More power for a ’54 Chevy

November 1, 2009 | By Richard Prince


I have a stock 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air that runs great and drives well. It has a stock three-speed transmission and rear gear. The problem is that at speeds over 50 mph the engine rpm seems to be too high. I would like to be able to run at speed on the Interstate without working the engine so hard. I have a rebuilt 350 turbo and an open 3:08 rear differential I would like to install. I have read about this swap but can’t find the article or the people that make this adapter kit. Can anyone out there help me?


The V-8 installation is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to weld in new engine mount brackets, cut the firewall fins, and remove the factory park brake mount. There generally are two versions of the small block Chevy water pump and the shorter version will fit in your car without any interference.

There are various ways to get the park brake working again; adapt the mechanism out of an S-10 pickup truck, install a later (1955-57 dash-mounted Chevrolet brake handle), or use an aftermarket setup from a company like Gennie (, Control Cables, or Lokar

If you’re going to go to the expense and effort to install an updated automatic transmission, I recommend using an overdrive transmission rather than a Turbo 350. Either way, you’ll need various parts, including a cooler and lines, torque converter, flex plate, cross member, and control cable. The easiest way to get all of the parts needed is to buy a kit from one of the specialists in this area, such as Phoenix Transmission Products (, Bowtie Overdrives, or TCI Walton’s Fabrication ( and Chassis Engineering make the cross member you need. Chassis Engineering and Walton Fabrication, as well as Posies (, have everything you need to install an open rear end in place of the factory torque tube system.