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HawkRod is doing the 2023 Hot Rod Power Tour!

Well, I got my reciprocating assembly balanced today. :thumbsup:

For those who may not be familiar with how engines are balanced:
First you make sure all components like pistons, rods, rings, etc. are weighed and are all the same (e.g. all pistons the same weight, all rods the same weight, etc.). These are then recorded - see the card that I pictured in post #54 above. Then a bobweight is made up. This is basically a bunch of washers and a metal clamp that clamps on the crank rod journals to mimic the piston and rod assemblies. In the picture below you can see the bobweights on the crank and the balancing setup. It is basically a sensitive machine mounted on a Bridgeport.

Then the machine rotates the whole assembly to mimic the engine running and it senses vibration, how much it is and where (what angle) it is.

This assembly was run before, but I made a few changes to some pistons and rods. I expected the numbers to be close to balanced. Here were the results of my initial run:

You can see that I was 5.17 grams off on the left side and 13.8 grams off on the right. A good street balance is anything less than 7 grams, but an all out race engine ideally should be less than 2 grams. Notice also the machine tells me where to take weight off. For example, on the left side I need to drill at 198*.

Taking weight off is pretty simple. You use the Bridgeport with a drill bit, at the angle indicated my the balancing machine. Drill the counterweight the appropriate amount and this brings the assembly into balance.

Now, it takes some finesse and there is a little bit of Voodoo that goes on, because imbalance can move from side to side. But after a few iterations, you should be able to get the assembly balanced as needed. In my case, I drilled both the left and right side twice to sneak up on the result. Here is what I ended up with:

Part of me would love to get the left side to under a gram, but it really isn't worth it - this is an excellent result. Plus, if you take too much out you can screw things up. It's hard to glue the pieces back if you cut too much!

Bottom line is my assembly is now balanced and I can now clean the block, do some final clearance measurements and start assembly! :steering:
44 degrees and sunny!
It's 32 and snowing here.
Don't worry Don - Spring is coming! I just need to get my butt in gear and get this motor built so I can pound the pavement a little harder this year!
Looking forward to seeing you on the tour!

It will be our 3rd straight. We took the 65 SS396 Impala conv, then the '70 Super Bee, this year we plan on the Tunnel rammed '74 Z28! (with our '82 K5 Blazer as a back up)
I've been slow with updates because I have been slow with progress. CRAP - I am running low on time! But I made an extra trip to my father-in-law's shop and made some much needed progress.

First, I did the final block prep by cleaning up my lifter bores.

My engine has a roller cam and lifters, so this cleaning is perhaps less critical. But I am a firm believer that cleaning the lifter bores is CRITICAL if you have a flat tappet cam engine. A lifter that does not spin easily will wipe a cam! So after cleaning your lifter bores, you should check them and lifters should almost fall through the hole - any binding or "stickiness" is BAD!!! Below is a cleaned up bore next to one that hasn't yet been cleaned up.

So at this point my block was done being machined and checked. I had checked the mains, cleaned up deck height (and checked that they are parallel to the mains), cleaned up the bores, enlarged the oil feed passages to the mains, and cleaned up lifter bores.

Now time for cleaning. No pictures since this is boring and wet. But first run long wire brushes through EVERY passage/ hole with kerosene. I also scrubbed every surface I could reasonably reach with Scotch Brite and kerosene. Then the kerosene needs to be removed so the entire process is repeated but this time with soap and water (Dawn dishwashing detergent works great). The the block is dried (careful blowing compressed air on machined surfaces - they will flash rust). Finally, bores are wiped out with Go Jo (no pumice) to do a final cleaning of the bores.

Then I installed the cam bearings.

After this was done, I got to clean again (although more limited) to be sure any minimal cam bearing shavings are removed. I then finally got my block on the engine stand.

So time to file fit my rings. I have a custom application and size, so I needed to file fit them. That's OK, because it allows me to ensure I have precise gaps.

