Engine & Exhaust / Induction

The Forgotten Warrior: Chevy 305 (5.0L) Small Block V8 Performance Upgrades

How well does the 5.0L (305) Chevy respond to performance mods? (Image/Richard Holdener)

Try this experiment the next time you are sitting around the garage or online, talking about small block Chevy performance. When everyone is talking about DZ302s, 365 hp 327s, and any number of 350 Chevys, casually mention the 305!

Chances are great that you will experience one of two things, plenty of laughter or outright ridicule. Few (if any) enthusiasts will step in to defend the much-maligned 305 small block!

In truth, the small block Chevy has been offered in a variety of different displacements, ranging from a diminutive 262 cubic inches (3.671 x 3.10 in. bore x stroke) to a full 400 inches (4.125 x 3.75 in.). Many confuse the limited production 262 small block with the more popular 265 displacement (3.75 x 3.0 in.), but the little 262 was rated at just 110 horsepower—kind of pathetic for any self-respecting V8.

Mixed in with all the various other displacements (267, 283, 302, 307, 327, and 350) was the 305, often referred to in metric circles as the Chevy 5.0L.

Despite its dismissal from enthusiasts, the 305, unlike many of the other small blocks listed here, was actually offered in performance applications.

In fact, the 305 all but became the go-to V8 for GM applications in the 1980s and 1990s. Not as legendary as the DZ302s or LT-1s of yesteryear, yet it was the L69 and LB9 305s that took the battle to the 5.0L Mustangs of the era.

Exploring the Chevy 305’s Potential

Given the extensive usage and even performance heritage of the 305, why does it have this less-than-stellar reputation among enthusiasts? The 305 is a capable performer, but suffers because of both its dimensions and aftermarket support.

What do we mean by this statement? Well, dimensionally speaking, the 305 displacement came from a combination of a 3.736 inch bore and the 3.48 inch stoke (stroke length shared with the larger 350). Though things like cams, rockers, and induction systems that fit all of the other small blocks work equally well on the 305, cylinder head selections to fit the small-bore size were limited.

Most aftermarket head manufacturers were quick to offer performance cylinder heads for the 4.0 inch bore 302, 327, and 350 motors, yet few stepped up and made heads specifically sized to work with the smaller 3.736 bore on the 305. Notching the top of the bore to fit some of the larger heads on the 305 was a possibility, but the bore sizing also had the potential to reduce head flow and hinder performance. Stock, or even ported stock, heads had no trouble supporting your typical (low-rpm) TPI 5.0L, the small-bore combo needed real head flow to make power!

The other consideration for enthusiasts was that, given the availability of motors in the wrecking yard, it was very easy (and cheap) to simply step up to a larger (big bore) 350.

Where does that leave the many 5.0L 305 owners looking for more power?

Some Good Chevy 305 Aftermarket Performance Upgrades

Well, the big-bore guys might have more offerings, but that doesn’t mean 305 owners can’t have some fun too.

To demonstrate what is possible with a 305 small block, we upgraded a factory 5.0L Tuned Port motor. Our upgrades were applied to an original (and zero mile!) LB9, but replacing the stock heads, cam, and intake can be performed with equal (possibly better) results on any of the many carbureted 305s. Note the later Vortec 305s (LO3) came with Vortec specific heads and attending intake bolt pattern.

To illustrate the power potential of a top-end (HCI) upgrade, we enlisted the help of the gang at Comp Cams, Trick Flow Specialties, and Holley.

Though head choices were limited for the small-bore 305, Trick Flow Specialties did offer a set of 175cc Super 23 degree aluminum heads designed for the 5.0L. The heads featured a 1.94/1.50 valve package, 56cc combustion chambers and a valve package designed for our hydraulic roller spring package. Rather than go whole hog, we decided to make the combo a decent driver and chose our cam accordingly.

The powerful, but drivable, Comp XFI268 cam offered a .570/.565 lift split, a 218/224 degree duration split and 113 degree LSA.

