The Remains of the Day

I've missed my first milestone deadline.

My goal was to have a drivable car as of today.

In some ways I am disappointed I did not meet my goal.  In others I feel it is an acceptable "slip" in the date.

The Chinese parts debacle caused a month of lost time, and some personal developments made me lose motivation to work on the car causing further delays.  As my boss says, "life happens".  I think this is his euphemism for "shit happens".  Indeed it does.

Current state of affairs:

  • Engine heads are rebuilt and clean with new .194 exhaust valves
  • Engine block is decked and planed and ready for parts
  • I have American replacement crankshaft and rods
  • The new parts need to be balanced
  • I need to sell my Chinese parts/transmission/old intake manifold
I feel I'll muster the will/money to continue in the following couple of months.



I've been distracted.
And my dentist just slapped me with a lot of upcoming work.  We'll see how I balance all of these things.

Honestly working on the car has not been a priority for many other reasons as well.


1. Don't Trust Whitey

Actual text exchange:
    Random Number: Do you still have that crab?
    Me: Nope, I saw a doctor and got rid of it.
    Random Number: LOL ya.  I have a 750 Holley Im trying to (get) a 600.

Then it all clicks for me... the Craig's List ad about the carburetor.

Also the crankshaft came.  Back to the machine shop for (re)balancing.


Doing a 180


I called Jegs yesterday to ask where my crank is.

They have not yet shipped it.  The reason?  Because the crank "key" (the bit that allows the timing sprocket to stay attached to the crank at the proper orientation) is located not in the 0 degree position, but in the 180 degree position.

For those I've lost, look at the following picture

The lower arrow is pointing to the 0 degree mark on the crankshaft's timing sprocket.  Right below that is a notch called the "key".  Well, the Lunati crank has that key located in the 180 degree position, directly opposite of the 0 degree position in the picture.

This means that I'll have to either
  1. Get a new timing chain set with a key-notch in the 180 degree position (my current one doesn't have a notch at 180 degrees).  Oh, and for the record, I'm told they don't make them this way any more.
  2. Use the one I have, but rotate it 180 degrees out of alignment and do a bunch of mental gymnastics when I'm setting up the engine (for example, the 1st cylinder should be all the way up at 0 degrees, but when things are 180 degrees out of phase, the 6th cylinder will be all the way up instead).
Bah.  I thought hobbies were supposed to be fun.


If Anything, I am a Patient Man

The Crower rods came, but I'm still waiting on the crankshaft.

Still haven't sold the Chinese parts.

And so I wait.


For the Record, I Did Not Say Americana...

would be cheap.  It won't be.

Turns out trying to sell my parts like this http://corvallis.craigslist.org/pts/2326064159.html isn't working out so hot.  Who knew?

New parts are on the way and should be here early May.  Lunati crank, Crower rods, ARP ring compressor, and an engine brush kit later, I'm $1361.95 poorer.



There is a way forward.  I called around and found out that Crower produces U.S. made connecting rods and Lunati U.S. made crankshafts.

Now I have to sell my Chinese parts and buy much more expensive American bits.

I'm a man of few principles, but this one is going to cost me.


Me Play Joke

Got the parts back from the machine shop on Monday.  I was unpacking them all this evening when I noticed a sticker on the connecting rod box.  "Made In China".

The joke's on me.

Crankshaft and connecting rods are both Chinese.  This will not do.

I refuse to let the heart of the engine be composed of Chinese metal.  I'm no racist, but it seems dead wrong to let a symbol of Americana be powered by China.  Although it may be an apt analogy for the state of things today, it sure as hell isn't representative of the '60s, and is a far cry from being representative of me.

And if cars are one thing to American men they are an extension of our personalities.  My personality says "Eff China".

Back to the shop to return some parts and get some American steel.


Head Case

Apparently the heads are near done and I should be able to take delivery on my parts come the middle of next week.

Yikes!  It was nice having a break.  Back to work.


Cam Shafting

Spoke with the machine shop today about the roller lifter kit vs the "flat tappet" lifter kit.

Aside: the lifters are the metal bits that contact the cam directly.

The traditional flat (no-moving parts) cam kit is $180.  The rolling kit is $1000.

Needless to say, I went with the traditional flat ones.

Here's a picture to illustrate the difference.


Deficit Spending

Took some of the smaller parts to the machine shop today.  Harmonic ballancer is junk, need a new one.  Turns out the timing chain I have is a roller chain, and relatively new, so I'll save some money there.  Intake manifold is good and they'll clean it up for me.

