While the stock-replacement 5140 forging is only available with a press-fit pin, the Pontiac-spec 4340 forgings are also available with a bronze bushing for floating wristpins. RPM International offers its forged-4340 H- and I-beam rod in 6.7- and 6.8-inch length with a smaller diameter crankpin bore for use with stroker crankshafts. It also offers an H-beam with a precisely machined hole through the beam to positively lubricate the wristpin for supercharged applications.
Eagle Specialty Products (ESP) in Southaven, Mississippi, filled a large market void with its Pontiac-spec, forged-steel, H-beam connecting rod in the mid-’90s. “We began developing a high-quality connecting rod during the ’80s,” says ESP Marketer Alan Davis. “We wanted to offer an economic-but-durable option between stock rods and high-end customs. We chose the H-beam design to maximize strength, and by producing it on a mass scale using overseas labor, it could feature high-end durability at an affordable price.”
ESP formed a partnership with an overseas company, providing it with the equipment and material, and training its employees to make sure each rod met ESP’s stringent specifications. “We use a material alloyed and heat-treated to AISI 4340 specifications,” Davis explains. “Our rods are forged in two pieces, where the beam forging is one and the cap is another. The cap is pressed perpendicularly to the beam to further enhance strength. Each rod is CNC-machined and shot-peened to remove the external imperfections that could compromise integrity. And the big-end bore is sized using Sunnen Krossgrinding equipment.”
ESP’s Pontiac-spec H-beam is available in a press-fit pin design or with a bronze bushing for floating wristpins. Weighing nearly 760 grams, ESP claims its standard H-beam can sustain up to 850 hp and 7,000 rpm in a typical Pontiac 455. “Our rods will handle 1,500 hp, but we use 7⁄16-inch ARP 8740-series bolts to keep the cost down,” Davis adds. For the few racers building engines that exceed 850 hp, we offer ARP 2000- or L19-series cap screws as an upgrade, which pushes the limit to 1,500.”
A complete set of Pontiac-spec H-beams retails for less than $550, and upgraded fasteners add about another $100. “Our stock-dimension rods remain popular for high-performance street and race engines, and our longer 6.7- and 6.8-inch rods with a smaller crankpin diameter are quite popular with those performance hobbyists building stroker Pontiacs; they sell for about the same price.”
Crower Cams and Equipment Company in San Diego, California, has been producing high-quality aftermarket valvetrain components for decades. It entered the connecting-rod market in the early ’90s with its forged-steel Sportsman line for Chevy and Ford, and then Pontiac in the early ’00s.
“We wanted to provide hobbyists with a high-quality forged-steel connecting rod that could be used in most any type of rebuild at an affordable price,” says Kerry Novak, a Crower sales associate.
Crower’s Big Block Sportsman rods are American-made and constructed of 4340-steel alloy that’s heat-treated to Crower’s proprietary specifications. Fitted with 7⁄16-inch ARP 8740-series cap screws, the unique I-beam forging is extremely rugged. “We’ve seen our Big Block Sportsman rods used in Pontiac engines producing as much as 1,000 hp and turning upwards of 8,000 rpm. We feel they are very reliable for a wide range of applications,” adds Novak.
Crower’s Pontiac-spec Big Block Sportsman rod weighs about 850 grams and is available in a press-fit pin design or with a bronze bushing for floating wristpins. Retail cost is less than $800 per set. In addition to its Pontiac-spec offering, Crower also offers its Big Block Sportsman rod in a wide array of dimensions for those who need stock-length or longer rods combined with Pontiac or Chevy crankpin sizes for specialized or stroker-type applications. Expect to find pricing similar to a Pontiac-spec set.