This dynamic duo was combined with a short(er)-runner, Holley (Weiand) Stealth Ram induction system to replace the factory TPI system. The combination was designed to enhance both flow and rpm potential of the 5.0L small block.

Modified Chevy 305 Dyno Testing

To test the potential of the proposed combination, we first ran our stock 305 LB9 TPI motor on the engine dyno with long-tube headers, no accessories and a Holley HP management system.

The lack of accessories and induction, combined with an open exhaust and optimized tune, is why this motor made more power than the rated 215 to 220 hp (in stock form) for the LB9. Run in this manner, the TPI LB9 305 produced peak numbers of 267 hp at 4,700 rpm and 333 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,700 rpm. It should be obvious from these numbers (especially the peak engine speeds), that GM designed the long-runner, tune-port motors for low-speed torque.

After backup runs repeated the numbers, we tore the LB9 apart to make way for the Comp cam, TFS heads and Holley Stealth ram induction. The Stealth ram was equipped with 80 pound Accel injectors, since we would later be running this motor under boost (in the form of a TorqStorm supercharger).

After installation of the new components, the peak power numbers jumped to 367 hp at 6,000 rpm and 349 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The new combo was making peak torque at a higher engine speed than the stock motor made peak hp. Despite the mild cam timing, the HCI upgrade improved the power by a solid 100 hp, though there was a loss in torque way down low (it is tough to beat the TPI off-idle).

Best of all, with plenty of head flow left (enough to support near 500 hp), this 305 just needs more cam (and maybe intake) to chalk up even more power.

The first thing you should notice from these power graphs is that the original 5.0L (and 5.7L) TPI motors were designed with low-rpm torque production in mind. The combination of the stock heads, mild cam timing and (especially) long-runner, TPI induction system, ensured the stock Tuned Port motor would make both peak power and torque at very low engine speeds. The peak power of 267 hp occurred at just 4,700 rpm, while peak torque of 333 lb.-ft. occurred 1,000 rpm earlier. Once equipped with adequate head flow, wilder cam timing, and shorter intake runners, the Comp/TFS/Holley 305 produced peak numbers of 367 hp (at 6,000 rpm) and 349 lb.-ft. of torque (at 4,800 rpm). Note from the curves, there was a loss in low-speed torque—it is hard to beat the TPI system at very low engine speeds. (Dyno Chart/Richard Holdener)
The test motor started out life as a 5.0L (305) Tuned Port Injected (TPI) small block. These mods, with a carbureted induction system, could also be applied to a carbureted or EFI 305. (Image/Richard Holdener)
To establish our baseline, we equipped the TPI 305 with a set of 1-3/4 inch long-tube headers with collector extensions. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The TPI 305 combinations, both stock and modified, were tuned with a Holley HP management system. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The factory Tuned-Port Injection featured long runners to help promote torque production. The downside is that the TPI system limited power higher in the rev range. (Image/Richard Holdener)
Some look to the factory (dual-blade) throttle body to improve power, but the reality is that the long runners were the limiting factor. (Image/Richard Holdener)
Run on the dyno first with the stock TPI injection system, the 5.0L Chevy produced 267 hp at 4,700 rpm and 333 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,700 rpm. (Image/Richard Holdener)
We then yanked off the stock TPI induction system and the factory cylinder heads to make way for the upgrades. The LB9 motor featured dual eyebrow, dished pistons. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The factory LB8 TPI cam was replaced with a mild, but powerful Xfi268 cam from Comp Cams. The XFI268 offered a .570/.565 lift split, a 218/224-degree duration split and 113-degree LSA. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The factory cast iron TPI heads were replaced by a set of 175cc, Trick Flow Super 23 degree aluminum heads. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The Trick Flow Super 23 degree heads featured 175cc intake ports, 67cc exhaust ports and 56cc combustion chambers. The 1.94/1.50 in. valve heads were installed onto the awaiting short block. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The Super 23 degree Trick Flow heads feature a valve spring package designed for the hydraulic-roller cam, and were equipped with a set of 1.5 ratio, aluminum, roller rockers. (Image/Richard Holdener)
Rather than rely on the factory TPI induction, we swapped out the long-runner design for a short(er) runner Holley Stealth Ram intake. The Stealth Ram featured a two-piece design and billet fuel rails equipped with 80 pound Accel injectors. (Image/Richard Holdener)
The tunnel-ram style, EFI lower intake was topped with a rectangular upper intake designed to accept a factory-style TPI throttle body. We chose a dual 58mm Holley throttle body for this test. (Image/Richard Holdener)
After installation of the new Comp cam, Trick Flow Super 23 degree heads and Holley Stealth Ram, the power output of the modified 305 jumped from 267 hp and 333 lb.-ft. of torque to 367 hp (now at 6,000 rpm) and 349 lb.-ft. of torque (at 4,800 rpm). The HCI upgrade improved the power output by a solid 100 hp. (Image/Richard Holdener)

