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Techin' In with Fletch - July 2008

Dan Fletcher Feb 21, 2008


A couple of quick questions for you. I have a '62 Vette I've had since 1964, and the aluminum Borg-Warner four-speed seems to seep fluid through the casing, and has for a long time. Have you ever heard of this? I've been told some cases are more porous than others. Is there a remedy for this, like there is for fuel tanks, for example?

My other question is regarding my '98 Chevy 3/4-ton Silverado. I've opened up the exhaust system and want to do something with the air intake. It has an HP factory cold box and huge Fram filter. What would you recommend for the intake filter system? I've been told the K&N filter oil can affect the O2 sensor over time until it doesn't work correctly. Should I just go with a Fram dry cartridge? I'm trying to get more than 11 mpg around town.

Jack Brackett Via e-mail

Fletch: Honestly, no, I haven't heard of this seepage issue before, but that certainly doesn't mean it's not happening. If you're sure it's not a gasket or a hairline fracture, then I would probably try an epoxy paint to seal the case.

As for your pickup's air intake, I would definitely go with the K&N unit. I spoke with Bob Harris of K&N, and he says they have no issues with their oil and O2 sensing. One thing we will say is, don't use too much oil when you spray the filter following a cleaning. Simply apply a light coat. Here's a link to the K&N FIPK (part number 57-3013-2) that should be appropriate for your application:

It Doesn't Suck--Usually

I'm writing to you with a PCV valve question. I'm running a small-block that has a GM casting #14044836 intake manifold equipped with a filler tube and a screw-in PCV valve. The engine pulls 16 inches of vacuum at idle in neutral. I purchased a new Fram FV100 PCV valve and have it piped to the rear port on my Holley's baseplate. At idle there's no vacuum on the valve's threaded side. If you suck on it lightly it will allow air to come through. If you suck in hard it closes the valve, and of course, if you blow on it it will close the valve. I also installed a Mr. Gasket PN 2054 valve cover breather with the breather tube piped into the air cleaner base. My question is, why is the valve not sucking at idle? Does it need to go to the vacuum port on the intake? Thank you for your help.

Christopher Kuhn Auburn, CA

Fletch: I could be wrong, but I think the problem is simply the direction of the PCV you piped into the rear port on the carb. First, I'm assuming you've established you have a positive vacuum source at the port you're using, such that there's no internal blockage of any nature. From there, you say there's no vacuum on the threaded side of the valve. The flow of vacuum should be away from the threaded side. It's designed to be plumbed into something. I think you simply need to get an inline PCV if you want to use the carb as a source, or plumb the one you have into the intake and draw through it.

Crossmember Conundrum

I have a very clean '88 Monte Carlo SS with 10K miles, Hotchkis TVS system, Global West upper and lower control arms, 19-inch Vista Intro wheels, and six-piston 14-inch rotor Baer brakes. I was thinking of upgrading the engine and transmission with the LS364 and T56, but I may have a hard time making the tranny fit because of the crossmember. Can you help me on this one ?

Nicolas Roche Las Vegas

Fletch: You're going to have to fabricate the crossmember in this particular case. I spoke with Jim Goodlad at Classic Motorsports Group in Carlsbad, California, where they specialize in five-speed overdrive Tremec conversions in older Chevys. It offers a kit that will help to facilitate much of the change, but an '88 Monte isn't on the list of most frequently requested candidates, if you know what I mean.

I don't see the crossmember as a big deal ... that should be a pretty simple fabrication process. I'm more concerned with clutch pedal placement. They make a bolt-on hydraulic kit for the linkage; you can measure for driveshaft length easily enough, and the tunnel fit shouldn't be too bad. Check out its Web site at

Timing Cover Help

I recently installed a two-piece timing cover set from Comp Cams, PN 210. I have a '69 small-block 350 that currently has a stock-style oil pan. The new timing cover's lip doesn't meet the oil pan's lip. There's about a quarter-inch gap from the gasket on the timing cover and the gasket on the oil pan. Comp Cams said it has never had anyone call with this problem and said the cover should fit. No one can give me an answer. Some say it's the oil pan, while some say it's the timing cover. I thought you could help. Thanks.

Darren Fairburn, Georgia

Fletch: I spoke with Tim Cole, Performance Accounts Manager at Comp Cams, for a little insight into your situation. This part is a universal fit piece that's been in existence for over 10 years. It fits any traditional older-style pan, as well as aftermarket aluminum race units. The problem most likely lies with the pan/seal interaction. Depending on what the original application was for your pan, there are two different-thickness front seals. Apparently, yours takes the thicker seal. Mr. Gasket offers part number 5881, which is the thicker piece. Fel-Pro offers part number 1821, which contains both.

Odd Swap

I have a '57 Austin Healey with a Chevy V-8 and a T10 four-speed. I built it while I was in college, and it was my only car for several years. It was a scary car to drive, so 25 years or so ago. I put it away thinking someday I could improve the chassis and brakes. Now I'm considering putting it back on the road. My questions involve the engine. It's a 283 bored .060-over for 292. It was built very similar to the Z28's 302, except that I had earlier heads with 1.94-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves fitted. Currently it has the cam from the original '70 LT1. It has TRW forged pistons with 10.75 or 11:1 compression. I like that engine just the way I built it. I've seen 8,000 rpm in First and 7,000 in Fourth. I know that current thinking is big displacement, lower compression, and high torque. I actually have a new 383 built that way. However, I'm afraid such an engine would destroy the car unless I beefed up everything and added a bunch of weight (currently 2,200 to 2,300 pounds), which I don't want to do. When I was driving this I generally ran Chevron Custom Supreme, but when I had to buy 97 octane it ran fine with no pinging. From the research I've done on the Internet, current premium (91 or 92) is pretty close to the old 97 research octane. Besides, it's lightweight and I'm running a Schaefer aluminum flywheel and clutch, so this thing spools up real quick. Any idea whether I could run this engine on today's gas?

George Hamilton Via e-mail

Fletch: My somewhat educated guess is that you're right at the edge, but probably just a touch too much for my comfort level. You'd like to have a little margin of error to absorb the occasional bad tank of $4 per gallon gas. The proper timing curve may help, a little less total timing altogether, or maybe just a little bit longer-duration camshaft. Let's face it, you're probably not going to be driving this thing every day, so who cares if you have to juice up the fuel a little bit? Whether or not you have to use an octane booster or add a little race fuel, the good times will more than offset the added expense. Bang those gears, young fella ...

What's He Torquing About?

This may be a rant, but I would love for someone to address what I find to be atrocious error by certain segments of the auto industry. A few years ago when Chrysler reintroduced its Hemi (though it's not hemispherical), the ads touted 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. What the hell is a lb-ft feet of torque? It is foot-pounds! I would rail at the TV, but I don't travel in a social circle that would know or, frankly, care. Right now there's a commercial on television touting the Mercedes S class as having X number of horsepower and X number of foot-pounds of torque. Mercedes gets it! Every morning on the radio when I'm traveling to work there's an ad for Cadillac about its 6.1-liter motor that puts out 403 horsepower and 400 pound-foot of torque. Pound-foot--it's not even feet anymore!

Tim K.

Fletch: Feel better now? To be honest, I've recently wondered the same thing, as I have always heard torque referred to in terms of "foot-pounds." I believe that to be the correct vernacular, but whether that's the "proper" way to refer to it or not, it's the way it's always been. I guess it's probably just Marketing 101 at it's finest ... it made you notice and remember the ad, which is, I'm sure, all they ever really wanted to accomplish.



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