in mind what ever ratio you choose it can be updated if your not happy.
Thanks. Weekly in the neighborhoods and long weekends traveling a few states away from Virginia are in the plan. Appreciate the feedback.
 

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It would be pretty hard to beat a pull out LS and a 5 or 6 speed automatic. Low costs relative to building a new crate motor. Around here we are buying complete engines with transmissions and all the accessories for $1500.00 and that is a complete drop it in and fire it engine. You end up with FI lots of power and heck you even get AC power steering and a 120 amp alternator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
As said, there are a million combinations that would work for a million types of driving. If you're looking for something that would work well around town with some peppy acceleration but still cruise to Bowling Green for Nationals, any SBC (283/327/350) with an overdrive trans and stock rear in 3.36 should be fine. Like BO185 said, the 4L80E is a fine choice but needs a controller. If you're not wanting any electronics, then the 200-4R or TH700R-4 would work well.
Hi ETriggs. I do like the original feel of a car with minimal electronics. Then I see the Edelbrock comes with a tablet so you can tweak things in real time! Of course for safety, your passenger could do it for you while you drive. Thanks for the ideas.
 

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If you don’t want to get too modern, I would look at the Skip White 383 crate, 400th , and maybe an 8.8 rear or S60 (if you can't find a 12 bolt). I would use Holley FI and consider a 3:73 gear. If you want more hwy drivability, you could install a Gear Vendors OD later, which is very strong, simple, and less costly in the long run over a 4L80E.
 

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If you want to just get in it and go, drive it on long trips, and are on the highway, I honestly wouldn't even consider a carbureted engine, I wouldn't consider a non overdrive transmission, and I'd probably rule out a Gen 1 SBC unless you want a close relative, the Gen II LT1 (which had EFI from the factory...a bit of an odd motor, but they can boogie!). With all of the EFI offerings now, it's pretty easy to do even with a traditional SBC. Thing is, converting an old SBC to EFI will cost you almost as much as an entire LS motor (possibly more), which obviously already has EFI. If you get a full takeout with the trans and ECU, you don't need an aftermarket controller either...you can use the stock ECU to control both the engine and the trans (if you get an automatic that is). Obviously, you'd need to have it tuned if you made modifications to the engine. If you want an aftermarket controller for an LS motor, Holley is the best game in town for sure. I'd look at the Terminator X series of Holley ECU's.

Were it me, depending on your budget of course, I'd look for a truck 6.2 liter LS motor with a 4L80E with the ECU/harness. That's a 400+ HP motor in stock form that would likely knock down 20+ MPG's on the highway. You won't touch that with an old Gen 1 SBC at the same power levels even with EFI and an overdrive trans.

On the rear end. You don't need a 9 inch unless you're planning for some serious power, but there's nothing wrong with one. If I were in the market for a crate rear end though, I'd look at the Strange 12 bolt. The F**d 8.8 is the best budget option, but it comes with some caveats.

Good luck...there are a ton of options!

One additional thing. Getting a 60+ year old car to the point where you can just get in it and drive it across state lines on the highway is a major undertaking. Be sure that you have the skills, space, budget, and patience that it will require. It's not as simple as it sounds and there's a lot more to it than just the driveline.
 

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If you want to just get in it and go, drive it on long trips, and are on the highway, I honestly wouldn't even consider a carbureted engine, I wouldn't consider a non overdrive transmission, and I'd probably rule out a Gen 1 SBC unless you want a close relative, the Gen II LT1 (which had EFI from the factory...a bit of an odd motor, but they can boogie!). With all of the EFI offerings now, it's pretty easy to do even with a traditional SBC. Thing is, converting an old SBC to EFI will cost you almost as much as an entire LS motor (possibly more), which obviously already has EFI. If you get a full takeout with the trans and ECU, you don't need an aftermarket controller either...you can use the stock ECU to control both the engine and the trans (if you get an automatic that is). Obviously, you'd need to have it tuned if you made modifications to the engine. If you want an aftermarket controller for an LS motor, Holley is the best game in town for sure. I'd look at the Terminator X series of Holley ECU's.

Were it me, depending on your budget of course, I'd look for a truck 6.2 liter LS motor with a 4L80E with the ECU/harness. That's a 400+ HP motor in stock form that would likely knock down 20+ MPG's on the highway. You won't touch that with an old Gen 1 SBC at the same power levels even with EFI and an overdrive trans.

On the rear end. You don't need a 9 inch unless you're planning for some serious power, but there's nothing wrong with one. If I were in the market for a crate rear end though, I'd look at the Strange 12 bolt. The F**d 8.8 is the best budget option, but it comes with some caveats.

Good luck...there are a ton of options!

One additional thing. Getting a 60+ year old car to the point where you can just get in it and drive it across state lines on the highway is a major undertaking. Be sure that you have the skills, space, budget, and patience that it will require. It's not as simple as it sounds and there's a lot more to it than just the driveline.
The cost to LS swap will usually bite you if you don’t plan it out. And I'm assuming you are talking junkyard motor?

The LQ/LS is probably the best engine series in history, but not necessarily cheaper. It will be more reliable, but maintenance will be higher as well, especially the electronic parts, like the trans for rebuild, aftermarket control modules, etc.

