From Skid Row to Easy Street: Edelbrock E-Street Install

The small-block Chevy has been around since 1955 and there are more add-ons and go-fast goodies for the mouse motor than any other engine on the face of the planet. Do you want a big-inch small-block? You can do that. Do you want a 327 that will spin to 10,000 rpms with 20 pounds of boost? Yup, that works too. Do you really just want a nice streetable 350 for your street rod on the cheap? You can most definitely do that. Edelbrock’s latest top-end package for the small-block Chevy is just that – easy and reliable street power that delivers. Welcome to easy street with the Edelbrock E-Street performance upgrades.

Getting Started

The basis for the E-Street power package is a set of Edelbrock’s E-Street heads. This is a good entry-level step up into the street performance arena, making them the perfect option for a typical stock small-block owner who wants better performance without breaking the bank. Each E-Street head is made from A356 aluminum casting and are heat treated to T6 specs. Improving on the OEM combustion chamber design, the E-Street heads deliver performance through an optimized design using high quality materials.

The E-Street kit comes with everything you need to install it except for a tube of silicone and fluids. We opted to add a new fuel pump, 2-piece timing cover and Edelbrock Classic finned valve covers and air cleaner to complete the look. We also picked up a new Edelbrock Thunder Series AVS 650 CFM carb.

The intake runners are 185cc which allow more flow, providing both better efficiency and power. The exhaust runner is 60cc for a quick release of spent fuel. The heads are available in either 70cc or 64cc combustion chambers and the valves are 2.02/1.60-inch intake/exhaust.

Right out of the box, the E-Street heads are said to be good for a substantial torque and horsepower gain. It is definitely a noticeable step up in performance that you can feel. Edelbrock’s design details make the biggest difference in the additional performance benefits to be had. These heads allow you to take advantage of a larger camshaft while offering better intake flow dynamics. Plus they are aluminum, which means they have much better heat transfer with less weight.

While you can buy just the heads, adding the dyno-tuned E-Street kit ensures that all your components match and are engineered to work well together. The kit gets you a Performer EPS dual-plane intake, hydraulic flat tappet cam, Performer-Link timing chain, gaskets, and a bolt kit. Edelbrock thoughtfully includes all the required bolts and gaskets, which is standard procedure for all their performance kits.

We found the perfect build-style street rod in this 1931 Model A sedan as our guinea pig for the install. This isn’t a rat rod by any means, rather we found an actual unfinished traditional-style hot rod that would be common to see in the average rodder's garage.

The Performer EPS intake is a dual-plane intake designed to work with square-bore carbs (the standard Performer SBC intake has a spread-bore pattern) – to help make power from idle to 5500 RPM. The intake is dyno-proven to make an additional 5 hp and 9 lb-ft torque over the original Performer (part #2101) intake, and the modern intake runner design works very well with the 185cc runners on the E-Street heads.

One of the coolest “hot rod” features on this intake is the oil fill tube option. For the old-school rodders who want to retain the classic look of non-breather valve covers, you can use the included oil fill tube with this intake. This is a great intake that will look the part on a vintage musclecar engine yet capitalize on modern technology to put serious power to the ground.

We unbolted the heads - these heavy iron heads took some effort to lift off as these puppies weigh a ton. We examined the cylinders and pistons and while there is some carbon on the pistons, the rings are good, there is no appreciable ring land wear and everything looks good to get started.

Down and Dirty

The camshaft for this package is a mild street upgrade with specs as follows: valve lift is .420/.442 with 204/214 duration on a 112 lobe separation angle. This means you get excellent off-idle performance and good low-end torque, while still keeping fuel economy. This cam is absolutely an improvement over a stock cam, but the heads and intake are capable of more allowing for a more aggressive cam upgrade down the road, if desired. 

