Which was quicker ~ big block 396 or small block 400 (GTO package)?


Old 04-23-06, 03:52 PM
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Which was quicker ~ big block 396 or small block 400 (GTO package)?

I ask this because in the early 70's I was the proud owner of a very nice 396 ss Chevelle. It had various goodies on it and it ran pretty strong. It was very quick in the 1/8 mile. The first 3 gears shifted VERY quickly...but the 4th gear covered too much ground and therefore to me to be in my power range for peak horsepower, I really needed to pretty much red-line shift it between 3rd and 4th gears! The real power of this engine though was from 0-60. And that is all I really cared about, actually. (I tried to convince myself of that.) I had 3:55 gears at the rear end. I was given 4:10 gears when I bought the car but saw no need for installing them, actually. I didn't want to be going down the highway at 3500 rpms, when I was already doing 3 g's at highway speed.

But here was my rub: In the very town I bought the ss, was a friend of mine who ran the Sears Auto shop in town. He had a cherry 69 GTO, with the 400 in it. I looked under the hood. Never saw anything special. It did have dual points though. I believe it's exhaust manifold resembled a header layout, sort of. But this is what amazed me about his car; he could get rubber in all 4 gears with the car loaded with 6 people in it!! Huh? My Chevelle could never do that! Argh! I had like 11 1/2 inch Mickey Thompson's on the rear though and his were perhaps a tad wider than stock and maybe had something to do with it. I could only get rubber in the first 2 gears.

We never raced each other. I was afraid to. I would have REALLY been po'ed if I lost. Big time. I mean, maybe I would have driven the car off a cliff. But he did take me out on the straight flat dump road to run his car. I sat in the passenger seat while he let it rip. I was not hardly able to lean forward in the seat the whole way he got it up to 120 mph in just seconds! I watched the speedometer as the mph's climbed and it was a steady climb the entire way. No flat spots in the speed climb. Couldn't believe it.

I have ever since been baffled at where this car got it's power from? Was it in the fact that no apprentice like me, started fiddling with the design of the motor and it all was balanced for each other, as opposed to the Chevelle that like had the different cam put in? I don't know. The only thing I could figure was that factory engineers know best. And by bolting on big cams, big carbs, headers and all that doesn't necessarily equate to wins in the quarter mile. Eh?

I was really big into bragging to people how the big block engines were the superior engine because of their massive bulkheading...how they could be bored out a ton, if you wanted, and how the offset and canted valves (which resulted in hemi-esque like valve covers! I had chrome ones, naturally.) allowed the engines to 'breathe'. Yet...here was the 400 *small*block that seemed to me to be the killer engine! Argh!

Some years later I had the oportunity to be taken out for another joy ride with a guy who was a hippy and had a beard and dark sunglasses and a cool canary yellow Dodge Challenger with the 440 6-pack in it. Wow. (And so was his cute blonde girlfriend! That too was nice. When he hit 90, he punched it, and he, his girlrfriend, me and my cousin were all put back in our seats, when al 6 barrels kicked in) My Chevelle never had that kind of pull...not near...from that type of a speed. I felt like stealing that car of his!!

Then I had the opportunity to ride in an early 70's GTO judge that had the 455 H.O. package, and the word "Judge" on it. Do you know that...well, because of the size of the engine, my expectations were high. The owner of the gas station I helped out at allowed me to "take it out for a spin". Ha. He knew what I was going to do with it. Well...that car, I swear was not as powerful as my friends 69 400!!! And as I said, to this day, I am baffled.
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Old 04-24-06, 06:37 AM
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Hello: DaVeBoy

Most likely there isn't going to be anyone whom can answer this type question whom was around (Lived as teenager) during that time frame, except me....HAHA!....

Why was the '69 GTO faster? Plenty of reasons. More than I can include here. Several where horsepower to weight ratio, engine stroke, breathing, exhausting, engine & valve timing, cam lift and duration, gearing and another was the engine was already dam near as close as possible to max HP STOCK.. Better known as "Stock Out of the Box."

A true "Muscle" car during that time frame. Like the Corvettes and the Mustangs of that era, built to perform right out of the show room.

Good question but may be in the wrong subject topic. Maybe Billys68ss in automotive will also add more to this post. I may have to contact him and ask him to, because he does not post in this topic.

Anyone else from this time period? (Generation)

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Old 04-24-06, 11:11 AM
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I'm from that era but wasn't into muscle cars. When I was 17 I owned a 62 Olds (Super 88 I think?) with a 394 high compression engine. It was a state-of-the-art car back then. Mint shape and would only burn high compression gas. Reverse was at the bottom of the tree and the speedometer changed colours turning red at about 65mph. Big boat with power! Off the line, it burnt rubber for as long as I dared hold my foot down. Once I booted it at the bottom of a steep hill with five guys inside. By the time we reached the top we were going 120mph. Tires were worn out and I shudder now when I think about it.

Also owned a 63 plymouth belvedere with a push button transmission and a 65 two-door valiant with slant six 225 motor. That was cool.

My brother put a 283 into a 63 (?) chevy II. Pretty sure it was a four barrel. One of my best friends had a canary yellow challanger, hood scoop, racing stripes and think it had Micky Thompsons also. Of course I put thrush mufflers on all my cars.

Good old days when gas was cheap and you could afford the big cars.

