One of the first things to determine is what size carburetor do you need. A number of factors come into play here.
Damn! Didn't think it was that complicated did you? Keep in mind that a carburetor is just one part of the engine combination. All of the parts need to work together. And putting a larger carburetor on you current daily driver is NOT going to immediately give you 100 more horsepower. The carb needs to work with all the other parts you have chosen and how you use the vehicle.
The main element to determine your CFM requirements is a pretty simple math formula. Here it is: CARB CFM = (Cubic Inches) times (Max RPM) divided by 3456
It goes like this: You need to know the CUBIC INCHES of your motor. You then need to figure out the MAXIMUM RPMs the motor will be spun to. Be reasonable! 5000 is a reasonable street number. Dude, your daily driver will grenade at 7000 RPM if it could even get there! Finally you also need the VOLUMETRIC EFFICIENCY PERCENTAGE (VE%) of the engine. The first two items (CUBIC INCHES and RPMs), are relatively easy to determine. The engine VE% is another matter. If an engine could use all of the air it ingested, it would have a VE% of 100%. Many performance engines reach this level. Certain race engines can actually exceed this and reach a VE% of over 100% at certain points in their RPM range. Most production engines and most street performance engines have VE levels below 100%. In fact, stock, production, low performance motors will fall around 75%-85% volumetric efficiency.
With all that said we come up with this. A stock, low performance production motor of 350 cubic inches and you wanted to spin it to 5000 rpms max and it had a VE% of 80%, the formula would determine a required carb CFM of 405 CFM.
If you had a warmed over street performance motor of the same size, better heads, camshaft, headers and a performance intake that raised the VE% to 95% and it was capable of 7000 rpms, the formula would give you a minimum required carb CFM size of 673 CFM.
This formula will get you in the ballpark and there are some adjustments to this formula. For the street a split plenum intake is standard fair. It splits up the carb input left and right to keep the air speed up.A vacuum secondary a carb is also a great choice because it will only bring in the secondaries when needed. This is a super street combo. Great throttle response and fuel milage.
If you have a longer duration performance or race cam you may need to change the power valves to handle reduced engine vacuum signal to the carb. Pretty simple baseline. Core vacuum at idle divided by 2. Just a guideline but a good place to start!
When you buy a used carb always check the jetting. Most of the time they have been tinkered with in their life and with the info supplied by Holley set it back to stock. Once you have the baseline setup you can make the changes to improve the carb's performance on YOUR motor. Don't believe the cool story you were told! Trust no one!
Holley has a comprehensive listing for every performance and race carb they make and the individual factory specifications for each carb. Stuff like list no's, CFM and stock jetting specifications. For the most part Holley carbs have this number stamped on the front, driver's side of the choke horn. It varies on other product lines and the location can be in a variety of spots.