Back in the June '08 issue, we reported the story of Rob Sutter's long-dormant '59 and the efforts of his business partner and Rob's wife to secretly replace the way-too-radical drag race engine in the car while Rob wasn't looking.
The story is reminiscent of a popular TV series, beginning with the car being spirited away from under Rob's nose for an engine transplant, courtesy of friend and business partner Bob Yeoman. Seems Bob owed Rob big-time for volunteer work on a restomod '55 Chevy that was ultimately sold to help fund the company that Bob and Rob started together.
While the project escalated well beyond a simple engine transplant (no surprise here), Bob's original idea was to spring for installation of a crate engine in Rob's '59 so it would be fun and easy to drive. And while the project took on a life of its own, resulting in wholesale brake, steering, suspension, and other improvements, the genesis of the project was installation of a crate engine, and here's how it went.
Let's see: Looking for a strong, relia-ble powerplant that will bolt right in to the '59, be dead reliable, and have enough ponies to push you back in the seat without having to search for race gas or fuel additives. Where to look? How 'bout on the GM Performance Parts website? Lo and behold, the obvious choice leaps off the screen-their 350ci, 290hp pre-emissions long block. With peak horsepower at 5,100 rpm, 326 lb-ft of torque at a street-friendly 3,750 rpm, and a compression ratio of 8.5:1 that's perfectly happy without the need for premium fuel, it was perfect for the job. Here are the specs:
GM Performance Parts PN 12499529
Horsepower: 290 @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 326 lb-ft @ 3,750
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Block: Cast iron, four-bolt mains
Heads: Cast iron, 76cc combustion chambers
Valves (I/E): 1.94"/1.50"
Camshaft Lift (I/E): 0.450"/0.460"
The powdered metal connecting rods offer strength and durability, hydraulic lifters provide quiet, maintenance-free operation, and the heads feature a conventional 12-bolt intake manifold bolt pattern to accommodate the most popular small-block carburetor and manifold combinations.
Transplant duties went to Gardner's Automotive, in nearby Easton, Penn-sylvania, which has done a great deal of Corvette work over the years. Staffed by founder Gary Gardner, his son Craig, and grandson Kyle, the three generations of Gardners have the experience with, and love for, Corvettes of all kinds.
GM Performance Parts 350/290 hp pre-emissions crate engine
Edelbrock No. 1406 - 600 cfm with electric choke
Brass Radiator PN 241001
Tune in next time when we'll cover the front-end upgrade, including coilover IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, and disc-brake conversion.