Finding Vintage Big Blocks

4-bolt blockHigh performance engine blocks have never been easier to come by and while some may balk at their cost, it’s clear that you can get just about anything you want for your big block engine build regardless of performance level or final application. Unless of course you’re conducting a performance vehicle restoration and you need an original vintage cylinder block with the correct casting numbers in serviceable condition.  In an age when everything from a LS6 Chevelle to a restored Corvair Spyder is expected to have perfectly matching numbers to be legit it’s become almost annoying. Every vehicle is expected be totally original, untouched and never driven except on one sunny day every five years and then only for three miles at a time on dry pavement.


Mark IV 4-bolt block

2-bolt block

Mark IV 2-bolt block

We’re not here to debate the legitimacy of any of this, but we recognize that many restorers legitimately want original engines parts, particularly blocks, heads, intakes and exhaust manifolds that bring their restoration effort closer to original condition. Finding correct original pieces can be a real challenge, but they make any project more realistic and thus we make the extra effort. There are a few honest vendors out there who make a point of finding and cataloging original parts that can still provide good service in restoration or regular rebuild applications.

big block casting numbers

Casting number location

big block VIN number pad

VIN number pad

Among them Vintage Big Blocks stands out with an easy to use web site that lists all the original blocks, cranks, heads, and manifolds they have collected for sale. Owner David Swartz (Swartz Enterprises) provides a well organized web site with listings by year make and model with casting numbers, date codes and the condition of the part. He lists the type of car the engine came from and the general condition such as stock bore, .030-over, 2 or 4-bolt mains and other features that help you determine if they have a suitable block for your application. Here are a couple sample listings that may or may not still be available depending on when you visit their site.

Sample Listings:

1965 396 Corvette/Chevelle Z-16/Impala 425HP 4 bolt block, Rare early date, Cast 962 date B-5-5, Fresh .030 over. Nice.

1968/1969 427 Corvette 390HP 4 speed 2 bolt block and heads. Cast 439 date is G-16-8 TO718IL Std bore, 063 heads G-5+9-8. Also have 68 Alum intakes and carbs.

Many listings also note any problems that may concern you such as heavy pitting, broken or chipped bolt bosses, etc. If a VIN number is present on a block, he lists it. If it’s been machined off via decking he notes it and he also notes some service blocks that have an original pad with no numbers.

1967 retaqngular port iron 840 head

1967 rectangular port iron 840 head

1970 open chamber 074 aluminum head1970 open chamber 074 aluminum head

1970 open chamber 074 aluminum head

David is a pretty personable guy, but also very busy. He gets back to you quickly if you call or e-mail and he does accept orders for stuff he doesn’t have. So if you’re looking for something outside his basic inventory, he’ll make an effort to locate it for you. He also offers complete engine rebuilds to any desired performance level through a local engine service that he trusts. David also notes that he has more blocks and other parts that are not listed on the web site so don’t afraid to ask for something you don’t see. He deals mostly in blocks, cranks, heads and intakes, but he does have other parts like carburetors, water pump, balancers, oil pans and other parts that may suit your needs.  At the bottom of his regular listings he lists additional block and head casting that he has in inventory. He genuinely enjoys helping car guys find these original pieces for their projects and he keeps a pretty detailed photographic record of everything he has.

You will likely not acquire a fully numbers matching piece with a VIN number, but you can certainly equip your build with an original block and heads with the correct casting and date numbers and features that came on the original car and that’s a great start toward building a pretty legit piece.  You’ll probably still use aftermarket internals and redo the heads with pump gas friendly valve seats, but whose complaining as long as the exterior is correct?

big block head date stamp1965 iron oval port head date stamp F1265

Big block head date stamp, 1965 iron oval port date code F1265

Corvette intake manifold

1969, winters snowflake, Corvette #801 aluminum intake manifold

Corvette aluminum intake

1966-69 aluminum snowflake rectangular port intake manifold #3885069

Corvette aluminum intake1968-69 Corvette snowflake aluminum oval port intake manifold

1968-69 Corvette snowflake aluminum oval port intake manifold

For many years big blocks remained in short supply as they became the most desirable core pieces for large displacement racing engines, particularly localized bracket racing and hot street racers.  It hasn’t gotten any easier to find them, but with fair prices and considerable expertise in locating the pieces you need Vintage Big Blocks offers a much needed service to big block hunters.  How can you argue with the listing below for $875.00. No doubt it has already been snapped up by a Camaro or Chevelle  guy who was more than pleased to acquire it.

1972 396/402, Chevelle/Camaro -block, heads, intake, crank and rods. Cast 290 I-1-71 T0908CTB STD bore block, oval port heads. $875.00

Buyers also pay shipping and insurance for their parts and David makes certain you get what you pay for. He’ll e-mail you photos so you can verify what you’re getting and he stresses satisfaction guaranteed.



Vintage Big Blocks