Put a $1200 deposit down, as they are going to get the rotating package for me as well.

Starting to waffle on flat lifters vs. roller lifters.


Welcome to the Machining

I checked in with the machinists on Friday and we closed in on a plan.  Since the block had been bored to ~.034 over before, we're going with .040 over on the cylinders.  Bob said he'd look at rotating packages from Eagle, likely similar to the assembly posted earlier, but he did mention the beefier "H-beam" rods instead of the "I-beam" rods that I was looking at.

He mentioned a custom cam builder that grinds 383 application-specific cams (a cam is the bit that spins and pushes up on the lifters that push on the push rods that open and close the intake and exhaust valves that allow the engine to breathe).  Going with a full roller timing chain (which means the chain links have bearing where the interface with the sprockets to reduce friction and wear).

I'm unsure about using roller lifters or not.  I've been reading on the hot rod mags that solid lifters need more zinc in the oil they use.  So, I may just go with the more expensive lifters just to avoid using special oil in the engine.

Duane also recommended I upgrade to 194 valves on the heads of the engine.  This will increase the amount of intake air the engine can breathe in, but other than that, the heads looked good to them.  Though, they haven't taken the heads apart and examined the valves.

Gaskets will be included in the rotating package price, which is yet to be determined.

So I'll probably drop a hefty down payment soon for all the engine parts and machining to be done on the block and heads.  Still not sure when I'll get the parts back to resume construction on the engine.  I will keep you posted.



The machine shop called today.  Turns out the block had been previously bored to .032" over (a nonstandard size).  So I've been driving a >350 for a while... who knew?

He did say that the block can likely be bored .040 over to smooth out the wear.  Time to look for a new rotating assembly.


Civic Duty

I had to figure out how to load up my engine block into my car by myself.

It was late, and I didn't want to pester any of my friends.

I rigged something up, that got the job done.

I want to get these parts to the shop before I split for the weekend.

Snug as a bug in a rug.


Why am I doing this?

I often ask myself why I'm repairing my old car.  Practically, it makes little sense.  I mean, it's 43 years old. It won't have cruise control, or anti-lock brakes.  It won't ever handle that well.  And if the engine turns out to be anything close to as powerful as I want it to be, it may be hard to just keep it on the road.

Being something of a pragmatist, I find myself often posing the question, "why?"

There's not one answer I can really give.  I feel it has to be done for a few reasons.  Aesthetically I find this car to be beautiful.  Almost elegant, really.  Which is a horrible thing to say of a "muscle car".  I don't necessarily think all generation one Camaros have this quality.  Honestly, I don't think this of most Camaros, to be sure.  There's something of a "hillbilly" reputation that Camaros come with.  Part of the appeal is to see how far I can break away from that stigma and still have something quintessentially American/GM.  There's an interesting tension in there.

However there is something about *my* car that has poise.  The long sloping nose, the square jutting hood scoop.  The arched haunches, and feminine-tapered grace of the roof line.  You'd be hard pressed to find a better looking American car of the late 60's.

But aesthetics only go so far.  I also love that this project is so tangible.  I'm using my hands to make something physical... very physical.  This is a vast departure from my day job... all mental gymnastics and repetition (depending on the day).  Where as my job is pensive and and collaborative, the car is a lot of isolation and testosterone.

Speaking of which, there's something inherently manly about it rebuilding a car.  Which I'll be happy to brag about to my guy friends when I'm finished.  In a time when masculinity is often looked at in the pejorative, the preservation and enhancement of a vintage vehicle is a worthy cause.  Some balk at the amount of gas it will surely consume.  To them I say, "I drive a Civic."  I even ride my bike to work in the summer.  Further, having an interesting project close to home keeps me from driving up and down I-5 every weekend, and may, in some ways, save gas.

Finally, it's something worth owning.  I've found increasingly difficult to find things worth owning.  By that, I mean: what could I pass on to my grandkids (should I be so blessed).  It seems America has gone the way of the quick and cheap.  Not much stands the test of time.  I can't really think of a single "future antique" that I own.  This makes me sad.  Modern cars mostly plastic; disposable.  I love the thought of this car being driven 20 or 30 years down the road.  I don't often feel like I've done much in my life worth doing.  There's something in a man that wants to leave a legacy.  Perhaps this will be a part of mine.



Or, "It's always easier getting things apart".

I am ready.  I am ready for the machining.

