At the heart of any potent street machine is a potent engine. Without a powerful mill, your car is all show and no go--which isn't the best reputation to have at the local cruise spot. But, because many cars came equipped from the factory with a lackluster engine, it's up to you to transform your street cruiser into a street bruiser.
Over the years, Car Craft has done countless stories on how to build a gazillion-horsepower engine and how to make your V8 deliver stump-pulling torque. Sometimes, however, these stories are too tech-heavy and/or require mods that are too expensive for the average car crafter. Thus, this tech feature gets back to the basics. Contained within is a wide variety of engine assembly procedures, building tips and recommendations. The advice given is general info and applies to most American-made V8 engines produced by the big auto manufacturers such as Chevrolet, Chrysler/Dodge, Ford, Buick, Olds and Pontiac.
It's important to remember that successfully building your first engine isn't rocket science--it's simply a matter of working carefully and paying close attention to detail. Just remember that if you have an assembly question or are unsure about a torque spec, don't guess, find the correct answer. A variety of sources can provide answers to your engine-building questions. These can be found in places such as the pages of Car Craft magazine, a motor manual (such as Chilton's) for the year/type vehicle you own or by contacting the manufacturer of the part in question. For example, if you're confused about how to adjust the valve lash on your new street/strip camshaft, call the cam company's tech line, and ask the company firsthand. Asking questions first helps to eliminate mistakes, wasted time and wasted money.
The bottom line of building your first engine is to do it right. Remember that if you don't build engines every day for a living, it will probably take you longer to assemble the engine than a race shop. However, there is no trophy given out for the fastest engine builder, so take your time. Allocate one afternoon to building the bottom-end. Then, return another day (with a clear mind and renewed enthusiasm) to install the cam, heads and rocker arms. Breaking up the engine-building process keeps the project (and your entire street machine build-up project) easy and enjoyable. After all, the whole purpose of a musclecar project is to have fun.
For now, though, check out the accompanying photos and captions as well as the A-B-C’s of engine building in the sidebars below.