Let's face it. Pretty much anybody who knows a torque wrench from a Torx socket can put together a small-block V-8 making 300 ponies. That formula has been around for, probably, half a century.

But that's yesterday's news. The reality is, the market has expanded far beyond your choice of any small-block crate engine as long as it puts out 300, 350, or 385 horsepower. Today's marketplace dictates a much wider range of choices, for both street and race cars. It's not uncommon to see manual transmissions with anywhere from three to six forward speeds, and automatics having as few as two or as many as six forward speeds, with or without overdrive. Final drive ratios range from very low to very high. And vehicles can tip the scales from less than a thousand pounds for roundy-round racers all the way up to three tons or more for large SUVs and other trucks, all of which help form the market for crate engines.

So how does a particular configuration engine make it from drawing board to delivery truck? Turns out, at least for one leading supplier, in a surprisingly businesslike manner.

Picture any large manufacturing company, no matter whether it makes refrigerators, dog food, or after-shave lotion. You'd expect a product to grow from idea to prototype to production, all along the way subject to the input of sales, marketing, engineering, production, and quality control and, inevitably, the bean counters.

In fact, that's pretty much the way it works at Blueprint Engines, a division of Marshall Engines, which supplies one of the industry's broadest selections of their BluePrint performance crate engines. In fact, they offer more than 65 different crate engine part numbers, including V-6's to V-8's, small block to big block, short block to fully dressed, street or race, with OE or aftermarket heads and blocks and cranks in configurations ranging from mild to wild. And their engines are sold virtually everywhere, from speed shops to leading catalog and on-line retailers like Summit Racing and Jeg's. We asked them to explain just how a new design gets to join their family. They were kind enough to detail the steps involved in the development of their recently introduced 500 hp IMCA small-block Chevy crate engine, p/n BP3838CT.

"We're in constant contact with race sanctioning bodies and racers, as well as the various companies that supply us with engine components," explains BluePrint's Product Manager Keith Kirk." This way we're always up to date on the latest standards and rule changes, which allows us to offer engines that are legal, and competitive, in many different venues. This helps us hold down costs for the racers while offering long-lasting engines with predictable horsepower and torque. Since IMCA is one of the dominant sanctioning bodies we set out to build an engine that would be competitive in both price and performance and, of course, legal, not only in IMCA racing but also with other sanctioning bodies with similar rules. We happily accepted the challenge. With the development of this engine we wanted it to be versatile so it could be used in many venues -- IMCA, Dirt or just local sanctioning."

"We selected a target power rating and price point," explains Loren Pabian, Production Manager for BluePrint Engines. "We knew that we needed to make in the vicinity of 500 horsepower while maintaining a specific price target, for competitive reasons."

Initial planning meetings began with participation by all relevant departments-sales and marketing, engineering, production, parts procurement, packaging, shipping and, of course, the bean counters who help assure that the finished product will be affordable to the end-user.

"With this engine in particular, and with all our engines in general, it's up to sales to verify the need in the marketplace, and marketing must confirm that the engine can be sold with success and confidence," explains BluePrint Product Manager, Keith Kirk. "With this engine our sales people determined that there was sufficient potential for such an engine, so we launched an initiative and feasibility study to see if we could build a suitable engine at a competitive price."