A Modern Crate Engine Guide
The engine is the heart of any hot rod, whether it be a custom cruiser, pro-touring beast, or restored muscle car. From the feel as it settles into a slow idle at a stoplight, to the high-revving sound just before a shift, the engine gives your car the ability to move you – and we’re talking in more ways than simply motion.
That said, choosing an engine for your ride is a big decision and comes down to what you really plan to do or accomplish with your car. Having a game plan that leans toward a cross-country cruiser, cone-carving machine, or something wicked fast will help point you in the right direction. From there, you can consider things like budget, what engine physically fits in your project, and whether you plan to build it yourself or purchase a crate engine.
Today’s crate engines are nothing like the early generic engines that were built as mere replacements for worn out or blown-up engines in commuter vehicles. Modern crate engines are designed to meet the desires of today’s hot rodders and performance enthusiasts. We’re talking about engines with an easy 400 horsepower on up to supercharged,1,000-horsepower, fuel-injected beasts! Even complete driveline packages are available and amazingly, with a warranty!
We decided to take a closer look at some of the crate engine offerings that are available for the modern enthusiast. From the performance branches of the Detroit Three to some serious builds from the ever-innovative performance aftermarket, there’s definitely an engine available to suit your needs no matter your goal.
Now, there are some rodders who look at crate engines as belly buttons, and we have to agree that a typical crate engine may lack some points in the appearance department. But that is easily remedied with a little vision and hot rodding ingenuity. To illustrate what can be done to make these new, modern engines look the hot rod part, we provided some examples we’ve seen recently that might serve as inspiration on how to personalize your own.
LS Classic Series
Making New Vintage
It’s pretty much a consensus that stock LS engines just aren’t good looking in stock form. We all understand their power and performance, but those coil packs, the plastic intake, and the accessory brackets certainly aren’t helping in the appearance column. Lokar realized it was time for an LS facelift and recently launched its LS Classic Series line of vintage-appearing crate engines dressed with their distinctive intake kits and accessories.
This new line of trick induction systems and accessories is available separately, or LS Classic will ship you a complete 495-horsepower LS3 dressed with the look of a vintage Chevy V8. The LS3 is available with a Fuelie, Classic, or Tri-Power intake system, small-block, big-block, or 409-style valve covers, and a period-style simulated GM distributor that allows the plug wires to pass through and connect to the LS coils (remote mounted, of course). Each engine is run on a test stand prior to shipping and includes a two-year warranty.
Force from Vic
Edelbrock offers all of the performance goodies to bolt to an engine, from aluminum heads and intakes to superchargers. The next step is to put it all together to form one bad hombre of a boosted crate engine. That’s exactly what you get when you order part number 46757 – a supercharged LT1 capable of 851 horsepower with 780 ft-lbs of torque, all on 91-octane pump gas.
The foundation is a brand-new GM LT1 Gen V aluminum block with a forged and balanced Manley crankshaft, H-Beam connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons. Bolted on top is an Edelbrock supercharger system with a DP-3C intercooler and Eaton TVS R2650 rotors. This engine package is supplied complete with the electric intercooler water pump, recovery tank and plumbing, fuel rails, fuel injectors, mass air flow sensor housing, and reusable air filter. If you’re looking for boosted late-model power, Edelbrock delivers the goods for GM, Mopar and Ford engines.
The New Godzilla
When it comes to modern engines, we’ve have definitely seen an uptick in vintage Fords running a Ford Coyote drivetrain. For the Blue Oval faithful, the overhead-cam engine platforms have presented a challenge when it comes to engine swaps, but that number has been improving and with the release of their new 7.3L Godzilla ‘cam in block’ engine as a crate offering, we’re certain we’ll be seeing even more Fords in Fords.
