In the Words of FreiburgerÉ
I normally write my column about stuff that’s big-picture or philosophical, but I just did something I’m really stoked about, and this time I just want to tell the story. See, I love engines, and I host the Engine Masters show on MotorTrend OnDemand.com. Steve Brulé, Steve Dulcich, and I get to play with engines, bust all kinds of myths, prove some truths. I recently had a scheme that my cohosts weren’t really down with, and social-media followers likewise thought I was stupid. I went with stock heads and huge cubes.
Recently, I talked Blueprint Engines into selling its 598ci bigblock Chevy as a short-block rather than only as a complete engine, which is what they were doing. What makes the 598 great? It’s a low-deck engine (stock 454 deck height), unlike the popular Chevy 572 engine or the common 632ci combos that are 0.400 inch taller. That extra height means more weight, a tougher fit in the car, custom headers, and a dedicated intake manifold (or intake spacers).
The 598 with a stock deck height uses regular parts, so I imagined a scenario where someone has an average 396, 427, or 454 in his ride and wants more everyday power. The standard answer would be a roller cam, trick heads (super expensive for a bigblock Chevy), or a supercharger.
What would happen if that person used existing parts on top of a 598ci short-block? We ran the 598 at 10.2:1 compression for pump gas using bone-stock, Gen VI, iron, rectangle-port heads. The cam was a cheap hydraulic flat-tappet with 230/236 duration at 0.050 tappet lift and the intake was a used Edelbrock RPM dual-plane. It was fed by one of the new, lowpriced 850-cfm double-pumper Brawler carbs from Holley. Guys guessed I’d generate anything from 350 to 450 super-lame horsepower. Ultimate answer: 550 hp—weak for 598 cubes.
But I was looking for 700 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm and a peak of 720 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm. The engine never made less than 620 lb-ft on the way to a low-rpm horsepower peak of 4,700 rpm.
People gripe that we never build low-rpm street engines. Well, here’s a deadly one. The ludicrous torque opens up a world of questions and opportunities. On the upside, you could retain a three-speed trans and not have to pay for overdrive because you could have a very high (and commonly stock, therefore free) 3.08:1 rearend gear and the 700 lb-ft would have zero problems powering through it. You can have a large and tight torque converter, which adds driveability over a loose converter needed for a higher-rpm combo. And the small-cammed 598-incher idled at 600 rpm with a light load and sucked 12 inches of vacuum for power brakes.
The only questions would be how you’d manage to ever hook up the tires and if you care at all about fuel economy. But you could shred tires from any speed, removing all care about mpg.
It was an unconventional build, but really only an amplification of how Cadillac, Buick, and Pontiac were making big torque in the 1960s. Worked then, works better today; cubic inches still rule. Come to think of it, this column is kind of philosophical after all. Are you into turbo torque or the simplicity of naturally aspirated engines? Are you a horsepower guy or a torque guy? Help yourself decide by watching the episode of Engine Masters on Motor Trend OnDemand.
[ Stock iron heads on a 598ci shortblock. No one does this, but
maybe they should. We later stacked some
killer Brodix heads on it for 800+ hp on