Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

Newport update: prepping the block

Hi folks! Typing this up now because it's 100°F outside with the heat index (that is, counting humidity), and my next step requires torquing-down 34 bolts 3 times in increments of 40 pound-feet, then 55 lb-ft, then 70 lb-ft while leaned over a fender. I expect to stand inside the engine compartment for a lot of the time, because it's nearly impossible to get a solid angle on the wrench in some cases. Good times. So writing up this post allows me to cool off after the first stage of torquing.

So progress, eh? Today I made a bunch! But first, yesterday's work:

First I finished painting the block's nooks and crannies that I'd missed on previous days. Here's a "before" shot from last year (note the radiator draining):

Here's how it looked a few weeks ago:

And here's how it looked after a cleanup and paint job, what I'd been up to for the past week (disassembly and cleanup always takes longer than reassembly):

Note the new high-volume oil pump on the lower-right side of the photo. It's a little longer than the stock pump... which meant it hit the suspension as I was trying to install it. To solve this, I had to unbolt the driver-side engine mount and jack up the engine a couple of inches. Need to remember to re-attach that mount ;-)

One more from the front:

Geez, look at how naked that engine compartment looks. That'll change very soon.

While the final coat of paint was drying, I crawled under the car to begin replacing the old sheetmetal transmission pan. Naturally, the new B&M finned-aluminum transmission-fluid pan (it's deeper to hold an extra quart of fluid and finned to help dissipate heat - two ways to help it survive the engine's higher output) had arrived short 4 hex-head stainless bolts, 14 stainless washers, and a drain plug. This necessitated a trip to the hardware store, where I got those items and stocked up on stainless-steel washers for future needs. When I got home, I cleaned up the 727 (Chrysler automatic) transmission underbelly, scraped off the baked-on gasket material, installed the filter extension and filter, installed the new pan, and filled it with six quarts of ATF/Dextron III. Here's what the bottom of the tranny looks like now:

To give you a feel for the pleasure of this task, imagine lying on grubby cement beneath a car that's dripping blood-red tranny fluid while you clean the mating surfaces so that the gasket won't leak. A bit Sisyphytic, at least until the dripping stops. Finally, when everything is dry, imagine scraping a razor blade along the underbelly of the trans until it's all clean and tidy - without cutting off a finger (tight space down there). After installing some funky-shaped hunks of aluminum and a big, flat filter comes the best part: While in that comfy position, use one hand to hold a 7-pound aluminum pan over your head in such a way that the gasket glued to its top doesn't touch any grime or fluid and use your other hand to wiggle a bolt through the pan and gasket into the tranny and start threading it as your glasses fog up from sweat (heat & exertion) and your shoulder begins to shake a little (pushing the pan against the tranny, holding it there above your head). Oh, and it won't really thread much, so you need to start threading another couple of bolts so the pan doesn't slip free. Fun times. But once that puppy was in place and torqued down, that was a feeling of accomplishment.

Tip: Glue down the new gasket to your pan the day before installation so that it doesn't magnify your issues. Be sure to carefully align the holes.

Thankfully, I had installed a vent fan and a small air-conditioning unit in my garage a few years ago; if only it could also cut the humidity.

Okay, next up was pulling the protective paper off the block, cleaning off the surfaces again, and cleaning out the head-bolt threads. If the block's threads aren't tidy, the head bolts won't torque down properly, possibly leading to head-gasket failure. That would be bad. Here's how grubby the holes were when I started:

Here are the tools for removing all that rust and grime:

This includes a thread tap (a hardened-steel cutting tool, basically a bolt with four grooves carved into it), a variety of tools to align the tool and drive it into the block, and a drill because - dude! - it takes a hella lot of work to get that tap into the block. The razor blade serves to clean up the block surfaces (the "deck") where I'd missed bits of gasket or grime.

First step is to get the tap started into the threads - straight! This must be done by hand; if you use your drill, you might cross-cut the threads and become very sad. I used a knurled bit-driver attached to the tool like this:

Note the WD-40, which served to lube the cutting tool. I sprayed the WD-40 into the bolt-holes, then into one of the tool's grooves in each hole. Each side has 17 holes. Here's what the tool looked like after the first pass into one of the holes:

The little screwdriver's head is just the right width to fit into the tool's four grooves; I pushed out loads of crap after each pass, cleaned the tool's threads with a rag and more WD-40, then ran it through the hole again to ensure that it was clean. Onto the next hole. Here's how they looked after the first pass:

Viola! After a few hours of this, the block was ready to take the heads! But first: Clean the surfaces first with dust-free rags (as you can imagine, lots of sludgy oil, rusty coolant, and grime oozed out of the holes as I drove the tool into them), then with more clean rags and alcohol, and they're really ready! Except by now, I'd been working for 10 or so hours and was ready for a Pabst Blue Ribbon and the aforementioned Hancock.

So yesterday culminated in finally prepping the engine for reassembly! Things should go quickly after that, right? Well, I only have a few more parts to install... here's a long-shot of the parts table, showing most of it:

Once those are installed, the fuel-injection parts get bolted up and wired in:

So yesterday was the last day of going backward; that is, removing, cleaning, and so forth. Today I made a bunch more progress - and started actual assembly! - though it required three trips to the auto-parts stores, including one trip to fetch a torque wrench. I have no idea where mine went, but handily one can rent such specialized tools from the parts stores these days. Hooray!

Tomorrow I'll post about today's progress....

Tags: hot-rod newport, vehicles

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