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Crate Engine or Custom Build: Which is Right for You? – Smeding Performance
Crate Engine or Custom Build: Which is Right for You?

Jan 01 , 2024

LeachCo Marketing

Crate Engine or Custom Build: Which is Right for You?

When they finally get the chance to build the car of their dreams, many people are quickly faced with one critical choice. They have to decide what sort of power plant to use in it. In the case of a museum-quality restoration, the choice isn’t hard to make, although the execution of that choice may be very difficult. Lining up a matching numbers engine for their year, make, and model is never easy. It gets less easy every year. For those people, however, the decision is simple. They have to go with a custom rebuild crafted in exact compliance with the original factory specifications.

The Custom Build Path

For most other rod builders, this is much less of a clear-cut thing. As long as you aren’t cornered by the need for some specific power plant, you have options. These generally coalesce around two possibilities. You can buy a crate engine and drop it in, or you can have someone custom build the block of your dreams out of the best parts you can find. Each has advantages and pitfalls.

Advantages of Crate Engines

For the crate engine, the advantages are obvious. First off, you save a huge amount of time. You order it. It shows up. You drop it onto the mounts, and you are ready to hook all your accessories up to it. You get fine performance out of it, an excellent warranty, and the assurance that the combination put together inside the block is all going to properly mesh together.

Considering Custom Builds 

For the custom build, you get something that may well run better than the crate alternative, provided the individual components are selected by someone who knows what they are doing. You may also get something that doesn’t if you insist on a mismatched set of components.

Lifestyle and Usage Considerations

One of the main concerns about choosing between these two alternatives is that custom and crate engines often lead very different lives that are not always equivalent. People who build custom blocks are looking for maximum performance and are more likely to really wring it out of their cars once in a while. A car that is neutral-dropped all the time lives under different conditions than one that is only driven to church on Sunday.

Price Comparison

Price-wise, there is less separation between the two blocks than there used to be. Custom will still generally cost more, but not much more, than a crate engine that offers the same sort of all-new block and parts. If you have the time and the money, build the block of your dreams. If you want to be on the road sooner, buy yourself a crate.

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