If it were just opening new parts boxes and bolting-up the pieces, there would be no reason to call it engine building. Rather, it would be the simple task of engine assembly. Most of us who have a few years of wrench-turning under our belts are familiar with bolting together an engine assembly-especially with familiar mills such as our Mopar big- and small-blocks. Put together an engine in near stock form, and the process comes down to carefully assembling the pieces. The factory did the engineering homework, leaving us to make sure the package comes together according to the specs. Ditto for package combinations in various engine kits. The supplier (hopefully) has worked out the parts' combination, so all we need to do is screw everything together. Dip deep into a wide range of aftermarket catalogs and dream up a radical combination of your own, however, and the responsibility for making it work falls on your own shoulders. This is where the term "building" enters the equation.

The further away from stock form we go, the more keyed-in the builder has to be, not only to churn out mucho horsepower, but also to ensure that the thing will make it past the first turn of the crank.

Last month, we assembled our 440's basic bottom end. Although our bottom end included trick aftermarket Eagle rods and Arias pistons, that much of the job did not differ greatly from a stock rebuild. The clearances were set, and as long as the machinists did their job, we were home free.

This month, we will complete the lubrication system, the cam and cam drive, finish the heads, and set up the valvetrain. The question remained of whether we would assemble a fairly conservative package, or build something radical. As we weighed the possibilities, we decided to go radical. The goal-build as hairy a factory iron head 440 combination as we would dare, and cheat with every trick we know, so we could drive it on the street. Probably not "drive to the grocery store" street, but rather 8 inches of choppy vacuum at 1,100 rpm, four-speed, 4.56-geared; Cuda street. Yes, our 'Cuda would continually ask with its lopey idle, "Wanna drag?" We'll spill it all in the next few issues, and run a dyno test on this baseline package to show how we did.