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Author Topic: Pontiac 455 build, what is the best route for performance.  (Read 10974 times)
gswin1
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Jim Winter
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« on: September 11, 2012, 11:52:32 AM »

I am building a motor for my 71 trans am.  I don't have the original motor so the options are just about endless, except my budget. 

I am starting with a 72 Pontiac 455 (its supposed to be a runner)

I have a set of 96 heads (d-port), Edelbrock performer Pontiac intake, 750 holly quadrajet replacement, 1 inch car spacer, HEI distributor. 

What would be the best build for me??  I would like to have some serious fun at the track and still be able to run on pump gas.  My budget is about 1500-2000. I will most likely order Flow-tech ceramic coated headers and summit exhaust for this car.   


Thanks, 
-James

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ILLTA77
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 02:30:57 PM »

Are you going to rebuild the lower end and replace the cam, that should take care of $1500.00 quickly ....
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usafaux102
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 02:39:28 PM »

I'm no pontiac motor expert but I think with a max of $2k in your budget you are gonna need to do some really good wheelin' n' dealin' to find enough bargains to build it out of that. Sorry to burst your bubble but it is not an inexpensive proposition. Not saying it can't be done,but I certainly don't know how to do it for that kind of money. Not if your talking full rebuild w/macine work,quality parts and all the little hidden costs that go along with such a project. Do the heads need to be rebuilt? Do you need valves/springs,cam? How is the block? Do you need upgraded rods/crank? What are your power goals? Do you have acess to an engine crane/motor stand or will you need to borrow or purchase or rent them? How about the un-intended consequences of building too much motor and then needing to do trans/rear/ end, cooling system or other up grades to keep it all together? These are some of the questions one must ask and answer before spending dollar one.
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72blackbird
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2012, 12:01:52 AM »

Sorry to say your budget is a bit too limited to do a thorough and complete rebuild on your 455. Pontiac V-8's aren't cheap to build like a SBC, but spending the money on quality parts gives you an engine you can rev without fear of tossing a rod and grenading your investment.

I typically spend about $1500-2500 in parts alone and another $600-1000 in machine work to completely rebuild a 350P, 400, or 455. If it's a customer's engine he or she pays for final assembly as well- another $1200. Forged pistons and forged rods are always on the parts list, and the OEM 2-piece spin-welded valves get replaced with 1-piece forged stainless valves. I also use quality name-brand parts so the build is reliable, and any new cam always gets matching valve springs.

Machine work should also not be skimped just to save money- your block must be bored and honed at the machine shop, and the rotating assembly balanced to assure good bearing life and a smooth running engine. The machinist wlll also determine if the block needs surfacing- I would also recommend zero decking the block, or at least running a .005 piston-deck clearance as most Pontiac V-8's leave the engine line with pistons .015-.020" down in the hole.

Lots of guys do it on the cheap, run cast rods with Sealed power forged pistons, or even cast pistons- there's nothing wrong with that. But those same people also have to wonder if their bottom end is going to hold together when they punch it hard again. Cast pistons also are nowhere near as strong as forged ones and can even be damaged by detonation from a bad tank of gas- the forged pistons are much better there. Build it right with the good parts and you don't have to worry. Save the money and expand your budget to include better parts-you will be happy you did.

Geno
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superdutybob
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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2012, 07:50:58 AM »

I had $1900 in machine shop work alone when I rebuilt the SD.
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Bob
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2012, 09:22:10 PM »

Have over $4500 in mine. Crank $800, rods $600, pistons $600, ARP studs..... That's just the bottom end.

But if your doing the work yourself. You can get a fun motor for $2000. Cam, springs, valves, and headers. Will really wake your Pontiac up!!
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DeCaff2007
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2012, 10:09:08 AM »

Have over $4500 in mine. Crank $800, rods $600, pistons $600, ARP studs..... That's just the bottom end.

