As an adult, I had forgotten the kind of excitement a kid feels on Christmas morning. For me, that exciting Christmas-morning feeling came in the middle of June at Vrbancic Brothers Racing. It was there at the dyno that the long dormant small-block Chevy roared to life after four years of sitting. As you may recall, we used Holley's System Max II kit in the rebuild of this engine. To refresh your memory: the Holley SysteMax II comes with fully assembled Holley cylinder heads, a Weiand intake manifold, and a Lunati cam with 235-/240-degree duration at 0.050, 0.490/0.490-inch lift, and 112-degree lobe separation (although we opted for a milder running cam). You also get lifters, hardened pushrods, head bolts, a double-roller timing chain and gears, and assembly lube. The TruthWith that combo of parts, it's easy to hit a homerun out of the park. Numbers don't lie, and the numbers we achieved on the dyno were proof positive that a decent "run around town" small-block is achievable on a budget. On the dyno, the small-block produced 356 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm, and at 5,100 rpm, it produced 303 hp. That's not too shabby. The best part is that these numbers were achieved using 89-Octane pump gas. Your results may vary; it all depends on crank, pistons, bore stroke, etc. This engine, as a long-block, was purchased from a local parts house sale, and most likely bottom of the totem pole parts were used in its initial build. Keep in mind that this engine is going into a '68 Bel Air Wagon, so we didn't require a mega-high-horsepower engine and what we got was just right for the task. With those torque numbers, we're confident this wagon will be able to get out of its own way. However, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's rewind this story back to the beginning. As mentioned in the last issue, this was my first nearly solo attempt at assembling an engine. When the engine was dropped off at Vrbancic Brothers Racing, a few concerns were brought up. Namely I was a bit worried about piston to valve clearance, and camshaft timing. "Not a problem," George Vrbancic replied. "We're here to help." As the engine was disassembled at their shop, to check those possible problem areas, there were some rookie engine builder mistakes that were noticed and corrected. As mentioned in the last issue, this was my first nearly solo attempt at assembling an eng Here is one of the mistakes I made. When the head bolts were put in, I failed to add some sealant to the threads. Bob Vrbancic informed me that water would have pushed its way right past the threads and into the heads. Here is one of the mistakes I made. When the head bolts were put in, I failed to add some Another thing he pointed out was that when you are putting in head bolts, you want to oil the head of the bolt and washer. The reason being, when the head bolt is being torqued with out oil, you can and will get false torque readings. As the bolt is being seated, it tends to dig into its seat rather than continuing to thread itself. And sure enough when the head bolts were checked the torque numbers were less than acceptable. Another thing he pointed out was that when you are putting in head bolts, you want to oil After the heads were pulled off, the piston to valve clearance was checked and everything was OK, my worries were baseless. After the heads were pulled off, the piston to valve clearance was checked and everything And just to be sure, the cam was degreed and checked to make sure it was installed properly. Phew, much to my satisfaction it was just fine. After degreeing the cam we discovered that it was 2 degrees retarded. That's not bad, we can live with that. And just to be sure, the cam was degreed and checked to make sure it was installed properl Another improvement to the build was to get rid of the four-piece oil pan seal and go with an updated one-piece seal. Fel-Pro makes a one-piece seal for early small block engines. A quick trip to a local speed shop solved that problem. Bob also showed us a better way to install the oil pan seal by adding silicone at the corners. Another improvement to the build was to get rid of the four-piece oil pan seal and go with All threaded fittings in the heads were removed and the threads were sealed up with some Teflon based sealant. All threaded fittings in the heads were removed and the threads were sealed up with some T One thing that Bob and George noticed was that when the rocker arms were installed, two of them were put in wrong. As the rocker sits on the stud there is a flat part and a round part on the Trunnion. The rounded part sits on the bottom, and the flat part of the Trunnion is where the adjusting nut sits. As it turned out two of them were upside-down. Needless to say, that was remedied rather quickly. After that, the lash was set and these heads were done and out of the way. One thing that Bob and George noticed was that when the rocker arms were installed, two of As it turned out the engine had most likely been decked once upon a time. That means the intake manifold was just a scant millimeters misaligned when it came time to reinstall the intake bolts. The intake holes were enlarged a hair in order for the intake to fit. Not a problem either, that was taken care of. As it turned out the engine had most likely been decked once upon a time. That means the i I must admit, it was a humbling experience to watch George and Bob work. What took me two days, took them two hours. Of course, when you have 50 years of experience working with engines, there is bound to be a rhythm you have when it comes to working the wrenches. Their aid was invaluable when it came to correcting my rookie mistakes. Bob and George informed me they do this for all their customers that bring in an engine, unless otherwise informed. I must admit, it was a humbling experience to watch George and Bob work. What took me two One obvious way for this small-block to pick up some extra horsepower is to get rid of these old Rams Horn exhaust manifolds. And that is just what our plans call for. A good exhaust system will undoubtedly give the engine better performance and economy. One obvious way for this small-block to pick up some extra horsepower is to get rid of the And in keeping with our budget build we chose Hedman headers. We figured it was bang for your buck when it came to using Hedman and they are still made in the USA. These exhaust headers will run you less than $200 and the best part is, these headers are good for at least 18 hp. Who can argue that? And in keeping with our budget build we chose Hedman headers. We figured it was bang for y SOURCES Hedman Street Hedders Vrbancic Brothers Racing 1463 E. Philadelphia Ontario CA 91761 909-930-9980 By Mike Harrington Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!