In our November 2008 issue, we slapped a Trick Flow Specialties top-end kit on our high-mileage passenger car 350 ci short-block and forced out 428 hp and 421 lb-ft of torque. No doubt, our stressed short-block was kicking and screaming all the way through the rpm range, but performed like a champ nonetheless. At 8.0:1 compression, and on 87-octane, our passenger car powerplant could have lived for another 50,000 miles ... maybe.
We weren't ready to take that chance, as the smogger 350 from 1973 was showing its age. The rings had jagged edges, the rods and crankshaft were practically touching, and 20 pounds of sludge had accrued just about everywhere. Thankfully, Summit Racing Products provided a cheap and efficient resolution with its 350 Rotating Assembly Value Pack spec-ed out at 9.6:1 compression. The kit comes with a cast steel crankshaft, forged I-beam connecting rods, and hypereutectic 0.030-over pistons, balanced and ready for assembly.
Also included in the kit are wrist pins, piston rings, rod and crank bearings, gaskets, oil pump, timing chain, and essentially everything you need to complete assembly in your stock block.
We took the standard bore 350 block down to Pro-Motion Racing Engines (East Hanover, New Jersey) for some essential machine work. We gave it a steam bath, decked the block, bored it out to 0.030-over, and gave it a final finishing hone. Then, the assembly began at Steve Ficacci Racing Engines where we washed and cleaned all the parts, cut the piston rings, and put the puzzle together piece by piece. Once completed, we went over to B&B Automotive in Lynbrook, New York, (not to be confused with B&B in Rahway, New Jersey, where the November tests were completed) and got to makin' horsepower.
We had the 355 on the hydraulic roller-cammed engine dynamometer early in the morning and began the 20-minute break-in. After some tuning and tweaking with both the shop carburetor and out-of-the-box 750cfm Summit Racing carb, we made 468 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. This was thanks to 37-degrees of timing, 93-octane fuel (at $1.96 a gallon mind you) and 150-degrees of oil temperature. We have some plans for our now brand-spankin'-new small-block, including some time at the track, but not before we throw a rubber-band-style beatin' on it next month. Make sure to check next issue for a supercharged follow-up that is not to be missed.
First and foremost, we cleaned the cylinders using lint-free rags and some WD-40. We use white rags because it is easier to spot any dirt or debris that is accrued during this process. Liberally spraying WD-40 and running up and down the bores with these rags will clean most of the fragments left over from the honing process. Even if your block is washed after the machining processes, it is a good idea to make a final pass. We simply repeated this process until the rags came up clean.
As part of the Summit Racing Rotating Assembly Value Pack, the internally balanced 350ci/3.480-inch stroke crankshaft provides a base for all operation. Made out of cast steel, these cost-efficient crankshafts come with crank keys and are an affordable way to make power. Trust us when we say that we will be putting all of these parts through their paces over the next several weeks. I have no doubt we will not have a problem.
Next, we prepared the main caps, crankshaft bearings, and crank for assembly. The crankshaft was placed in the parts washer and then blown off with an air gun. The main caps and bearings were cleaned with denatured alcohol. Out of the box, all bearings need to be given a final cleaning. Never assume that new products are ready for assembly. Just look at the amount of residue that was on these bearings.
After a liberal amount of oil on the crankshaft journals and bearings, the crankshaft was slid into place. Then, the main caps were installed in the position in which they came out. These main caps were marked on top with a 1, 2, 3, or 4, with an arrow pointing to the front of the engine. They must be installed in the correct position.
Once the main caps are torqued down, give the crankshaft a good spin by hand. If it does not spin freely for a rotation or two, you have a problem. Pull the crankshaft back out and start all over. Chances are that one of the main caps is not seated properly. Ours spun freely.
Next, we attacked the Total Seal rings. Using the supplied chart, Total Seal recommends the top ring gapped at 0.018-inch for a naturally aspirated motor and 0.022-inch for a forced air application. We will be forcing some air into this engine very soon so we stuck them at 0.022-inch to be on the safe side.
