Sep 15 , 2023
Do you want to go for cubic inches or light weight? What are the differences between a small and big block anyway? Good question, since they were both available new from Chevrolet at the same time, in the 1960s. There are a bunch of big and small block engines in various sizes, and they came out in the same year and often in the same model cars and trucks. A small block has common displacements of 283, 327, 350, and 400 cubic inches, whereas a big block is usually 396, 437, and 454. They function exactly the same; it’s just the internal parts that are different, giving them more displacement and more weight.
Generally speaking, a big block makes more power, but that certainly is not true on its own merit. The power output of any engine depends fully on how it is built and what parts are used. While it is true that cubic inches make horsepower and torque, there are a million factors that go into it, so you can’t just make a blanket statement that "big blocks make more power than small blocks." That is so far from the truth that it’s not even funny! Yes, they can, but they don’t in every case. The only fact that remains solid in comparison is the size and weight of the engines; a small block is smaller and lighter in every case but can certainly be much more powerful than a big block—it depends on how it is built. You have to look at the parts used, the combination of those parts, and the power they produce when deciding on an engine, but other than "curb appeal," a small-block is usually a better choice. Usually.
That’s because a small block fits pretty much anywhere you want it to and is lighter overall due to its smaller and often lighter construction. You can stuff a small-block engine in a Triumph TR6 if you want to. Try that with a big block—you'll need a torch and a really large hammer! A small block can be built to make well over 1,000 horsepower. It happens every single day; you just have to know how to build one! Hell, tiny Formula 1 engines make that kind of power—again, it’s how they are built that determines the power output, not just the engine displacement!
So between the choice of a small-block and a big-block, it all boils down, in our opinion, to looks and room in the engine bay. A small block almost always wins.