How to Make 500 Horsepower

The title of this article may be a bit misleading. It indicates that I will be giving you the magic formula to build a 500 horsepower engine. The fact of the matter is that there are an infinite variety of ways to reach a predetermined level of power, be it 500, 750, or 1000 hp.

The real lesson to be learned here is that reaching your performance goal is only one part of the formula for engine building success. In order to claim the status of “awesome“, the engine must also exhibit the driveability characteristics that you desire. Let’s have a look at what’s required to make sure your upcoming performance project turns out to be everything you hoped for.

 What’s the Application ?

The best approach towards achieving success with every engine build you undertake, is understanding the intended application. Without going into every possible scenario, let’s look at a few examples just to clarify how different the requirements for a 500 horsepower engine can be.

  1. Entry Level Drag Race
    • 383 cu. in. Small Block Chevy
    • RPM range 4500-6500
    • Moderately aggressive camshaft profile
    • 12.5:1 Compression ratio
    • Carbureted – race gas
    • 2 or 3 Speed automatic transmission
  2. Entry Level Sprint Car
    • 305 cu in Small Block Chevy
    • RPM range 4000-7500
    • Aggressive camshaft profile
    • 13.0:1 Compression ratio
    • Mechanical injection – methanol
    • Direct drive – no transmission
  3. Moderate Street Performance
    • 347 cu in GM LS1-LS6
    • RPM range 1500-6000
    • Non-aggressive camshaft profile
    • 10.5:1 Compression ratio
    • Electronic injection – pump gas
    •  Computer controlled 4 speed overdrive automatic transmission

 After studying the differences of the above examples, it should become clear that as always, the devil really is in the details. I have built engines to fit these exact applications, each successfully at or above 500 horsepower. More importantly, they all satisfied the customer’s individual application, and driveability requirements.

Duplicating my results will require that you understand all aspects of the application, including all vehicle components and dynamics. You must also be realistic about your goals. Beyond the mechanics of how to build a great performance engine, and the thought process of selecting the proper components, budget is almost always a factor.

In upcoming articles, I’ll begin to provide more detailed information on the process of planning your engine around the application and your personal goals. I’d like your feedback on the type of application that interests you, so that eventually I can outline a build that will be beneficial to the majority of the readers.

Please invite your friends to join us, and thanks for visiting …..

5 thoughts on “How to Make 500 Horsepower”

  1. I have an 396 cu in “68” eng #3916323 325hp heads 387202 how can i get 500 horsepower on a budget build. Help

    1. Hi James,

      I’ve sent you an e-mail with a list of questions. As soon as I hear back from you, I’ll post some suggestions that may help you reach your goal.


  2. found your article on rod bolt torque and stretch to be very interesting and well written . I have noticed over the years that no one mentions using a .0001 dial indicator four bolt stretch .

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