But if your doing the work yourself. You can get a fun motor for $2000. Cam, springs, valves, and headers. Will really wake your Pontiac up!!

Yeah, see, there's the kicker.  You have to build the motor yourself.

The last two machine shops I talked to didn't take lightly to this concept. 

They basicaly said "Either our shop builds it or nothing".  LOL I walked away.
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72blackbird
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2012, 06:05:34 PM »

Alot of people dismiss the notion of paying for a pro builder to assemble their Pontiac V-8 because of the cost. It is alot of money to pay someone to build your engine, but unless you have prior experience and can say with confidence you can do it and have it come out right, it's money well spent. There's nothing wrong with trying to do it yourself, but unless you have experienced hands guiding and observing you throughout the build it's a crapshoot- there's a very good chance you will miss something, and your engine will let you know it.

Machine shops can do the job as well, but most busy ones will not take the time to check all parts for clearances, mix and match the bearing shells to get the closest tolerance range, or do the little tricks experienced builders know (unless you pay them to do it). I often laugh when machinists try to tell me something about Pontiac engines, or feed me a line of BS-after 22 years of building them, I've heard alot of misconceptions and incorrect Pontiac facts I know to be nonsense. They are also very busy getting parts in and out of the shop, so it's unlikely they'll take the same care a dedicated engine builder will do, unless it's a shop that specializes in Pontiacs.

Geno

« Last Edit: September 18, 2012, 06:08:49 PM by 72blackbird » Logged

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76TA2012
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2012, 06:11:10 PM »

I what were all asking is.... Are you ginna do it yourself or have a shop do it?? Cause if a shop does it your pretty limited on what you can get and have installed for $2000
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gswin1
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Jim Winter
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2012, 08:36:39 PM »

I am doing it myself.  I am member of a little car club at the university of Wisconsin Platteville.  One my friends works at a machine shop, T&Bs Racing Engines out of Monroe Wisconsin, to be exact.  He is helping me with the build.  This will be the second Pontiac motor that i have overhauled along with a 350 Chevy that we rebuilt for my Camaro.  So this is not the first time.  The block is currently at the shop to be bored out.  It has already been magnafluxed and checked out good, and tanked.  I plan to go with the stock crank, which will be cleaned by the shop sometime soon( i have been looking at the eagle cranks which look sweet, but yes i am looking for a deal when it come to one of those).  I have been looking at eagle rods and some form of forged pistons.  I already have 96 heads that have been rebuilt recently but I will have them gone through.  I will be able to clean, blast, and port match the intake myself. 

Are the eagle rods the way to go??  What would be the best pistons for the money, probably around the 500-600 dollar range?  Are there any other recommendations.  What cam should I go with, I normally buy from summit catalog, but ebay works too.


Thanks
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76TA2012
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 10:43:56 PM »

Well every Pontiac I blew up was because of the bottom end. So if you keep the stock crank save some money for a rev box!! Also no need to waste money on rods unless your planning on high compression pistons.

But two things will have the most power increase. Cubic inch and compression. If you spend the money on a crank you will take your 455 to like a 502+. And some high compression pistons go form 9:1 to 12:1. And some I or H beam rods. You will not be disappointed one bit!! If you do buy a new crank go with a forged. No need to get a steel unless you plan on running it hard. But a crank, rods, and pistons will chew the heck out of your budget. And your still short a cam and lifters.... But if you can squize out $3500. You will have a beast of a motor!

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wick
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 08:51:41 AM »

You can have some fun with 96 heads on a 455 all on a stock bottom end. Let's be realistic, you won't be setting any records but you will make some very good power. I think the biggest key will be getting the right cam so I would call Butler and tell him what you got and work with it. Get the cam, lifters and springs at the least from him.

You guys can brag all you want about how much you have in machine work alone but this guy is on a budget and he can make some decent numbers with that combo. He specified how much he had to spend and I think he can do a good, low budget build for that amount.
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Flying TA
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« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2012, 09:12:22 AM »

Well every Pontiac I blew up was because of the bottom end. So if you keep the stock crank save some money for a rev box!! Also no need to waste money on rods unless your planning on high compression pistons.