The 7.3L was introduced in the 2020 F250 and is built around a cast iron block with a 107.2mm bore and 101mm stroke with a forged steel crank. With the aluminum heads in place, the compression ratio is at 10.5:1 resulting in 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. We’re guessing that it won’t be long before a number of cam grinds are available to increase those output numbers. The bellhousing bolt pattern is the same as a Coyote and weighs in at 580 pounds (a 351W is about 525 pounds). The Godzilla package includes a composite intake and 80mm throttle body, exhaust manifolds, 8-quart oil pan, flexplate, coils and wires.
Sidebar: Some Assembly Required
There’s no denying the benefits of choosing a crate engine for your project these days. The proven performance and power available suit nearly any application, not to mention coming with a warranty! It’s a tough combination to beat, but for a lot of DIY guys, a crate leaves their hands too clean with a void of not being involved with the engine when it comes to component selection and personalization.
The answer to being more intimately involved with your engine is to go with a long block or even a short block assembly. A short block is typically a block that has been assembled with the rotating assembly, so you don’t have to worry about the intricacies of bearing or ring tolerances required of the crank, rods and pistons. From there, you get to select and install the heads, intake, oil pan and choose a cam and valvetrain to suit your needs.
A long block is a short block topped with cylinder heads and generally has the valvetrain installed. That way, you still get to select the induction setup, exhaust, water pump, ignition, or maybe still swap the cam. Long or short block, both provide you the opportunity to personalize your engine choice and get your hands dirty while giving you a slice of DIY pride and a job well done.
You don’t have to be a professional builder to work with BluePrint Engines on one of their new Builder Series engine packages. Even if you’re building a hot rod in your garage, BluePrint can set you up with a complete drivetrain system, including one of their proven crate engine combinations coupled to the transmission of your choice, along with a front drive assembly and dress-up accessories. A complete package, tested, tuned, and ready to drop in your project car.
Whether you’re looking for a stock-appearing big block with a modern six-speed overdrive for your muscle car, or the smooth power of a fuel-injected Coyote with an electronic overdrive, BluePrint will deliver a complete package with their 30-month/50,000 mile warranty. In the end, you’ll save serious time not having to search and order other parts, not to mention the final assembly time. One call to BluePrint will solve your powertrain dilemma.
Speedway Motors has long been involved in racing by developing and offering products that are designed for the track. That track-tested experience comes through in their hot rod parts, as well, including their crate engine offerings, which includes a budget-friendly 355c.i. small-block Chevy V8.
The 355 package produces 310-horsepower with 360 ft-lbs of torque, which is plenty in most street rods and cruisers. Speedway specs a four-bolt main block with a one-piece rear main seal that is filled with hypereutectic pistons, heavy duty rods and bolts, and a proprietary cam grind. The package is assembled and dyno tested by BluePrint Engines, ensuring that it runs strong and produces the advertised power numbers. Each engine comes with its own dyno sheet and is covered by a 30-month/50,000-mile warranty.
To the Chevy enthusiast, there’s something magical about the number 427. The original big block version was available in a handful of Corvettes in 1966 and through ’69 models (including Impalas and the rare COPO series of Camaros). Thanks to Chevrolet Performance, you can put a new 427c.i. LS engine into your hot rod but this one is capable of 570 horsepower and 540 lb-ft!
This engine is based on the LS7 but is fit with an F-body oil pan and wet-sump oil pump to ease installation. A specifically engineered high-lift hydraulic roller cam has 0.591-inch intake/0.590-inch exhaust lift with a duration of 227-degree intake/242-degree exhaust. Special high-rate valve springs are installed on the CNC-ported heads along with 2.20-inch titanium intake valves with 1.61-inch sodium-filled exhaust valves. The rotating assembly features a forged steel crank to swing titanium connecting rods. The low-profile LS7 intake is loaded with injectors, fuel rails and a throttle body. The engine must be controlled by its own Engine Controller, PN 19420000. A modern take on a classic engine designation – with a lot more power!
Sidebar: ARP – Dressed for Strength
If you want to add a little detail and pizazz to your new crate engine, you’ll be amazed at how much a few fasteners can change the overall look. Plus, when you’re talking about ARP’s Engine & Accessory Fastener Kits, you get bolts with great strength to match their cool looks.
