1966 Chevelle joins family

For fathers day, I got a 1966 Chevelle Malibu.  The project itself will not be a complete frame-off restoration, but more of a “rebuild”.  I have no interest in doing an LS swap but do want to get a big block in here some day – 396 or 454, whatever I can find, still carbureted.  It has the turbo 350, automatic that I will also replace with a 5 or 6 speed tremec. The final look and feel I’m going for is death – when you see and hear it coming, you immediately question your life decisions.

It came with a 350 SBC.  I tore this down to the longblock as the heads were not flowing well and had oil leaking into them (camel hump heads even!).  I swapped them with a set of vortec heads that were just better flowing, ported and polished, and much better.  I dont remember the stats, but will update when I find them.  Long-tube 2.5″ headers, no exhaust.  Replaced all electrical circuits.

The body is straight.  The major rust is around the rear-window and panel-to-trunk.  There is a leak in the windshield seal.  I’ll be soda blasting everything myself, acid washing it, repairing the rust (with replacement panels), and plastidipping it matte-black.  Looking at 275+ tires in the back.

I hate square pipe plugs

The oil galley plugs have threaded square pipe plugs that have been impossible for me to remove. Although I didn’t have a pipe socket, I tried every possible tool with a 1/4 fitting possible.  We even heated the threads hoping this would help in the removal process.  Ended having to buy a special, impact 1/4″ pipe socket that worked wonder.  Unfortunately, we stripped one of the bolts so we have to extract that…

Heads and valves oh my

Using our new tool, we were successfully able to remove the valve springs, keepers, and valves.  Although we’ve yet to measure anything, not a single valve had any issue with the seat or clearance. Only one valve has a slight mushroom on top of the head so we need to lightly grind it down so that we can remove it.

Even though these are 882’s with 76CC, we’re still going to reuse them in this rebuild 🙂 Rather than take them to a machine shop for tanking, we opted to clean them ourself by soaking them in purple power for a week.  They came out great, in our final wash before assembly, we will ensure rust and any residue is removed.

Needed More Tools

The valve spring remover I have right now requires too much patience to use. It’s one of the small hand-held types that hook onto the spring with 2 legs, and you crank down the compressor by hand.  Sometimes it falls right off, other times it just stares at you doing nothing.  So I opted to replace it for a more useful, sturdy one.  The bearing tool is only for SBC but it was dirt cheap and until I can find a better one on craigslist, it got the job done.

Finally getting into it

Unfortunately, I’ve been spending all my spare time either at baseball or working.  However, we’re getting back into the groove today.

Cracked the heads off and pulled off the oil pan – it’s a 4 bolt main (figured), and visually looks great.  We rotated the pistons again and watched for knocking and clearance on the rods – no knocking and the clearance looks perfect.

A few piston skirts appear to have rubbed against the bore – I think they collapsed, but won’t know for sure until I measure.  The bores otherwise still have crosshatching which is slightly surprising.  I really want to reuse the pistons and rings and am hoping I don’t need to bore this.  There is a ridge at the top of each cylinder bore, so again, assume we aren’t having to bore this out, honing will clean that up.

The cam is getting thrown away – 2 of the lobes are practically round!

Because of all the sludge, we pressure washed the block thoroughly with hot water and purple power degreaser.

We are going to remove the bearings a different day.

Initial Findings

What the hell did this thing go through?  The insides look as though it was set on fire and then submerged in a lake!

The lifter valley was full of oil/charcoal deposits the size of golf balls!  The liquid sludge was thick, and covered everything inside valve train as well as caked the exterior.  I can’t wait to pressure wash it and then have a machine shop tank it.

It is a 4 barrel and the intake appears to be in reusable condition.  We were able to get the engine to rotate manually so nothing was seized.  We discovered a flat tappet cam so we will be inspecting and measuring the cam thoroughly.  The rockers and pushrods appear to be fine, but we’ll confirm the geometry upon re-installation.  The spark plugs all yielded nothing but more sludge 🙁 We will do as much degreasing and cleaning ourselves as possible, but we plan on taking the block and heads to a machine shop to have it hot-tanked to ensure all the oil passages are cleaned.