But two things will have the most power increase. Cubic inch and compression. If you spend the money on a crank you will take your 455 to like a 502+. And some high compression pistons go form 9:1 to 12:1. And some I or H beam rods. You will not be disappointed one bit!! If you do buy a new crank go with a forged. No need to get a steel unless you plan on running it hard. But a crank, rods, and pistons will chew the heck out of your budget. And your still short a cam and lifters.... But if you can squize out $3500. You will have a beast of a motor!



Um to do a 4.5 stroke motor is going to cost much more than $3500. Machine work, rotating assembly, heads, roller cam, intake and carb will be closer to 10k.  But who I don't think he needs 600+HP to have fun.
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Thomasmoto
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2012, 09:35:14 AM »

A $2,000.00 budget won't get you a "good" stock rebuild.  At least not to my liking.  Sorry.
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David Thomas
wick
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« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2012, 09:47:05 AM »

It's for his liking, not yours. He is the one spending his cash and it can be done. I can't tell you how many times I have been to the track and watched a budget guy lay down some good numbers and the "well I got this and that" guy wondering why he can't go that fast.

For what he wants to do, I would stick with the stock type cast pistons and rods to boot.
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takid455
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« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2012, 10:48:03 AM »

I want to build a solid 474. I want the best parts and want it last forever in the harshest environments. Not just name brands but top self parts. I have 1789.85 to spend. I want it yesterday too!! My buddy builds really fast engines for lawn mowers and says that I should have money left over at that and any component builder would be a fool not to take my offering. I wont be satisfied with a NO.  please help me build my motor. I need step by step turn by thread turn instructions. I have a set of tools I found at a garage sale and some from Harbor Freight. Being this motor is taking all I have to build, I cannot purchase addition tools. I will ask that you as a community donate them to me for my use. Hopefully I will return them if not you can have the joy of knowing you donated to a good cause of (pick one: my dog got ran over, neighbor's brother's, landscaper has 1 eye & colon cancer, ect)  

Please help.. Again I have just 1789.85 to spend.  I want it to be fast and I will put in in a car.

 Very Happy Cool Shocked Cool Surprised
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 10:50:01 AM by takid455 » Logged
wick
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« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2012, 08:34:48 PM »

I want to build a solid 474. I want the best parts and want it last forever in the harshest environments. Not just name brands but top self parts. I have 1789.85 to spend. I want it yesterday too!! My buddy builds really fast engines for lawn mowers and says that I should have money left over at that and any component builder would be a fool not to take my offering. I wont be satisfied with a NO.  please help me build my motor. I need step by step turn by thread turn instructions. I have a set of tools I found at a garage sale and some from Harbor Freight. Being this motor is taking all I have to build, I cannot purchase addition tools. I will ask that you as a community donate them to me for my use. Hopefully I will return them if not you can have the joy of knowing you donated to a good cause of (pick one: my dog got ran over, neighbor's brother's, landscaper has 1 eye & colon cancer, ect)  

Please help.. Again I have just 1789.85 to spend.  I want it to be fast and I will put in in a car.

 Very Happy Cool Shocked Cool Surprised


If you want to build a 474 for 1789.85, start your own thread and ask that question.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 05:57:54 AM by wick » Logged

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72blackbird
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« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2012, 09:14:43 PM »

OK, guys- let's be realistic. We all know Pontiac V-8's aren't cheap to build. A forged poncho crank starts at $650, good 4340 H, A or I-beam rods start at $400/set, and forged pistons are $400+/set easy. $1789 isn't even gonna come close to just the cost of parts alone to build a stout 474. Do the math- you need more money.

