350 Long Block - My First Engine Build

Completing The Long-Block And Heading To The Dyno

Terry Cole Nov 1, 2003 0 Comment(s)
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Patience is a virtue, and when you're doing something for the first time, it can be a tedious emotion to control. Not only does the excitement of it all have a tendency to overwhelm, but also the anxiousness of wanting to find out if you've completed the job correctly can be painstaking. For our first-time engine builder, Patrick Swegles, a combination of those feelings and an upcoming vacation got him up on the throttle, so to speak. In fact, Patrick was so excited about completing his first engine, that he spent a day at the local speed merchant looking for cool accessories he could add to his creation after it made it successfully on the Vrbancic Brother's DTS dyno.

But before the trip to the dyno shop, Patrick had to finish assembling the long-block. When we left you last month, he had just finished stuffing the block with the reciprocating assembly and adding the Milodon oil system.

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This month Patrick got the feel for installing his new set of World Products SR Torquer 2.02/1.60 cylinder heads and matching intake manifold, as well as the Milodon aluminum waterpump, PAW harmonic balancer, and related components. Finally, before loading the engine into his pickup for the Vrbancic Brothers shop, Patrick stabbed the Mallory breakerless distributor and covered the rocker arms he had adjusted with a pair of shiny Milodon valve covers.

Once at the dyno, Patrick spent a couple of evenings finishing up the little details (installing oil, plugs, and a filter) in preparation for his big day. And when that day arrived, needless to say, Patrick was hyped and ready to go. The first addition was to install the trick Holley 600 carburetor that Bob Vrbancic had built for Patrick's first engine. What could be special about a basic vacuum-operated four-barrel for a basically stock 350 you wonder? Well, this particular fuel meter was equipped with a set of Bob's new Quick Change metering blocks. This new design is intended to make jet changes simple and safe, while offering virtually unlimited tuneability (see sidebar).

Once all of the engine components were in place and Pat's 350 sat ready to roar to life, our first-timer could hardly control his enthusiasm as he took his spot in the dyno's control room to witness the computer display. And he wasn't disappointed after the afternoon test sessions were done. Not only did Patrick succeed in building his first engine without any oil leaks or knocking sounds, but with the help of Bob and George Vrbancic and the correct combination of parts, the dyno informed Patrick that his low-budget powerplant was worthy of the effort that went into assembling it. What were the numbers? How about 319 hp and an impressive 375 ft-lb of torque! Not over-the-top marks, mind you. But for a first-timer like Pat, they couldn't have been better. Of course, now that Pat is an experienced engine builder, watch out, we can hear that story pitch about nitrous oxide coming soon.

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Quick Change
When it comes to improving the performance of an engine, all is not measured in horsepower and torque readings alone. Sometimes it's the simple things that make a big difference. Take for example the new Quick Change metering blocks that Bob Vrbancic and his Carb Shop have introduced. While the potential here is for a more finely tuned fuel metering system, perhaps the biggest advantage to this new upgrade for Holley carbs is the ability to change jetting without draining fuel and taking the bowls off. In fact, you don't even have to stop the engine, since idling is controlled by the carb's idle circuit, not the primary jet system.

Having this ability not only allows for easier and quicker jet changes, but eliminates the possibility of a fuel fire caused by gas draining onto a hot intake/head surface.

There is the ability to fine tune for as much fuel management as possible with some of the block's built-in features such as replaceable idle feed restrictors and power valve enrichment. All in all, just the ease of working on a carb has us sold.

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