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Techin’ In With Fletch - November 2014

Dan Fletcher Sep 30, 2014
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Stay Stock Or Crate It?

Great magazine. I’ve been getting it in my mailbox for almost 20 years. Long story short, I picked up my 1963 SS Impala many years ago while living in NYC, the same year we made a move to North Carolina. With a new job, kids in college, mortgage, and life in general, the car remained under a cover a long time. It was barely running, with lots of northeast rust, but the price was right and it was a four-speed, 327 car. It had been ridden hard, with headers out the front wheelwells and National Speedway (Long Island) stickers on the windows, but possibly all the original parts like heads, intake, old AFB, and 2.5-inch iron exhausts in the trunk. At this point, I have most of the sheetmetal parts from the great aftermarket for these cars.

My dilemma is with regards to the engine. There are plenty of great local engine builders here in North Carolina, but for about the same cost I can purchase a crate motor. Will I be better off with the rebuild if all the numbers are good to the car, or should I go with the crate motor? I’m not looking to build a super-fast car; I just want to play with that four-speed once in a while.

I have the car apart, and here is the information I found:

VIN reads 31847T251828; four-speed case stamp T251828; main case GM 3831704; cover 3831707; tail 3831731; bellhousing 3788421; engine block 3782870; pad 251828 T0421RB, cast C1563; intake 3799349; rearend is “P” GM D1863; case 3789812, BM 0423

I think that’s it. I’m looking for a guiding light, but too many numbers give me a headache.

Chris Paraskevas
Via email

Chris, while I think you may have a digit off here or there, my decoding research would definitely indicate that all the numbers do in fact go with the car. Everything adds up to a 1963 Impala Sport Coupe with a 327/300hp, ’63 Muncie four-speed, ’62-’64 Posi rear, etc. So with that in mind, and given the fact that you believe the money is close on the engine options, I think it’s a pretty easy decision. I’d have one of the many reputable and competent engine shops in NASCAR-land, rebuild your numbers-matching unit. When you’re finished, I’m thinking you couldn’t ask for a better all-around cruiser, and it might even be worth a few extra bucks.


Shimmy Shimmy Shake

I have rebuilt the front suspension system in my 1957 Chevy using all new polyurethane bushings, including the upper and lower A-arms, new coil springs, new shocks, new 670 steering box, and a new front antisway bar. Every once in a while when I go over a bump (like railroad tracks) around 30 to 40 mph the front will start to shimmy and the steering wheel will rotate back and forth until I slow down and then it stops. The steering otherwise seems to be good, although it is sensitive to road bumps. It has H78/14 bias ply tires. I’ve talked to a few guys in our car club and one of them mentioned it could be something called bump steer, sometimes caused by vibration feedback to the steering box. I thought I would wait for your thoughts before I made any adjustment on the steering box. I enjoy the magazine and your articles very much. I’m looking forward to your reply. Thank you very much.

Jerry Wells
Via email

It’s rather difficult to say from this side of the keyboard, but my first question is did the problem exist before? Or did it just start after the aforementioned parts were replaced? If it just started, then you almost have to look at what you did as the culprit. But then again, coincidences happen often. If I were you, I’d probably start with a thorough examination of all of the front-end components. You probably already have, but do it again, paying close attention to the pitman, idler, and drag link. If nothing jumps out, I’d recommend having the alignment checked. When the front end gets unloaded, the tire geometry is somehow getting into an unhappy place. Alignment or worn/loose parts would be my first guess. I’m hard pressed to think the brand-new steering box is the problem, or any “adjustment” is required, but if it has to do with a car, then anything is possible. Also, how old are the tires? Are they reproduction bias plies? There could be a problem with them being slightly off. We’ve known people who had to shave their repro tires slightly to make them perfect, though this may not have anything to do with your shimmying.


Alphabet Soup

I am a long-time reader of the grey hair baby boomer generation, well, maybe very little remaining grey hair baby boomer generation. I’m trying to become more conversant in the car hobby vernacular with regard to the alphabet soup (A, B, C, etc.) of body designations that the various U.S. carmakers have assigned to their make, model, and year body styles. Is there a consolidated reference source for this information that a chronologically gifted person can follow?

Lynn Wattier
Omaha, NE

Lynn, I can’t speak for other brands; after all, you’re reading Super Chevymagazine! But I can give you a brief rundown on relevant Chevrolet and related GM products, generally of the ’65-’75 time frame. Obviously, the most popular choice over the years (at least at my house) is the F-body platform, which encompasses the Camaro and Firebird. Sharing many components is the X-body, which is the Chevrolet Nova, as well as the less popular Buick Apollo, the Olds Omega, and the Pontiac Ventura and Phoenix. While not a very common model, NHRA Stock Eliminator racer Lee Zane actually won the championship in a ’73 or ’74 Apollo a few years ago! The A-body, which is the Chevrolet Chevelle, Monte Carlo, El Camino, and Malibu, along with the Cutlass, Skylark, GTO, etc. Then there’s the B-body, which is the Chevrolet Impala, Caprice, wagons, etc., Bonneville, Delta 88, etc., and the G-bodies (’80s Monte Carlos, etc.).

There’s front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive designations, and some body styles crossed over during the years. Here’s a link to the Spohn Performance website, where they have it all pretty much summed up in one chart for easy reference: www.spohn.net/?action=platforms.


Trunnion Funions

I recently purchased a 5.3L LS series engine to build for my 1990 Camaro. I’m new to the LS world, but realize they are not the typical old-school small-block Chevys. I’m aware that the rockers have trunnion bearing issues and there are upgrade kits for them. The part that confuses me is the slider tip on the original rockers rather than roller tips as is the normal upgrade for older engines. Would upgrading to full roller rockers on an LS be worth the money spent versus just upgrading the trunnion bearings? Just trying to build a fun, durable toy without breaking the bank! Thanks for your help.

Ray Meyer
Lincoln, NE

The stock LS design rocker really isn’t too bad of a deal, but yes, if you break one, the uncaged needle bearings can go everywhere. COMP Cams makes a nice upgrade kit, and it’s pretty simple process for the change, although perhaps a bit tedious 16 times over. You can check out the kit at Summit here: www.summitracing.com/parts/cca-13702-kit. As you mentioned, this retrofit upgrades the trunnion bearing situation, but leaves the rocker tip as designed. Added friction, yes, but probably just fine for a normal application. If you want to upgrade the whole rocker, COMP Cams has you covered there as well www.compperformancegroupstores.com/store/merchant.mvc?Store_Code=CC& Screen=PROD&Product_Code=1675-16.

If you’re just trying to build that fun, durable toy and you don’t kill the thing on a regular basis, to tell you the truth I think you’re probably fine with the stock rockers. No cost impact involved. If you want to have some added peace of mind, for $140 the trunnion upgrade is probably a good idea. If you’re a bucks up sort, for $430 the full roller rocker setup would be bitchin, albeit probably not required.


Got a restoration question that’s been puzzling you?
Send it to: [ m ] Super Chevy, Fletch, 1733 Alton Pkwy, Suite 100, Irvine, CA 92606. [ e ] questions4fletch@yahoo.com

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