Power in a Box: Answering the questions of why to choose a crate engine
So you’re in the mood for a new engine for your project. Your first thought is to build one yourself. You’re a talented, all-knowing enthusiast; why wouldn’t you build it? You realize quickly you’re thousands deep in machine work and specialty tools, and haven’t even ordered the engine parts yet. Second idea on your list is to commission an engine shop to build you a one-off engine. Just as what’s commonly known as ‘paint jail,’ the engine shop can take longer than expected and the add-ons spin you off budget.
That brings us to the third option of purchasing a crate engine. Crate engines are usually defined by being completely assembled intake to oil pan, or very close to. The idea is that a company can spend hugely more time and money developing engine packages than any particular person can. An excellent source for these crate engines is the company who produced them to begin with; they also have the most cash to throw into research.
An engine builder can build the same engine a hundred different ways. It’s this process that yields the best possible combination of parts that can only be discovered by laborious testing. Equipped with the magic formula for power these builders can order these parts in bulk, driving costs down. It’s not uncommon that the street price for the engine components surpasses the total cost of the crate engine. Some builders go beyond assembly and shipping. Smeding Performance leak tests and dyno tunes each engine that leaves their shop along with a warrantee.
The short block includes the engine block, crankshaft, rods, rings, and pistons. The camshaft is usually included but not always. You’ll need a fair amount of knowledge to properly mount the cylinder heads, setup the valvetrain, and attach the final accessories. Purchasing the short block allows you to do the rest of the build with only basic hand tools, making it a great place to start on your first build.
A long block includes everything the short block does, but with cylinder heads. The camshaft will always be included since the camshaft’s profile and cylinder head design dictates the engine’s behavior.
A crate engine is described as complete or turn key. Packages referred to as complete come with everything between air induction and the oil pan. They usually don’t include any accessories or flywheel, allowing it to be adapted to a wider range of applications. Accessory and flywheel/flexplate options are usually installed to order, if available.
Food for Thought
350-ci/290hp Gen 1 SBC, carbureted GMPP 12499529 $3,389.95
376-ci/480hp Gen 4 LS3, EFI GMPP 19244549 $6,589.95
502-ci/502hp BBC, Ram Jet EFI w/computer GMPP 12499121 $10,510.00
383-ci/450hp Gen 1 SBC, carbureted Smeding 383 Extreme $6,895.00
427-ci/540hp Gen 1 SBC, carbureted Smeding 427 Mighty Mouse $10,995
346-ci/390hp Gen 3 LS1, EFI Turn Key LS1/LS6 390HP $7,500
427-ci/580hp Gen 4 LS3, EFI stroker Turn Key LS3 427 Stroker $15,000
392-ci/475hp Windsor, no carburetor, front sump; Ford Racing M-6007-C392FT $8,699.00
302-ci/412hp Coyote(4V mod), variable valve timing, EFI Ford Racing M-6007-M50 $6,999.00
347-ci/385hp SB Ford (302) carbureted Coast High Performance 10666-SF-F347-V $8,341.99
347-ci/385hp SB Ford (302) EFI Coast High Performance10666-SF-F347-TBV $8,620.99
427-ci/560hp Windsor, carbureted Smeding 427 Cobra Special $10,995
350-ci/360hp Gen 3 Hemi, carbureted Mopar Performance P4510594 $7,359.95
472-ci/525hp Early Hemi, no carburetor Mopar Perormance P5249666AE $15,200.00
440-ci/Wedge head, carbureted Mopar Performance P5153523 $14,560.99
372-ci/425hp Gen 3 Hemi SRT-8 replacement,EFI Bouchillon Performance BPE61ENGINELX 6,675.90