Times are tough. The economy is moving slower than out-of-town traffic on a Friday afternoon, money is tight, and race teams everywhere are being forced to tighten their belts a little bit. We've seen too many racers have to mothball their cars until they're able to scrape up enough extra cash to pay the bills. It's understandable. For many of us, racing is done with the money that's left over after we take care of feeding the family, paying the mortgage, and giving Uncle Sam his cut.

With that in mind, Circle Track has embarked on a multipart engine-build series designed specifically for the racer on a budget. This series will be geared toward the first-time engine builder. Granted, this is somewhat of a departure from CT's normally advanced tech focus, but it's always a good idea to revisit the basics every so often.

Throughout our engine-build series, we'll walk you through a buildup of a Chevy 350 built for what's generally known as the Limited Late Model class. It may be called something different at your racetrack, but the idea is to build an engine that's right in the sweet spot of what you see all across the country. It may not be exactly like what you race, but it should at least be close, and you can take many of the ideas from this build and transfer them to just about any race class with any make of engine. The money you save by doing many of the steps yourself may be enough to keep you in racing for another season, or you can use it to upgrade the components in your engine or chassis. It's your choice.

The key is to know what you can do yourself and what you'll need to farm out. That will vary a bit for everyone. For example, almost all of us will need to send out the block and cylinder heads for machine work. Those steps require specialized equipment that's too expensive for anyone other than a professional engine builder. But if you're comfortable making measurements with a dial indicator and a set of calipers, you can do much of the prefitting and assembly yourself. It's all about finding your comfort zone, and we're here to help you push that comfort zone out a little further than ever before.

So follow along as we begin the build of this Chevrolet with an eye toward getting the best bang for our buck. This is no typical magazine pie-in-the-sky engine build where cost is no object. We'll do one of those later. Instead, we've switched things up by keeping an eye on selecting the components most likely to be used in the real world, so that we can evaluate exactly how they'll perform. And finally, it's important to note that this series of articles will be aimed toward showing you as much as possible about the art of building a race engine, there's no way we'll be able to cover absolutely every eventuality. Entire books have been written on the subject, and while we simply don't have that much space here, we can certainly get you pointed in the right direction.

As mentioned earlier, most of these build tips will work with any engine, but some things-such as torque numbers or measurements-are specific to the Chevy small block. Hopefully, next time around we can build a Ford to fit the same class rule set and see how they compare, both in terms of power production and the dent they make in your wallet. Let's get started.

Our block is a standard Chevrolet 350 that we picked up for $450 and had KT Engine Development check out for us. Machining your block and heads is one area you should definitely leave to the professionals. Have your engine machinist check the block for cracks, align-hone the cam bores and mains if necessary, deck the block and heads, and bore and hone the cylinders. Here, the cylinders are being measured just before final honing to 4.030 inches with a deck plate in place. This plate simulates the stresses placed on a block when the heads are bolted in place.

We went with JR Motorsports because it can provide the entire rotating assembly (crank, connecting rods, pistons, bearings, and rings) in one complete package. The benefit of doing this is that JR Motorsports can ship everything already balanced so you don't have to send the crank out to be balanced later. The crank, by the way, is a Scat unit with stock stroke and journal dimensions that should work nicely.