The sale weekend allowed us to snag a suitable small-block for just $150 ($100 plus $50 core). The wrecking yard also offered a guarantee for an additional $12, but we declined, confident in our inspection, but the $12 is probably money well spent in case you get the motor home and find a spun bearing or some other catastrophic malady. Before presenting the motor up for purchase, we made a few important wrecking yard upgrades, meaning we replaced a few of the missing and/or undesirable items on the original motor with components sourced from other small-blocks. If you look around, hidden treasures abound. During our many trips to the yards, we located a set of long-tube headers on a fullsize truck, an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, and matching carb on (of all things) a van, and more than a few open element air cleaners. These were long gone by the time sale weekend rolled around, but we did manage to find a Holley double-pumper carb on a big-block Ford truck. Along with the carb, we secured new(ish) plugs, wires, and a (recently rebuilt) HEI distributor. Since all of these components are included in the price of your purchase, why not optimize your motor before stepping up to the cashier? We also made sure that all of the small pieces were present and accounted for, including distributor hold-down, timing pointer, and all of the necessary hardware (including a missing damper bolt).

Now that we had a complete (hopefully running) small-block for just $150, it was time to decide on the power output. Everyone talks horsepower, but impressive acceleration comes from torque. Since we were building what amounted to a street motor destined for daily driving, we decided to concentrate not on peak power but rather on torque production. Having 400 hp is all well and good, but since that power peak comes high in the rev range, it is all but useless in the real world. The vast majority of daily driving, even spirited acceleration, comes in the lower rev ranges. A motor that requires running through the gears at maximum rpm is detrimental to both fuel economy and your license, to say nothing of the life expectancy of the motor itself. Stepping on the gas and feeling the instant gratification that only torque can bring is something that can be enjoyed every time you're behind the wheel. With that in mind, we decided a reasonable goal for our low-buck truck small-block would be 400 lb-ft of torque. In fact, we were hoping to not only reach the 400 lb-ft mark, but exceed it over a broad rpm range. The desire for a fat torque curve in lieu of a peaky powerplant obviously helped dictate our choice of performance components.