When last we met, I was in the garage taking the heads off.  Well, I had to put them back on temporarily, as well as the intake manifold so I could lift the engine with the hoist once again.  I did this to remove the flywheel off the back of the engine.  In order to really get the bolts off the flywheel I had to wedge a large screwdriver into the teeth of the flywheel and brace it against the rest of the engine so it wouldn't move when I was torquing on the bolts.  I'd have taken a picture of it, but both hands were full at the time.

Flywheel came off, put the engine back on the stand.  Took off all the external bits, like the motor mounts, main pulley etc.  Rotated the engine over, so the bottom is facing up, then took off the oil pan to reveal the crankshaft.
Note the tool stuck in the crankshaft.  It's there to prevent the crank from turning when I was undoing the bolt that holds the harmonic balancer (round orange thing on the far right in the above photo) to the crank.  Also note the oil pump (tall black thingy poking up on the far left in the above photo).

To get the harmonic balancer off, I had to buy a special tool that fits onto the bolt holes previously occupied by the main pulley assembly.  Then you screw in a large main bolt that presses into the crankshaft and pulls off the harmonic balancer.
Well what I didn't know is that the crankshaft bolt that was in there before, was very close in size to the large black bolt in the above picture, so when I was twisting it in there, it was getting threaded into the crank... oops
Don't do it this way.
I then reinstalled the original bolt into the crankshaft and used the three bolts on the outside of the "duck's foot" (aka harmonic balancer puller) to do the pulling, simply leveraging the tool against the bolt.  Like so.
Screwing in those three brass-colored bolts, about 3 full turns each in a loop until the balancer came off.

Then I removed the power steering fluid reservoir.
After that the timing chain cover came off, and the cam-shaft timing chain sprocket (it's the bigger one... I forgot to take a photo).  Then I could pull the cam shaft out.  See it on the green towel there?
The cam shaft is like the brain of the engine, it tells the engine when to "breathe in" fresh air and "exhale" bad air.

Then it was onto taking the pistons out of the cylinders.  With the engine still upside-down, you can rotate the crankshaft (using the same bolt that held the harmonic balancer on the front, and a socket wrench) until two pistons are at "bottom dead center" that is they are all the way down in the cylinder.  Then undo the two nuts that hold the bottom of the piston rod to the crankshaft.
When those two bolts are off, I had to put the wrench against a small flange on the cap, and hit the wrench with a hammer a few times to dislodge the cap from the rod.
Cap removed.
Next, I slipped on two lengths of 3/8" fuel line around the exposed bolts that are still attached to the rod. Placed the wooden end of a hammer against the bottom of the piston and hammered it out of the cylinder.
The fuel line acts like a shield protecting the cylinder wall from getting damaged by the extraction of the pistons and rods.
Just seven more to go.
The part of the rod that connects to the crankshaft has a bearing that lines the part of the rod that would contact the crankshaft.  Sometimes those bearings wear out.  For example, if you can see some brass color on a bearing, it's been worn out.
Repeat the procedure to get all the pistons out.  Now, if you intend to reuse the pistons and rods you currently have, you'll want to label each one with a number punch.  Label the rod in the first cylinder 1, the second 2 etc.  Also you'll want to label the caps of each as well, so you don't get them mixed up.

Here's a diagram of the piston numbers and firing order (shown in the circle).
I'm getting all new pistons and rods, so I didn't care much.  I need new parts because they will bore out each cylinder to be bigger than they originally were.  The machine shop will make enough room for 383 cubic inches of displacement (total volume the piston will travel through), from the 350 I currently have.
All pistons out.
Finally I had to remove the main caps that hold the crankshaft to the engine.  There are two kinds: 4-bolt main, and 2-bolt main.  I have the former.  This means that for each of the three center main caps that hold the crankshaft to the engine there are four bolts.  Take a look here.  Once I had all of those caps out (and they also have corresponding bearings).  I was just about done.  I lifted out the crankshaft...
Then pulled out the "water jacket" plugs (see the brass colored discs in the above link).  Each cylinder is surrounded by a jacket of water to keep it cool.  The engine block is a hollow chamber that allows for water to circulate around the parts that need to be kept cool.

Then removed some of the "oil gallery" plugs, but I stripped one.  Finally, I put a 1/4" wide 3' long steel rod down in through the newly opened oil gallery plug hole (which runs the length of the engine) in order to push agains the tap-in oil plugs on the front of the engine, and hammered them out.

I now am ready to take the parts to the machine shop.

Does anyone know what to do with lifters/pistons/crankshafts/camshafts etc. that you're not using anymore?  I mean they have to be worth *something*, yeah?


