Despite the fact that a 350 crate-engine package is one of the most popular engine selections for street rods today, the little V-8 was also the hot ticket back in the day, almost as soon as it hit the streets. Nobody can argue with the nostalgic vibe generated by a 283 or 327 dressed out with finned aluminum valve covers, multiple carbs, a chrome oil-fill tube, and all the other little touches that scream 1959.
Today, the best part may be that with the right parts selection, you can take the period-correct appearance desired for a traditional hot rod and combine it with over 40 years of engine technology to create a reliable street-driven V-8 that makes more power than some full-race versions from the glory days.
We set out to achieve just that by building a small-block with the right look, but all the updates we could bolt on. We attempted to use items that could be concealed so as not to disturb the appearance, but took our testing in stages, starting with the early-60s vibe and making changes from there. The span of the power increases was dramatic, yet the final product was one that could easily live in a road-going rodone that could garner as much attention at the drags as it would at the local cruise night.