Engine & Exhaust / Q&A

Mailbag: How to Make 400 HP in an SBC-Powered ’86 Camaro

Q: I have a 1986 Chevy Camaro RS.

I’d like to build a 350 for it that puts 400 horses on the ground, and I’d like for it to be an “all-motor” Camaro, without nitrous.

My plan includes some high-compression pistons and a big cam. I was also thinking about putting 305 heads on the 350 to increase the compression ratio. I’ve been told that the 305 heads flow better than the 350 heads.

What do you think?

I was also considering Hooker long-tube headers and a 3-inch Flowmaster exhaust, and I’ll probably need to change my transmission, too. Can you point me in the right direction toward 400 hp?

A: You can get 400 hp out of a small block 350 and keep it streetable.

First, stay away from the 305 heads. They actually don’t flow very well, and since they’re cast iron, you can only go up to 9.5:1 compression.

We’d recommend a set of Trick Flow 23-degree 195 heads and a piston that will run on pump gas and withstand 10:1 compression, like these Keith Black hypereutectic pistons. Combine this with an Edelbrock Air Gap intake manifold, a Holley 650 cfm carb, and a cam with around 235 degrees of duration at .050 inches and .500 inches of lift (like this COMP Cams camshaft), and you should be at 400 hp.

This is another in a series of weekly Q&A Mailbag sessions with Summit Racing‘s tech department, in which there are hundreds more. Click here to see them all

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  1. Fred d franklin says:

    I used the hot hot hot cam build I love it
    Jeff Smith hows the Stein build coming along?

  2. Paul Mueller says:

    That build is really close to what I have in my 89 camaro. Except for the fact its a 388. ( .60 over bore)

  3. G. Simpson says:

    The Holley 650 cfm twin feed would be a good choice if you plan on sticking with a carburetor. It’s a 4150, choke horn # 4777. Mechanical secondaries, double pumper, and mechanical choke. I ran one of these units on a SB Ford .030 over, a set of AFR 165cc heads an Air Gap intake and a .512 280 duration cam. The thing screamed. Sounds like you’ll have plenty of air flow, and enough cam to Use that carb. If your. Still running the stock rear end, you may want to consider upgrading. Have fun.

  4. Steve Nelson says:

    Is there anything I can do with a six cylinder 2014 camaro it’s got 305 horsepower something like that ! Something bolt on ? Maybe a chip ? How much horsepower do u git from headers ?

    • OnAllCylinders Staff says:

      Hey Steve–absolutely. There are plenty of bolt-on upgrades out there for your 2014 Camaro 3.6L. Start with the basics: Intake and Exhaust. You can also tweak some engine parameters with a good tuner/programmer.

      And don’t forget about upgrades to the suspension, brakes, and other areas too. The Camaro has tons of aftermarket support, so you’ve got a pretty good canvas to start with, Good Luck!

      But be mindful of local codes, in certain areas changing/modifying engine (and related) components can violate local regulations.

  5. Monaro Mark M. Melbourne Aust. says:

    Or with the new Edelbrock AVS2 carby you could go with a bigger cam and heads to get even more power. Its got Annular flow primary boosters in it. Sorry OAC. Staff.

  6. James Whitworth says:

    I have a 1984 Chevy c20 p.u with a 1988 350 target crate engine,four bolt mains.quadra jet that is spot on perfect.. what can I do to up my power?

  7. Andrew Pastor says:

    Hello, fellow gear heads. I just wanted to say that it’s nice to see others such as myself doing some decent builds and having fun with it.
    I have a question and was hoping someone would and could point me in the right direction…Here it is…
    I have a 1997 Ford Expedition, 4.6 liter with a 4R100 automatic transmission. I’m looking for a place I can either buy or have an adapter plate made to mate a Gen 1 SBC TO THE 4R100 tranny.
    Any ideas? About 10 years ago I purchased and mounted a SBC 383into a 1979 Porsche 911 Targa. It was sweet to say the least. But, the company went out of business. So, now I’m stuck. Any help would be great. Thanks and be safe!!

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