Hands-on experiments since the '70s in Performance (GPM) and/or Economy (MPG)

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Road Trip

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Echoes from the past push chore truck purchase beyond need to meet normal rational investment criteria...

By now if you've been reading my posts you know that a '99 C2500 with the factory
L29 454 followed me home. Funny, because for over 40 years I've resisted adding
a truck to the stable...so I figured that I was safe, and no longer under the spell.

But when this particular truck fired and sat there rumbling away, I was flooded with
memories of a buddy's truck that I still clearly remember 40+ years after the fact.

It was a '73 Chevy 3/4-ton Camper Special, 454/Turbo 400/4.10 14 bolt, complete
with teepee emblems on the side & a pair of horizontal shocks between the bed & cab.
It was a two-tone dark red & white. (See 1st photo)

Back in the mid '70s growing up in the Midwest we all had trucks, and helped each other
keep them running. A good friend purchased this for $1000 back in 1979, and the truck
had been worked hard on the farm & the motor was tired. So of course the first order
of business was to pull the engine & freshen it up.

If I remember correctly, the owner wanted more pulling power, so we upgraded the cam
from stock to a higher lift unit with similar suds off idle but a much stronger midrange pull.
And we found a used Edelbrock Torker for a oval port big block. (With a finessed Quadrajet
sitting askew, it looked pretty wild when you popped the hood. Remember, this was the
late '70s and we were only teenagers giving it their best. :0)

After we got it all put back together we had the local muffler shop weld up a couple of large
diameter turbo mufflers and dumps just past the cab. (Legal back then.) No cats due to
it being a '73. We had so much fun in that truck, every trip was an adventure. And that
exhaust had such a great bass rumble...it was like going to the Church of Internal Combustion
just so that you could listen for the pipe organ to hit the low notes.

****

Of course I subsequently moved to the East Coast & lost touch with my friend. But now I
know how that old Indigo Blue chore truck got through to me...one last chance to revisit
a small part of my misspent youth. What can I say? I couldn't refuse.

And no regrets -- glad I did it! :0)

PS - In the background of the 2nd photo there's a rectangular port LS6 on the ground waiting
for us to find a 4-door '68 Nova to put it in. Oh, to be 18 again with a couple of big blocks
in the garage...glad to still be here and able to type about it. :0)
 

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BeXtreme

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Alright, I've discovered a place where I can concentrate all my non-GMT400
wrench-swinging nonsense in a single stream of consciousness.

Although the reader may or may not comprehend what the underlying
thought process was, I'm hoping that at least some of the following
will either entertain and/or provide some food for thought.

****

Getting engine parts clean enough for a quality build

Ever since I was old enough to wander out to the garage in
the evenings to watch and listen as the old guys would swing
wrenches & bench race while drinking their Lone Star beer(s),
I could sense the unspoken passion that drove these
hard-working folks to spend precious free time working
on their rides.

And the conversations would always start off low-key, and
the participants would almost act like they preferred silence
to the spoken word...but as the brews would work their mojo
on the elder's speech centers, inevitably the conversation would
take on a life on it's own.

It was like watching Gearhead Opera, the natural ebb & flow of
an unforced conversation amongst friends, complete with a little
salty language sprinkled in as verbal exclamation points. (That
stuff just flew over my head, and I just figured that these
forbidden {for me} words were salty dog code for the
listener to pay very close attention. :0)

But in most (but not all) of these conversations, one of
the participants would describe something of breathtaking
beauty that they had made with their own 2 hands, and
then proclaim in absolute terms:

" It Was Clean Enough To Eat Off Of !"

And I'd watch the entire assemblage nod in deep approval.

****

Well, hearing this phrase time & again made a lasting
impression on me. While tinkering with Briggs & Stratton
& Tecumseh motors in 9th grade Power Mechanics class,
I started to understand why the old guys got so excited
about putting together an engine that was clean enough
to eat off of.

(Years pass.)

Thanks to driving a series of '1 car payment cars' (well
used Mk. 1 Fiestas) I was able to siphon off a little of
the auto budget & invest in a 5-gallon ultrasonic parts
cleaner, followed by a Skat Blast cab that I would
fill with crushed walnut shell.

And between those 2 primary cleaning widgets
(+ plus all the other normal cleaning steps) I was able to take an engine
that we had a balance & blueprint performed by our machinst,
and end up with this:

Buttered Toast, Grits, Scrambled Eggs, Canadian Bacon, & Coffee
You must be registered for see images attach

And yes, I ate every single bit of that, in honor of all the old dudes who regaled me with tales of this.

