You can take it apart, but you might not be able to put it back together again." Heard that saying before? For sure. We all know that it's much easier to unbolt parts from our projects than it is to reinstall them. That's the reason there are so many unfinished machines out there. But for My First Engine Builder, Patrick Swegles, and his 350 project, there's only one goal in mind: meticulous assembly of the Performance Automotive Warehouse (PAW)-sponsored small-block.
Last month, in Part 2 of our series, Patrick drove out to PAW and dropped off all the old components to the Mouse motor that he had torn apart the month before. As it turned out, virtually nothing was usable from that first donor powerplant. The lesson that Patrick learned was a valuable one, however. One that every first-timer experiences one way or another.
After a new engine block was located, Patrick left it in the very capable hands of the speed experts at PAW. As we showed you, the machining processes were meticulously completed and Patrick was anxious to get started on putting his first Chevy engine together.
One of the main goals of this story is to emphasize that most anyone with basic mechanical skills can build their own engine. But an equally important part to this editorial is to point out just how easy it is to get everything you need from one source, just like going to the grocery store. That's where PAW fits in nicely. Since Patrick is a busy cabinetmaker, his time is slim when it comes to chasing down parts. For this purpose, a simple call was made to PAW and a decision was arrived at for what combination would best suit Pat's needs. The experts at PAW listened and determined that one of their popular Super Stock Master kits was perfect for his engine.
The PAW kit includes basically everything needed to assemble the short-block-from pistons and rods, to cam and lifters, to crankshaft and timing set. It even includes gaskets, the oil pump, and all bearings and piston rings. All Pat had to add was his time, a clean place and some grease, Plastigage, sealer, and a dose of patience.
While there are some who have had experience building a small-block Chevy that will tell you what corners to cut, Patrick's goal was to go step by step and understand what he was doing. From checking ring endgap to bearing clearances, Pat's motive was simply to experience the task of doing the procedures and seeing the results. Surely most of us who have assembled an engine have skipped basic blueprinting procedures one time or another such as checking crank endplay or deck height, simply because we knew by looking at it that it was correct. But for the first-timer, there's nothing like seeing the results for yourself.
In this month's segment, we'll watch as Patrick assembles the short-block using the PAW kit and select components from Milodon. In next month's series finale, Patrick will install a cool set of World Products S/R Torquer heads and intake manifold, as well as a Mallory ignition system, all in time for his dyno date at the Vrbancic Brother's DTS engine dyno. So stay tuned, and consider Patrick's adventure that any one of you first-timers could be on.