Chevrolet's crate engines have been used in racing now for several years. And while racers far and wide still debate the merits of crate racing (right along with the weather, politics, and the quality of the food at the local track), there's no doubt that crate motors are now a major part of the racing landscape.

One of the main benefits of crate engines--specifically Chevrolet "602" crate which is outfitted with iron cylinder heads and the more powerful "604" crate which has aluminum heads--is that they are quite affordable compared to most purpose-built racing engines. The iron-headed 602 engine (PN 1958602) is the least expensive at just under $4,000. For that you get a cast-iron block with four-bolt mains and a one-piece rear main seal. The crank is nodular cast-iron, the heads are Vortec with 64cc chambers. Powdered metal rods and cast-aluminum pistons provide a 9.1:1 compression. An oil pan with kickouts and large breathers on the left-side valvecover are the major concession to circle track racing. Altogether, the 602 engine is capable of 350 hp and 390 ft-lb of torque and a redline around 6,200 rpm thanks to lightweight springs and hydraulic lifters. It may be pretty pedestrian for a race engine, but it does work when everybody on the track is racing the same thing.

When more power is called for, there's Chevrolet's 604 crate engine (PN 88958604). It upgrades the package to Fast Burn aluminum heads, a forged steel crankshaft for improved strength, a high-rise single-plane aluminum intake, and 9.6:1 compression. It costs about a grand more, but for that you get 400 hp and 400 ft-lb of torque.

Either way, the crate motors are so limited in power, that any small difference between two of the same type can result in a real advantage on the racetrack. Both types of engines are sealed and while certified rebuilders are allowed to refresh the engines, when it comes to major repairs it's often a simpler matter so simply replace the entire engine.

As a result, there are plenty of crate engines available if you know where to look. As a way to recoup some of their costs, many crate racers sell their old engines to hot rodders or mechanics, but more as still gathering dust in the corners of race shops across the country.

We couldn't help but think that these castoffs have the right bones for a great engine build. Sure, the hydraulic roller lifters, cast pistons, and relatively low compression aren't great for racing, but both crate engines have components that can be used to make a quality hand-built race engine. So after a little--OK, a lot, actually--bench racing we decided to take a shot at seeing what could be built from a refuse crate engine. The sweet spot for reusing parts seems to be in the Street Stock classes, so we chose what we figured to be a typical rule book for a high-end Street Stock class. We'd find a used crate engine on the cheap, reuse what we can, and build a Street Stocker. The thinking is that by doing this, a racer can use the savings from his or her crate recycling program to invest in components that can actually help him gain an advantage on the competition. At least that's how the thinking went--we just had to do it to see if we were right.