Serpentine Dream

Troy Trepanier Installs Billet Specialties' Tru Trac Serpentine Belt System

Chris Shelton Sep 24, 2004 0 Comment(s)

We're suckers for folksy wisdom and cliches, but one particular phrase speaks directly to our hot rod hearts: build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. It touches a certain progressive chord: improve upon a design and people will respond.

The hot rod world is certainly no stranger to progression. Whether it's climate controls or crossmembers, innovators improve upon a theme and carve themselves a niche in a market. The serpentine-style accessory drive system seems a pretty popular target lately: both a Big Three automotive manufacturer and a street rod market heavy hitter released utilitarian drive systems that each touched on a particular aesthetic theme. Both garnered rave reviews.

During the hullabaloo, though, Billet Specialties quietly worked away on a clean sheet-design of their own. They incorporated a few proven elements, threw in a pinch of flair, and crunched the numbers. When they finished it, they polished it up and gave it a name: Tru Trac Serpentine Belt System.

The Tru Trac system has little precedence. It assembles simply and straightforwardly on any first generation (pre-LT and LS-series) small-block Chevrolet without any fussy spacers or washers. It bolts straight to the cylinder block via the water pump locating holes and the front motor mount bosses. The design permits any cylinder head or induction system, whether bracketed, threaded, or not. Billet Specialties also based the system around the hot rod-friendly short-length GM-style water pump. Furthermore, this kit uses no gaskets; all joining surfaces seal via neoprene O-rings for a leak-proof installation.

Billet Specialties then loaded this kit with top-shelf stuff. They start the kit with polished aluminum mounting plates, brackets, and their own distinctive pulleys. Billet Specialties also includes a polished Sanden A/C compressor, a 105-amp Powermaster alternator, an alternator fan, a Sweet aluminum power steering pump (for power steering applications), and one of Edelbrock's aluminum water pumps--just to preclude fitment problems and to maintain high standards. They top the kit off with a Tru Trac-specific tensioner and pulley, a fresh belt, and all the stainless fasteners required for installation. And last, but not at all least, the system looks good--a welcome element to a world hell-bent on things that look as good as they operate.

Of course it's logical to assume that a kit like this would carry a heady price tag, but it doesn't. Billet Specialties engineered this kit to compete with other similarly appointed comprehensive accessory drive systems. Our man out Midwest, Arvid Svendsen, got the opportunity to follow Rad Rods by Troy's Troy Trepanier as he installed one of these kits on a Whipple-charged small-block Chevrolet. Whether you're building from scratch or upgrading a keeper, this is a kit worth looking into. It's handsome, it's economical, and it's slick.

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Troy actually installed this kit on-site on an engine in a Chevrolet pickup to illustrate the kit's simple install sequence. The kit only calls for very rudimentary items for installation--in this case, a harmonic balancer. Troy started by chasing all the threads for easier installation and accurate torque readings later on.

When Billet Specialties offers a comprehensive kit, they mean it--the kit even includes thread locker, stainless ARP fasteners, and quality hardware like these studs here.

Troy threaded the studs into the block's water outlets.

The Tru Trac's foundation consists of two mounting plates that simply slide over the studs that Troy installed earlier. The water pump will eventually sandwich these plates between itself and the block.

The plates feature neoprene O-rings for sealing against both the block and the water pump. The O-rings eliminate crude and troublesome paper gaskets. Note the precise recesses in the mounting plate for the Edelbrock water pump's inlet shape.

Troy then fastened the power steering pump mounting plate to the driver's side with a judicious dollop of antiseize lubricant. Note how the bracket will nestle the pump closely to the block.

Billet Specialties also offers this kit without the power steering pump for manual-steering applications and without the A/C compressor for open cars.

The polished billet belt tensioner mates to a standoff spacer on the engine's passenger side. That, in effect, concludes the platform assembly.

Troy fastened the water pump pulley to the Edelbrock reverse-rotation water pump with socket-head capscrews. He, in turn, slid the pump assembly over the studs over the mounting plates.

The kit also includes four rather hefty stainless steel water pump fasteners. The extra girth gives the fasteners the ability to double as spacers for the front drive plate later on.

Troy spun the heater outlet into the water pump before he mounted the lower pump fasteners/spacers. The up-close shot illustrates the spacers' stout construction.

Once Troy mounted the pump solidly, he fastened the lower drive pulley to the harmonic balancer. Note the beefy, spoked water pump pulley.

The Sanden A/C compressor's rearmost ear mates directly to the plate that Troy installed earlier between the block and the water pump.

The polished billet belt tensioner deserves an award in itself; it supports the A/C compressor's foremost mounting ear and consistently tensions the belt during engine operation. Simply turn the tension release nut to alleviate belt tension and ease installation.

The tensioner spans the area between the spacer on the passenger side and the foremost ear on the Sanden A/C compressor. The tensioner derives more support from the lower passenger-side water pump fastener/spacer.

Troy finished the installation by installing the matching pulley on the tensioner.

The power steering pump bracket on pump-equipped kits actually bolts to the vestigial motor mounts on the engine's driver's side. Billet Specialties supplies the pump kits with a Sweet power steering pump--the same pump Nextel Cup cars use.

Troy mated the Powermaster alternator to the kit's support bracket and bolted the bracket to the water pump's stainless fasteners/spacers. The plate's upper ear firmly locates the A/C compressor's upper ear.

The Sanden A/C pump pulley isn't exactly a work of art, so Billet Specialties includes this polished billet pulley cover to maintain the kit's aesthetics.

Troy finished the general install and tightened all the fasteners to torque specification before installing the belt. This nut releases the idler's spring pressure and allows the belt to slip over the idler pulley. This tensioner works much like GM's tensioner, but it's a far prettier piece and it ties in with the Tru Trac system.

One of this kit's selling points is its versatility.

Troy threaded two different belts around the system to illustrate how it appears installed with and without the supercharger. Note that the water pump maintains excellent belt contact in both installations.

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