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Old 09-01-2010, 06:11 PM   #15
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Corpus Christi , Texas
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You have a vehicle where axle gearing, torque convertor slip, camshaft and compression are already matched. If you can't do this homework, then don't go changing cams. All these things work together. There are RV cams and there are worthless sticks of metal. There is a good deal to be considered to do it correctly. As always, start by weighing the combo -- empty and loaded -- at a certifed scale (see other threads about how to and what for). Do a compression check, and a check for blowby.

You could sink a lot of money into it and not be pleased. I'd consider a gear change to at least 3.73 plus thick-gauge engine headers with low-restriction exhaust, plus a CLOYES timing chain. And that's about it beyond ALL new fluids/filters/fasteners. Learn to adjust those rear drum brakes yourself (monthly), replace body & suspension bushings, get a new steering gear box (and add a cooler/filter), plus MAKE SURE THE COOLANT SYSTEM IS EITHER BRAND NEW or close to it.

Age is a problem, here. Towing is real work.

The best advice on a 383 Chevy will be found in articles by David Vizard. The expense will be prohibitive per your budget on ANY new engine. Better heads, better cam, yadda, yadda, it's starting to be real money. Keep an easy 55-60 mph pace and expect to slow on hills. No differently than the original owner or what the rest of us experienced going back 40 years.

The 350 is a throwaway motor (per GM dictate), but, with millions made (and tons of research money) it's a decent performer. Just don't expect much from those years of production (and get an oil pressure and coolant gauge mounted on the dash, as well as a vacuum gauge and trans temp gauge).

Frankly, I'd look for mid-late 90's 2WD GM if that's what you want. I wouldn't put money in one that old and expect much in return.

Good luck.

1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
2004 DODGE Cummins 305/555; 6-manual; 9k GVWR.
Hensley Arrow. 10-cpm solo, 18-cpm towing
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:22 PM   #16
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1974 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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Originally Posted by Richard B. View Post
It may simply be a matter of expectations is the key to your reply.
I don't want to be passing on long uphills, but I am not even holding my own.
This is at 90 km/hr, drops to 2nd gear (it's a 3 speed tranny; TH400). I am unsure of engine rpm; no tach.
Can we assume that it has been recently tuned up?

You'd laugh if you saw what I pull my Sov with, and it's 800 lbs more than your Safari, before loading anything into it.

If it's to be, it's up to me.
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Old 09-02-2010, 12:21 AM   #17
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1971 25' Caravanner
scappoose , Oregon
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Rednax has a valid point, in sinking a lot of money in an older vehicle.
The biggest bang for the buck, on a small block 350, is a set of Vortec heads, they first appeared in '96 trucks, and instantly add 35>40 hp.
Bolting on a set of heads is a lot easier than a cam change. If you want more, a new GM 350 truck engine, code L31 with Vortec heads,,,and a roller cam, is only ~2300$. Both GM, and Edelbrock make manifolds to use your TBI system on a Vortec head engine.
All the pre '96 TBI 350s, for truck use, were only rated ~185>195 hp, the '96>'99 Vortec 350s are ~250>260hp.
In the end, the small block Chevys can easily be built to just about any level you want, but the lack of torque that is enharent in any small displacement gas engine, (at reasonable rpms), is harder to overcome. Small blocks really need 4.10 gearing to perform well.

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