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509 Big-Block Engine Install for 1968-1974 Chevy Nova's - What A Drag, Part 2
We've Got A Dart 509 Nestled In The TCI Front Clip In Our Nova Street/Strip Project Car.
Apr 1, 2011
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509 Big-Block Engine Install for 1968-1974 Chevy Nova's - What A Drag, Part 2
We were anxious to drop in the Real Fine 509 (December '09 issue)-which dyno tested at 669 hp at 6,000 and 623 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm-into the Nova. Unfortunately, header (2 1/8-inch Hooker Super Competition) and tall valve cover clearance issues required us to remove and reinstall it a few times to sort out the fitment issues. If we elected to use the smaller 2-inch Hooker Super Competition headers (or TCI's 2-inch big-block headers) and shorter valve covers, fitment issues would be non-existent. We've seen other Novas ('68-74) and early Camaros using 2-inch Hookers with the TCI tubular front clip, but we didn't want to chance losing any power.
It was a beautiful sight to see once we unboxed and uncovered our new Dart bullet...
...It's a mild 10:1 pump gas street/strip plant using Dart's Big M iron cylinder block (4.500-inch bore) with splayed, four-bolt billet steel main caps, Dart Pro1 310cc aluminum heads topped-off with a Dart open-plenum/single plane intake manifold...
...Inside the beast is an Eagle 4340-forged crankshaft (4.000-inch stroke-same as a stock 454), forged JE pistons, Engine Pro 6.135-inch long forged H-beam connecting rods with a hydraulic roller cam (0.540/0.560-inch lift, 242/248 duration at .0.050) and complete valvetrain from Comp Cams.
Energy Suspension motor mounts (Summit PN ENS-3-1114R) were bolted to the beefy block using the aforementioned ARP motor-mount bolt kit. For our application, we needed to use the early-style "short and wide" polyurethane mounts for a smooth running engine on the street. The Energy Suspension mounts are comparable in strength to solid mounts with their molded-in safety interlock.
The SFI spec'd flexplate (also included with Nova's purchase) was securely held in place using ARP bolts (Summit PN ARP-200-2902) torqued to 65 ft-lbs.
For enough clearance with tall big-block valve covers, it's a given you'll need a smaller diameter brake booster or a hydro-boost brake system. For our future plans of upgrading to four-wheel disc brakes (Currie 9-inch with Wilwood discs), we removed the stock 11-inch booster with a front disc/rear drum master for a CPP (Classic Performance Products) 9-inch booster/four-wheel disc master with proportioning valve.
Since they were fairly new, we reused the stock steel brake lines, brackets, and self-tapping bolts from the stock subframe. A few holes were drilled for the bolts once the lines were routed and attached to the prop valve. The braided brake hoses (included with the TCI front clip) were secured to the Wilwood calipers and steel brake lines.
The Phoenix Systems MaxPro brake bleeder tool (model number 2002) made it fast and easy for your author to bleed the brakes all by himself. You can vacuum bleed or use reverse bleed technology (best)...
...Reverse bleeding pushes the brake fluid and any air up and out of the master cylinder while filling it with fluid. Any air in the lines goes up in the direction it wants to go (up and out). The Phoenix Systems reverse bleeding system is patented and approved by GM, Raybestos and Bendix.
Feeling safe with a great brake pedal, we wired the ignition for the ididit steering column we previously installed with the TCI front clip. Wiring the steering column was an easy task for a first-timer (like your author) by just following the instructions. The shown relays prevent alternator voltage from going through the ignition switch (unlike the wiring going to the stock ignition switch). This will help the ignition switch last longer in our new ididit steering column. At this point we couldn't wait to turn the key and fire up the 509, but there was still some work ahead of us
With the brakes and wiring ready to go, the engine compartment was cleaned and touched up using Eastwood's Chassis Black paint. We couldn't drop the pretty, new Rat into a dirty engine bay.
When we placed the 509 in position, we didn't expect a valve cover to booster clearance problem. This is not the norm with the stock subframe when switching to a smaller 9-inch brake booster. We later found out (installing the radiator and shroud) the motor sits roughly 1.5-inches more to the driver's side with the TCI front clip.
We could have gone to an 8-inch booster or a hydraulic brake assist system, but we pulled the motor out and clearance dinged the valve cover. Before dinging, we pulled the cover off to be sure it wouldn't interfere with the valvetrain components. Other concerns of foreseen header clearance issues prompted us to move on.
