Clearance Clearinghouse
The block and heads were taken to M&R Machine in Glendale, California, for machine work. The block was bored .030-inch over and finish-honed for moly rings. Our gasket kit, like any aftermarket replacement set, comes with a composition gasket; they have a compressed thickness of .040 inch, while stock 440s came with a steel-shim gasket of about .020 inch. This costs compression, so the block was decked .020 inch to compensate, bringing the final deck clearance back to stock specs with the composition gasket installed. Had this engine been built without trying to duplicate actual production specs, the block would have been decked considerably more with these pistons.

Our stock '69 LY rods (the heavy "Six Pack" rod didn't debut in the 440 until 1970) were fitted with Milodon rod bolts and resized on the big ends. The factory forged crank was ground .010-inch under on the rods and mains, completing the bottom-end machining.

Taking care of the top-end, a set of factory correct -906 castings were prepped by M&R Machine. The heads received a basic valve job, retaining the original factory valves. To survive under hard street use with unleaded, a set of hardened exhaust inserts were installed. The valve guides checked OK.

All in all, a resto-type 440 such as this was simple and inexpensive to build. The actual engine assembly is straightforward, requiring none of the custom massaging usually needed in a high-output mill. Beginners should have a factory service manual on hand, which can be purchased new from Year One. The photo captions detail how this one was put together in one day, once all of the required parts were cleaned and painted.

The 440 Magnum
The 440 was undoubtedly one of the most respected engines of the musclecar era, not for screaming horsepower, but for big-time torque at lower speeds. Looking inside, what's really good? The best bore/stroke ratio of any domestic big-block V8 with its 4.32-inch bore and 3.75-inch stroke. Unlike many other big-blocks, the 440's long rods and short stroke make for an optimal rod ratio as well, with high output and street durability. The basic B/RB bottom end, particularly the earlier forged crank type, is extremely durable; in our experience, generally safe to 6500 rpm+ in factory form. In fact, practically any of the production systems, from the lubrication to the valvetrain, were capable of working well in a high-performance application, without the major modifications required with some other engine types. The piston/rod bobweight is quite high, but this is irrelevant in a street performance situation.

Looking at the factory valvetrain, the stamped steel rockers seem unsophisticated; but the system is durable while being lightweight. Less weight in the valvetrain really counts at higher rpm, especially with hydraulic cams running moderate "street" spring loads. The time to give the factory valvetrain the ax is when an adjustable valvetrain is required, or when high lift necessitates a roller-tipped rocker to reduce side loading the valves, which can lead to valveguide durability problems (conservatively .500-inch+ valve lift). For hydraulic cams under .500-inch lift, don't expect big power gains by going to a more exotic valvetrain; the factory stuff works.

The most benefit is in the breathing area, particularly in the heads. It takes a great deal of air to fully feed 440 cubic inches of engine. Unlock the head flow, and the output can go from good to phenomenal. In our 340 test, the production heads were retained throughout the modification sequence. However, the 340 has outstanding cylinder-head airflow per cubic inch displacement for a production wedge head. On the 440, the temptation is to make an aftermarket or modified production head part of the modification plan. Headers and induction changes will be tried on the dyno to see what their influence would be on an otherwise stock engine.