Round and Round She Goes

A "rotating assembly" (aka rotating package) is all the spinning/moving parts of an engine that make up the bottom part of the engine.  That is: the pistons, the connecting rods, the crankshaft, and various other bits (like piston rings, and crankshaft bearings etc.).

This is the rotating package I'm thinking of getting.


The Machinists

I've been reading my books this weekend.  This one is way better than this one.

The former comes with a hip check-list to better keep track of your rebuild.  And the DVD is really good also.

I went to the machine shop, and talked to some nice old crusty machinists.  They said
$600-$900 for all the deck planing, boring, honing, head rebuilding etc.  If the rods don't clear the case correctly, it could be an additional $300 in grinding time.  So, worst case scenario, about 1200 bucks.  I don't really have a basis for comparison.  Is that a good price?

Then I went to NAPA and picked up some shop rags, a drip pan (way overdue for that one), a harmonic balancer puller, gasket scraper, and some length of fuel line to use as a bolt-shield for when I pull the pistons out (I'll take pictures of that when I do it).

Bonus: Got my taxes done today, had a good cry.



The books came this morning.  In paging through them briefly, I noticed that, apparently, you're supposed to mark which lifters came from what openings. Same with the push rods... oops.

I don't think it matters too much for me, because I'll likely replace all of those parts with new ones.  Still, not something I was aware of.


If They Come, I Will Build It

Just ordered some books to help in the process.  Hopefully I'll learn a thing or two.


Off With Their Heads!

The factory AC unit needed to be removed.  It just takes up a lot of space in the engine bay and there are kits that fit under the dash now-a-days.  Here's where it used to be.
Just jutting in there and wasting space.
So I took some bolts/nuts off and then ripped it out.
Since it's not going back in there, I'm not sure what to do with it.  I'm just going to toss it unless someone wants it.  Lemme know if you or anyone you know would want such a thing.

Anyway, here's what's left
There's still the passenger side casing left, but I can't figure out how to remove it without taking body panels off.

Next I went to work on the engine.  I started taking off the intake manifold, but I couldn't get too far because the allen wrench I was using was too long to get on some of the bolts.  So I took it to NAPA and they sold me a smaller one that fit great.
Got the intake off without much drama.

Took off the rockers next, and then pulled out the lifters.  Some of them were way down in their seats.  Using my magnet-on-a-stick helped a bit.
Taking off the heads proved to be problematic.  The bolts were on there pretty tight, so I improvised.
Mechanical advantage!
Took the handle from the engine hoist and attached it to a wrench, Erick: 1, Bolts: 0.

With the heads off I got my first good look at the pistons and cylinders.  Oh, by the way, a bunch of water comes out when you undo the bottom bolts of the head, and a bunch more when you remove the head... plan accordingly.
Lots of carbon built up on the pistons.  And the heads.
Next, I'll take all the bits off the engine block.  For reference here's what it looks like as of now.
Driver's side.
Passenger's side.
Got the intake and heads off this weekend.  Mission: accomplished.



Didn't get anything done this weekend :(
Tied up loose ends before my trip to Vegas, however :)

More next weekend.


Serendipity, Pt.2

I should preface this part of the story by saying I watched this series of videos on YouTube about removing an engine before attempting to do the same.

Saturday morning I set off to pick up an engine hoist.  I had contacted the seller earlier in the week, but she informed me there was another person ahead of me who was interested, but lucky me, that person bailed out, so they wanted me to look at it on Friday, then changed the time to Saturday at the last minute.  Which worked out great because a) I got paid Friday night (midnight), and b) my buddy P.S. brought a friend's truck (unbeknownst to me) to my house.

P.S. and I went over there, and the guy didn't have change.  He was asking $175, so I offered him $160, and he took it!

So it seems the car-gods had conspired to allow for me to have the money, means, and people to haul that hoist over to my garage.

The first order of business on Saturday was to remove the drive shaft.  You can see it running from the end of the transmission (at the middle of the picture) to the differential (at the top left of the picture).  There are a couple of U shaped bolts that hold the drive shaft to the differential.

Once you loosen those U bolts you can slip the whole drive shaft forward into the transmission in order to remove it (that tip I got from the above linked videos... God bless the Australians).

Here's a better picture of the U bolts and how the fit on the shaft.
When that was out we plugged the tail of the transmission with this.
Now the trick would be to remove the engine mount bolts from the front of the car, lift up the engine enough to unbolt the engine from the transmission then the engine out of the car, followed by the transmission.

There are two bolts that hold the engine to the engine mounts, one on either side of the engine: driver's side and passenger side (see the picture of the engine bay below).

