Chevy Small-Block V8 Interchange Manual, Second Edition. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
Motorbooks International continues to expand its Motorbooks Workshop series with the release of the second edition of David Lewis’ Chevy Small-Block V8 Interchange Manual.
The book begins with a history of the small block engine – the choice of racing champions for more than fifty years because of its compact size, light weight, and inexhaustible supply of parts (both factory and aftermarket).
The basic architecture was designed in the early 1950s beginning with the 265 cubic inch displacement V8 in 1955, but author David Lewis has selected the large-journal small-block that Chevrolet manufactured from 1968-2001 as his focus. A discussion of this engine’s evolution over this time period reveals how it has had to adapt firstly, to the gas price crisis of the 1970s, followed by increasingly stringent emission regulations as it approached the close of the 20th century.
There is a very helpful specification chart in the first chapter that includes engine displacement, bore and stroke, compression ratio, carburetor, and peak horsepower (with r.p.m.) ratings for every Chevrolet small-block produced from 1968-2001. This will prove an excellent resource when it comes time to select which small-block Chevy is best suited for your application.
The second chapter examines engine blocks and helps you locate and decipher casting numbers, codes and metal alloy identification marks. Through the use of photographs the reader learns how to recognize the dreaded core shift, as well as the importance of buying complete engines from the junkyard in an effort to avoid major headaches when adding accessories down the road.
Chevrolet crankshafts are either cast-nodular-iron or forged steel, and the advantages and disadvantages of both types are discussed. The function and selection of bearings, flanges, harmonic balancers, flywheels and starters are explained and the author offers guidelines that may streamline your decision making process.
Chapter 4 reveals that there are so many different pistons available for the subject engines that you will really have to do your homework. Will cast aluminum pistons suffice, or would cast hypereutectic or forged pistons be better for your needs? Interchanging pistons from one engine to another is relatively easy, but careful consideration must be made to preserve the maximum compression ratio of 9.5:1.
As is the case with engine blocks, cylinder heads carry casting numbers that will help you precisely match engine components. Chapter 5 includes a handy chart will take the mystery out of head casting identification which includes both casting marks and numbers as a quick reference. An excellent table offers recommended clearances, bolt torque (ft-lb and sequence) and lubricant selection, as well as an exploded diagram of a V8 engine head and manifold.
Camshafts have the greatest effect of any interchangeable part on engine performance. The regulation of cylinder pressure determines horsepower. The goal is to complement your application, and select the camshaft best suited for your engine’s power band. All four types of camshafts are discussed in detail. Several tables are included to allow for a direct comparison between the various Chevrolet cams, as well as twenty pages of aftermarket units from companies like Alliance, Camonics, Competition Cams, Crane Cams, Edelbrock and others.