If the sbc is so unreliable, I guess there should be more old chevies on the side of the road? Those roller blocked, vortec head 350s were pretty solid.

I'm not saying LS is wrong, just not always "Cheaper", gauges, pulleys, mounts, headers, electronic controllers, it adds up fast. And yes, efi tank stuff should be included in that cost as well.

As fat as the 90's LT, I would skip that option 100%
 

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Hello,

I have a 1957 Chevy Bel Air 4 door hardtop that my dad gave me back in 1983. It is time for an upgrade. I want the car to start with ease, have some more power, and be able to take longer trips around the country. I thought about rebuild vs. new and decided on new.

These are the upgrades I'm considering: GM Performance 350 small block crate, 390hp, roller cam, Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4; Performance Automatic TH400 street smart transmission; Sanderson shorty headers and Magnaflow Street Series exhaust; and F9 housing/axle.

Any thoughts on this combo or alternative combinations I should consider?

Thanks.
Sounds like a nice engine, but if you plan on much freeway driving I'd get a 700R4 or some sort of OD transmission, and not the TH400.
Of course the ultimate would be a LS engine and 4L60E with complete computer harness swapped in it. But I personally prefer the looks of an old SBC setup for my own use. The modern LS engine/trans swap would basically make your car like a brand new car's technology, if you don't mind the way they look with the hood open.
 

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The cost to LS swap will usually bite you if you don’t plan it out. And I'm assuming you are talking junkyard motor?

The LQ/LS is probably the best engine series in history, but not necessarily cheaper. It will be more reliable, but maintenance will be higher as well, especially the electronic parts, like the trans for rebuild, aftermarket control modules, etc.

If the sbc is so unreliable, I guess there should be more old chevies on the side of the road? Those roller blocked, vortec head 350s were pretty solid.

I'm not saying LS is wrong, just not always "Cheaper", gauges, pulleys, mounts, headers, electronic controllers, it adds up fast. And yes, efi tank stuff should be included in that cost as well.

As fat as the 90's LT, I would skip that option 100%
Yes, talking junkyard motor.

I didn't say the SBC wasn't reliable. It is, but it's not as reliable as an LS motor. We can talk about valve cover and rear main seal leaks on new SBC's all day. I'd also include intake manifold to block leaks on the front and rear walls. These aren't major problems of course, but they are indeed annoying and are something I doubt the typical LS motor would suffer.

I'm also well aware of the L31 Vortec motor and yes, for a carbed application they're probably the best bang for the buck out there at $2K new for a long block. Problem is, if he wants EFI, he's gonna spend another $2K or more for a reliable EFI setup that can control the engine and transmission and by that point, he's well into a much better LS motor with an ECU from the factory that can do that to begin with.

I mentioned the Gen II LT1/4 because it's really the only traditional SBC out there with factory port EFI that's worth a damn and they're super cheap too. The Vortec 5.7 had a weird EFI setup...I wouldn't run that on a hotrod. Ditto the factory L98 TPI stuff...it's seen it's day. The LT1 though...I think it's a really overlooked application and I'd still argue that it's pretty solid, parts are easily found, and they can make really good power. The Optispark is the only real problem on them, but that's easy enough to upgrade (or eliminate with a coil on pack deal...which would be super cool in my opinion!).

As far as headers, motors mounts, front drive accessories, gauges...he'll have to pay for all of that anyway, regardless of engine and if he wants EFI. Sounds like he's starting from zero (or stock I should say). As far as the tank goes, same deal, but I'd point out that Holley makes a drop in fuel pump/sending unit deal for that will drop into the stock tri-five tank and is set up for LS motors out of the box.

It definitely all adds up and can bite you in the ass if you don't plan ahead...and sometimes even when you do! Hence my point about having the budget, space, skills, and patience to do this sort of thing.
 

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I've researched different options for my car ever since I got it in 2011. And I still haven't decided LOL. Everyone is different. In the beginning, I'd tell people I'd be putting a "Corvette" motor in it (LS) then it'd be 600 HP then it'd be a blower then something else. It's fun thinking about all the options. After all these years, I ended back up where I started. A small block GM crate engine and 700R4 (which it has and the OD is great). I just really like the nostalgia of a carb engine instead of an LS. I want to look under the hood and see a shiny air cleaner instead of LS valves and whatnot. Again, just my preference. I'd be super happy with the GM ZZ6 or SP383. I'd consider doing either with the GM EFI versions which look cool because they still have the air cleaner and the shiny tubes on either side.

Just my opinion. Do what makes you happy.
 

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Valve cover, rear main seals, and intake seals can all be addressed easily on a SBC, and even easier on a post 1986 SBC with one piece rear main seal.
A good pair of aftermarket aluminum valve covers will solve the valve cover leaks, and toss the intake end gaskets and use RTV on the ends and never have ends blowing out, or leaking.

But it still wont make a SBC as reliable, or efficient as any LS motor, nor will they make equal HP and be as reliable. I love SBC engines, and think they're still viable, and good looking. But I wont kid myself about thinking they're more reliable than the LS.
 
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