When it came time to build a motor for our '68 Barracuda, we had to think long and hard about what type of engine our combination would require. Some would say that a '68 Cuda requires a Hemi to be respected, and that venerable powerplant did cross our minds. Our car is slated for some serious bracket racing, however, and we want to spend more time at the track and less at the shop during race season. Reliability, ease of maintenance, and economics all dictated that we look at options other than an elephant motor for this build. Given our back-halved car's 3,000-plus-pounds in race trim, and the fact we are shooting for some low-nine-second timeslips, we felt a big wedge motor was really our only choice. Big-inch wedges make killer torque, which is what we need to get our somewhat heavy A-Body moving, and make great power without having to rev the engine to the point of accelerated wear. Also, stroker kits are readily available and reasonably priced for this combination, so a big-inch wedge makes economical sense. We'll need nearly 800 hp to achieve our goal, so our combination has to be dead-on.
As with any engine build, many variables needed to be considered before formulating a final plan. For economical reasons, we are using a stock 440 block bored .060-inch oversize for this build and won't be filling the water jackets with block hardner; our idea is to maximize our power output with the stock block as our biggest limitation. Given the choice of our block, we decided to stiffen up the bottom end with a main girdle from Chenoweth Speed & Machine. We consider this a mandatory upgrade if you are planning on revving your engine above 6,500 rpm or make more than 650 hp. The factory block can hold this power, but cap walk will occur, causing metal transfer from the block to main caps. The Chenoweth girdle ties the main caps to the oil pan rail, considerably strengthening the bottom end and keeping our Eagle 4.150 stroke crankshaft solidly in place. An added benefit of the girdle is its proximity to the crankshaft's weights causes it to act as a crank scraper, aiding in keeping the oil off the crank and where it belongs-in the oil pan.
In addition to our Eagle crankshaft, we'll finish our rotating assembly with JE-forged pistons and Eagle H-beam steel connecting rods as we will sacrifice rotating weight for endurance. Eagle rods were chosen because of their durability and price. Our engine would have accelerated quicker, and we could have made a few more ponies using aluminum connecting rods, but running them would require us to pull the engine and change the rods every 150 passes or so, and we'd rather be at the track racing. For pistons, we chose JE small-dome forged units to achieve a 13.1 to 1 compression ratio with our Indy heads. Our crankshaft, rods, and pistons were balanced and installed with Clevite race bearings and Perfect Circle medium tension piston rings.
A 500-inch aluminum-headed wedge looks impressive on the engine stand, but will it perform
With the machine work finished and the parts on the shelf, it was time to go to work. We a
Before painting the engine we check that the machine shop properly sized our cylinders. We
After a thorough cleaning, the block is air dried and prepped for paint. We taped off all