Although there are many things to consider when building an engine combination, few are as critical or mysterious as selecting the proper carburetor. After all, there are dozens of possible candidates for your engine, from vacuum-secondary spread-bores to 4500-series Dominators, not to mention multiple-unit options. Rated by cfm (cubic feet per minute), carburetors significantly determine your fuel curve and engine efficiency. Too little carb, and the engine will starve for air/fuel power at the top end; too much carb, and it won't flow air fast enough to properly atomize the mixture.

This story is a continuation of our slick budget small-block series, which will be familiar to former readers of High Performance Mopar. We built a low-budget 360 and installed it in a Dodge Challenger. This is a street-strip machine, so after consulting with Holley's recommendation chart for size and style of carb based on combination, we selected a 750-cfm double-pumper for the combination. After some baseline testing, we found some significant gains through tuning and spacers. The car uses a stock Edelbrock Performer RPM intake and a set of mildlly ported heads.

But there was more to the story than simply swapping on the new juice pot. The Challenger's gas tank had numerous rust spots and leaked, a dangerous situation in any regard. It was decided that before we began the real-world testing, this E-Body was going to need some upgrades. To that end, we secured a replacement gas tank and 3/8-inch pickup from The Paddock, prepped it with restoration coatings from Eastwood, and installed it. At the same time, plans were made to install a new 3/8-inch fuel line and a Holley electric pump in the rear; time constraints prevented that from happening for our first test, which, in turn, skewed our baseline results to some extent.

Getting back to carb selection, race-only cars normally run huge carbs because they're lighter, have high-stall converters and steep rear gears, and don't have to be concerned about part-throttle driveability. On the other hand, cars like the ones we use (the Challenger and a '67 440-powered Coronet R/T) see many street miles. Indeed, they're driven more than 90 minutes each way to the test sessions we hold at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, so streetability is critical. Strip-testing has proven that better 60-foot times will translate to increased throttle response on the street.

While a given motor/carb combo may seem very good on the shop engine dyno, it may be lacking in street manners. For example, a heavy (3,800-pound) car with a stock converter and 3.23 gears will be a candidate for a vacuum secondary carb, since the engine's response will have a softer upswing; too much fuel here, and the engine will choke trying to catch up. Take the same engine and swap it into a 3,200-pound A-Body that stalls at 3,000 rpm with a 4.10 gear (still streetable, but not as pleasant a cruise ride), and a double-pumper is the way to go; it'll take all the fuel now, thank you. Like any other component, carbs should be selected based on your complete combination. Our 12-second street/strip machines have responded well to Holley double-pumpers. Optimum tuning has been with No. 37 squirters on the 360's 750 carb and No. 40 squirters in the 440's 850 unit.

On The Dragstrip
Before going any further, we'll tell you right now that our fuel-delivery problems affected our initial test. The 5/16-inch line, mechanical pump, and hot summer humidity led to fuel-starvation problems at the top of every pass. As a result, our times were off, but the baseline 750 we normally use gave us a 12.84 best. Holley sent us three others: an 870-cfm Street Avenger and a pair of HP-series carbs in the 750-cfm and 950-cfm versions, but the baseline carb was the best. We gave up and returned to the shop to finish our fuel-system upgrades.