One of the more common questions we get at Super Chevy is "How do I start an engine that has been sitting?" With money getting tight these days, buying an older engine or resurrecting one that you've been storing is becoming more and more common.
The biggest damaging factor is going to be iron oxide, more commonly known as rust. Rust forms when the oxygen in water reacts with iron, forming that red stuff we as muscle car fanatics fight constantly.
Luckily, one thing that prevents rust from forming on metal is oil, which flows through almost all the important areas of an engine. So, if the engine has been sitting indoors for under two years its pretty safe to say there won't be much rust formed in the cylinders. Anything over that time we would recommend tearing it down just to be safe.
We have two motors in our stable that fit into these categories. The first engine is Danger Mouse, a long-term dyno mule that we tried multiple power recipes on. It's been stored at Speed-O-Motive (West Covina, California) in a controlled environment since the last story. We will be bringing the Danger Mouse series back soon, so we wanted to fire it up and make sure its still ready for action. DM will be our short-term storage example. We also have a sidebar if you want a little more info on the life of this mouse motor.
The second engine we have is a bored-out 283 that was rebuilt back in the late '70s, then stuffed under a bench and forgotten. The guy we got it from said it has never been fired up, but until we crack it open we wont know if he was shooting straight or not. This will be our long-term example and the procedures will reflect that.
We had Edson Gutierrez at Speed-O-Motive do all the wrenching for us and he even put Danger Mouse on the dyno to see what it makes. We found some bad stuff going on in the 283, so that one will need some machine work before it can be safely fired up.
By the end of this story, you should be able to follow the steps to safely start just about any engine- unless it was left out in the elements unprotected, that is.
0-2 YEARS SITTING
What Is Danger Mouse?
Danger Mouse was dreamt up by past Super Chevy tech guru, Mike Petralia. Here is the breakdown in his words. "When we built Danger Mouse (DM), the plan was simple. We wanted to have an engine in our stable that we could use to test and re-test every possible power combination we could think of. Our plan also included testing any of the smart combinations the readers could come up with as well, and the letters started pouring in. We built DM with the intention of running it ragged on the dyno trying to make every combination work the best way possible. So, to reach that goal, DM had to be tough enough to take the abuse we planned to dish out. Starting with a World Products four-bolt Motown block, we bored it 0.030-over and dropped in a complete Lunati rotating assembly, making it displace 355 ci. We even left the flat-top Lunati pistons 0.040-inch down the bore (as opposed to a true "zero-deck") to more closely approximate what you might have under your hood. Then we bolted some rather boring stock GM iron components to the top of it and slapped it on the dyno for its first run. After that day was finished, we were happy to report that with just a few tuning tweaks to dial it in, DM made an outstanding 308 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque in totally stock trim. Well, after more than 1,000 dyno pulls, (not all of which were recorded), with both high and low results, we've tried so many powerful combinations that we think we've found a few new recipes for perfection. If you'd like to make 480-plus hp with your stock 355-cid short-block, we've got that covered. Or how about making over 600 hp on pump gas from the same 355-cid and not sacrificing next year's vacation to do it? Danger Mouse can show you how. We've even covered the newest EFI technology too."
- Mike Petralia