Building a 12:1 455 is also impractical for the street in my opinion. Go price race gas- a typical night cruise will cost you at least $150-200 that night. Unless you're rolling in bucks, it will get old pretty quick. It's possible to build a pump gas Pontiac engine that makes 500-600 hp, but you'll have to pour alot of cash into iron heads to make it happen. And you will need a hairy solid flat tappet or roller cam to make it to 500 hp. Stock e-heads w/ a hydraulic flat tappet on a 455 or 461 stroker will make 500 hp easy and still run on pump gas- get ported aluminum heads and a roller cam and you're in 550-600 hp territory. It will cost you about $8k to to build this engine yourself. How do I know? I'm building one right now.

Forged rods in a Pontiac V-8 isn't a waste of money- even a 350-400 hp 389 or 400 can benefit from the reliability of forged rods and pistons over unpredictable cast rods and weak cast pistons. 5140 replacement rods coast $240/set and come w/ ARP rod bolts, ready to run- IMO there's no excuse NOT to use them. I won't start a fresh build without forged rods and pistons, because when a customer comes back to me with a big problem like a cracked piston it's usually because he has cast pistons in it and got a tank of bad gas. Cracked pistons can lead to cracked cylinder walls and a really bad day for you- the cost of forged pistons are nothing compared to a complete rebuild plus a new block.

Geno
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Thomasmoto
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« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2012, 07:12:28 AM »

OK, guys- let's be realistic. We all know Pontiac V-8's aren't cheap to build. A forged poncho crank starts at $650, good 4340 H, A or I-beam rods start at $400/set, and forged pistons are $400+/set easy. $1789 isn't even gonna come close to just the cost of parts alone to build a stout 474. Do the math- you need more money.

Building a 12:1 455 is also impractical for the street in my opinion. Go price race gas- a typical night cruise will cost you at least $150-200 that night. Unless you're rolling in bucks, it will get old pretty quick. It's possible to build a pump gas Pontiac engine that makes 500-600 hp, but you'll have to pour alot of cash into iron heads to make it happen. And you will need a hairy solid flat tappet or roller cam to make it to 500 hp. Stock e-heads w/ a hydraulic flat tappet on a 455 or 461 stroker will make 500 hp easy and still run on pump gas- get ported aluminum heads and a roller cam and you're in 550-600 hp territory. It will cost you about $8k to to build this engine yourself. How do I know? I'm building one right now.

Forged rods in a Pontiac V-8 isn't a waste of money- even a 350-400 hp 389 or 400 can benefit from the reliability of forged rods and pistons over unpredictable cast rods and weak cast pistons. 5140 replacement rods coast $240/set and come w/ ARP rod bolts, ready to run- IMO there's no excuse NOT to use them. I won't start a fresh build without forged rods and pistons, because when a customer comes back to me with a big problem like a cracked piston it's usually because he has cast pistons in it and got a tank of bad gas. Cracked pistons can lead to cracked cylinder walls and a really bad day for you- the cost of forged pistons are nothing compared to a complete rebuild plus a new block.

Geno
Thank you Geno. I couldn't have said it better myself, but you know these kids, they know everything Smile Maybe machine service is way cheaper where they live, IDK and as you say the parts alone go over. Hey Wick why don't you do it for him if you are so convinced it can be done. You see this is where the BS stops when it's really time to do it, but hey more power to ya. Just be sure to tell/show everyone how you did it. We are all waiting with baited breath.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 07:16:40 AM by Thomasmoto » Logged

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David Thomas
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« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2012, 07:43:58 AM »

Was having some fun with the above post. I see this across the web on various forums where someone wants to build an expensive motor, car, ect and has very insufficient funds and or ability to do so.  Unless you have take offs/ used parts on selves (read freebies) and 'friends' with machines, it can't be done.

These threads typically provide no use after the first few post as members start bickering (those that know and have done vs those that think they can / buddy says so) and wind up off topic. Also feelings get hurt when reality strikes and people cant take NO for an answer.

