Good news/bad news. After having a few problems with the Accel distributor, the engine seems to be fixed and quite happy. Accel has the best customer service I have ever run across, but I don't have the time to tell that story right now. During a shakedown run the night before the September ASCC autocross, the steering box died. Crunch grind crunch grind grind. Well, a rebuild for that one is not cheap, and I'm trying to decide if I want to rebuild it or re-design the system to use another type of steering box. So, the cars sits, as Mike G. would say "...in a Chevy's natural habitat", up on jackstands in the garage. <sigh>
Done! The engine was started for the first time last Saturday, and has been pretty good since then. We've had a rash of thunderstorms around here lately, but I have managed to get some break in miles on it. It's working just as I planned. The additional displacement and the slightly milder cam has made it very strong on the bottom end. The numerically lower rear gears puts this newfound low end power to good use. Great! I haven't taken it past 4000 rpm yet because of the break-in procedure, but it feels nice towards the top too. I'm very pleased.
A couple of notes:
I used one of the new Fel-Pro blue silicon one piece oil pan gaskets and it's worth every penny! That motor doesn't leak a drop of oil. They are about $40, but I will never use anything else again. Hank at Maddog Pro-Formance made me a small aluminum spacer for my crank pulley to help get my belt aligned. it worked wonders. This man can make almost anything and billet aluminum is his specialty. He is currently working on a hexagonal coolant recovery tank for me. We're still laying it out, but it looks nice even at this stage.
The old starter is about ready for the armature in the sky. It cranks REALLY slow. I added a -4 ground cable from the battery to the engine block, and this seems to have helped, but it still doesn't much like to start when the engine is hot. It's hanging right above the header collectors, so it just sucks up the exhaust heat and then slows down. I'm going to replace it with a gear-reduction mini starter from Powermaster.
The only other urgent issue is to install a Crane Hi-6 ignition box, mainly for the rev limiter that is built into it. I'll be much safer with a rev limiter in case of driver or mechanical failure. All it would take is one blown u-joint and I'd be building another engine. No good.
The short block is assembled, minus the valvegear. The steering system is assembled once again, with new bearings in the third arm, and a new fasteners throughout. The bodywork on the engine compartment and underside of the hood is complete. It's "basic black" but looks pretty decent considering where it started off. I'm READY!!! I had expected to have the car done by now, but still need a few more parts. Basically, I need to buy the cam kit, a speedometer, and a new clutch, and I'm ready. Soon I hope.
Update 4/3/00 Getting there
Just a quick update for the...uhhh...maybe two people who actually read this. The engine is back from the machine shop, and needs only a few things before assembly. I still need the cam kit, head gaskets, and a few other details. The pistons are beautiful! Keith Black holds amazingly tight tolerances and comes out with a part that is a work of art. The powdered metal rods from GM are very nice as well. I need to get some other odds and ends tied up, and then assemble and break the motor in for the ASCC event in May. The new 4.11:1 rear end is in. The engine compartment is primed and painted, but black instead of the red I had planned. Chad Gray did a FANTASTIC job on the fiberglass repair for me. Now, the gaping hole where the heater box was in smoothed over and glassed in. It'll give the anal-retentive restorers something to obsess about!! heh heh heh
Anyhow, Just a quick update for anyone who was curious.
Update 2/10/00 Re-Construction
I have a plan, and it's to build a nice strong motor for cheap, which one can actually do with a small block Chevy because there are so many different parts available for them, and there are so many SBChev's out there already. My plan is to combine a 4 bolt 350 block and cast crank with my aluminum L98 corvette heads, powdered metal GM connecting rods used in the ZZ crate motors and LT-1 and LT-4 factory motors, Keith Black pistons, and some other goodies. I am really leaning towards a CompCams Xtreme Energy 268 cam kit, with all of the requisite valve springs, lifters, retainers, locks, seals, timing chain and so on. Summit Racing (http://www.summitracing.com/index.htm) and Jegs (http://www.jegs.com/)offer this kit for about $300 in stock. I am really excited about the PM rods, as I picked up a set of eight from Lambert Buick Pontiac (http://www.partsgm.com/) for only $175. I know I could have gotten them cheaper mail order, but once the shipping charges are added in, it's not much of a savings. I have used Lambert as a supplier for GM Performance parts for a while, and always had good luck. Besides, they are only about 5 minutes from home in Cuyahoga Falls. The rods are supposed to be good to about 450 horsepower, so they should be sufficient for my purposes. It looks like this motor can come together for around $1200 or so, considering the parts that I already have adding in the parts I need and the machine work. It would be impressive if it actually come in at this amount once it's done. As my buddy Hank says, "There's always something...". He's right!