First you have to get the ring into the bore perfectly parallel or you will get a wrong reading. Put the ring into the bore 90* from the way it is supposed to sit then swivel it near the top of the bore. A tool helps set the ring perfectly parallel.

Here is the way it should look (this is before checking and gapping).

Check the end gap

File off needed material. After cutting the rings, a small hand file (look to the right of the machine) is used to gently file off any overhanging material from cutting the ring. File only one direction towards the gap and away from the ring.

Then simply repeat this process until you get the gap dead on what you want. Then repeat for the other 15 rings. It is tedious but not hard.

I filed my rings to .022" for the top ring and .024" for the bottom ring. I took this picture to remind myself of the gap I used for my engine, but the chart is a handy chart.

Once rings were done for any given cylinder, I put them directly on the piston. Note in the picture below the rings are not yet oriented as they should be for insertion. This will be done when the pistons are installed.

So good progress! I do need to do some final cleaning (again) of my deck surface since it started rouging (read: flash rust) from washing the block. Once that is done, next steps are to check main clearances, polish the crank and drop the crank in the block, then the pistons and rods.
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I need to keep moving forward with this motor, so today I have been working on the pistons.

First, as an aside, on Saturday I put the rings on the pistons after I file fit them. When mounting rings, be sure to read the directions. Most have an up and down setting (some you can put in either way). In my case, both the primary and secondary rings have a dot on them that should face up. Since I was working quickly on Saturday, I double checked all of them - all good! See picture below for the dots.

Speaking of working quickly... :poke:
Since I was custom sizing the rings for each bore - what better way to keep them organized than to put them on the pistons? While I was there, I also threw the oil rings on too to get them out of the box. Well, on stroker pistons the rod and pin cannot be installed when the oil rings are on the piston, so I had to take these back off. Not a big deal, but it really would have been more efficient if I had just left them in the box... :rolleyes:

Next post I'll cover assembling my rods and pistons...
So I got my stuff laid out on the workbench to stay organized.

As you can see, on stroker pistons, the pin has to move up high enough that it cuts off part of the oil ring. I'm holding a support rail that has to be placed at the bottom of the groove. This support rail provides support for the oil rings. Your engine would have issues if you forget this.

But first, the rod has to go on. A spriral lock needs to go into the end of the pin hole. Getting spiral locks out is a major pain in the a$$, but getting them in isn't to bad if you know the trick.
(Sorry for the bad picture rotation here...)

First, push the end of the lock into the groove with your finger while holding up the rest of the lock (no picture of this). Then, take a small tool (not sharp) and slowly move it around in a circle to progressively tuck the spiral lock in. The spiral lock opposite of the tool must be high enough to be above the pin hole or you won't have enough room.

Then, with some assembly lube, the pin can be inserted on the other side of the piston and through the rod. Be sure to check direction of the rod. The chamfer should be towards the crank, while the smooth side goes towards the rod for the piston next to it. Another way to keep it straight is to keep the bearing notches on the rod towards the outside of the block.

Now the support rail can be installed. I saw a neat trick of using a razor blade to help slide the final end onto the piston. This avoids scratching the piston.

The end of the support rail needs to be 90* from the pin orientation.

I then put the oil rings back on. The wavy ring goes first, then the bottom oil ring, finally the top ring. Note that the orientation of the connections should be offset from one another.

Now repeat 8 times!

Next I'll install my main bearings, check final clearances, and then it will be time to drop my reciprocating assembly into the block!
So I was hoping to show a picture of my glorious reciprocating assembly installed in the block...

NOT! :mob:

This is why you check everything, AND I should have checked better earlier. Anyway, I had checked the crank awhile ago and verified that is was standard size and not .010" under or something. BUT, I only used dial calipers for a "quickie check". So I was convinced everything was fine.
Just yesterday actually measured the detailed journal sizes on my crank.

The crank spec is 2.6245 - 2.6255". My crank journals were all under spec, ranging from 2.6239 to 2.6235", a full .001" under spec. Damn!
I assembled the bearings in the block and torqued down the caps to allow me to measure my actual clearance.

