Either leave your rings in...
Either leave your rings in the bores they were gapped to, or make a holder to separate each cylinder's ring set. Remember our old friend p tells us that for each .001 inch the cylinders vary from each other, the gaps will be over .003-inch different.
2-10 hp for $30
Not only can you pick up a little power, you can drop the amount of oil usage by upgrading to file-fit piston rings instead of just using "drop-ins" that may end up with huge gaps, depending on your cylinder bores. Don't forget when filing rings to deburr the end you filed, or it can gouge the cylinder walls or damage the piston ring lands. A points file (you still have one, right?) or honing stone works quite well for this. Following the recommendations for gaps as provided by the ring manufacturers has always proven safe and accurate as a starting point.
Get A Big Oil Pan
0-25 hp for $200
Joe Stefanacci of Stef's Fabrication Specialties says getting a customer the right pan can not only add power, but also help longevity. "I'd like to see him get a bigger capacity pan to put more oil in to help cool the engine down. It will help cool it down, and it will have a constant supply going to the crankshaft. We want to put the biggest pan we can in the smallest place we can." As for which type of oil pump he recommends, Stef says: "We like to see a high-volume oil pump in there if it's a bigger cubic-inch engine, like over 383, in a small-block. On big-block pieces, we just run a standard-volume pump. Anything when you start getting higher in the cubic inches we like to see a high-pressure pump."
Holley carbs have been modified...
Holley carbs have been modified by countless tuners, but the theory behind them never changes. As the diameter of the venturi increases, the velocity of air travelling through it decreases. That means the velocity of air travelling through the boosters decreases, forcing you to jet up the carb to get the same amount of fuel as a "faster" booster.
0-5 hp for $25
Spark plugs might not seem like an important part sometimes, but getting the right plug now that your engine is hopped up and making more heat is very important. If you've increased the power of your engine significantly, consider using a cooler heat range plug to avoid making the electrode a hot spot and a source of detonation. Most manufacturers, like Champion, have a pretty simple heat range methodology where the higher numbers are hotter than the lower numbers. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to make sure this is true for your brand of choice though!
Tighten The Quench
5-15 hp for $125
If you do have the engine out for freshening, having the deck machined so that the final clearance from the top of the piston to the surface of the head, including the thickness of the gasket, is somewhere between .035-.045 inch helps in two ways. First and most obvious, you'll raise your compression ratio. Considering most smogger 350 Chevys only had about 8:1 compression, and big-blocks were in the mid 7s, a little extra pop will really help. Second and actually more important, that tight quench will squeeze the air/fuel mixture into a more central part of the combustion chamber and make a more homogenous mixture to burn. Even with the higher compression ratios, detonation is staved off much longer than with a "bad-quench" engine. If you are not planning to deck your block, look into various thickness head gaskets like those from
the Fel-Pro Performance MLS line to adjust your quench without any machine work.
Back-Cut The Valves
Bumping the stock throttle...
Bumping the stock throttle body on an LT1 to a dual 58mm throttle body is typically worth 5-10 rwhp. Not a bad investment.
5-15 hp for $40
This is one of those small tricks that is worth way more than the paltry sum it usually costs for this extra step. If you have the heads apart to lap the valves or you have them at a shop, the easiest thing to do is mark the face of the valves with layout fluid or even a Sharpie, lap the valves in, then just have your machinist give the valves a standard 30-degree back-cut up to the edge of the lap mark-simple and worth an average of 5-10 cfm. It's worth more power than most gasket-match jobs!