EDITOR’S NOTE: What are the top high performance automotive parts of all time? Or in this case, what are the Top 20 most iconic parts that changed hot rodding? We’re talking total game-changers in the annals of our hobby.
We asked a panel of OnAllCylinders staffers, longtime automotive journalists, and veteran members of the Summit Racing technical and marketing departments for their input. The countdown concludes with number 1 (you can see numbers 20 through 2 here).
“Hot rodding would be very different without the Holley carburetor!”
That sentiment, shared here by respected automotive journalist Jeff Smith, is perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to an aftermarket part. Although the 3310 carburetor wasn’t the first Holley carb, the 3310 was a game changer in every sense of the word. Quite simply, the modular, four-barrel design of the Holley 3310 carburetor simplified the way we tune carbs forever.
Once described as the small block Chevy of fuel delivery, the Holley 3310 carburetor (4150 and 4160 models) is still the go-to carburetor for anyone building a performance engine. Holley conservatively estimates that over 2.5 million 3310 carburetors have been sold since its introduction in 1965.
And 3 million hot rodders can’t be wrong.
Although the Holley 3310 carburetor debuted on the legendary, big block-powered Z16 Chevelle in 1965, its roots can be traced back to the 1950s. That’s when Holley developed a new carburetor, the 4150 carburetor, for the Y-block engines of the 1957-’58 Ford Thunderbirds. Labeled by Holley as its first true performance carburetor, this original 4150 carburetor introduced the famous Holley modular four-barrel design we know today. Originally rated at 400 cfm, this carburetor was updated to flow 780 cfm and reissued as original equipment for the 425-horsepower Z16 Chevelle.
The legendary Holley 3310 was born.
The original Holley 3310 model 4150 carburetor used on the Z16 Chevelle featured vacuum secondaries and center-hung “cathedral” float bowls. In 1966, it was dropped as an OE carburetor and introduced into the aftermarket. The 3310 remained largely unchanged until the 1970s when it received a primary metering block, secondary metering plate, straight-leg boosters, a reduced flow rating of 750 cfm, and new model name: the 4160.
The 4160 version of the 3310 helped make the 3310 a universal-fit carburetor for all makes of street engines. “Not only can you get (the 3310) in dozens of different cfm configurations but also in vacuum or mechanical secondaries,” Smith said. “It is the universal four-barrel hot rod carburetor.”
The Holley name is synonymous with carburetors, and the 3310 is what really put the company on the hot-rodding map. Holley 94s were powering race cars before, and the double pumper and Dominator would later make their mark, but the introduction of the 3310 made the biggest impact of all.
“They were more tunable than multiple carburetor setups that came before, and made more power to boot,” said Alan Rebescher, Summit Racing PR/Media Relations. “The modular design made the 4150/4160 easy to modify (and screw up, too.)”
According to Holley, over 250 million carburetors have been produced over the years.
But none have had an impact on hot rodding like that first Holley 3310.