The transmission is fresh, but it looks like I need a new clutch disk, and probably a pressure plate too. I have been thinking about the standard "gold" series from Centerforce (http://www.centerforce.com/), but I'm not sure yet.
Ohh yeah! I got a 4.10:1 rear end complete from my Corvette Buddy Pete Shaffer in trade for my 4.56 unit. What a guy! Now I can keep the revs down a little, hoping to keep this engine together for a while. A Crane Hi-6 ignition box with a digital rev limited will help in that end as well. With this engine, max horsepower should come in right between 6000-6200 RPM.
The body is also getting some massaging. I am stripping the bottom of the hood and the rest of the engine bay in preparation for paint. It is going to be red like the rest of the car. I don't really have any good engine bay pics up on this site yet, but the engine compartment was REALLY nasty. It was all gooped up with tar-like undercoating and resembled a black pit. The shiny engine just doesn't belong in there! It has been a long and dirty smelly project, but I am almost done stripping the goop off, and will enlist the help of fellow ASCC member and composite expert Chad Gray to help me with some little repair spots. Thanks Chad!!!
Update 9/19/99: "Piggy Go BOOM!" or "Powered by MasterCard/Visa"
I ran the ASCC autocross on Sunday, Sept 19 and the car ran great. The transmission worked flawlessly, and things went very well, and aside from a few driving bungles on my part, it was a good day. Now for the bad part.
I was driving home after the event, I was heading down the highway, about 60mph-70mph, downshifted to third gear to approach my off ramp, and BOOM. Things got ugly really quick. The engine sounded horrible, and I heard many pieces clattering against the floorboards, much like when you drive fast over a gravel road. Bad thing. Then, for a short while, there was a plume of smoke that resembled that of a WWII fighter plane "going down". I pushed in the clutch, and everything came to a halt.
I coasted for what seemed like an eternity, and finally landed in a parking lot off the highway. By coincidence, a friend was following me, and saw the entire thing unfold. He actually tried to dodge the pieces flying out from under the car, and his windshield survived. There was a light film of oil and coolant across his entire car.
I lifted the hood, and it looked like a large coolant-oil grenade went off. I then began to find pieces. Big pieces. I found the #6 rod bottom, which had sheared off right where the beam connects to the "big end" of the rod. The ARP rod bolts are still intact, holding the rod-bearing cap to the bottom of the rod. Recall that the big end of a connecting rod is round. Mine has been hammered flat.
This is bad. My friend finds a stray wrist pin rolling around the parking lot. "Ohhh, that's not mine" I said. "It's still warm..." I put it on the passenger side floor.
I got it home, and started to get an idea of how bad things really are. There is a massive hole in the side of the engine block. From this, I also found that when #5 left the assembly, it not only knocked a hole in the side of the block, but actually broke the outboard section of the cylinder bore itself. Basically, I can make a fist, stick it through the side of the block and into the bottom of the crankcase.
The carnage: Broken cam, scarred one cylinder head, bent/broken pushrods, bent a few pushrod guideplates, #5 piston completely gone without a trace, #6 piston sheared off horizontally along the wrist pin bore, #5 wrist pin missing, crankshaft is horribly scarred from the rod/piston, 3/4" hole in the oil pan- in the shape of a wrist pin, the engine block is totally worthless, four lifters are totally missing, and so on.
Needless to say, it needs head and a short block. I guess I know what I'm doing this winter.
More updates to follow...
Warning: If you use this material without a written permission form signed in blood by the requestor submitted to the author, you will be hunted down and killed like the foolish being that you are. Last revised: October 10, 2000.