Some people own classic musclecars because of the way they look, turning heads and attracting attention. That's reason enough, but it was the feel and the sound of eight cylinders of pre-smog American iron trying to suck the oxygen out of the neighborhood that hooked most of us. It's about the rush you get when the pedal hits the floor. You know that's all there is, but your foot keeps pushing harder anyway, trying to find just a little more. You're the kind whose first desire with a new car is to tear into the powerplant, either to restore it to full power operation or maybe to start down the slippery slope of increasing performance.
We realize that many of you reading don't care all that much about making the most horsepower. You want to properly put an engine together, and have it work as well as it did from the factory. So, for this month, we went back to the basics and will review the fundamentals of engine rebuilding. This one happens to be the 440 Six-Pack creation that Muscle car Restorations will be bolting to the A-833 four-speed we showed you a few months ago, but the techniques will apply to any stock and even most high-performance rebuilds. We toted our parts to Gary Schmidt, owner of Wheeler Racing Engines in Blaine, Minnesota, and Gary was kind enough to let us barge into his assembly room, look over his shoulder, and ask a lot of questions.
It's a good feeling when a professional cleans and bead-blasts the block, turns the crank, align-hones the main caps, bores the cylinders, and mills the deck if necessary. The heads deserve the same treatment. Let someone install hardened seats, new valves, and lightly shave them to be sure they are perfectly flat. Then, contact a quality supplier like Mancini Racing and order the correct pistons, rings, bearings, gaskets, and so on. That way, when you begin your assembly, you will know you have everything you need to finish it.
If your engine didn't start out as a Six-Pack, you can still have one by just ordering all the Six-Pack parts from Year One. The Six-Pack cam, intake, and carburetors are available from them new. Or if you desire, leave the single four-barrel on it. Talk to your engine builder about your head/piston combination so you end up with a compression ratio that works best for you.
Gary likes to make sure all his engines will work flawlessly for his customers, so he feels strongly all engines he builds should be tuned on a dyno before being delivered to the customer. That way, the engine is properly broken in, tested, and tuned so it can be installed and ready to run with no surprises. It is so much easier to optimize the timing and set up the carbs to ensure maximum performance when you can immediately and precisely measure each change. In fact, Gary would rather have the customer do the engine assembly and apply the savings to a dyno session where Jeff Fiala of Wheeler Dyno Service can coax the most power possible from their engine.
Gary is confident the customer won't have any problems because he has already done all the machine work. All the proper clearances have already been set so there is no need for the owner to make any critical measurements. That said, there still is a correct way to assemble an engine, and that is what we intend to show you here.
All that remains is to bolt on the pumps and the plugs and wires and fill it with oil. Again, the dyno is the best place to determine optimum timing. This one did best at 32 degrees.