When I measured my actual clearance, I had a max of .0042" clearance. This is too much, so now I need to order bearings that are .001" thicker, but I have to wait for these. If I do this I will then have a max clearance of .0032", which I can live with.

But, this set me back a week (hopefully the .001 over bearings can be found so it is no more than a week)... :(
Ahhhh, the best laid plans of mice and men: :poke: So in my previous post, my evil plan was to get .001" over bearings to address my relatively high clearance...

...well, they don't seem to make .001" over bearings for a 383/400. If you need them for a 440, no problem. But a 400? Nope. :mad:

Well, the way to reduce the clearance was to increase the size of the crank journals (duh, not happening), get .001" over bearings that don't seem to exist, or reduce the housing bores. So, I had to very carefully and tediously reduce the size of my caps to crunch them down just a bit.
Despite my father-in-law's suggestion that I set them up in the Bridgeport, trying to cut off .0003" - .0005" in a Bridgeport is challenging and time consuming. So I did this slowly and by hand with a file.

I did this by coloring in the cap surface with a sharpie and then filing very little at a time so I could see where I was removing material.

I did this for all five caps on both mounting surfaces. My reward was I reduced clearance by a max of .0007" (without introducing any taper)!

My final clearance values are .0031", .0032", .0036", .0033" and .0035". These are decent so I'll live with them given the engine is a bit racy (and I'm running out of time too)!

I then polished my crank, but in doing so, I messed up my needle bearing for my transmission input shaft. My father-in-law had a sintered bronze(?) bushing that was too big in diameter, so I turned it in a lathe the reduce the size and make it a .002" press fit.
If you look carefully you'll see when I had it in the lathe it was mounted on a 1/2" socket - it worked perfectly to hold it!

Now I could finally begin to assemble the engine!. First I threw the crank in, set and checked end play:

Then I played whack-a-mole with 8 pistons

By the end of the day I had installed the crank and the pistons.

Still a lot to go, but I'm gaining on it now... (...until the next issue, LOL)
Not many pictures today, but I tried to get parts cleaned up and ready so I can merely bolt them on when the time comes.

Most exciting thing I did today was create a tool to measure my roller cam button end play. I read these should have .004" to .010" end play. But how to measure it? If the cam plug on the rear of the block is not installed, it can be measured there, but mine is already installed and I don't feel like taking it out. Plus, in many cases you have to take the engine off the engine stand as well. So I chose another method.

First thing I needed to do was measure the clearance in the timing chain cover. I did this simply by using a machinist straight edge and a set of calipers. Note that I used pieces of the old, compressed gasket and measured off of those since the gasket will affect clearance.

Then I made a plate with holes that align with two of the top bolt holes in the timing chain cover. I also drilled holes beside where the cam button sits so I can put a dial gauge on it. Nothing fancy here, I simply used my small drill press to drill the holes.


I then tapped 4 holes with 1/4-20 thread and put screws through where they will contact the block's machined surface for the timing chain cover. I also threw on a vertical piece to ensure it didn't flex. Finally, I made a half hole so I can easily see the cam button and even potentially use a feeler gauge if I want to. Here is what the tool looks like.

I threaded the screws through until I had all four corners perfectly level and at 1.079" (the clearance needed). It was a bit finicky to do, but it wasn't too bad. Then I used nuts to lock them in place. Now, after the cam is in, all I should have to do is bolt this to the block and measure my cam button clearance. Hopefully it will work well...

Then I threw some paint on a couple of pieces that will be harder to paint once the engine is together. I'll paint the engine as a unit, but some areas are hard to paint. My Milodon oil pan paint was also flaking off due to poor preparation on my part the first time I painted it. The original shiny, smooth gold surface didn't take the paint well. So this time I blasted it (and of course cleaned it VERY carefully), and then threw some paint on it.

I also painted the back of the water pump housing since that can't be painted easily.

