1 2
tedroach Reader
6/14/18 9:40 a.m.

Last December, I was able to get a 454 and a 4l80e transmission from one of our GRM forum members (thanks again Patrick and Michael)! From what I remember, this was out of a mid-to-late-90's truck. It was running when it was pulled from the truck just before I go it. No knocking noises or smoke, so it is a solid base for my 1965 Chevelle project.

After getting distracted with my Porsche 944, I left the engine in a corner of my garage. This past weekend I was nudged a little by a friend to start tearing the engine down for a rebuild.

In full disclosure, Patrick did tell me it was crusty. I fully understood what I was getting into, so it was not a surprise. There were tree nuts and a small nest on top of the intake manifold, rusted bolts, and the exhaust manifolds are rusted. I want to start ordering parts for a rebuild but I wanted to ask some opinions from the hive.

My goals are fairly simple. I want a reliable engine with enough power to push this heavy beast down the road. I don't plan to drag race the car, so it doesn't have to be crazy. I would think that 300 hp would be a reasonable goal for this car. It will have the automatic transmission and the car will end up being a weekend cruiser, not a track car.

What reasonable performance upgrades should I consider? I don't want to spend crazy amounts of money, but I am looking for cheap upgrades to get the 300 hp without spending thousands.

My plan right now is to rebuild the engine. It has well over 150k miles on it. I will get new bearings and piston rings. I will need a Gen V oil pan to fit in the Chevelle. It will have TBI.

Options that I am considering are:

- Headers
- Heads (port, polish, rebuild or get new ones)
- Performance Cams (mild)
- Different intake manifold (I need one anyway)

I can probably spend crazy amounts of time on research to come up with my solution, but where is the fun in that? I wanted to share my project and start a discussion. Does anyone have suggestions or questions?


Here are some quick pictures of the engine in my garage:

Trans_Maro PowerDork
6/14/18 9:57 a.m.

I had to put a fresh L29 Vortec 454 in the wife's Burb last year and ended up doing a ton of research on upgrading the engine while it was out.

Apparently the L29 heads have the best flow of any stock iron head.

Just put a decent cam in it and let it breathe better. That's all you can really do without spending silly money.

Apparently they hold up to a fair bit of spray without any problems.


93gsxturbo SuperDork
6/14/18 9:58 a.m.

Assuming the pistons and crank are in decent shape I would do the following based on your goals.


  • Tear it down, clean and inspect everything
  • Hone bores and rering
  • New stock sized bearings checking clearances.
  • Stock pistons/rods/crank
  • Aluminum heads (cheap Performance Products ones would be fine, used Dart/Edelbrock/Brodix/AFRs would be better.  Be careful with used race car stuff, you dont need or want anything too wild.
  • Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake or comparable equivalent depending on what you find and depth of your pocketbook, no single plane stuff, no Hi-Rise stuff, no dual quads or anything fancy
  • New timing set and cam, I would go with Comp, and I would call their tech line to discuss goals
  • New heavy duty pushrods
  • New oil pump
  • New lifters (with new cam)  if flat tappet, not sure if this is a flat tappet or roller motor
  • Aluminum water pump (be mindful of rotation if going to serpentine or V belt drive style, they are different rotation)
  • 180 deg thermostat
  • Name brand HEI (MSD is good, chinese knockoff of MSD is bad) with or without a separate box like a 6AL which looks cool but isnt really needed for a cruiser and adds another layer of complexity
  • Decent 4 barrel Holley carb or dig out the couch cushions and get one of the $900 EZ EFI or equivalent.  I would go with EZ EFI or similar


Then pair that with a nice 2800 stall converter and an overdrive trans with a fresh rebuild and a mild shift kit, some decent long tube headers, and you will have a neat big block cruiser that should run down the road great and be faster than you would think.  

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 10:05 a.m.

In reply to Trans_Maro :

Thanks for the info and the article. I will take a look at the L29 heads.

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 10:07 a.m.

In reply to 93gsxturbo :

I appreciate the walk through. I was thinking about some of that, but you make some good points on the intake manifold and water pump. I haven't thought about those too much yet. I was thinking of staying with fuel injected if possible. I just like the reliability of it.

And the transmission......that is on my list to think about later. Great points though!

Patrick MegaDork
6/14/18 10:36 a.m.

It’s a 1992 and i believe it actually only had 129k on it.  It did drive up to where we pulled it out about 45 minutes before Michael got here, it was still warm when we were taking it apart.  

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/14/18 10:41 a.m.

Cool project! 

Also-- a 65 Chevelle isn't that heavy of a car.  Figure about 3300lbs at most:


Chevelle dimensions and weights

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 10:44 a.m.

