Is a crate engine better than a specially-built engine? This is one question we hear a lot around here. Opinions may vary on the subject, but one thing is certain: Engine building costs are going up every year, and most feel that as the cost to build a custom engine increases, a crate engine is the way to go. Regardless of your position on whether or not a crate engine is cheaper or more expensive, one thing is certain--buying a crate engine means you can immediately install it in your car. Sure, having the engine that's already in your car or a spare engine built allows you the comfort of designing the engine using components you feel will work best for your given application, but to the general enthusiast, is that a necessity?

The Decision is Yours

Refreshing an existing engine is a good thing if it shows little wear. The only problem here is that you have to tear the engine down to find out. Once it's torn down, how long are you without a car to drive? If you are capable of doing the assembly work yourself, it might not be as costly or time consuming as a crate engine, but keep in mind that you do need the skill to know when you can reuse stuff, when you should take it to the machine shop and/or replace it, and how to assemble it.

As a general rule, having a machine shop completely rebuild your engine will probably cost more than a crate engine. Doing this is definitely a viable option, especially if your car has the original engine, or the engine that your application requires is not available through the mail.

There is a certain amount of skill needed to rebuild an engine, and in these current times, it's tough to special build an engine for less than a crate engine might cost. But why is a crate engine a less expensive alternative, and is it just as good as a custom built piece? Companies selling them have designed and built bulletproof combinations and streamlined the process in which to build them. Not only that, if they buy their parts in quantity, they get a better deal and can pass the cost savings on to you.

While a crate engine might not be as cheap as a do-it-yourself rebuilder kit when compared to the cost of a complete rebuild, they are very competitive. With a crate engine, you also get an engine with state-of-the-art design. In the area like cylinder heads, this can make a big difference. Some crate engines even come with aluminum heads already bolted on.

So, since we're sure that many of you are planning on either building a new engine, or finding a crate engine that fits your needs, we decided to compile a few choices for you to look at. Take a look at our list, as the choices range from very streetable and mild small-blocks all the way up to very large small-blocks that will definitely get you in trouble.

Michigan Maulers

Muscle Motors has been building engines for Mopar guys since 1988.

Mike from Muscle Motors explains, "These two engine examples are proven combinations that come complete, but we do offer a large selection of options for them. Things such as dyno testing, carburetors, ignition system, brackets, and pulleys are available to complete or customize your engine."

Get It: Muscle Motors Racing • 517/482-4900 • www.musclemotorsracing.com

Street Krate 440

Block: Seasoned and fully machined 360

Crankshaft: 4-inch stroke (forged)

Connecting rods: K1 H-Beam

Pistons: Forged Ross (10.75:1 Compression ratio)

Camshaft: Comp Cams solid roller

Heads: CNC ported 360-1 Indy Cylinder Head

Intake: INDY 360-1

Carburetor: Quick Fuel-prepped 950

Gettin' Busy: 725 horsepower, and 660 lb-ft of torque

Pay the Man: $15,799

Street Krate 408

Block: Seasoned and fully machined 360

Crankshaft: 4-inch stroke (cast)

Connecting rods: Forged I-beam

Pistons: Forged (9.7:1 Compression ratio)

Camshaft: Comp Cams hydraulic roller

Heads: Indy X-heads (LA style)

Intake: dual-plane

Carburetor: optional

Gettin' Busy: 440 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque

Pay the man: $6,499