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How did Chevrolet build the 305 cubic inch small-block? Is it a mash-up of 283 and 350 parts? Or is it just slightly larger than a 302 Chevy engine? — L.M.

Jeff Smith: “Mash-up” is a good term to use with any discussion of the 305 or 307 engines.

Actually, the 305 is a small-bore, long stroke engine created when General Motors officials decided back in the ‘80s to phase out the V8 in favor of the V6.

Then, the plan was for the 305 to be the biggest V8 you could purchase.

The problem was that the only V6 making decent power was the turbocharged Buick V6. The other engines were more than a disappointment when it came to making power — they were just too small.

The 305 wasn’t much better. Ultimately, the 350 c.i.d. V8 got a reprieve and now the horsepower wars have us at more than 700 horsepower in production engines.

From 1956 to 1966, the 283 was Chevy’s workhorse V8 powering millions of cars and trucks. It was just a 3.875-inch bore version of the 265 and was the hot V8 until 1962 when the 4.00-inch bore 327 arrived.

By the ‘70s, the 307 replaced the 283 as the base V8 but it didn’t do well because of its 283-size bore and long stroke.

Chevy should have learned from this engine but they didn’t, choosing instead to go a cheaper route by eventually going to the 305.

Displacement for Small Block Chevy Production Engines


As you can see from our displacement chart, the 305 uses the same stroke crank as the 350 even though the cranks are not interchangeable because the counterweights are heavier on a 350 crankshaft due to larger, heavier pistons.

The long stroke helped this small-displacement engine make torque at low speeds, but it was hampered by its tiny 3.736-inch bore.

The hot-dog 305 engine in the mid 1980s was the L69 carbureted engine used in early third-gen Camaros. While considered a hotter engine than its LG4 counterpart, it was only rated at 190 hp. To put this in perspective, a 2-bbl 283 back in 1966 was also rated at 190 hp.

While the rating systems changed to net power, if you were to put a 4-bbl on a 283 with matching compression to the L69 of 9.5:1, the 283 would win the power contest every time.

The difference is the 283 sports a slightly larger bore, but a shorter stroke. That combination works much better for overall power. The larger bore improves breathing while the shorter stroke reduces piston friction.

Unfortunately, the number of 283 small-blocks out there are dwindling fast. Nobody wanted the 283 because the 327 was both larger and better.

We’ve addressed the limitations of the 305 in several previous questions, so we won’t go too deeply here.

You can build a 305 to work on the street but as we’ve mentioned in the past, these small-bore engines restrict inlet air so badly that you can’t run a 2.02-inch intake valve head because the valve will literally crash into the bore. That’s not a good place to start when building a performance engine.

Conversely, if you just need a mild small-block to putt around town and chase parts, then the 305 will do the job.

There are always a few enthusiasts who feel the need to “defend” this engine. If you think the 305 deserves attention, then please feel free to build one.

But from a simple airflow standpoint, a 302 small-block with a 4.00-inch bore and a short 3.00-inch stroke is slightly smaller in displacement but has a 0.264-inch larger diameter bore! That allows large valve heads and enough flow to make decent power.

In the mid to late ‘60s, thousands of 283 engines were treated to a 0.125-inch bore increase from 3.875 to 4.00 inches which were termed 301’s since the bore size penciled out to 301.59 cubic inches. Chevy later combined the 327’s 4.00-inch bore with the 283’s steel 3.00-inch stroke crank and termed it a 302.

And the rest is history.

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Author: Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith has had a passion for cars since he began working at his grandfather's gas station at the age 10. After graduating from Iowa State University with a journalism degree in 1978, he combined his two passions: cars and writing. Smith began writing for Car Craft magazine in 1979 and became editor in 1984. In 1987, he assumed the role of editor for Hot Rod magazine before returning to his first love of writing technical stories. Since 2003, Jeff has held various positions at Car Craft (including editor), has written books on small block Chevy performance, and even cultivated an impressive collection of 1965 and 1966 Chevelles. Now he serves as a regular contributor to OnAllCylinders.