Of all the big-blocks built by the Chrysler Corporation, the 383 is the most widely produced, and likely the most underrated of them all. As a big-block, the 383’s displacement isn’t nearly as small as the 350 or 361 cubic-inch B-series engines produced by Chrysler in the early days of the big-block, but it’s also not nearly as large as the popular 440 engine either. When the Chrysler Corporation decided to add the 906 cylinder heads and high-performance 440 camshaft to the 383 for the 1968 model year, the engine immediately became a hit among enthusiasts of the era. Installed in the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Superbee, this engine easily propelled these B-Bodies to low 14 second quarter-mile times at trap speeds of more than 100 mph. And with a little work, the 383 could go deep into the 13s and still be much more drivable than the optional Hemi.

With a 4.250-inch bore size, a size coincidentally shared with the famous 426 Hemi, and a 3.380-inch stroke, the 383 is somewhat of a small- to mid-size big-block, and takes advantage of the best attributes of both big- and small-block V-8s. With a short stroke, the 383 revs quickly and is capable of high rpm, just like a 340 small-block. But with a large bore and cubic inches on its side, the 383 also provides the abundant torque big-blocks are known for. For these reasons, and because 383s are available and inexpensive to build, this engine is one of our favorites here at Mopar Muscle.

We’ve run 383 big-blocks in both race cars and street cars, and have had success with the engine in each application. It is on the street, however, that we feel the 383 really shines. Big enough to provide ample torque and horsepower to make even a large car fun to drive, the 383 is also small enough that it gets decent mileage as well. In fact, the 383 burns far less fuel than a 440, and even outperforms many 360 small-blocks in terms of fuel economy. Add these attributes to the fact that so many 383s were built, and we feel this engine is a great choice for many street or street/strip machines. Our Chrysler Newport project vehicle came equipped with a 383 two-barrel from the factory, but when we got the car we replaced that engine with a fresher 383 that we had built some years back.

Price Tag
Comp Cams hydraulic flat-tappet cam and lifters $225.95
Comp double-roller timing set $47.95
Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold $245.95
Edelbrock Performer 750 carb 213.97

The 383 in our Newport features a ’67 block, and a pair of stock, unported 906 cylinder heads. This engine was built some 20 years ago (when this author was still in college), and was built with the intention of making the ’68 Road Runner four-speed car I was driving both fun and economical. Gasoline was poor quality back then, and unleaded fuel was the only type available. Even worse, the fuel suppliers hadn’t figured out the additive packages yet to make old engines run well on unleaded gasoline, so that was a consideration when building this engine. Equipped with a stock crankshaft and connecting rods, cast dish pistons, and open chamber heads, this engine has just 8.5:1 compression. The flat-tappet camshaft this 383 is equipped with is a very old and mild Direct Connection Purple Shaft, with specs very similar to the stock 440 Six-Pack camshaft.

Topped with an old-school Weiand dual-plane intake and 650-cfm Carter AVS carburetor, this engine ran well enough to get our Newport around without feeling underpowered, but we certainly felt we could improve power and torque with a couple of simple bolt-on upgrades to our 383. In an earlier article, we added tti headers and 21⁄2-inch dual exhaust. These modifications improved power and torque, but our 383 was still only making some 223 horsepower and 298 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. Wanting to step up the power a bit without sacrificing any drivability, we decided that a cam swap to a more modern Comp cam with similar specs would help. While we were at it, we chose an Edelbrock Performer RPM dual-plane aluminum intake and Edelbrock 750-cfm Performer series carburetor for our 383.