As small-blocks go, the 350 Olds doesn't get much mention. It's wrong, too--since the basic design is both durable and full of power potential. How much potential? Oldsmobile expert Dick Miller feels there's enough to slay the giants gunning for the Engine Masters title, and he's willing to show us how.

Experienced tuners know the Olds design allows big-block heads to be bolted on the small-block, and Dick plans to take full advantage of this by topping the block with a pair of aluminum aftermarket Olds heads. Developed to feed 400ci and larger Rockets, the Edelbrock possess more flow capability than the 365ci small-block should ever need. It's getting the air in and out of the engine effectively that Miller will focus on. He feels that if he can do this, the weight penalty incurred by the heavier Oldsmobile rotating mass will not affect him.

Educated gearheads also know that Olds made a 350ci diesel engine based on the traditional gasoline design, and these beefy blocks have proven to be solid foundations for high-performance gasoline engines. Interestingly, Dick has chosen to begin with a more "garden variety" 350 Olds gas block. He explains: "The diesel block would be stronger, but it uses big-block main bearings and requires a different crankshaft. I could not have run the steel crank I wanted without having one completely custom-fabricated. I already had a forged-steel factory crank from an old 330 that will work great for this, but it limits me to the non-diesel block. At the rpm levels the Engine Masters Challenge is being run, I feel this is the better option. If someone is planning to build a serious 350 Olds for street [pump gas] use, this is the route I'd recommend.

"If a guy wanted to push a small-block Olds to the 700-horse level for a racing effort (and believe us, it's possible--Ed.), then the diesel block would be worth the extra effort."

So, can this '70s-era Rocket 350 be pushed hard enough to win? Only time will tell, but until then, we can show what Dick Miller has chosen to arm his Olds-based engine with. If you've been following along with the other Engine Masters Challenge entries, or if you're an Olds fan, look over his parts selections carefully and compare them to the others we've featured in past issues. There are some distinct similarities and some glaring differences, and the more you know about all of it, the better educated you'll be on picking a winner. If you're considering an Olds 350 for your own project, following Miller's recipe will reward you handsomely, and he'd be happy to help you out in achieving your goals.