What does this well-worn '57 Chevy have to do with modern stock car racing? Not much, exce
If you want to avoid problems, I always recommend running a good engine oil and looking at your oil filter every other week. Get a filter cutter, cut the metal can off the filter, and take a good look at the filter material. As long as there is no contamination, your engine is fine. When you find contamination in your oil filter, you know you have some wear. We have seen some go all season without anything harmful in the oil filter, and we don't mess with them. If you start seeing fine particles, either aluminum or steel, you either have a bearing going away or problems with a piston.
Your breathers will also give you a good clue as to the health of your engine. If you are not seeing any blow-by out of the breathers, the rings are still sealed and you should be making good power. You should also do a compression test every week. While you are at it, pull the valve covers and check the spring pressures and your valve lash. If you aren't seeing anything there, then your engine is still doing well and you can go racing.
Stock or stock replacement balancers are normally bonded together with a rubber ring. It is possible for those balancers to move on the ring because of the bonded surface. If that happens, your timing marks will be misaligned. We recommend marking the inner and outer steel rings on the balancer either with paint or center punches. Make sure the two marks are in line. Check the timing marks to see if they have moved. If the marks aren't lined up, you can't set the timing correctly. When those marks don't line up, it is time to replace that balancer.
According to the claim rules, someone can buy your engine, but you get to keep the carburetor and ignition. Since they can't claim those pieces, you can safely invest in good equipment that can help you make power. When it comes to the ignition, I think it's hard to beat the old HEI alternator from Performance Distributors. It makes a strong spark, and it's dependable and simple.
The other thing is the carburetor, which is critical to making good power. The biggest problem is just about every racer takes off the carburetor, lays it on the bench, spends thousands of dollars to put the best of everything inside the engine, and then bolts the carburetor back up without a thought. But a lot of times the carburetor is holding back more power than anything.
If I had a choice between racing a decent claimer motor with a nice, tuned carburetor versus a $10,000 engine with a piece of junk carb, I'd take the claimer any day because it will smoke the 10-grand motor. A good carburetor is that important.
If you are allowed to run it, you should definitely try a Vortec cylinder head. They easily make the most power. With the same engine, you will see a 50hp gain versus any other stock GM cylinder head. Plus, new aftermarket Vortec heads are really reasonable. We are using a lot of the Vortec heads from EQ Cylinder Heads. They are a really nice piece and make good power. For the money and the power, they are unbelievable. Normally, with the Vortec heads you have to use a specific intake manifold and exhaust headers, but I know EQ is coming out with a head that1s drilled so it can accept any 23-degree intake manifold. Jeff Hill