And I lived to type this in.

(Take that, Cali Prop. 65 Alarmists! :0)

Nooks & crannies don't stand a chance against 100+ psi crushed walnut shell
You must be registered for see images attach

You know, I never did find out if those walnut shells were certified Organic or not prior to use.
(Shhhh - don't tell anyone, it will be our dirty little secret.)

Q: How did I learn about this cleaning method?

A: The jet engine shop guys were all about the walnut shell. I thought that they were goofing
on me as one of the flightline pointy heads, but they insisted it was for reals.

Q: Are you satisfied with your current cleaning setup?

A: Of course not. I would love to get ahold of an old claw foot bathtub, line the inside with
ultrasonic transducers, and drive them at the resonant frequency of water molecules with
a couple of big honkin' Phase Linear amps. No longer only getting to ultrasonic just the
moving bits, now I can ultrasonic the entire block after a good shellin'! :0)

BONUS PHOTO FOR THE BOWTIE CROWD:

Never before opened Chevy 400ci small block heading into
the blast cabinet for a righteous walnut shelling to see if
it's even worth taking to the machinst for boring:

You must be registered for see images attach

Glad it didn't drop. That would have been a serious injury. Yeah, serious injury. I'm a good driver.

That just about covers that. Seems crazy...but so does the fact that any/all debris left inside
the engine always, always finds the most expensive places to wedge themselves into and
create concentrated sadness.
I know this thread kind of digressed, but I just wanted to point out that you have to VERY careful with using walnut shells. The army stopped using walnut shells to clean their major helicopter components after it caused several high profile helicopter crashes including one of the deadliest helicopter crashes ever.

http://www.chinook-helicopter.com/history/aircraft/C_Models/74-22292/74-22292.html

Basically, if you use it, you have to be 100% sure that you get every bit of dust and debris out of every nook and cranny of the engine. If you don't, the walnut shell material has a nasty habit of clumping up in the oil and clogging important orifices.
 

Road Trip

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I know this thread kind of digressed, but I just wanted to point out that you have to VERY careful with using walnut shells. The army stopped using walnut shells to clean their major helicopter components after it caused several high profile helicopter crashes including one of the deadliest helicopter crashes ever.

http://www.chinook-helicopter.com/history/aircraft/C_Models/74-22292/74-22292.html

Basically, if you use it, you have to be 100% sure that you get every bit of dust and debris out of every nook and cranny of the engine. If you don't, the walnut shell material has a nasty habit of clumping up in the oil and clogging important orifices.

Greetings BeXtreme,

The beauty of *this* thread is that there is no digressing, it's actually all about meandering through
all the things that I enjoy about the car/truck hobby. And I am in complete agreement about the dangers
of FOD.**

Although I don't think I've mentioned it specifically, in addition to the blast cabinet I also
have a 5-gallon (!) ultrasonic parts cleaner that I use to further clean parts like piston/rod assemblies,
especially after I've walnut shelled the combustion deposits off of them. (Spendy I'll admit, but so worth
it for the added peace of mind!)


And I spare no effort when it comes to cleaning engine blocks. Or deep cleaning a cylinder head after
a couple of days worth of porting. And what drives me is the sincere belief that grit/debris/FOD has
an affinity for finding the most expensive place(s) to accumulate in order to bring your toy to failure in front
of your friends. (It's never the dirt on the outside of a pushrod that brings the tears...no, it's the grit
embedded in the soft bearings or trapped between the piston skirt & cylinder bore. :-(

Anyway, your comments are both valid & timely, for this coming winter I'm planning for a long stretch
of cylinder head porting > flow benching > loop until joy, broken up with a couple of engine builds.

And we can't be too fastidious when it comes to the machines we put together in order for them
to work on our timetable instead of theirs. (!)

Here's to Clean Living...and Fixing! :0)

You must be registered for see images attach


**(Foreign Object Damage -- used in daily conversation as a Noun, Verb, and Adjective on the military flightline. Seriously bad juju.)
 
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Road Trip

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Coming Attraction -- Revisiting an old sleeper project -- the LT-1 powered '75 Chevy Monza

OK, this particular project is one of those things where a car was built almost 4 decades ago,
back when we didn't have the time, money, or experience to really do right by the project...
but even so, it has always remained the car that we all remember the most.