Last edited by mjd2k; 04-24-06 at 11:40 AM.
Old 04-24-06, 03:32 PM
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I had a 67 mustang with a 302 boss and a 69 camaro with a 307 and a friend with a 71 mach1 351 cleveland and another with a 69 gto 400. the funnest was the gto, and yes,"out of the box" it was made to go. the fastest was the cleveland, but we had done alot of work to it, although you couldn't tell. man, gone almost are the days when you're working on the carb, open up the throttle, and watch moths get sucked into the back barrels! my camaro, although just a 307, had been bored 40 over,stroked and balanced/blueprinted, had a stock highrise intake and stock highrise dual exhaust and reworked tranny. To look at it, it looked like a "momas" car, but was a true sleeper. back then there was alot of boring,polishing,etc. going on, and you would never know it if they didn't tell you. Course, one of my friends mom had a cadillac with a 500 in it. now that was prettty awesome.
Old 04-24-06, 05:59 PM
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I cant say I have experienced anything like you are reminiscing. I have never been much on the BOP cars. I just like my Chevy's although I recently acquired a 1986 Cutlass Supreme Brougham that I am currently restifying. It was a granny car and not taken very good care of...
Anyway, I was unaware that the GTO's had a 400 small block. Isnt that a Chevy engine? The only thing I can think of that stands out as different about the 400's was that it was externally balanced. The long stroke and longer rods may have made a difference as well. Im not from that era either, I just like my old cars. I have forgotten so much about that old stuff. I guess that comes with the territory when you work on the new junk... I hope this helped you guys feel a little better!!!

I have a 400 small block that came out of a 70 Impala that I built 13 years ago. I put it in my 66 C10 SWB Fleetside Custom Cab PU when I built it. I can tell you this..... I used to work with a guy who is a die hard Ford man and no one could tell him (or beat him - at least in his mind) that any POS Chevy was gonna show him up. Well lets just say after I fed him his lunch, he in his 93 Mustang and me in my PU, he hasnt spoken to me since... That was hmmm.... almost 10 years ago. I still have the 400 but its sitting in the building now, waiting for me to get the time to put it in its new home.... My 69 Malibu.
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Old 04-24-06, 07:44 PM
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Thumbs up 69 396 chevelle ss vs. 69 400 gto

Here are some original road tests from old magazines that I have when these cars were new. Remember these tests were done on original stock cars that the public could buy. Also take into consideration that they were tested with full exhaust & stock tires. Ok the 69 396 Chevelle ss with the L-78 396 put out 375bhp @ 5,600rpm & 415lbs. of torque @ 3,600rpm. She the Chevelle ss could do 0-60 in 6.5sec. and run the 1/4 mile in 14.1sec. @ 100mph. The Pontiac G.T.O with the 400 H.O. (high output) cranked out 360hp. @ 5,100rpm & 445lbs. @ 3,900rpm. The Goat could do 0-60 in 6.7sec. & run the 1/4 mile in 14.25 @ 98.0mph. To take it one step further the G.T.O with the ram air 400 put out 360hp. @ 5,400rpm. & 445lbs. of torque @ 3,800rpm. The ram air 400 did 0-60 in 6.7sec. & the 1/4 mile in 14.5 @ 98mph. Since I am a die hard Chevy lover I have no idea why the H.O. did 0-60 plus 1/4 mile faster than the ram air. Also why both 400 engines put out the same h.p. & torque but the ram air did it at higher rpm levels but then again I know little about Pontiac's. Taking this one step higher if you knew the right people and or option code you could go through Chevrolet's COPO & get a 427cid 425 hp that would do 0-60 in 5.1sec. and the 1/4 mile in 13.1sec. @ 108mph. If you had the money you could also order these cars Chevelle Nova Camaro with the 427cid rat motor from select dealers. Like Nicky Baldwin Yenko & they would trick them out for even faster times. Not for the faint of heart. What a time!
Old 04-24-06, 08:57 PM
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A little info on the "judge" and the 400 ram air.
If i remember right, the engine was listed in "liters" and we had to do some math to figure the engine size. it sure sounded crappy to say ...i got a 6 liter...what you got...oh a 454 eh? lol
Old 04-26-06, 04:54 AM
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Had a 68' Beaumont sport deluxe with 396. Best car I ever owned, but only had 325 hp heads. Had a buddy with 66' chevelle w/396 , 375 hp heads. What a difference 50 hp can make. One guy had a 68'Camaro 396, another a 66'GTO w/392, six pack. The GTO owner put $10 bill (that was a lot of money in the 70's) on dash of passenger side, where my brother sat, during a race against the 68'Camaro. If he could reach it during race, he could have it. Never got to it, and the GTO blew the doors of the Camaro. (those were the days) Anyway, check your engine #'s for specs, you may find out you only have the 325 hp engine. 375 heads, good cam, intake carb, exhaust & proper gear ratio, will make a big difference in your performance. Go to the drags, pay for a pit pass, and talk to some of the Big Block chevy owners. There is usually a lot of experience in the pits, just waiting to be asked. Look for grey hair or no hair.
That's the guy to shoot the breeze with. (ha-ha)
Old 04-26-06, 04:47 PM
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small block , big block. no difference. you were both packing the same displacement. poncho's were notorious for low end torque. a must in street applications. did you have a posi rear ? did he ? maybe he had a better rear gear than you, and it sounds like you had a wide ratio muncie trans. it really fries my bud's but when my small block outruns his 454. his 69 firebird, my 70 camaro, both back half cars. i'm not afraid to turn the motor .

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