These kits are available with polished stainless steel or black finished 8740 chromoly bolts in a choice of 12-point or hex heads. Each kit contains a dozen well-organized groups of fasteners that cover applications from the oil pan up to the intake system.
The kits offer significant savings over the individual applications and are available for a dozen popular V8 engines. Both the stainless steel and chromoly fasteners are nominally rated at 180,000psi tensile strength, which is 20-percent stronger than Grade 8 hardware, and they’re all proudly manufactured in-house at ARP’s California facilities.
Gen III LS3+
Karl Kustoms, the performance parts house division of Karl Chevrolet in Des Moines, Iowa, is excited to offer the new Chevrolet Performance LS364/450hp Gen III LQ9 Engine. This engine package is a great budget-minded option for rodders looking to make the jump to the popular LS platform.
The LS364/450hp is a proven blend of Chevrolet Performance components with an LQ9 engine block put together with LS3-L92 cylinder heads. The result is 450 horsepower for under $5,000, which is a very nice power-to-dollar ratio! Karl Kustoms has hands-on experience with these engines and can help provide different intake options so the engine is ready to drop in your project. In fact, the Karl team can even dyno test the engine for you in their state-of-the-art machine shop to ensure your new combination is ready to run the first time you hit the key.
Deep in the east side of Texas lies MAST Motorsports, a high-horsepower go-to for late-model GM powerplants. One of their latest combinations is a 427c.i., dry-sump crate engine based on an LT1 block that undergoes MAST’s trademark LST conversion. This means they convert the latest Gen V engine parts to accept the more common LS-style port fuel injection platform rather than the direct port injection system of the OEM Gen V engines.
The MAST 427 LST Conversion Gen V features a 3.9-inch L8T crank with Callies rods and Wiseco pistons. They perform their LST conversion on a set of CNC-ported heads and the LT2 intake manifold, and then add their spec cam and valvetrain which all adds up to 657 horsepower with 580 lb-ft of torque in a package that is capable of spinning up to 7,000rpm. They top it off with billet aluminum valve covers and their Endurance front drive accessory kit.
Smeding Performance knows how to keep Ford enthusiasts excited – offer them a stout 363c.i. small block for serious performance and high-revving fun! This combination uses a new DART SHP block with four-bolt mains and a 4.125-inch bore. A 3.400-inch stroke comes through a Smeding forged crank with 5.400-inch I-beam rods and custom coated pistons. The compression ratio is a pump-gas-friendly 10:1 thanks to a set of 205cc Smeding aluminum heads complemented with a full hydraulic roller valvetrain.
Each Smeding Performance custom crate engine is individually built to fit your specific application. They can top it off with a carb or EFI system and serpentine accessory drives, and will even paint it and even dyno test it so when it lands in your garage, it’s ready to go! Give them a call to discuss your custom crate engine needs for Ford or Chevy platforms.
Sidebar: Engine Swap Kits
Before you start installing your new crate engine, especially when it’s an engine that was never offered in your vehicle, take some time to do your homework about engine mounts, crossmembers, the oil pan clearance, and of course the headers or manifolds you plan to use. If you are using engine mounts from company X, who knows if those new headers from company Y are going to clear or if the oil pan is going to clear the new front crossmember?
A better option might be to look for a complete installation kit for your particular application and engine. Many companies are offering complete installation kits with parts that are engineered together so you know everything will fit properly, and if you do experience an issue, you only have one company to call for assistance. This can be a solid choice for late model engine swaps into muscle cars, classics, and trucks.
The ZZ-series small blocks from Chevrolet Performance have been a hit since the first version was introduced in 1989. Back then, it was known as the ZZZ and rated at 350 horsepower. The series evolved with the ZZ4, then the 400-horsepower ZZ5 and now we have a ZZ6 with 420 horsepower and with fuel injection!