New Family Member

Tyler and I wanted another project, so we found a used, 350 small block. We drove to Woodland and neither the owner nor myself had a hoist so it was quite the interesting task getting the bed of the truck at the perfect angle so that the engine stand could properly detach and attach.

The block is a high nickel cast from 1976.  It has the uber-smog-friendly 882 heads, so I’ll be sure to check for cracks.  We’re going to hopefully keep these on during our first rebuild as I want to keep things under a $1k budget and vortec heads just are too much.  We are going to try and do everything by the book, ensuring a good learning experience for Tyler.  This will include measuring the bore, crank, valves, pistons, journals, etc; to ensure within specification.  Assuming everything checks out, judging from the sludge that spilled out of the exhaust ports, we will keep the replacement of parts to the usual list: New piston rings, timing chain and gear, distributor (hei), valve springs, oil pump, lifters, harmonic balancer, and gaskets.  I don’t plan on replacing the cam unless it’s a flat tappet and the lobes are worn. In which case we’ll go for a mild roller cam, being 882 heads, something with <= .500 lift.

Fuck Cancer

Having a personal understanding of the stark emotions lingering underneath this phrase, I’ve come to turn to it anytime someone asks me about how my mom is doing.

To see my mom’s health slowly decline daily, evokes a cluster of emotions and thoughts : sorrow, anger, frustration, resentment, happiness, confusion, nostalgia, joy.

Supposedly she’s “off to a better place”, but the suffering she’s enduring is nothing more than a punch in the heart, serving as a reminder that she will not be able to grow old with my dad, or see her 4 grandchildren navigate the waters of life, or be there when her 3 children come to her in times of happiness or sadness.

Bo Knows Laravel

These last 4 months, I’ve migrated away from Ruby on Rails, and back into the PHP MVC framework realm.  My last excursion with any PHP “MVC” framework was based on CakePHP, CodeIgniter, and Symfony of which I had a combined 6 years experience.  Each framework had its share of pro’s and con’s on a per project/use basis.  Ruby on Rails had always been a framework I wanted to learn, but only because it was something I kept reading about over, and over, and over.  But, I did a good job avoiding this for 5 or 6 years by instead learning other useful languages such as Python, Perl, and even dabbling in Objective-C and Cocoa.  1/2 way through my 2nd set of Objective-C and Cocoa books, I felt my brain slowly imploding and felt it was therefore time to take a break from this limited-use garble and get back to web development.

Ruby on Rails was refreshing because the Rails books seemed to speak my native language – web.  But for some reason, Ruby has always felt like that baseball pitcher whom was so inconsistant, you couldn’t tell if they were brilliant or incredibly horrible.  Stepping into the batters box, Ruby would throw sinking curve balls I’d eventually adjust to and send sailing over the fence.  But each trip to the batters box, more often than not, I’d manage to achieve a full count before being beaned or taking a walk (you don’t really strike out, as developers can always figure out a way to reach the endgoal or objective – some ways are just absolutely the worst ways ever, but, nevertheless, a basehit is a basehit).  I’ve just grown tired of inconsistencies and on a whim, happened upon a new opportunitiy, leveraging a fairly new PHP MVC framework – Laravel.  Because of my Ruby on Rails experience, my RBI, OBP, and SLG averages have been through the roof.  Laravel has a wicked yet beautiful slider ball that I look forward to, and Laravel’s fastball is down the center of the plate at 86 MPH, just like at the batting cages.  Because of Laravel’s syntax and workflow consistencies, my confidence as a developer has been at an all-time high such that when I do see the knuckleball, a nice changeup, and a curve, I’m prepared and Bo Jackson the hell out of it.