So P.S. went to work unbolting the engine from the bell housing.  When it occurred to us... well not me so much as J.W., that we needed to prop up the front part of the transmission before we lifted the engine out, otherwise it'd crash to the floor once we'd decoupled the engine from the transmission.  And it just so happened that I had a long piece of 2x4 that would work great as a brace.  So we used it like this:
Which allowed us to remove the engine bolts, and the bolts holding the transmission to the engine and we were about to lift the engine out when I remembered that the flywheel (on the engine) was still attached to the torque converter (on the transmission).  So I got under the car and unbolted the three bolts that held it together, however J.W. had to use a wrench to turn the crankshaft on the front of the engine to turn the flywheel so I could access the bolts individually.  That's effing team work.

Then attaching the hoist to the lift plate we pulled the engine out.
Preparing the hoist.
Houston, we have separation.
She's cleared the engine mounts.
You don't see that everyday.
With the engine free we bolted it onto the engine stand I bought last weekend using bolts from Home Depot.  We just took some of the bolts we removed from the bell housing down there to find ones that were longer... it turned out the ones we got were too long, and we needed to cut them to size with a hacksaw.  So, for those following along at home, buy a hacksaw when you get these bolts (total cost: right around $10).
A trick to make life easier is to bolt the part adjustable frame onto the engine while it's on the hoist, and just lower that as an assembly onto the engine stand.

Next, we had to lift the transmission out, but we didn't have a good idea how to do that, until J.W. jury rigged the engine lift plate to the transmission... brilliant!
And we lifted the tranny out through the engine bay also.
All done by 5pm Saturday.  For less than the $175 dollars I had planned on spending.  Three guys, plus a little bit of prep work, buying the right parts, doing the homework, some good ideas (none of them mine, thanks J.W. and P.S.) and a good dose of luck and we achieved our goal ahead of schedule and under budget.
Knuckle buster.
Next steps: sell the transmission, as it's just in my way; and start stripping the engine down.


Serendipity, Pt.1

It's Friday night.  After a semi-productive band practice up North, I get a call from P.S. who has arrived at my house, in my absence.  Luckily I left a key so he could get in while J.W. and I make our way back to to my place for a weekend of car and alcohol related activity.

By the time we all sorted out our greetings it was about 12 am, so we decided to get to work in the garage.

First order of business, clean the garage floor.  Now I had sprayed it down and spot-washed areas where oil and/or automatic transmission fluid had pooled on the concrete floor the day before.  Note: hand soap works ok, detergent not so much.

In the interim 24 hours when I had washed the floor and put the car back in the garage it had leaked MORE fluid.  So we needed to clean up a little before the garage mat I bought could go down.  I read that baking soda can lift some stains.
The proper use of baking soda.
It doesn't work so well.

Anyway, then we rolled out the garage mat.
It's got grooves that channel fluids toward the garage door side.
It did come in handy.  Fully recommended.

The next order of business was to drain the transmission fluid.  First we removed some of the metal lines that leave the tranny for the radiator.  No fluid was forthcoming.  After failing to locate a drain plug on the transmission pan (there isn't one, which is pretty dumb), we just unbolted all but three bolts on one side and pried on one side till we were able to drain the fluid.
J.W. draining the fluid.
We then left the pan off for the fluid to drain overnight.  To be continued...


Sometimes When Things Happen...

You just wish you had a camera.  And sometimes you do.

This last weekend, I was able to remove: the starter/solenoid, the gas pump, both of the headers (even the stuck one), almost every tube/wire to the engine save for two.

  1. Some tube to the power steering reservoir... I unfastened the clamp, but the tube won't budge, I may end up just cutting it off.
  2. A ground wire(?) that is affixed to a bolt that holds the bell housing of the transmission to the engine proper.
I removed some long, thin, metal tubes that apparently took transmission fluid from the gearbox and sent it to the radiator for cooling (I assume).  And then I removed this piece of tubing
It was attached to a brass L shaped fitting at the top of the intake manifold, here
It's the brass bit that looks like it's pointing toward the distributor (brown thingy) on top of the intake manifold (aluminum thingy).
I removed the end that was affixed to the manifold, but the other end wasn't attached to anything... at least it wasn't any more.  Big mystery.  Who knows what it is?  And where does it go?

After that work was done, I took a break.
And that pretty much ended my work for the weekend.  However, I was able to jet down to Eugene today to pick up...
A nice heater and an engine stand from a pleasant older gentleman who used it to rebuild his Chevy 350 into a 383, just as I plan to do.

His advice: "Get a crate motor."  Haha- here's to ignoring the advice of old men and sage friends!