The only thing really left to clean up (I think) are my heads. Hopefully I can get to that tomorrow.
Making some progress - I hope to have this thing done very soon!

Monday I spent time cleaning the heads. I am trying to decide whether to just re-install them or check valve guides, spring rates, seals, etc. They only have about 2,500 miles on them so it may depend on how much time I feel I have.

Anyway, nothing can be done until they are cleaned (yuk!). Here is my in progress work to clean them...


Then back at the shop, I did a bunch on measurements to be sure things fit.
First was to measure the depth of the pan...

...then to measure where the oil pickup sits (measured from the windage tray so gasket thickness is accounted for). Had about 3/8" which is great.

Then I installed the rear main seal. It is a royal pain in the *** to install (at least for me) due to the side gaskets. They like to slide up when inserting the seal which will obviously create a leak. Last time I installed this I did OK. Hopefully I did OK this time too, because I don't want to do it again!!!
(Note there is some silicone on the outside seams as well - this is probably just for my own comfort. If I didn't do it right internally where the real seals are, I'm sure it will let me know :p ...)

I then degreed the cam. There were a few other "helpers" around when I did this that made it a bit frenetic so I forgot to take pictures. You know how it is when you have three people looking over your shoulder when you do something! Anyway, my cam spec is 111.22 Degrees; I measured 111.50 Degrees. Cam is in the right place, so no adjustments needed! DONE!

Then I messed around a bit with getting the cam button shimmed right. I may have lost a shim due to the fact that the box the button was in had slots where there was no tape sealing the box tight. I only had one .015" shim and with that, my gap was around .030" - way too much.
Here is a picture with my invented tool to check the cam button end play.

By the way, as much as I would like to tell you how brilliant I am for making this tool, it was a bit of a hassle to use. :poke: It worked OK, but it was probably more hassle than just mounting the damn cover and checking the cam with a dial gauge (which I did as a double check). Anyway, after sorting through and trying to find the right thickness shim, I ended up with right about .010" end play. A bit on the loose side, but my father-in-law said you could likely run as much as .015" - .020" and it would be fine - the killer is if there is too little clearance.

I then buttoned up the timing chain cover and installed the damper.


Most of the tricky measurements are done now. Oh, and I did also measure the pistons and be sure they do not come out of the hole.
So now I need to bolt up the oil pan, install heads, intake and water pump, and we are pretty much done. Hopefully I can get that done next time. The next couple of days here at home I will clean up bolts and be ready so I can quickly install this stuff when I go back up next time.

P.S. @qkcuda
I unfortunately am out of time and won't be able to get the engine on the dyno - heck, I'll be lucky to be able to get it running on the run stand! Maybe I'll try a chassis dyno later on after the engine is installed.
I'm signing up for the 2024 run, especially if the route is near me..."near" being part of it being 500 miles or less away. I missed out on doing it when Fort Worth was one of the stops, don't remember the year.

Been following your progress. Pretty impressive!
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thanks for the updates

It's going to be a nice build for damn sure
attention to detail :thumbsup:

nice book :lowdown:
Too bad Hawk. If you put it on a chassis dyno, I hope you can keep the tires from spinning on the rollers!

I was a bit worried about whether the pistons would be above deck after your minor milling. What did the coating bring your piston to wall clearance down to?

I did have the heads apart when I did the port matching and smoothing out the bowls. At least at that point the valve guide clearance was good.


thanks for the updates

It's going to be a nice build for damn sure
attention to detail :thumbsup:

nice book :lowdown:
Thanks! It is one of the things my father-in-law keeps stressing. An engine is the sum of it's parts, but also on how those parts are installed. Stressing with every single detail ensures that the engine will run pretty good. I guess that's why his engines/ work have held more than 9 national NHRA records!

Too bad Hawk. If you put it on a chassis dyno, I hope you can keep the tires from spinning on the rollers!

I was a bit worried about whether the pistons would be above deck after your minor milling. What did the coating bring your piston to wall clearance down to?

I did have the heads apart when I did the port matching and smoothing out the bowls. At least at that point the valve guide clearance was good.

View attachment 1460065

View attachment 1460066
The pistons measured pretty much zero deck, so we are good for liftoff there!

My piston to bore clearance is now about .0015", but it will self adjust to whatever the engine needs, where it needs. It's pretty neat, high tech stuff.

The heads (like the engine) have great parts and overall look decent. What I may do is just check a random few valves and make sure they look good. If they are OK, then throw them on and go!!!
I'm signing up for the 2024 run, especially if the route is near me..."near" being part of it being 500 miles or less away. I missed out on doing it when Fort Worth was one of the stops, don't remember the year.

Been following your progress. Pretty impressive!
You should count on it starting in Bristol, TN in 2024 since it ends there this year. In my experience, the Tour will likely point north central next year (like towards KY, IN, OH, IL).
Getting closer with my engine!

First I took a look at the oil pump that was on this engine. Something nasty went through this pump. Check out the scores in it!



I replaced it, checked and cleaned the off the shelf pump (usually they have crap in them, and you don't want that in your oil system!). Then I bolted it on.

Next I took a quick look at my heads. They have about 2,500 miles on them so I decided to randomly pull a few valves out and check them to verify their condition.
So first on the head machine to pull a few springs.

I could have gone crazy measuring the clearance with tools, but rather than setting them all up, I simply did the "wiggle" test. After having done a few heads, this simple test works amazingly well as a spot check. The valves felt great - just slightly more wiggle on the two exhaust valves than the intakes, which is how it should be (exhausts have much more heat so they should get a little bit of extra clearance).

Next I checked the spring rates. First, I established the installed height of the springs. There is a nifty little measuring gauge that helps make this easy.

Then I measured the pressure of the springs at installed height.

Then I simply added the cam lift and checked the spring pressure again to get the open pressure. The springs are fine for a roller cam. My father-in-law said he would have preferred to see a damper spring inside the coil of the spring, so he cautioned me against buzzing the engine - no 7000 RPM pulls for me! :p (Without a damper a spring can go into oscillations at high RPM that can become destructive.)

Everything else looked good with the heads so I put them back together and then installed them on the block. I used ARP assembly lubricant to make sure I got proper torque on the head bolts (I used the same stuff on the rods, mains, and any very critical pieces. All other bolts get oil on threads so you get a proper torque. Never torque a bolt dry!)

Now the engine was starting to look like something!

Part II next...
Part II

Then I installed the lifters, push rods and rockers. After this, I had to set the preload. The easiest way to do this is to be sure the lifter is on the base circle of the cam (adjust the intake when the exhaust just starts to open, and adjust the exhaust when the intake starts to close). Loosen the nut until the pushrod can move up and down. Then adjust the nut down until the clearance goes to zero. Then add half a turn, tighten and DONE! Repeat 15 more times!

So now the valve train was in...

Next I checked the intake for fitment. Always may sure the faces of the intake manifold and heads are parallel. You don't want to be more than a few thousands off. Easiest way to do this is to slide the intake partially off and check without gaskets. Use a feeler gauge.

Then I checked the alignment of the ports. @qkcuda had taken the time to port match the heads and intake, so why not make sure they line up?!?
I did this a couple of ways, but sometimes you can see a bit of the match as well.
Not great pictures, but inside the circles is where the heads and manifold meet up.


Once the intake was on, I put oil in and tested the oil pressure. A word of advice: If you don't put the oil filter on you will make a mess on the floor!!! :poke: (No pictures of my stupidity here... :p )
Once my (ahem) oil filter was on, I ran the drill. My mains are a bit on the loose side, but 60# of oil pressure looks just fine!

Then I bolted on a few other pieces. The engine is now essentially ready to run on the run stand to test it. Note that the carb and distributor are only to test it on the run stand. In the car, it will use a FAST fuel injection system.

Next to run it and pray everything works with no leaks!