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13 Comments

  1. Mike+Brown says:

    Though I prefer larger engines for most of my vehicles, I have absolutely nothing against the 305. For years in my area (and probably other places), there’s even been a 305 class for dirt sprint cars. Personally, I have a 1988 GMC K-1500 extended cab, 8′ bed pickup with its original 305. I bought it used with just over 100k miles in 1994. Today in 2022, it has nearly 300k and is starting to get tired. I’m definitely keeping the truck but haven’t decided whether I’ll rebuild the 305 or replace it with a crate 350. At this point, I’m leaning toward a basically stock rebuild with better heads.

  2. Carlos Rodrigo Macchiavello says:

    hello from Argentina I’ve been following you for a while, I would like if you can at some point continue working with a six-cylinder Chevrolet engine, some 250 “with injection and turbo, greetings from Argentina

  3. ROSS VELICK says:

    How much money for that particular build?

  4. Jeff Chandler says:

    Excellent timing. My 85 C10 is awaiting a rebuild and I was debating whether to rebuild the 305 or go a different way. You have helped me to decide. Thanks!

  5. Roger Philpott says:

    What were the results with the Torquestorm Supercharger?

  6. I’ve always seen the 305 as a boat Anchor as well ! Being someone of moderate income and having a mortgage and children to feed that have to come first ! I’ve always found my self building a 327 or a 350 due to sure cost to power ratio . I’ve wondered what the 305 could do after having a mid 80’s 305 ho with a Quadra jet out of a z28 that ran good for what it was ! Thank you for the build and questions answered!

  7. Nick DeFino says:

    Polish a turd all you want, you’ll just end up with a shiny turd

  8. John Wantiez says:

    I polished my turd to 483hp, 441ft lbs torque at 6500rpms on the dyno.313cu. GM L98 aluminum ported heads.Mahle pistons, Scat rods, GM crank, Edlebrock performer with 750cfm Holley. Solid roller cam. Nice street build.

    • Gilbert G Wutzke says:

      Sounds like a great build to me wish I had it in my 81 corvette less weight and a lot more ponies

  9. Migilito Blanco says:

    Polish a turd, larger engine sizes, boat anchor? What asinine comments! I think this is why I stick to ford’s. Simple minded people should stick to counting on fingers. First, small block Chevrolet engine size, 262 to 400ci are the same basic structure. Same basic block and heads, turd? Same but for cubic inches, how much more power do you think 48 ci produces? It’s minimal jack ass! Huge difference here. They all weigh the same, boat anchor? Stupid!!!! Get over the stupid and build something without hate for the same damn brand!!!!!

  10. Esther Rose says:

    Holy crap. You guys talk so much shit to each other over some really dumb stuff. I’m a chick that just wants to get an old el camino running as a beater surf car to haul my board and gear, and wow… The fragile male ego is apparently not simply a myth. Not a good look boys. I’m glad I have my dad to lean on for advice and don’t have to rely on, well, men like you.

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