E-Street Top End Kit S/B Chevy (1957-86)–315 HP/381 ft/lbs. (#2022)

  • Intake Manifold Performer EPS (#2701)
  • Cylinder Heads E-Street (#5089)
  • Cam & Lifters Performer Kit (#2102)
  • Timing Chain Set Performer Link (#7800)
  • Cylinder Head Bolt Kit (#8550)
  • Intake Manifold Bolt Kit (#8504)
  • Edelbrock Gasket Sets (#7361 & #6997)

Additional Upgrades:

  • Classic Finned Aluminum Valve Covers (#4143)
  • Classic Finned Aluminum Air Cleaner (#4117)
  • Front Timing Cover Two-Piece (#4242)
  • Edelbrock High Performance Break-In Oil, Premium SAE 30 (#1070)
  • Performer RPM Series 110GPH Mechanical Fuel Pump (#1721)
  • Edelbrock Carburetor Thunder Series AVS EnduraShine Finish 650cfm Electric Choke (#18064)

In full kit form, the E-Street Power Package gives you a tested and tuned group of components that is dyno proven to provide 315 hp and 381 lb/ft of torque. This testing was done with a Chevrolet Performance Parts 350 shortblock with 9.0:1 compression.  This is what you will get if you have a brand new Chevrolet Performance 350.

Most rodders, however, do not have a brand new Chevrolet shortblock. The most typical SBC engine is the one they made the most of—a mid-70s smog-era 350 with low compression pistons and lots of miles. We wanted to find out what this kit would do for a worn out junkyard 350. We all have a pretty good understanding of what to expect from an “experienced” daily driven SBC 350.

To find out, we searched for the right project. The specs were simple:

  • Simple installation, ease of access to the engine and components.
  • Stock engine, we are looking for a stock 350, no major upgrades.
  • Street driven. We needed a car that was streetable and driven often. Part of the beauty of this kit is drivability, so we need to know what it was like to drive before and after the install.
  • Cool factor. We could have dropped this gear onto a ‘70s truck, or an early ‘80s car, but we wanted something that would just ooze cool while being representative of the everyman’s hot rod.

What we came up with was a 1931 Ford Model A Sedan with a ‘70s smog-era SBC 350 that came from a junkyard. We had all the factors we wanted:  simple, stock, street driven every day and tons of cool factor. The important stuff was all stock – crank, rods, and pistons. The pistons were 9.0:1 cast pieces, which are the same size as the Chevrolet Performance Parts test engine.

With the initial driving impressions set, we pulled the Model A into the shop and started stripping it down. This is one of the simplest vehicles to work on, as the engine is exposed. Just take off the grille shell, and tear down the motor. The installation of the E-Street kit went very smooth, no hiccups or fitment issues. We figured that the engine could use a little dress up, so we opted for some fresh fins from Edelbrock to liven things up a bit. A set of Edelbrock classic finned valve covers, along with a matching Edelbrock air cleaner took this from a crusty old 350 to a clean, proper hot rod engine. We upgraded the timing cover to a two-piece unit from Edelbrock to facilitate any future camshaft upgrades, along with a new high-performance mechanical fuel pump. The engine was topped off with an Edelbrock 650 cfm Endurashine Thunder series AVS 4-barrel carb.

We started the reassembly by generously applying Royal Purple's synthetic assembly lube to the camshaft prior to installation.

One caveat that we have not mentioned yet is the exhaust. Most builders will be using headers on their engine. We are not. In order to keep with the retro look, we are running a set of stock ram horn manifolds to a dual 2-inch exhaust. This was going to kill some power and we were fully aware of that. A decent set of off-the-shelf long tubes would be good for as much as 30 horsepower.

The installation took about 6 hours. We replenished the fluids with Edelbrock break-in oil since this is a flat-tappet camshaft, and then we fired it up. The initial start-up was quick, and it tuned in very quickly. After 20-minutes of break-in, we were ready to do some driving.