Next, we dried off both the engine block and main caps where they make contact with the bearings and slid them into place. At this point, ensure that the keys on the bearings are lined up with the keys in the main caps and on the block. Also, some bearing kits come with upper and lower bearings that must be installed properly. Make sure to read both the box and back side of bearings, as they will have a "U" or "L" or "UPPER" and "LOWER" on them.
At this point, we used a torque wrench to tighten the main caps. Knocking the main caps with a rubber hammer until they are flush with the block is a great idea before getting to work with the wrench. Working from the middle, out, we torqued them in sequence first at 45 lb-ft, then at 65 lb-ft. If at any point you feel the bolts are binding, stop, pull the caps off, inspect for any problems, then try again. The key to any engine build is taking your time. If you think you forgot something, or have a bad feeling, work backwards and start again.
While placing the piston/rod assembly in the motor, we dropped the crankshaft to the bottom on the working hole. Gently sliding the assembly through our clamp, we compress the rings and push it into the cylinder with the back end of a rubber hammer. If at any time, you feel the piston stop sliding down the cylinder, stop immediately because one of the rings has become uncompressed and any pressure will bend or break it against the deck of the block.
We then placed the cap on the rod, connecting it to the crankshaft. Make sure to at least have this snug before attempting to spin the motor for the next hole. Once all were in, we used both a torque wrench and a stretch gauge to tighten the bolts. The stretch gauge monitors how much the bolt actually stretches as it is torqued. We ended up at 65 lb-ft of torque, or a stretch of approximately 0.006-inch.
We gave the assembly a few spins to make sure nothing was binding. Spinning the motor at this point takes a little bit of effort, but as long as you do not feel any sudden stops, or hear any noise other than the rings against the cylinder bores, you should be fine.
We then bolted on the oil pump that comes with the kit and measured for clearance to the oil pan. Even though this is a shrouded oil inlet, resting the oil pump against the oil pan is not a good idea. We had to clearance the bottom of the oil pan slightly.
Then, using the supplied gaskets and some silicone, we buttoned up the bottom end.
The timing chain followed as we degreed the cam in at 109-degrees. It is always a good idea to check the cam timing using a timing disc. Often, the advertised camshaft timing is different than the actual timing once the engine is assembled. Our setup was off by 3-degrees. We installed the camshaft at straight-up using the timed gear. The hydraulic roller cam supplied with the Trick Flow Specialties top end kit has 0.558-inch lift (intake and exhaust) and 246/254 degrees duration.
At this point, we were just about done with the bottom half of the motor. Liberally oiling the lifters, we installed them followed by the cylinder heads, pushrods, and hydraulic roller rocker arms. The length of the roller lifters sometimes make them difficult to install with the cylinder heads already on the motor. That is why we installed them first. The Trick Flow Specialties cylinder head bolts were torqued to 65 lb-ft following the standard cylinder head sequence after the threads were white lubed and the washers were greased. As this is the same exact install we performed on the motor in the November issue, I will just provide a nice collage of it all going together. In case you missed the original article, we used Trick Flow's 195cc aluminum heads with 64cc chambers, 2.02-inch intake valves and 1.60-inch exhausts.
We then trucked our small block over to B&B Automotive Machine Shop in Lynbrook, New York, to see what kind of power our small-block would make. Glenn and Henry over at B&B cater to just about every make out there from big-block Chevys to turbochargerd Supras. They take the necessary steps to simulate real-world conditions on the dyno
I, for one, was amazed how fast we got rockin' and rollin' on the dyno. I arrived at 7 a.m. and we had the 355 broken in and ready for some horsepower pulls by nine. All connections in the dyno-room are quick-change and they keep the neighbors happy with a noise cancellation system on the roof. We let the engine run for about 20 minutes at 2,000 rpm. Then we let it sit for about a half hour while we pulled the valve covers and checked the rocker arms. All systems were "go" and we were off to the races.
Once the engine was tuned, we placed the Summit Racing 750 cfm carb on the Edelbrock Air Gap intake and made a final hit. Nice--468 hp at 6,200 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm (and the horsepower curve continues up and past 6,600 rpm). Not bad for a budget build with a brand new carburetor on it out of the box. Our next installment, we will be slapping Trick Flow Specialties new supercharger on top and make a few more hits. Any guesses on what kind of power we'll make?