• How To Add 70 Percent More Power to A Chevy 454 V-8

It’s amazing what some bolt-on parts can do!

The guys over at Hot Rod magazine wanted to prove it’s possible to make big horsepower from a Chevrolet big-block V-8 lifted from a junk1986 motorhome. Why a motorhome? Well, they can be had stupidly cheap, not counting the extra work it takes to remove the engine and then dispose of the lifeless RV. What’s left, though, is a 454 cubic-inch big-block Chevy with huge potential. To find out just how much the 30-year-old behemoth could muster, they took it to Westech Performance’s dyno room.

Of course, the guys wanted to see what the old iron block had in her, so they ran a baseline test. They left all the original parts in place like the two-barrel carburetor and dilapidated ignition system. Only a set of dyno headers and an electric water pump were different. Surprisingly, the 454 laid down an impressive 330 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, the truck-based 454s were tuned for torque, so having nearly 500 pound-feet wasn’t a big surprise. But like any stock engine, there was tons of power left to be squeezed out.

Hot Rod decided to bolt up some typical speed parts. The old cast-iron cylinder heads and low-rise intake manifold were dumped in favor of some aluminum PowerOval 280 heads from Trick-Flow with upgraded valvetrain and a Summit single-plane intake manifold. The old camshaft came out, too, with a meatier hydraulic bump stick with 0.600 inches of lift taking its place. Topping the engine is a borrowed four-barrel Holley XP carburetor. The bill: $3,699.96 for all but the carb. The results: 567 horsepower and 537 pound-feet of torque on 89-octane pump gas! That represents a 70-percent increase in horsepower. That’s impressive! And remember, that’s all without touching the bottom end.

Best of all, this engine will make that power all day long without the threat of grenading under the stress of a turbo or supercharger. It’s 567 horsepower of usable, reliable, fun power that anybody on a budget can build. Now, that poses the question: what would you shoehorn this big-block Chevy into?


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Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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