The horrid truth is it cost money,usually more than anticipated, to do anything properly. This being said, some good/ wise info has been stated in this post. the OP should reflect on that and evaluate their plans accordingly. If one thinks or knows it can be done for pennies on the dollar,  we are all ears and eyes. Just document your process and build.
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wick
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« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2012, 04:02:03 PM »



I have done it, that is why I say it can be done. If you go back and read what the OP said, you will see he is on a budget and wants to make the best of what he has. He never said he wants forged anything, just work with what he has. A 455 with 96's will make a good combo if built within the right specs.

Just because you can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 08:15:18 PM by wick » Logged

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72blackbird
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« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2012, 07:08:21 PM »

I am doing it myself.  I am member of a little car club at the university of Wisconsin Platteville.  One my friends works at a machine shop, T&Bs Racing Engines out of Monroe Wisconsin, to be exact.  He is helping me with the build.  This will be the second Pontiac motor that i have overhauled along with a 350 Chevy that we rebuilt for my Camaro.  So this is not the first time.  The block is currently at the shop to be bored out.  It has already been magnafluxed and checked out good, and tanked.  I plan to go with the stock crank, which will be cleaned by the shop sometime soon( i have been looking at the eagle cranks which look sweet, but yes i am looking for a deal when it come to one of those).  I have been looking at eagle rods and some form of forged pistons.  I already have 96 heads that have been rebuilt recently but I will have them gone through.  I will be able to clean, blast, and port match the intake myself. 

Are the eagle rods the way to go??  What would be the best pistons for the money, probably around the 500-600 dollar range?  Are there any other recommendations.  What cam should I go with, I normally buy from summit catalog, but ebay works too.

Thanks
I think as long as you have help you should be fine. Refer to Rocky Rotella's Pontiac Book if you have any assembly questions during the build- it's an excellent reference manual and will help any beginner successfully build a Pontiac V-8.

Eagle 4340 H-beam are good pieces, and can support an 800 hp engine, but are a bit heavy at 670-680 grams. I'm running the lightest pontiac forged steel rods on the market, Tomahawk 4340 A-beams (around 700 g/each)- these are sold by Pacific Performance racing. There are alot of premium quality pistons available- Ross, JE, Probe, BRC, Icon, Race Tech. All are basically lightweight race pistons that will require your rotating assembly to be balanced. A lightweight race pistons makes for a good revving engine, but even forged Sealed Power pistons will get the job done at half the cost- just be sure to have your rotating assembly balanced. Cam choice depends on your heads used, power goals, and idle desired- give us those and you'll get some suggestions.

The stock crank is a stout piece and good to around 600 hp with proper prep- use ARP main studs and even 2-bolt caps can handle 600 hp. Any 96cc D-port head w/ 2.11/1.77 valves, screw-in studs and some cleanup will make 425-450 hp easily on a 455 or 461 stroker, and should be able to run on 91-93 octane pump gas. Do a gasket match on the intake and heads, some light clean up on the runners, around the valve stem guide and in the bowl area under the valve and you'll be surprised how much better the engine will run.

Geno
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Ben
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« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2012, 07:10:13 PM »

I have done it, that is why I say it can be done. If you go back and read what the OP said, you will see he is on a budget and wants to make the best of what he has. He never said he wants forged anything, just work with what he has. A 455 with 96's will make a good combo if built within the right specs.
Just be careful on starting with what you have.  I'm essentially doing a cheap budget build on a 455 that already had the bottom end re-done recently, and I'm still ending up close to $1500 in parts alone to get it built (and I'm doing everything myself except cam bearings).  I would have gone forged rods at a minimum if the bottom end had been no good.  If you are doing a bottom end, machine work and parts alone will cost you easily $2000 (especially in the major metro areas).

