Just when it seems we've dealt with V-belts forever, along comes theserpentine belt. The flat, ribbed serpentine belt is a major improvementover any V-belt. It lasts longer and, when the accessory drive system isequipped with an automatic belt tensioner, it doesn't require periodicadjustment. The serpentine belt allows more belt surface to be appliedto the pulleys. It's also rare for one to come apart and leave youstranded.
If you haven't guessed by now, we like the serpentine-belt system. Itcan be dependable as long as the pulleys are in alignment and square toeach other. This requirement makes it difficult to fabricate a reliableserpentine-belt drive system. The other challenge is to make aserpentine automatic belt tensioner work correctly. If engineeredproperly, the belt gets tighter with engine-rpm torque loading.
A few aftermarket serpentine-belt systems have been available, but thebugs weren't always worked out. Sturdy accessory mounting brackets are amust with proper bracing to avoid harmonic vibrations and resultingbracket failure. Another important consideration is accessory placement.If possible, the accessory pulleys should be close to the centerline ofthe engine. When all the accessories are close together, they look greatand fit in almost any engine compartment.
This is where Vintage Air comes in. The company has a finely craftedserpentine-belt accessory drive system called Front Runner, which hassturdy brackets with an automatic belt tensioner. The system isavailable in plain, chrome, or polished finishes. It works well andlooks great installed.
It's relatively easy to install the Front Runner system. Areverse-rotation short water pump is required and is supplied with thekit. The Sanden A/C compressor and alternator aren't included; forcorrect fitment, they must be purchased separately from Vintage Air.
We're installing the Front Runner system on a GM Ram Jet crate engine inthe Keisler Maximum Overdrive project '65 Corvette. The Ram Jet engine'scomposite timing cover is for one-time use and requires special boltswith a large head that won't allow the water pump to lie flat againstthe engine block. Be careful when fitting the water pump to the engineblock--clearance at the timing-cover bolt heads could be a concern.
We encountered a problem with the heater hose outlet fitting that comesdirectly out of the front of the Ram Jet's intake. The heater outletfitting was covered by the Front Runner's main bracket, leaving11/2-inch clearance between the bracket and manifold. Any traditionalsmall-block intake would work without modification to the Front Runnermain bracket.
The heater-fitting clearance problem wasn't insurmountable. With areciprocating saw, we carefully cut three quarters of an inch off theintake manifold's heater fitting boss. Then we used a half-inch pipethread tap to cut the threads deeper, which allowed us to screw a90-degree fitting approximately half an inch closer to the intakemanifold. Along with the modification of the intake-manifold fitting,slight machining was necessary to the main accessory drive bracket toallow enough clearance for the heater fitting.
The Vintage Air Front Runner system installs easily if you read thedirections first. This is a tried-and-true, automatic adjustmentserpentine belt system that has many miles of proven performance. Afterinstalling the system, the Kiesler Maximum Overdrive '65 Corvette coupeproject car was driven 11,000 miles on the Hot Rod Power Tour, then fromFlorida to Illinois for the Bloomington Gold Corvette Show with noproblems.