Technology has come a long way in the last few years, but this engine shows that ingenuity is not a new thing when it comes to making power. The folks at Johnson’s Machine in Olympia, Washington posted this video on YouTube featuring a small-block they purchased on Ebay about 20 years ago.
Reportedly, the previous owner’s father had the crankshaft specially-built for this engine back in the late-50s. The entire engine is comprised of parts fitted to accommodate its peculiar crankshaft. The 180-degree crank features additional weights on each counter-balance, to offset the heavy Buick Nailhead rods and pistons.
The camshaft is also custom-ground to give the engine its particular firing order (1-6-3-2-7-4-5-8), as compared to the factory small-block’s 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2. As you can imagine, the different firing order and 180-degree crankshaft design gives this small-block a distinct sound. Thankfully, the engine spends a little time on the dyno so you get to hear it at full song.
Being an older build, and based on earlier technology, the folks at Johnson’s Machine decided to keep much of the vintage flavor, rather than infuse too much tech and take away from the vintage vibe the engine exhudes. Still, they opted to run a 650-cfm carburetor instead of the original Algon mechanical fuel injection system the engine was originally fitted with. The reason for the diversion was that this engine is going into a driver, and a carb simply has “less drama” than the oh-so-cool fuel-injection system.
With the added availability of components today, some of the “original” custom parts were relegated to the parts bin as other, more contemporary units went in their place. The rods are now Eagle brand units and the new pistons are much lighter than the originals and give the engine 391 cubic-inches of combustion to work with. Also, some reworked “smog” heads (487 castings) were treated to a little bowl blending, port work and matching to allow the engine to breathe better while keeping the compression ratio around 9.5:1.
While this engine will never take any horsepower awards away from many of the modern-day powerhouses that churn horses and lb-ft of torque at will, it does have a great story and history which the folks at Johnson’s Machine were kind enough to share. How much power DID the engine make? You’ll have to watch the video to find out. Besides, hearing that flat-crank belt out a few revs just makes the journey to the dyno sheet that much more enjoyable.