In reply to Patrick :

Thanks for that input! I didn't know it was only 129k on it. I still want to tear it down and rebuild it. I would love to leave it alone and just use the engine, but it is easier to do this while it is out. I am sure that I will have more discussions with you as it progresses.

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 10:46 a.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin :

Thanks! And it is a convertible, so the frame is already boxed. I have a project thread about the car but I have not updated it in a long time. I will start working on this again in the coming months. 

iceracer UltimaDork
6/14/18 10:53 a.m.

The 454 is the popular choice for dirt track modifieds so there are lots of good parts.

With the trend to crate engines a good 454 might be found.

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 11:01 a.m.

In reply to iceracer :

I agree. I am already looking at Facebook Marketplace and CL for parts. There are a ton out there for really good prices. I just want to figure out my plan before I start throwing money around.

81cpcamaro Dork
6/14/18 12:34 p.m.

I rebuilt a 92 454 with 285K on it, just had to re-ring it, new bearings and seals, good to go after that. Biggest issue it had was the upper distributor bushing was worn, requiring a replacement distributor.

If you are staying with TBI (mine was TBI as well), the stock heads are good enough. L29 heads do flow more, but the TBI will limit that, unless you are going with one of the aftermarket 4bbl efi setups like FiTech or similar.

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 12:51 p.m.

In reply to 81cpcamaro :

Good point on the TBI as a limiting factor. I do plan to stay with it for now. That can always be changed at a later date if I think I need more power. I want to replace the bearings, seals, and rings just so I know they are done.


81cpcamaro Dork
6/14/18 2:37 p.m.

What computer do you have, i.e. what part number is it? I did some tuning on mine and still have the file for it.

One other note, L29 heads do not have heat crossover ports, so the TBI EGR will not function. You can tune it out/turn it off, to get around that.

93gsxturbo SuperDork
6/14/18 3:48 p.m.

I am unclear how well any cam other than stock or maybe *very* mild would play with the stock TBI without a lot of tuning and drivability issues.  

While I can appreciate the desire to stay stock for reliability and cost reasons, the gains of a cam, intake, and modern EFI would pay big dividends in smiles per gallon.

Dusterbd13 MegaDork
6/14/18 4:03 p.m.

Yup. For tbi, anything more than headers/light pirt and polish on the heads is asking for heartache. 

However, going to carb makes you buy a standalone trans controller for the 4l80.....

My elky had similar weight. Stick 350tbi, down to the manifolds. Was a riot to drive at 150hp/200ftlb. Dont overthink the power level needs.

GTXVette SuperDork
6/14/18 4:28 p.m.

out west in California is a builder called coast engine builders that do what ever you want WAY cheaper than you could yourself. really under 3 grand (2000+) for 400 plus hp and very reputable

tedroach Reader
6/14/18 4:45 p.m.

In reply to 81cpcamaro :

Here are the numbers on the ECU

81cpcamaro Dork
6/14/18 8:45 p.m.

Mine was a different part number: 16147060. See what numbers are on the chip inside. I used gearhead-efi.com to learn how to tune. I used a Comp Cams TBI cam and headers, no cats and dual exhaust. No problems with the tune, but trying to go more could cause problems like others mentioned.

MotorsportsGordon Reader
6/15/18 2:46 p.m.

This shows what can be done with later 454s


MulletTruck HalfDork
6/15/18 3:51 p.m.

Would this engine be considered a Tall Deck? If so you have to be sure to get the correct intake, or spacers at a minimum.

MotorsportsGordon Reader
6/15/18 4:58 p.m.
MulletTruck said:

Would this engine be considered a Tall Deck? If so you have to be sure to get the correct intake, or spacers at a minimum.

I don’t think tall deck 454s were ever made. They made tall deck 366 and 427 for larger trucks.

GTXVette SuperDork
6/15/18 6:51 p.m.

THEY DIDN'T PUT 4 IN. CRANK IN A  TD BLOCK. YOU CAN THOUGH . you need either a piston with a .400 lower pin hole or use 6.535 in. rods.

93gsxturbo SuperDork
6/15/18 10:20 p.m.
MulletTruck said:

Would this engine be considered a Tall Deck? If so you have to be sure to get the correct intake, or spacers at a minimum.

Not a tall deck if it came from a regular civilian light duty truck.  Also, the tall decks are either 427s or 502s

bentwrench SuperDork
6/16/18 11:48 a.m.

I would not reuse the TBI.

There is a reason none of the OEMs use them anymore.

FITech or atomic are no better.

Port injection is the best way and it's not about power it's efficiency and accurate fuel delivery.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners