Muscle Cars

The Tricky Process Of An Engine Swap and Re-Build

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As part of any car restoration process, you sometimes have to try and get a non-working engine going again. But, when the engine needs completely stripping down, the process can be almost like surgery. If you don’t prepare, document and plan each step, taking your time, it can end in disaster.

This engine is a straight six out of a truck. It was frozen so we soaked the cylinders with the blue spray can, soaked it with the marvel liquid but could not budge anything.

So, we decided to pull the engine and start taking it down to the block. Now, it is always fun to take things apart and catalog what it is and were it goes. Parts bags, tags, and such were all over the garage floor. Before either of us knew it we had the pistons out, cam out, and crank out. One cylinder was stuck for good. Another barely moved, the other four did move.
We figured it was time to tear it all down and see what happens after you park a truck for 33 years and don’t start it. What we found is that this was not obviously the 49 engine. We knew that by just looking at it, so we knew someone sometime took out the 49 and put in a 54 engine. But, why was this one stuck?

It did not not take long for two old farts like us to figure out who ever did this engine swap had no clue what they were doing.
Lots of wrong parts and lots of parts that were forced into place. It actually looked like they bought the engine from a bone yard and just installed it without checking anything. We feel as though after they installed the replacement engine it would not start and they parked it. Thirty three years later, I stumbled in and bought it.

A very long 13 month story is whipped into a short story here in that I replaced everything.
I had the block redone and all new parts from the bottom to the top. When it was ready, it started and ran like a champ. Why? We knew what we were doing. We were not risking a big failure and even made sure we had the Right amount of zinc additive in the oil at startup.
We both have seen guys start the engines and destroy them in a minute or two without proper lubrications. That was not happening to me and at the end instead of rushing to hear it start, we went over check lists and double checked ourselves to ensure we did not miss something or have the possibility of doing it wrong and starting over again.

The lesson was to tear it down and document everything. Catalog nuts, bolts and washers. Take a lot of pictures. Buy quality parts and put it all back together slowly and yes, torque everything down. Do not rush at the end. This is where the whole thing could explode in your face if you are not careful. Deep breaths and now two years later she runs like a Swiss watch.

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