Building an engine or having one built for your Mopar can be one of the most costly, time consuming, and nerve-wracking procedures you'll endure while restoring a car. Unlike years ago when you could simply add a camshaft, headers, intake, and bigger carburetor while overhauling the factory engine, there are so many aftermarket parts available now that it's hard to know which combination will work, and which will leave you disappointed and broke. While the aftermarket is flush with huge displacement big-blocks, stroker kits, and exotic aluminum cylinder heads, the fact is, most of us simply can't afford the parts to build monster stroker engines, so we're left to make the best of the factory parts our car came with. Fortunately, the right combination of factory Mopar parts, combined with a few aftermarket goodies, can still make respectable power without costing a fortune.

In this article, we'll show you some of the ways we've learned to make power, while still operating on a working man's budget.

Go Big Or Go Home
One of the best ways we've found to start off with an advantage is to consider a swap to the largest engine of the same type as is in your car. By this we mean if your car has a 273 or 318, you should consider swapping to a 360. And if your car is equipped with a factory 383 or 400, try to find a 440 to build. While it will cost you a little to get a rebuildable core engine, the extra displacement is usually well worth the price, and the bigger engine will swap right into your vehicle without any major modifications. Since building a 360 will cost about the same as building a smaller displacement LA engine, and building the 440 will cost about the same as the smaller B or RB engine, you'll only be out the cost of the core engine, and you'll be way ahead in terms of potential power.

Of course there are reasons you may want to stay with the original, smaller displacement engine in your car. First, you already have it so it costs nothing. Second, you may want your car to retain its originality, or at least the appearance of originality. In these cases, there are still good options to increase your engine's displacement. Stroker kits consisting of parts like those from Eagle and Scat have really come down in price recently and are available for most popular Mopar applications. Though these parts are typically manufactured in China (that's what keeps the costs down), they are strong enough for a healthy street engine or mild race application, and are far better than the "used" factory stuff your engine came with.

Although stroker kits themselves are fairly inexpensive, remember that most of these kits require at least some additional machining to the block for connecting rod and crankshaft clearance. While this procedure can usually be accomplished with a die-grinder in your home shop, if you aren't equipped to handle it you should expect to pay your machinist a little more in labor to perform this task for you. Typically, stroking a 360 small-block or a 440 big-block requires the least amount of clearancing, thereby making them the easiest engines to install stroker kits in. Even factoring the cost of the machine work and the cost of the parts, a stroker kit is still one of the best ways to improve the power potential of your engine.

Swap Heads
One of the most important considerations when building an engine is which cylinder heads to use. Luckily, Mopar made some great factory heads for their small- and big-block engines, and just swapping on a better factory head can greatly improve power. If you're building a small-block, consider finding a set of J or X castings which contain larger valves, a more efficient combustion chamber, and a better port configuration than other early small-block heads. Even better, a swap to later model swirl-port castings will help power with an improved combustion chamber design. If you really want to wake up your small-block, a Magnum head swap is a great way to improve power, though it requires changing lifters and using Magnum-style, pedestal-mounted rocker arms.