Here with the motor back in place, it is noticeable the valve cover was modified for just enough clearance (1/8 to 1/4 inch). Looking at the previous caption, you'll notice the booster lost it tabs-we ground them off for more clearance (1/8 inch). Obviously, if you're doing a swap similar to ours, we recommend going to a smaller booster.
Next, the driver-side header (2 1/8-inch tubes, 3 1/2-inch collectors, with Hooker's Ceramic Thermal Barrier coating (Summit PN HOK-2285-1HKR) was bolted on and we noticed the number one tube was rubbing against the steering column shaft...
...The header was removed and clearanced for nice fitment and easy steering.
On to the passenger side. If we tried to clearance the number six header tube, there wouldn't be any flow going through it. For this picture the motor is sitting up an inch to show the header clearance issue. We couldn't lower it into position. Not wanting to cut, bend, shorten, and weld the ceramic-coated header, we ended up cutting the TCI frame tube. (Note: TCI now has 2-inch headers available that fit nicely and offer more ground clearance than the Hooker 2-inch units). Since the car was at our friend's shop (Charlie's Auto Collision, Tuckerton, New Jersey), certified frame specialist Bill Muehleisen took care of business.
Bill cut the tube in three sections with a 1-inch V-cut at the rear, close to the firewall. Then the tube was turned (1/4-turn) away from where the header was interfering. The 1-inch V-cut section filled in at the front cut section. The three tubes were welded together, making it as strong as before.
After smoothing out the welds and painting the frame tube with Eastwood Chassis Black, it's hard to tell anything was done. Now there was plenty of header clearance (1/2 inch) with the motor sitting in place.
Even though we have a Performance Automatic TH400, Transmission Specialties 10-inch converter and a Currie 9-inch rear, we wanted shakedown time ASAP so we bolted in the TH350, driveshaft and exhaust (included in the Nova's purchase) to quickly get it running. Notice the small exhaust cutouts (eyebrows) in the transmission crossmember-they would cause problems trying to bolt up the large 3-inch exhaust.
A Summit Protorque mini starter (3.1 hp, 342 ft-lbs torque, PN SUM-820323-M) features multi-adjustable positions and was able to fit with ample clearance between the headers and block. It has plenty of power and torque to easily turn over the big-bad 509.
For easy plug and play, we ordered an MSD Pro-Billet distributor (Summit PN MSD-85551). It's the same type of distributor that ran in the 396 that previously resided in the Nova. It'll plug right into the MSD 6AL ignition box that came with the car.
The MSD distributor comes with heavy advance springs which won't allow full timing advance until over 4,000 rpm.
We swapped to the lightest springs included in box so there would be full advance before 2,500 rpm. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book for quicker throttle response and lower e.t.'s.
Once the MSD distributor was dropped in, we neatly ran the MSD 8.5 Super Conductor wires (Summit PN MSD-31183) through the R&M billet wire looms (RNM-1102P)...
...We used our 15-year-old MSD Pro-Crimp tool (MSD-3505) to cut the wires to length and install the terminal ends for the distributor.
First we installed the water-pump pulley, fan and belts for the alternator and power-steering pump. Then the radiator and shroud was dropped in-that's when we found out the motor sat roughly 1 1/2-inches to the left and a 1/2-inch higher than the stock location. We just moved the radiator and shroud (included with purchase of Nova-yes, the car was a great value) that much so the fan and shroud lined up and the underhood area was beginning to look nice.
Another cool thing from Summit is this stainless steel radiator hose kit (SUM-390148). It's claimed to dissipate heat better than rubber. Cutting and bending the hose to shape makes for a neat-looking install, but the clamps included in the kit are wimpy. We ordered a stronger hose clamp kit (SUM-390500) that offered a tighter hold of the hoses onto the radiator, pump, and thermostat housing. Nobody needs a radiator hose to pop off under high pressure. (It's a little blingy for some, but the author liked it.-Ed.)
Here are a few major components of the fuel system for an adequate supply of petrol to the thirsty 509. The Holley HP125 (HLY-12-125) is quieter, more efficient, and delivers more fuel volume than the old Holley Blue pump. It features a 125 gph rating of free flow to feed engines up to 700 hp. The Mallory fuel pressure regulator (MAA-4309) is a three-port, return-style regulator needed for the existing return fuel line that goes back to the 15-gallon fuel cell in the Nova's trunk. Aeromotive's adjustable fuel log (AEI-14201) has telescopic logs, dual inlets with ball and socket assemblies that swivel 20-degrees in all directions to provide additional clearance for throttle stops, nitrous plates and other accessories.