Edelbrock has excellent quality control for all of their products; the heads were clean and ready to go right out of the box. The 2.02/1.60 valves and 64cc chambers provide ample flow and good compression.

Before the upgrades, the engine was hard to start. The old carb (a vintage Carter) required heavy pumping and long cranking to get it fired, then it took awhile to warm up. The first time we fired up after the kit install, we discovered that hard starting would no longer be an issue. The engine fires right off, no hesitation or stumbling, and the engine warmed up quickly and was ready to drive much sooner. Around town, the sedan is much better to drive with the increased throttle response and low-end torque. In a heavy car, the Edelbrock equipped engine may not be quite as brutal, but in a Model A, it certainly is. Acceleration is pert to say the least, and churning the tires into a frenzy of puffy white clouds comes with ease. The car is just fun to drive.

The new lifters and pushrods were installed with plenty of assembly lube. We also coated the pushrods with some Edelbrock break-in oil.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and we wished that engine dyno testing was an option for this project. Remembering that our goals were to upgrade the street performance and drivability of our project car, we took the Model A to a local chassis dyno shop to get some rear wheel numbers. Checking rear wheel horsepower, which will always be less than flywheel or Brake horsepower (BHP) due to parasitic loss through the drivetrain, fits into our streetability testing better. 

Edelbrock's two-piece timing cover was a snap to install and would make future cam changes a breeze.

We made our appointment with the chassis dyno and loaded up on the trailer. We made several pulls, trying more or less timing. The carb was spot on, no need to tweak anything there with the 13.5 AFRs we were getting. We started with the engine idling at 185 degrees, ambient temperatures were in the upper 80s, 92 octane E10 gasoline and 32 degrees of total timing. The results were 188.5 horsepower and 248.9 lb/ft of torque. We could have left it at that, but we decided to up the timing to 36 degrees total, let the engine rest for 30 minutes and made another pull. This time the horsepower peaked at 196.8 and 258 lb/ft — an increase of 8 ponies. Next we tried 40 degrees of timing and while it made a touch more power–197.4 horsepower–the torque was the same but we just don’t like that much timing, so we backed it off to 36 degrees and set it.

All things Edelbrock! With Edelbrock cylinder heads, gaskets and intake, everything fits perfectly with no hassles.

The Model A’s TH350 transmission is light enough to eat a moderate amount of power, but the issue here is the Ford 8-inch rearend, which has higher loss numbers due to the relatively low position of the pinion gear to the ring gear. This combination is realistically responsible for a 25% loss, add that back in to the 36-degree power figures, and you are looking at 260 horsepower and 350 lb/ft of torque. The stock ram horn exhaust manifolds hurt the 350’s flow, it is as simple as that. A set of long tubes or fender-well headers would add plus 30 horsepower to the engine’s output, bringing it to 290. For a well-worn 75k mile “experienced” 350 smog engine, 290 horsepower is a pretty righteous number.

We wrapped up the upgrades with Edelbrock's Classic Series Finned Aluminum Valve Covers (Part #4143), Classic Series Finned Aluminum Air Cleaner (Part#4117) and Edelbrock's Thunder Series AVS 650cfm Carburetor (Part#18064).

As supplied, this is certainly a nice, clean package that will work for any hot rod. We were able to make more power and have better drivability and stepped up the looks to a proper hot rod engine at the same time. Oh, and the best part of it all—the kit will only hit your wallet for about $1,500 bucks – you simply can’t beat that price.

With the engine buttoned up, it was filled with 4 quarts of break-in oil (we had already used one for the lifters and filter), and ran the engine for 20 minutes, varying the throttle between 2000 and 3000 RPM to break in the camshaft.

About the author

Jefferson Bryant

It is almost terrifying the breadth of Jefferson's technical abilities. A fabricator, master technician, engine builder, paint and body guy, dirt track racer, road course driver, or a glossy magazine reporter, Jefferson can do it all. Oh yeah, he's also a YouTube hero.
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