Vette Magazine's 16 "Big-Block from Hell" articles were the longest running project car series ever published by a Corvette magazine. The project lasted eight years with the final installment publishing in February 1998 issue of Vette. While the magazine stopped printing "BBfH' articles more than 20 years ago and the magazine itself ceased publication in 2019, the car remained an active project car until the Spring of 2021, having appeared in Corvette Enthusiast and Auto Enthusiast (both now defunct) as well as in how-to articles at CorvetteMagazine.com and here at the Corvette Action Center.
When I began writing the BBfH series (Part 1 published in the July 1990 issue of Vette), I only intended it to be a couple of articles on engine modifications. It was not until later that the series evolved into a project vehicle called the "Big-Block from Hell". Even then, no one at Vette ever figured it would still be publishing the series in 1998.
During the first few installments, we were a unsure of what to call the engine series. That indecisiveness explains why the series was titled "Project 454 From Hell" in the magazine's Table of Contents but the text of the article called it "Big-Block from Hell." Through a comedy of errors, this disparity continued until Part 5 was published in May of 1991, when Vette's Editor at the time, D. Randy Riggs, finally decided to make it a project car series.
For more than a decade after the series ended in Vette, these BBfH articles resided on the Idaho Corvette Web Page. With the demise of the Idaho page in late 2010, its webmaster Frank Smith, and myself, worked a deal with Corvette Action Center owner, Rob Loszewski, to transfer the Big Block from Hell content to the CAC.
In some cases, these old BBfH installments have been posted on the Corvette Action Center as they were published, however, since some of them go back 20 years, I have made some small updates in cases where what was written originally did not stand the test of time. Also, contact information for some of the manufacturers whose parts were used in building the car is updated to correct addresses and phone numbers. Other contact information remains inaccurate as some businesses no longer exist. Lastly, there were several cases in the mid-’90s where Vette published how-to tech articles which used the project car, but not identify it as the BBfH nor name them as installments of the series. The most recent BBfH installments, Parts 16 and 17 were numbered as if those couple of articles were originally part of the series. In those cases, I’ve also re-titled the stories posted on the web as part of the series.
All 17 BBfH stories are now posted here on the CAC. I would like to thank Frank Smith, webmaster of the Idaho Corvette Page, one of the best Corvette sites of the late-'90's and the '00's, and CAC's owner/webmaster, Rob Loszewski, for their contributions to the longevity of these classic articles.
The Big Block from Hell had a significant setback in the mid-2010s, when, unknowingly, I put 10 gallons of water-laden fuel in the gas tank. The car sat for almost a year. While I worked on and drove our other Corvettes, the water in the fuel destroyed everything it touched. Almost a year later, I pulled off the car cover, disconnected the battery charger, got in the car and...the engine would not start. The bad gas had rusted the gas tank, plugged up all the fuel lines with corrosion and gunked-up the engine's Holley four-barrel so badly the throttle plates were frozen.
The car sat for five years while I intermittently worked on it, resurrecting the 850 double pumper with a new base plate, new float bowls, metering blocks and many small parts. A new fuel tank was installed along with a new electric fuel pump. All stock fuel lines were removed and replaced with braided lines. A new fuel pressure regulator was installed. The oil pan, intake manifold and valve cover gaskets were replaced and the 850 was re-tuned. All this was completed in the summer of 2021.
While Rob and I kicked around ideas for another three installments covering an engine update, a revised suspension and repainting, in the end, I decided that, after 41 years of ownership of this hot rod '71, it's time to move on.
I've decided to focus on the 2004 ZO6, the 2012 ZO6 and the 2019 ZR1 my Wife and I own, so, as of early September of '21, the car is for sale.
--Hib Halverson, BBfH series writer