(Words and Video by Tommy Lee Byrd aka The Hot Rod Hoarder) This Mystery engine intrigued me from the moment I realized it was part of a package deal with my $500 Nova. Decoding an old engine is usually pretty simple, but it’s sometimes hard to do it while you’re in negotiations because it requires some research (unless you spot some easily identifiable numbers, like 462 double hump heads, 186 double hump heads or maybe the tried and true 3970010 block.
I waited until I got the engine home to start running the numbers and decoding this small block Chevy engine. I immediately saw that it had double hump heads, which was a great sign that this engine has potential. But with Small Block Chevy’s, there are LOTS of variables. From a glance, it could’ve been a 262, 267, 302, 305, 307, 327 or 350 (not to mention the earlier small blocks like the 265 or 283). It truly could’ve been anything with a set of double hump heads bolted onto it.
Buying an engine is a gamble, but when it’s FREE, I can’t resist. This small block Chevy was an add-in on a package deal that I got with my crusty 1978 Nova, which you may have seen in my three-part video series on rescuing the car, getting it running and cleaning it up for the first time in 24 years. The suspense was killing me so I started running the numbers and decoded the engine block casting numbers, engine suffix codes, date codes, crankshaft casting numbers, cylinder head casting numbers and even the intake manifold casting numbers. It’s amazing what you can find out about the history of an engine by running those numbers and narrowing it down.