It won't be a 550HP monster, but it should be a healthy respectable 9.2:1 motor with quite a bit more oomph than stock to keep me satisfied.  The car it's going in has 2.79 rear gears and will rarely if ever see the high side of 3000RPM.  Race gas, 3500RPM highway speeds, and fickle weather manners are not something I'm interested in dealing with so all of my engines are built better than stock but still pretty tame compared to some of the monsters people on other boards like to advertise as the only way to go Wink

As Geno very eloquently put it, if you want to put up the big boy numbers you've got to pay the big bucks.  Your average fun car won't need an engine that wild, but if blasting the doors off of everything out there short of supercars is your goal, it will cost you (and more than on just the engine side).
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wick
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« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2012, 08:14:28 PM »

I have done it, that is why I say it can be done. If you go back and read what the OP said, you will see he is on a budget and wants to make the best of what he has. He never said he wants forged anything, just work with what he has. A 455 with 96's will make a good combo if built within the right specs.
Just be careful on starting with what you have.  I'm essentially doing a cheap budget build on a 455 that already had the bottom end re-done recently, and I'm still ending up close to $1500 in parts alone to get it built (and I'm doing everything myself except cam bearings).  I would have gone forged rods at a minimum if the bottom end had been no good.  If you are doing a bottom end, machine work and parts alone will cost you easily $2000 (especially in the major metro areas).

It won't be a 550HP monster, but it should be a healthy respectable 9.2:1 motor with quite a bit more oomph than stock to keep me satisfied.  The car it's going in has 2.79 rear gears and will rarely if ever see the high side of 3000RPM.  Race gas, 3500RPM highway speeds, and fickle weather manners are not something I'm interested in dealing with so all of my engines are built better than stock but still pretty tame compared to some of the monsters people on other boards like to advertise as the only way to go Wink

As Geno very eloquently put it, if you want to put up the big boy numbers you've got to pay the big bucks.  Your average fun car won't need an engine that wild, but if blasting the doors off of everything out there short of supercars is your goal, it will cost you (and more than on just the engine side).

Sure, you won't get a bulletproof motor but the OP never said he wanted to run 10's or make 1000hp. What he said is he is on a budget and listed the parts he had to build with. Geno did bring up some good points and valid points at that but I don't see this guy having the money to spend. Guys were making good HP long before "the good stuff" was available to the Pontiac guys. Hell, we were running 11.60's with a Q-Jet, cast rods and crank 455, 670's and a 3.55 long before hyd rollers were available. And trust me, there were guys faster than us.

My point is the guy has some good parts to start with and if you look at my first post in this thread, you will see I said he will not set any records with what he has. Can he build a good street motor with his parts? He sure can plus he has access to someone that works in a machine shop so cost can be cut there.

What get me is the guys looking down their nose because they have this crank or that crank, have this much in machine work or a fuel pump that equals the space shuttle. This is not about who has the bigger dick when it comes to having fun with your ride.

I don't want to write an essay here but I'll tell you a short story. I had a '71 GTO with factory 455, 400 and 3.08 12 bolt back in '82. It was a stock rebuild with the exception of 96's, an 068 and some minor 'tuning' and the car ran good. Along comes a guy and his buddy's claiming $3000 in machine work (very pricey back then) on a big block '69 Camaro and guess what, I made $200 bucks that night in a 2 out of 3 race but only 2 were needed.
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76TA2012
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« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2012, 08:52:26 PM »

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.....

This is the real world. And modern day. Doesn't matter what someone did in the 70's.

Look if you want a strong but reliable motor. Start with the bottom end on any Pontiac! Crank, rods and pistons. If it costs you $3000 it costs $3000. Get some domed pistons. A dissent aftermarket crank and rods. And once you have that talk to a cam guy. Hell you can even call a cam shop and tell them what they want and they will get it or make it for $250. It don't matter what people say but experiance matters man. A stock Pontiac will never last if you run it hard.... But if you do what I said you can lay down 450hp and hit 6500 RPM AND NEVER have to worry about it.

I recomend. Waiting to get the right stuff. If it takes a year then so be it.
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