Mar 29, 2024

2,600 HP ProCharged 540 cid Big Block Chevy Engine

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The Engine Builder team took a trip down to Memphis, TN earlier this year to check out a few engine shops in the area, and film an episode of Mild vs. Wild with Choate Engineering Performance. During that trip, we got the chance to visit BB&T Racing in Southaven, MS and speak with shop owner Derrick Bailey. Derrick and his brother Dennis started drag racing 30 years ago, and this industry has been a career and a passion ever since.

“My brother and I started drag racing on the street, and just got to working on cars and our cars turned into working on other people’s cars and that turned into selling parts and then that turned into working on engines,” Derrick Bailey told us. “We didn’t know anything about any of it when we started. We were weekend warriors, but at the end of the day, we created a pretty good mail order business selling parts. Over the years, that turned it into a retail store and now it’s turned it into a full-blown machine shop. Officially, we opened for business in May 1994. We moved to this location in South Haven in 2006.”

When the Bailey brothers first started, the shop had basic portable boring bars and simple equipment. They soon got some Sunnen machines, but now they’ve upgraded most of that in an effort to do just about all machine work in-house.

“Our block work gets done on a Rottler F79 4-axis CNC machine,” Bailey says. “We do just about all the block work on that as well as surface cylinder heads. We’ve also got a Rottler 69 ATC for porting cylinder heads. We also have an engine dyno to help us look for horsepower and look for things that make power and try to give our customers a better piece. At the end of the day, it’s a really good tool and it’s a lot of work, but we have fun doing it because it’s the fruits of your labor – after you build one, you get to go blast it and see what it does.”

BB&T Racing is mainly a domestic engine machine shop. They do a lot of Chevrolet, a lot of Ford and a lot of LS stuff. The shop also does a lot of block work and machining, especially for customers who want to build/assemble their own engines.

While we were visiting BB&T Racing, Derrick was in the assembly stage on a ProCharged 540 cid big block Chevy engine, so of course, we needed to know more about the high-horsepower build.

“This build is for a guy who came to the shop one day, and I had never seen him, he walks in the shop and he starts buying a few parts for a ‘69 Camaro he’s stripping,” Bailey says. “He bought it as a bracket car. He drag raced when he was a kid and then he had kids and now his kids are grown and gone and he’s got money and he’s ready to go back drag racing. He bought a ‘69 bracket car and it went low 5s, but he wanted to go faster. He wanted to run an F3 ProCharger, so long story short, he got it all stripped down and realized it’s a bunch of work to build a car from the ground up.

“We had actually acquired an F body that had a 540 with a ProCharger on it. He came in and asked if that car was for sale? I told him, ‘Anything’s for sale.’ He came back 30 minutes later with a wad of cash and bought the car. I built him another engine for the ‘69 Camaro and this is the particular engine that actually came out of that car. He raced it all last year and he did real well with it and won quite a few No Prep events around the country. He’s got the bug and so I’m freshening this one up for him and I’ve got another brand new one right behind it being built as a spare. He turned into a real good customer and actually turned out to be a pretty good friend too. He likes to race like us.”

The foundation of this 540 big block Chevy comes courtesy of Brodix. The block comes to BB&T fairly rough, so they can machine it to their specs.

“When we get the blocks from Brodix, the bores are undersized, whether it’s in the mains or the cylinder bores,” he says. “First thing we do is we bring it in and we line hone it and we set bearing clearance. We are using Clevite Calico-coated bearings. Once I get that done, then we flip it out and we take it back to the CNC and we bore the cylinders, so it’s cam/crank center lined. We also cut the stroke in it and deck the block.

“They leave the sleeves a little high in them, so I try to skim the top of the sleeve to make sure they’re true. When they press them in, sometimes the sleeves don’t always stay perfect. We just try to square them up a lot better and make them a lot flatter. We also cut hoops in them for head gasket sealing purposes.

“Then, we bring it out and we put it in our Rottler HP6A cylinder hone, which is a diamond abrasive deal, and we get it honed and then we are ready to clean it and start assembly.”

At that point, Derrick gets into the crankshaft and the rotating assembly. On this build, the shop is using a Callies Magnum crankshaft with a 4.250” stroke. The crank gets balanced to the rods and pistons. This build has Diamond pistons with a slight dome and some 6.700” GRP rods.

