Doing something for the first time is always an experience to remember. Just take that first trip on roller skates or that inaugural pass down the driveway after Dad took the training wheels off the bicycle. Fond memories for sure. Better yet, good learning experiences.
Think back to the first time you worked on your car. It may have been a brake job or a tire change. But remember the apprehension about exploring somewhere you hadn't been before. Now try to recall the first time you broke out the socket set and tore down your first engine. Now that was an experience that most of us remember. For me it was a Cox .049 two-stroke model airplane engine. Fortunately, I did it correctly. Because had I failed, I may never have had the courage to rip into that first small-block.
While many of you are way beyond the first engine scenario, let's remember that there is a constant flow of newcomers into our hobby. And for them, the thought of removing cylinder heads or popping out pistons is more along the lines of black magic than a simple disassembly.
We happened upon a fellow who definitely has aspirations-and the mechanical aptitude-to rebuild his own engine, but had never undertaken the challenge before. With this in mind, and a camera in hand, we followed along as our rookie engine builder, Patrick Swegles, tore into an old small-block that had been resting peacefully-and unprotected-in his backyard. This engine was about as abused as you might possibly imagine, not just from Mother Nature (it had endured a couple of rainy seasons), but when the casting numbers were crunched, it was discovered that the powerplant had seen more than its share of use in a pickup truck.
For all of you who are anticipating that first chance to pull an old engine apart, take note of how much fun Patrick had. But don't get discouraged, you'll soon see that you don't have to be a brain surgeon to build your own hot rod engine.
Follow along as Patrick does the dirtiest part of the rebuilding process-the teardown. Then, in the next two months we'll show him taking the parts to the local machine shop and then putting all of the components together en route to completing his first engine build.