The car was a '75 Chevy Monza, a little teardrop car, basically designed to accept
Chevy's new rotary engine, and when that was canceled at the last minute a
262ci SBC was factory shoe-horned into the engine bay. Basically it was a V8 Vega
with swoopy lines...but at least Chevy had something to put up against the
Mustang II with a V8.

So, back in '85 a good friend wanted to put together a fast car on the cheap,
and eventually the idea of taking a 10-year old Monza, pulling out the 110hp
262-2bbl with a single exhaust and replace it with a LT-1 style 370hp 355ci
small block came into being.

Note: There were only a couple of photos ever taken of that '75 Monza, and
the owner of the car no longer has any prints. But I do remember literally
everything on the car being painted refrigerator white, as was the style back in
the day. But as luck would have I happened to find a photo of a near exact
twin to the car on the interwebs, right down to the misplaced tire rubber
on the rear quarter panels:

You must be registered for see images attach


Q: So what ever possessed us to try to triple the horsepower that the car originally came with?

A: Whenever we looked at the car, all we could see was Grumpy Jenkins
frozen in time while executing this perfect launch:

You must be registered for see images attach



In my next post I'll share what we are planning to do this time around.

And for anyone reading this, probably the coolest thing is that the Vortec 350
that's the foundation for this build was taken from a '97 GMT400 truck put out
to pasture in an upstate NY treasure yard. Fact.

Not just recycling. Upcycling, baby! :)
 
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Road Trip

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Round II, Chevy Monza sleeper: 383ci Vortec powered, "hip to be square" '77 Town Coupe edition

There will be plenty of time down the road to delve into the details, so for
this evening we'll just touch on the highlights of the project plan:

1) These H-body cars have all but disappeared from the face of the earth.
Made during the malaise era, mostly unloved in stock form, these cars were
used up, junked & crushed with intent.

So when my friend told me that he had found a survivor in upstate NY, at
first I didn't believe him. In the 1st attached photo is a recent photo of
the car, patiently waiting for a ride on a rotisserie.

2) The 2nd photo are the hand-scribbled notes I took during disassembly
of the Vortec 350 liberated from a white '97 Chevy 3/4 ton truck. More
specifically, it's the deck height from the piston tops (taken directly above the
wrist pins) to the block surface. They were all sitting ~.024"-.030" in the hole?
As far as we could tell the engine had never been opened up previously.

3) Which engine to run was kicked around for quite awhile. I thought
that a dramatic, excitable high-winding DZ302 style small block, making a
big deal out of everything it did would keep a couple of old geezers
plenty entertained.

But the owner was afraid that it wouldn't be enough, given how long he's
waited for Round 2. And he was right, for during Round 1 we were both
single dudes...and now we're both granddads. :0) No middle ground
here, we went straight for a 383ci stroker motor. And while we were at
it, why not try to make use of the general build philosophy of the Ferbert
Brothers? (Eff Me 383)

Disclaimer(s): They used larger cc intake port GMPP Vortec heads, the engine
was tuned right to the edge for short-term Engine Masters dyno runs,
these guys are Rainman-level engine savants, the Monza owner doesn't want
any tower of power intakes poking through the hood, and the only headers
that fit a Monza are sub-optimal, performance-wise.

The good news? The original car was a scream, even with much worse heads,
factory cast iron exhaust manifolds, etc. In English, there's every chance that this
V2.0 car will perform much better than the one we remember so fondly, even
if we're only able to generate 75% of what's described in that article at the
flywheel. (Hint: It's one of my very favorite numbers.)

And since the bottleneck on just about every engine made are the cylinder
heads (some more than others) ...I am going to up my porting game this time
around by cheating to win with some old school measuring equipment. (Link)

****

The owner has already found & acquired a 5-speed manual good for 500 ft/lbs
of torque, a hydraulic-operated clutch to match, and a bespoke F*rd 9" housing
made for a Monza that the one other Monza guy still doing this aging out of
the hobby sold to my buddy.

And we are going to have to tie the front & rear suspensions together, or
otherwise risk some of the issues we had in the original car. :-(

So there I did it. I said it out loud in public. Now it has to happen.

And asap. For the memories of just how great that old Camper Special
was after adding value in the engine bay just won't leave me alone.

Who knows? If I can figure out how to get repeatable measurements out
of that flowbench maybe I'll give the chore truck a little more hustle
when the Zeppelin tune tends to turn your right foot to lead?**

And if anyone is actually reading this, thanks in advance for your time & attention to this matter.



