HED's 540 cid Billet Big Block Chevy Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

HED’s 540 cid Billet Big Block Chevy Engine

As drag-and-drive events continue to emerge and grow in popularity, more and more competitors are looking to up their cars' performance levels on both the track and street. That's exactly why this particular customer came to Pete Harrell and Harrell Engine & Dyno for a 540 cubic inch billet big block Chevy engine build. Check it out!

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Pete Harrell of Harrell Engine & Dyno in Mooresville, NC specializes in forced induction builds and “polishing turds,” as he likes to put it. When we were in Mooresville, NC earlier this summer visiting shops in the area, we knew we had to stop in and visit Pete and his engine shop, commonly called HED. While we were there, Pete had several engines in various stages of progress, but one in particular was a 540 cubic inch billet aluminum big block Chevy for drag-and-drive events.

“I don’t know if this guy is going to run the 1,000-mile type stuff, but he wants to be able to limp around town and that kind of thing,” Harrell says of his customer’s goals. “If you’ll notice, the block has water passages. It’s not a plated block, so I don’t know how it would do and if you’re pulling a trailer 1,000 miles, but he can definitely cruise it around town.”

As many of you are aware, the drag-and-drive event scene has been on the rise since 2020, and as such, more and more guys want to up the ante with their engine programs. Pete has helped customers such as Stefan Gustafsson with an engine in his Sick Week 2022 winning Corvette. The billet aluminum block for this build definitely ups the ante!

“This is a CN block,” Harrell says. “We’ve actually used quite a few of these in the past. It’s a skirted block, which I kind of prefer. There’s pluses and minuses to these, but they’re definitely super strong and they make putting an oil pan on really simple, so they have their pluses. The downside is if you kick the rods out, you can tear more stuff up. Where if you have a regular block, there’s just pan here. But, they’re definitely super strong, so they got their advantages.”

The billet big block was in short block configuration when we were in the shop, so the rotating assembly was visible and the cylinder heads weren’t on the engine yet.

We’re running a 4.250” stroke billet crank,” he says. “That’s what we run on a lot of the turbo stuff. In this case, it’s got Bill Miller aluminum rods and Bill Miller pistons. This engine uses a conventional style head, so that kind of brings the price down a little bit. I don’t know if that matters when you’re talking about billet blocks, but in this case it’s a conventional style head. I don’t exactly know what direction this customer is going with the intake manifold yet, but usually we end up with some kind of a sheet metal deal, or nowadays the sheet metal is going by the wayside for either billet or the hybrid stuff. It’s rare you see just a complete sheet metal deal anymore.”

In conjunction with a conventional big block Chevy cylinder head package, HED will be outfitting the engine with stout valvetrain components to be able to handle big horsepower and the street driving this customer wants to do.

“This engine will have my camshaft specs, and we primarily use a combination of T&D and Jesel valvetrain,” he says. “A lot of times we use a BAM lifter and sometimes we use a Jesel. It kind of depends on the application. Then, we almost always use a Manton pushrod in something like this because they’re just a little bit short of a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. They’re massive.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an HED engine build without some boost and a turbo setup, so Harrell says this big block Chevy will run twin turbos.

“It’ll be a twin-turbo deal,” he says. “When he runs at the racetrack, it’ll be on methanol, which most of the big power stuff is on methanol. It’ll flip to pump gas on the street.”

Aside from his customer wanting to do drag-and-drive events, Harrell says the customer just wants to go fast.

“He just wants to go as fast as he can and we will help him with that,” Harrell says. “We do a lot of tuning here, but something like this, it’s really easy to make 3,500-plus real horsepower. It’s not much of a trick at all nowadays. The turbos are just unreal these days and you kind of have to hold them back because you can tear some stuff up pretty quick. Other than this engine being billet and shiny, it’s nothing really complicated.”

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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