We plumbed the Holley HP125 fuel pump into the existing -8AN braided fuel line. Necessary parts for the job were two 8AN to 3/8 NPT adapters (SUM-220846) and two 8AN hose ends (SUM-220890, straight; EAR-809108ERL, 90-degree swivel). The Fram fuel filter was another included part of the Nova purchase. We only replaced the filter element (FRM-HPGC1) inside the fuel filter housing.
Up front, the rest of the fuel system was installed along with the aforementioned stainless steel radiator hose kit. The Proform 950 cfm carburetor (PRO-67202) will provide the large rat with plenty of air and fuel flow. We used the existing 8AN braided fuel hose to the Mallory regulator. From the regulator we needed two 8AN to 3/8 NPT adapters (SUM-220846), 3-feet of 8AN braided hose (SUM-23083) with 8AN hose ends (SUM-220890, straight; EAR-809108ERL, 90-degree swivel). At the Aeromotive fuel log, two 10AN O-ring to 8AN flare fittings (SUM-220162) and an 8AN flare cap (RUS-66197-0) were used. For the regulator return, a 6AN to 3/8 NPT adapter (SUM-220648) was used to hook-up the preexisting 6AN return hose. The brass plugs on the sides of the regulator were purchased from the local parts palace.
We wanted to use the stock power-steering pump (early style) that came with the Nova. Fortunately, TCI has a power steering hose kit to hook up the stock pump to the rack-and-pinion steering...
...In the kit is a flow valve (center of picture at left) for the right steering feel. It was easy enough to follow the instructions to do a neat-looking installation.
Before firing it up, we wanted to hook up the exhaust so as not to disturb the peace. Since we were using the same type of Hooker headers as the old 396, we didn't understand why we were short by a couple inches. Perhaps the new Hookers have a shorter collector.
We cut-off the reducer and ordered a set of 6-inch long reducers from TTI Exhaust. Take notice how an exhaust shop had the 3-inch pipe all the way up to the 3 1/2-inch flange restricting exhaust flow. The new TTI reducers will flow much better.
Now exhaust length was right, but the height was not due to the transmission crossmember interfering and preventing us from raising the 3-inch exhaust high enough to hook up to the collector. We could have bent the exhaust but would have lost ground clearance and exhaust flow. The TCI crossmember is designed for a 2- to 2.5-inch exhaust.
We measured then cut larger cutouts for the 3-inch exhaust. Our buddy Bill M. came to our aid again and welded in flat plate steel with gussets in the corners for strength...
...We painted it with Eastwood Chassis Black for rust protection and to match the rest of the TCI front clip.
For enough header/exhaust ground clearance, we raised the ride height (3/4-inch) using a spanner wrench for the 12-way adjustable TCI coilover shocks. As a reminder, the TCI front clip features 2-inch dropped spindles for better steering and handling, which lowers ground clearance. Sitting at rest, the Nova measured 3-inches of ground clearance at the header collector flange area...
...If you want more ground clearance, an easy big-block installation, and not go through what we did, just order a set of the new TCI 2-inch headers, use 2.5-inch exhaust, and it'll make life a lot easier.
Quaker State Ultimate Durability 5W-40 synthetic oil was used to fill the crankcase and the Fram HP4 high performance/hi-flow oil filter. Since the motor was broken in on the dyno, we didn't hesitate to use synthetic lube. The Fram HP4 will easily flow more oil than regular oil filters-notice the larger flow holes in the HP Fram filter. The Q oil is said to offer unsurpassed protection against friction as temperatures increase.
We love the look of the 509 Dart nestled in the engine compartment, along with the TCI tubular front end components. The Proform 950 has vacuum outlets, which enabled us to run a 3/8-inch vacuum hose to the brake booster and the PCV valve. Other 950 carbs don't feature timed and full vacuum tubes. You can hear the 509 running and see the Nova's first drive on the Super Chevy magazine website-click on videos section.
509 Big-Block Engine Install for 1968-1974 Chevy Nova's - Super Chevy Magazine
We drop in a 509 Dart big-block engine into our Chevy Nova project and to show what it takes to make this work for all 1968-1974 Nova's. Only at www.superchevy.com, the official website for Super Chevy Magazine.
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