The Long (Over)Haul

A step-by-step guide of things you need to know before rebuilding your engine.

Dave Verna - December 13, 2012 10:00 AM


1 The BPE kit came with pistons, rings, pins, Callies Compstar rods and the BPE crank. This will put us at 430 cubic inches without any extra modifications. The pistons come with a 1.5mm/1.5mm/3mm standard tension oil ring pack and have a 17cc dish to keep compression at a street friendly 10.5:1 with an aluminum head.


2 The BPE crank is made from 4340 forged steel, core hardened and nitrided. It features straight oiling and a standard six-bolt Mopar flange. The rod and main journals have .125-inch radius fillets to add strength. BPE cranks are advertised at +/- .0002-inch.


3 This amount of stroke can fit due to use of a small-block Chevy-sized 2.00-inch journal. These rods won’t break the bank and you get all the benefits such as ARP 2000 bolts, and a lightweight, but strong design.


4 The block we are using has extra material at the mains and filled pan rails and was easy to step up to a Pro-Gram four-bolt main. The ability to hold that crank would not be a problem for a traditional two-bolt cap at the power we expect. The ability to throw more at this engine later without worrying is money well spent. A stock block could not utilize the additional two bolts and could actually weaken it.


5 Stay tuned as we get together a stock set of Edelbrock heads and dual plane intake, all the way up to a ported set of heads, larger valves, Super Victor and a big COMP Cams roller.


6 The X block was a race block, cast in the ’70s, and was the precursor to the current R blocks. There are several steps that will be taken to assure the block is in good condition prior to any machining that will take place.


7 We baked the block in an oven. This changes all of the sludge and gunk to a dry, flakey state so it comes off in the next few steps. For the most stubborn, dirty blocks, Fonse also has an ultrasonic cleaner.


8 We magnetically particle-inspected the block for cracks. You basically sprinkle powder and hit it with an electrical magnet. Care should be taken to check around freeze plugs and bolt holes, which are the first places to crack.


9 Here is a junk block that shows how a crack shows up at the freeze plug. The yellow stuff is a ferrous based powder that attaches to cracks under an electrical charge. This block must have frozen at some point during its life.


10 The next logical step is into a steel-shot blasting cabinet. This process is also called shot peening. There cannot be any oil or grease on the block by the time it gets to the steel shot process.


11 Extreme care must be taken to remove all the steel shot from the internal passages of the block, as you can imagine there is no way you want these running around your oiling system.


12 One last, and very important, check is the sonic check and should be done at least at the top, middle, and bottom of the cylinder. The checks should be worked around like a clock around the bore. We checked at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions to get a good general reading of the condition of the cylinder wall. You want at least .125-inch on the thrust side after the over-bore for our type of build.

Image 1 of 12

Let’s take a journey, step by step, through the process of building an engine.

The process is basically the same for every engine made, so everyone can take something from this story.

We have worked with the guys at Fonse Performance before, and when we brought the idea of an engine build to them, letting us cover every single aspect, they didn’t blink, so prepare yourself for multiple installments of things you need to know before attempting a complete overhaul. We got down and dirty on this one and we’ll bring you along first-hand. You will be witnessing all the hard work, but it will pay off in the end with a reward of seeing the number we get on the dyno.

We’ll cover all aspects of a performance build, but we’ll also show you several combinations you can duplicate from a mild street/strip engine through a progression of horsepower hunting. We’ll do the work for you, provide dyno testing to back up the results and you can duplicate what works best for you.


The Foundation

We started out wanting a small-block Mopar. For the last 10 years or so, the craze is to throw in a four-inch stroke crank to get more cubes and plenty of torque. We wanted to kick it up a notch and our first phone call was to Rod Bloomer at Bloomer Performance Engineering. This guy is strictly into the world of small-block Mopars and trying to break new ground delivering quality rotating assemblies at reasonable prices. Rod has developed several longer-stroke cranks and we elected to go with the 4.125-inch stroke to get us an additional 90 cubes from our 340 block. There are even longer strokes available, and while we could have easily went for more, the balancing act starts to take place as we could not have utilized all of the extra cubes with a stock style cylinder head, so it was deemed that the 4.125-inch would be our best bang for the buck.

We started out with a 1979 “X” block we picked up from a project gone cold. The block had been machined, but sat in a garage for the better part of its life until we dropped it off at Fonse Performance. The machining done 10 years ago versus the precision available today is night and day and we plan to show it to you in the upcoming months.

In engine building, it costs twice as much to do it right the second time around. Keep in mind that things add up fast and there are always incidentals you did not consider that will inevitably pop up. These are budget-killers and generally the point when some start skimping. One wrong part can take out thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and your new engine! If at all possible, it is best to wait to get the right part than to rush any part of the job.

Be realistic and consider your options. It is best to set up a general guideline so you can get to your goals by a few different routes, then consider the best route. If you want an all-out racing engine, then list it. If you want a street/strip set-up, fine. If you want a 99 percent street set-up, you need to be honest with yourself and your intended usage and list the requirements you are considering.

There is nothing wrong with planning for the future either. Say you want a street/strip engine that you’ll be putting in a fun car. Say you are currently looking to drive it to the track and race. You might benefit in an over-built bottom end to handle a shot of nitrous or maybe the day when you want to go faster. It all has to be considered; just be realistic in your goals as all of this is a compromise. Think of it as a scale with the words “street” on one side and “strip” on the other. Your decisions go under one side or the other; you can’t exactly have both in terms of parts. you would not throw a huge carb and lumpy cam in a street car, and by the same token you would not throw a small single-barrel and stock intake on a race car.


The Machine Shop

The fact is that most enthusiasts would love to build the engine themselves. The flip side of that coin is that most people don’t have the correct tools and know-how to complete every aspect. While final assembly is a rewarding experience, the details that go on before the final bolt-up are what count and make for a successful and long engine life.

We selected a performance machine shop in our area who does all work-in house. It made for a great story and also makes it much easier to track progress and have accountability of your build. You need to find a place you can trust to do the work right. An interview with the shop will quickly give you a feel for the atmosphere where your engine will reside. If you don’t get the warm fuzzies during your interview, then it might be best to address it or look for another shop.

View it as a job interview — for them! The shop needs to be able to present themselves in a professional manner. A guided tour of the facility will go a long way in terms of getting to know a shop and what they can do for you. If the shop is clean and well maintained, along with a track record of being in business for a length of time, you know you are headed in the right direction. Tooling has a lot to do with the quality of the product. Look for modern machinery, such as the machines we will show you in the upcoming months, to determine if the shop has your best interests.



Start Out Right

You sit down and figure every part you need for your build, only to discover a few missed pieces along the way. While we didn’t miss the big things like pistons, or gaskets, we did have a few last minute orders to keep us chewing those greasy fingernails, waiting for the delivery truck! With the Internet at your disposal it is hard not to start clicking away and have a sizeable order put together in no time flat. Summit Racing played a valuable role in the acquisition of a ton of parts. It’s best to get a list together after you have set your goals and go over it several times to make sure your bases are covered.