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Big block face-off: which would you choose?

19 October 2015


Natural aspiration, roots-type supercharger, turbos, or a centrifugal supercharger — they all have their merits, but what would you prefer to have under your bonnet?

Natural aspiration with a dash of nitrous, a giant positive-displacement supercharger, a pair of big turbos, or a simple and effective centrifugal supercharger — they’re all great ways to produce power, and they all have their pros and cons. However, when it comes to that subjective ‘cool’ factor, there can only be one. What would you choose to have under your bonnet?

We’ve had this debate in the office for quite some time, and we’re finally taking it to the internet to help settle the score. We gathered up a bunch of our favourite big block–powered feature cars, along with their different induction methods. What engine would you want the most? Cast your vote and let us know — may the best mill win!

Naturally aspirated (big cubes, with a dash of nitrous)

The big block Chev that powers Ian and Trish Rainbow’s ’50 Chev Business Coupe is a work of art. It’s a World Products big block, displacing an almighty 572 cubes, and is based upon a Merlin cast iron block filled with an Eagle crankshaft, Eagle rods, and Manley forged pistons, all held together by ARP fasteners. The robust bottom end is topped with a pair of Merlin III alloy heads, with flow capabilities to support a power figure well over four-digits.

With a 1050cfm bolted on top, World Products dynoed the engine at 700hp — and, don’t forget, that’s naturally aspirated! For good measure, Ian has also installed a NOS 400hp big shot nitrous system, although he’s only jetted it for 225hp to date.

On the dyno at C&M Performance, the Chev spun out 502hp at the rear wheels, and with the 225hp nitrous shot, this jumped to a huge 675hp. That’s enough to have propelled the old Business Coupe down the quarter mile in a rather rapid 9.98 seconds at 136.97mph — tough, alright!

Centrifugal supercharged (Procharger F2)

The GM ZZ572 crate motor is widely regarded as one of the best off-the-shelf crate motors that money can buy. With 572ci, 620hp, and 650lb·ft straight out of the box, they’re a seriously potent street motor. But what happens when you get used to having that kind of brute force on tap? You do what Aaron Costello did, and chuck some boost at it.

Aaron’s 572 has been rebuilt to be more boost-friendly, through the installation of JE forged pistons to drop the compression ratio to 8.7:1, as well as a blower-grind camshaft. The heads have also been ported, with upgraded valves and valve springs, and the reason for all of this is clear — the addition of a Procharger F2, pumping out 10psi of boost, through a 750cfm blow-through carburettor is good for a dyno-proven 805hp at the rear wheels. Running a 9.60-second quarter-mile, with a warrant and rego on the windscreen, is just the icing on the cake.

Twin turbocharged (Twin Master Power 72mm)

The big block Chev that resided under the bonnet of Jason Harrison’s ’57 Chev Bel Air was one nasty piece of work. The engine started out as a 509ci Merlin crate motor from a race boat, that had run a bearing and scoured the crank. The installation of a forged steel stroker crank, Scat H-beam rods, and JE forged pistons saw the refurbished bottom end creep up to displace 520ci. That huge displacement is more than enough to get the pair of Master Power 72mm turbos spooling, and, thanks to a C&S Specialties blow-through carb and Grumpy Jenkins rectangle-port heads, it’s good for an obscene amount of power. Quite how much power, we don’t know, but the Bel Air could smoke the rears for the entire length of Taupo Motorsport Park’s main straight — that’s good enough in our books!

Roots-supercharged (10-71 supercharger)

Brendon Shearing’s eight-second Holden Monaro HQ is tough as nails, having run a 8.91-second quarter mile at a blistering 157mph — fully street legal. One of the biggest keys to this success is, of course, the 536ci big block Chev that powers the all-steel–bodied Monaro.

An Eagle crank, Eagle rods, JE pistons, and a solid roller camshaft take care of the bulletproof bottom end. Up top is just as serious. Dart heads have been equipped with shaft-mount roller rockers, a stud girdle, triple valve springs, and titanium retainers, and for good reason — you can’t miss the BDS 10-71 Stage 4 supercharger towering above the motor, topped with a pair of 1250cfm Dominator carburettors.

There has been little talk of power figures, but who really cares — the fact that Brendon has run eights at over 150mph, in an street-legal tank of a car, tells us that he’s got enough.

The question is though, which one would you choose? Take the poll below.