Gandrud Parts Center offers the ZZ6 EFI Turn-Key crate engine, which not only includes a throttle-body EFI system, but is also equipped with an HEI distributor and starter. The front of the engine is fitted with a new A/C compressor, alternator and power steering pump that is tied together through a single serpentine belt. The foundation is set with a brand new four-bolt block topped with the efficient and proven Fast Burn aluminum heads with 2.00/1.55-inch valves and beehive springs. You wouldn’t think it could get better, but the ZZ series of small blocks continues to grow!
Coyote with Boost
The name Roush is synonymous with race winning performance, especially when it comes to Ford engines and vehicles. Luckily for hot rodders, Roush is using all of that performance experience to put the “hot” into hot rods. One of their latest crate engine offerings is the 5.0L RSC Coyote that develops 600 horsepower with 475 ft-lb of grunt to launch your classic Ford.
Roush starts with an aluminum 302c.i. engine block topped with four-valve heads with variable cam timing to produce an engine that makes incredible power across the curve. The key to the power comes through the Roush supercharger crowning the intake! The turn-key engine easily revs to 6,500rpm, making it a blast to drive. It’s backed with a 2-year/24,000-mile warranty.
Scoggin Dickey Parts Center
If you’re searching for a suitable donor LS engine to swap into your project, you’re likely going to find a lot of high-mile engines and others that were taken out for some mechanical reason. However, picking up a used engine with all of its accessories and induction system could still be worthwhile, especially when you check out this 5.3L long block from Scoggin Dickey Parts Center.
This package is built around a Gen 3 LM4 aluminum block topped with a pair of cathedral-port aluminum heads. Originally designed as a replacement for trucks, this crate long block is ideal for hot rodders that can add their own front accessory drive, induction setup and electronics. The combination easily produces 300 horsepower with 335 lb-ft of torque for under $3,000!
Sidebar: Energy Suspension – Mounting Upgrades
So, you have your new engine out of the crate and on the stand in your garage. Before you can install it, you’re going to need to make sure you have the right engine mounts. One company that can set you up with perfect fitting and stronger mounts is Energy Suspension.
Chances are that your new engine has a lot more power than the last engine, so it’s important to make sure the mounts are up to the task of securing that power. Stock-style rubber mounts can be too soft and can easily fail with today’s power levels, so stepping up to an upgrade set from Energy is a great choice.
These mounts are molded from their Hyper-Flex performance polyurethane known for its strength, yet able to absorb driveline vibrations. This material is resistant to underhood fluids and temperatures and will far outlast rubber. Energy covers a long list of engines and applications.
Evil in a Crate
It’s a good time to be a Chrysler fan considering the amazing amount of horsepower available in the form of crate engines (and new vehicles to boot!). From the 375-horsepower 5.7L, to the 6.4L making 485-horsepower, the supercharged 6.2L at 707hp and up to the grand Hellephant marked at 1,000-horsepower!
The latest offering is the 807-horsepower Hellcrate Redeye Supercharged 6.2L Hemi. This engine also produces 717 lb-ft of tire-shredding torque while running on 91-octane fuel and was proven in the ’18 SRT Demon, the world’s quickest and most powerful muscle car ever. The engine assembly includes the supercharger and throttle body, fuel injectors, coil packs, water pump, front-sump oil pan, and flexplate. Each engine is dyno-tested for up to 42 minutes before being shipped to your garage in a specifically designed crate!
Modern Muscle Extreme
The Hemi Source
Mopar fans should do themselves a favor and bookmark the website for Modern Muscle Extreme, as the company is focused on nothing but modern Hemi performance. We’re talking complete high-power crate engines, Hemi-specific cam grinds, high-flow throttle bodies, CNC-ported heads, complete wiring harnesses, and everything else you’ll need with a Pentastar.
If you’re lusting after a late-model Hemi for your vintage Mopar muscle car or truck, Modern Muscle Extreme has an engine to suit your performance goals. From a 6.4L Hemi, to complete Hellcats or stock crate engines, the MMX team has an engine for you, along with wiring harnesses, exhaust parts, and engine accessories to get your modern Hemi fired up and connected.