Roots Blown 540 cid Big Block Chevy Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

Roots Blown 540 cid Big Block Chevy Engine

With a focus on early generation small block and big block Chevy builds, David Coté of Hilltoppers Speed Shop particularly enjoys building roots-blown big block Chevy street engines. Who can blame him? Just check out this roots blown 540 cid big block Chevy the shop recently built for a street rod.

Engine of the Week is presented by

If you ask David Coté about his path to starting Hilltoppers Speed Shop, he’d admit it was a bit of an odd one. Since first becoming interested/involved in engine building in his late-teens and early 20s, David took a few “pit stops” along the way before opening Hilltoppers in Dickson, TN in 2016.

He enlisted in the Navy as a Naval Aircrewman stationed at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, FL, and when not deployed, he would try to race as much as possible.

“I would race in the Super Pro brackets on Saturday nights at Gainesville Raceway in Florida,” Coté says. “I had a good friend I flew with who joined the Navy in his mid-20s and was an auto mechanic before he joined the Navy. He drag raced in New York and he took me under his wing and taught me how to build my first engine.

“At that time, I couldn’t afford to pay other people to build my engines, so I found a good, reliable machine shop and did the engine building myself. Another person I really looked up to was Lamar Walden, who owned Lamar Walden Automotive in Buford, GA. I met both him and his son Rob in the mid-1990s. I used to go by their shop quite often and was amazed at the builds Lamar would always have going on.”

David spent more than 10 years in the Navy before getting out in 1996 when he became a manufacturer’s representative in the heavy-duty trucking industry for five years.

“Although I was no longer racing, I was still buying and restoring cars and motorcycles,” Coté says. “I decided to go to law school in my early 40s and graduated in my mid-40s with my Juris Doctorate. Although it was very satisfying to graduate, it became very apparent to me very quickly that it was going to be very tough to be a brand-new lawyer at 45 years old, so I began to look at other options.  

“I had a couple of miserable experiences having a couple cars restored by other shops and decided to buy a building, hire some talented guys and use my experience to open Hilltoppers Speed Shop. We have been here for four years now, and even though this year has been challenging, we continue to grow and put out some amazing projects.”  

The main focus of Hilltoppers Speed Shop is automotive restoration. The shop does everything from fabrication work and mechanical work to paint, body work and engine builds.

“I mainly focus on the earlier generation small block and big block Chevy builds, and particularly enjoy building roots-blown big block Chevy street engines,” he says.

While Hilltoppers has the capability to do a lot of work on their project cars in-house, the shop isn’t a machine shop, so David farms out machine work to shops such as Tuckers Machine Shop in Murray, KY, Carl Hinkson of CNC Blocks NE in Gorham, ME, and BES Racing Engines in Guilford, IN.

Hilltoppers currently has five employees and two buildings on site. The main building is a 7,500 sq.-ft. fabrication shop, which consists of six bays and three lifts.

Hilltoppers Speed Shop recently finished up a street rod build that boasts one of David’s favorite types of engines – a 540 cid roots-blown big block Chevy. The build began with a Dart Big M block that was fully machined by Carl Hinkson at CNC Blocks NE. Hinkson also machined the block to accept .904˝ lifters.

Inside the block, the BBC got fitted for a 4.25˝ crankshaft with billet 6.385˝ rods, custom Diamond small-dome blower pistons, and Trend .205˝ piston pins. The heads are Brodix BB3 Xtra 345 cylinder heads that got ported by Eric Weingartner of Weingartner Racing Heads. The valvetrain features Crower billet shaft-mount rocker arms, a Bullet solid roller camshaft (.750/.746  266/[email protected], 115 LSA), and BAM DLC-coated .904˝ lifters.

Other features of the Chevy build include a Jesel belt drive, a Melling billet oil pump, a Williams Performance aluminum oil pan, a TBS street intake ported by Weingartner Racing, a TBS 14-71, 120-degree hi-helix blower, and two billet E85 Lightning Racing Carbs built by Mark Whitener.

Once the 540 cid big block was fully assembled and ready to run, Hilltoppers had it dyno’d at Dynotune Engineering in Paris, TN. The final numbers were 1,330 hp and 1,086 lb.-ft. of torque.

“This is a very nice build that was built for a street rod application, and it runs on E85 fuel,” Coté says.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor OilElring – Das Original and Scat Crankshafts. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected].

You May Also Like

All-Billet Subaru EJ 2.5L Engine

This 2016 Subaru STi, which features an all-billet EJ 2.5L engine, was built to showcase what Kaiju Motorsports is capable of. Not only does it look great, but all expectation is that it performs well too. Check it out!

Kaiju Motorsports 2016 Subaru STi with a billet EJ 2.5L engine

There’s always a lot to look at during the PRI Show given the countless cool parts, machines and engines to draw your attention. One car and engine bay that made me turn my head every time I passed it was Kaiju Motorsports’ 2016 STi Subaru with an all-billet EJ 2.5L engine inside. After seeing the Subaru a few times, I finally got the chance to speak with Kaiju Motorsports owner Brian Camacho about his shop and the Subaru, and it was well worth the chat.

Turbocharged Billet K24 Honda Engine

Noonan Race Engineering is well-known for its V8 engine platforms, but the shop has now dipped its toe into the 4-cylinder world with a billet K24 Honda engine. The objective – huge horsepower, while keeping factory creature comforts. Check it out!

ProCharged 5.000” Bore Space Billet Big Block Chevy Engine

One of the first 5.000″ bore space big block Chevy engines that Visner Engine Development has come out with in this new design, this billet engine was built by Nick Bacalis of Bullet Racing Engines for a 1971 C10 belonging to Michael Rieck. Check out what 4,000-plus horsepower looks like!

billet big block Chevy engine
3,500+ HP 427 cid Billet LS Engine

At ACE Racing Engines, Stefan Rossi’s and Laura Pugh’s hard work has been paying off in the form of increased awareness and business, a new shop space out in California, and best of all, success on the track from numerous customers. Check out this excellent example of a maximum effort, billet LS engine for a drag-and-drive application.

Supercharged 388 cid LS Engine

Hoping to reach new heights in the mile, this Cadillac customer brought his car and engine in for the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology to work their magic on. See what went into the supercharged LS engine platform.

Cadillac Supercharged LS engine

Other Posts

Matt Stutzman’s 540 cid Supercharged Big Block Chevy Engine

We got a chance to spend significant time with Matt Stutzman during the 2023 PRI Show. He’s a Paralympic archer born without arms who’s now setting his sights on Top Sportsman drag racing. We caught up with him in the PennGrade1/DA Lubricants booth to get the details of his 540 cid big block Chevy engine,

Demon Motorsports’ Turbocharged Toyota 2JZ Engine

It was hard not to noticed Damon Elff’s Toyota Supra and its turbocharged 2JZ engine during Sick Week 2024 as it was basically the only Supra there, and the 2JZ made some wicked sounds at the start line. We got a chance to speak with Damon, who owns Demon Motorsports, about his Supra/2JZ combo and

Point One Small Block Chevy Head Studs

Point One’s E190 head studs boast an impressive 190,000psi nominal tensile strength and are made from grade 8740 steel sourced only from US mills.

Turbocharged 5.0L Coyote Engine in a 50th Anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet

For the last couple years of the PRI Show, Frankenstein Engine Dynamics has had an impressive booth space filled with cool product and cool cars. Case in point, during the 2023 show we stumbled upon a 50th anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet owned by Martin Martinez of Junior Performance. Martin has already made this a seriously