“We’re using a big block Chevrolet rod pin and a Trend tool steel wrist pin in it,” he says. “Once we get all that balanced, then we file fit rings and we can check rod bearing clearances and we can start assembling. Ring wise, we use a Total Seal ring package with a gapless top ring. On this particular application, we’re doing something I haven’t done yet on most of these builds, but I’m going to Total Seal’s AP steel second ring. Hopefully, the second ring will stand up a little longer than sometimes they do and they’re less susceptible to the fuel wash and alcohol. Of course, the fuel injection really helped us with keeping the bottom end clean and saving the cylinders and oil, etc.”

The big block Chevy will be sporting a set of Brodix cylinder heads that came already ported. Once those are assembled, the long block is put together. For valvetrain components, BB&T uses a number of different aftermarket brands.

“For valves, we use a company called Rev out of Florida,” Bailey says. “I like them because I get great customer service with them. I can order a custom steel valve in two to five days. Titanium stuff I normally get in five days, and here lately you’ve been lucky if you got a titanium valve from anybody in six months.

“As far as valve springs go, we use a lot of PAC stuff and some Manley stuff. I try to use the higher end stuff. This engine is using a triple spring PAC setup, and it’s a really tall installed height and it can take .950 lift and it has a whole lot of pressure. We run about 475-lbs. on the seat and I run about 1,400-lbs. open. We put all that on top of that Rev titanium valve. I’m still an old titanium guy.”

For rocker arms on this build, BB&T is using a steel T&D shaft rocker setup. Derrick admits that aluminum stuff tends to get beat up with the kind of spring pressures he runs on the cylinder heads. Steel stuff is a lot stronger, stays together, and stays more uniform. T&D also went to a one-piece intake stand, which has helped keep some deflection down.

For the camshaft, BB&T went with a local cam manufacturer in Bullet Racing Cams, which is just a few miles down the road from the shop in Olive Branch, MS.

“We use a lot of their stuff,” Bailey admits. “This camshaft is a 55mm roller bearing cam. We also use a lot of belt drive stuff. I normally use Jesel. For my dampers, I like to use Innovators West because they were one of the first ones to start putting magnets in the front cover for the crank triggers. That makes things a lot nicer. This engine also has a Moroso pan, ARP hardware and a Melling billet oil pump.

“We’ve had great oil pressure and most of our bearings after 400-500 runs still look brand new, which is amazing. A lot of that I attribute to the PennGrade1 oil. What I like about it is like I tell my customers, if it sticks on your hands and you’ve got to go wash it off, how do you think your bearings feel? It’s going to stay there. We had other oil brands we used on alcohol and it would just wash them clean, but not with the PennGrade. It has that cling-ability.

“This engine is going to run on alcohol. We use Clevite Calico-coated bearings. We really like the coated stuff because, in theory, it should pull down the temperatures of the oil and I do monitor temps in everything we do. When you pull the bearings out, the coating is still on them for the most part. We might get some crank flex with them when we start leaning on a motor, so you might see some of the mains start getting opposing wear in them, but when you’re talking 200-300 runs out of a blown ProCharger motor that’s hard on everything in it – it’s nice to have a bearing that’s still alive when you take it apart.”

This particular big block will make about 10:1 compression. According to Derrick, some guys like to run more compression in these motors, but not him.

“The way I feel about it, another point of compression means you’ve got to take some timing out of it and that depends on where you’re trying to go with it,” he says. “Like I tell most of my customers, I like to see you go 200 passes and have fun. I don’t want to see you blowing them up every weekend and rebuilding them, because that ain’t fun.”

The engine utilizes FuelTech EFI, and on FuelTech’s hub dyno, this ProCharged big block Chevy made right at 2,600 horsepower on 50-lbs. of boost.

“We don’t really spin the guts out of the F3 ProCharger more than the 50-lbs.,” he says. “It might make 55-lbs., but you’re pushing it at that point, and there again, why tear up a head unit when you don’t have to. I look for longevity. There’s always that give and take, and I’d rather see it live and be just as fast.”

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1, Elring – 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].

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