**Thinking specifically of the transition at ~3:45 of In My Time of Dying. Especially after a tough
2nd shift at work, I had to avoid playing this song on the Interstate at the risk of flashing lights
coming on behind me. (Bonham wailing on those drums like they owed him rent...)
 

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HotWheelsBurban

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Greetings BeXtreme,

The beauty of *this* thread is that there is no digressing, it's actually all about meandering through
all the things that I enjoy about the car/truck hobby. And I am in complete agreement about the dangers
of FOD.**

Although I don't think I've mentioned it specifically, in addition to the blast cabinet I also
have a 5-gallon (!) ultrasonic parts cleaner that I use to further clean parts like piston/rod assemblies,
especially after I've walnut shelled the combustion deposits off of them. (Spendy I'll admit, but so worth
it for the added peace of mind!)


And I spare no effort when it comes to cleaning engine blocks. Or deep cleaning a cylinder head after
a couple of days worth of porting. And what drives me is the sincere belief that grit/debris/FOD has
an affinity for finding the most expensive place(s) to accumulate in order to bring your toy to failure in front
of your friends. (It's never the dirt on the outside of a pushrod that brings the tears...no, it's the grit
embedded in the soft bearings or trapped between the piston skirt & cylinder bore. :-(

Anyway, your comments are both valid & timely, for this coming winter I'm planning for a long stretch
of cylinder head porting > flow benching > loop until joy, broken up with a couple of engine builds.

And we can't be too fastidious when it comes to the machines we put together in order for them
to work on our timetable instead of theirs. (!)

Here's to Clean Living...and Fixing! :0)

You must be registered for see images attach


**(Foreign Object Damage -- used in daily conversation as a Noun, Verb, and Adjective on the military flightline. Seriously bad juju.)
Couldn't that also be "strive to be
FORD FREE!"....
 

Erik the Awful

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Coming Attraction -- Revisiting an old sleeper project -- the LT-1 powered '75 Chevy Monza...
We race against the Speedy Monzales team out of Texas, and they run a Vortec-powered Monza.

You must be registered for see images attach


You must be registered for see images attach
 

Road Trip

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We race against the Speedy Monzales team out of Texas, and they run a Vortec-powered Monza.

ETA,

Not only are they from Texas, they are actually out of Ft. Worth! No doubt about it --
these are my peoples:

You must be registered for see images attach


That's too cool. I first remember seeing them possibly in a R&T article about the
24 Hours of Lemons...and thinking that this was definitely a missed opportunity
for yours truly. These fine folks definitely share my warped sense of humor and
addiction to adrenaline. :0)

You guys are definitely living the dream.

Well played!
 
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Road Trip

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Adding some much needed Chevy Truck aesthetic to the endurance motorsports arena

You know, I went through a distinct phase in the car hobby where
my mind was constantly contemplating all the different places that a
well-stuffed SBC would make for a better than original car.

And that included the conversion kits that they used to offer for upgrading
a used Porsche 944 in just this manner. But ultimately I'm a s*cker for the
right sheet metal, and although I can't explain why, even with the most
capable SBC imaginable under the hood the 944 lines still leave me cold.
So that project never made it past the pondering stage...

But I just found a photo that's a personal game changer. No doubt
this is the most stunning/compelling 944 upgrade I've ever seen:

Performance Art
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That is pure genius. If I owned this I would take it to every upper crust Porsche show
& just revel in the crowd's adulation. (Or just park it outside near the main entrance
if they wouldn't let me actually rub shoulders with the cognoscenti. ;-)

And I'd make sure to put enough suds under the 1-ton Scottsdale hood to pull off the look,
if you know what I mean.

I'm not worthy...
 
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Road Trip

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Echoes from the past push chore truck purchase beyond need to meet normal rational investment criteria...

Back in the mid '70s growing up in the Midwest we all had trucks, and helped each other
keep them running. A good friend purchased this for $1000 back in 1979, and the truck
had been worked hard on the farm & the motor was tired. So of course the first order
of business was to pull the engine & freshen it up.

You know, re-reading this it kind of sounded almost too affordable,
especially given today's perspective? At the time, I do remember thinking that
even though that Camper Special was beat, there was a lot of hidden
promise given the HD way it was optioned out.

But then, as discussed elsewhere, I ran those old '79 dollars through 3 different online inflation calculators,
and they all agreed, so here is what I got:

Today's cabbage ain't the same as it used to be...
You must be registered for see images attach


Well, converted to today's money it all now makes more sense.

This stuff just boggles the mind...
 
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