so i’m driving my stang home from another day at work, powering out of a corner when KABLAM!, the engine blows with a crack of steel and an explosion of steam, trailing a black stream of oil. damn.
i go inside my basement and stand silently looking at the freshly rebuilt short block cradled in it’s engine stand. never installed it in the last car. chevy. damn.
yank the engine and start tearing it apart to see what’s usable. right on the front is the gleaming new edelbrock high efficiency water pump i had just put on. at least i can use that i thought. as I pry it off, one of the cracked mounting ears falls on the concrete. damn.
well at least the trickflow heads are going to be ok I tell myself. watching the valve stems wobble as they slowly roll down the glass plate. damn.
no money, no time. the car sits outside.
i find a used 5.0 short block from a guy down the street. he says the block is good, that he yanked it because there was problem with the heads. on the engine stand, piece by piece it comes apart, looking like it has some promise. stock bore, 1.5 thou wear, stock forged pistons. wife, kids, work, house repairs, yard work. each time i take out the trash i take one bolt off, this is going to take forever. damn.
after cleaning it up and inspecting the parts, it looks reasonable for a ring and bearing job. no bucks for machine shop work, emery cloth crank polish job, dremel crank oil hole chamfers, tap the oil galley holes, dremel de-ridge the cylinders, scotchbrite pad the cross hatch. block coolant drain plugs are impossible to remove. damn.
find a few dollarsfor the worlds best rod bolts, ARP. incredible amount of engineering and research by the finest minds in bolt design and manufacturing. how OEM rod bolts can possibly withstand the forces on the most strained engine fastener boggles the mind. the factory even torqued them down, without a stretch gauge! now armed with the car craft knowledge of how to properly stretch a rod bolt and with my trusty ebay rod bolt stretch gauge in hand, I look for the most hallowed of engineering testaments; specifications. the instructions that came with the rod bolts, ARPs specs posted on their website, and car crafts specs in the article are different by 1 thou. i am crestfallen. how is it possible that there could be such a wide variance in stretch for such a precision fastener? i call ARP and talk with an engineer. he says they just bought a new stretch machine and are in the process of revamping their specs. WTF. i slam the thing together. damn.
after having blown my bucks on the ARP rod bolts, i didn’t have enough left to have the machinist install them on the rods. countless engine assembly manuals say that only a qualified machinist should attempt to install new rod bolts and then precision grind the big end on a $200,000 Sunnen honing machine. After staring glumly at the vacant space in my basement where my Sunnen honing machine should be, i picked up my ebay dial bore gauge and measured the big end. putting the rods in a vise, i tapped out the bolts with the greatest of care. using a spacer over the threads, i pressed in my new fabulous ARP rod bolts between the vise heads. after measuring again, a few of the big ends were indeed slightly out of round. cutting the ends, then working the rod big end with the emery cloth, then measuring, repeat, progress, but slow. this is going to take a long time. damn.
occasional discussions of progress with colleagues usually wrapped up with “when are you going to drive it in to work?” every time i hear this i want to say “you know, i’m not building this engine for you to critique it, i’m doing this for me.” but i never say it. damn.
assembly begins. finding a few more bucks, and deeply satisfied with the ARP experience, i order ARP main bolts. be sure to use the right lube and run those bolts down three times to make sure those rolled threads are smooth, right. crank caps bolted down, everything is looking good. hmm, where is the oil pump pickup supposed to be attached? i call ARP, the wizened hot rodder i speak to says, “oh yea, our main bolt kits don’t come with a stud for the oil pickup”. i’m speechless. how many years has ARP been selling these? he offers to mail out a stud. i say, ok. damn.
finally the short block is together. measure everything, assume nothing say the best hot rodders. don’t just line up the dots, degree that cam! first step, find TDC. with the metal strap bolted on the block over the cylinder, i slowly turn the crank, closer and closer the piston comes to the strap, then stops. the piston hasn’t reached the top yet. i stop. what the hell could be wrong? removing the strap and turning the piston to its top, the dial bore gauge says the block has been decked 25 thou. the car is supercharged, i don’t want the extra compression. damn.
finding an extra thick head gasket, doing the math to get the proper squish, assembling the heads with the new valves, time to check the piston to valve clearances. no worries, the trickflow literature says their heads and stage 1 cam work fine on a stock short block. with my extra thick head gasket the math says I’m back to stock. welded the plungers on a couple old lifters. doing the clay and using a C-channel spring and dial bore gauge, it don’t look good. i call trickflow. your heads must have been milled down they say. so i check the combustion chamber volume, stock. great, another pompous manufacture with claims. i wind up retarding the cam 4 degrees to get the pv I want. damn.
all high performance engines need a high volume oil pump! say the magazine articles. i marvel in wonder at how those clever engineers are able to get the higher oil volumes. i order mine from summit. bolting it on, it looks so good, the heart that will pump the life oil through my creation. carefully lowering the oil pan down to the one-piece rubberized metal oil pan gasket, i hear a clank. what? there’s a half inch gap between the oil pan and the gasket. further investigation reveals those crafty engineers simply made the rotors taller to move more oil. interesting that none of the articles i read talked about needing a super special $500 anodized deep sump oil pan to accommodate the high volume pump. damn.
abandoning the high volume oil pump approach to keep a stock pan, i cruised through the catalogs of the 20 different oil pump manufacturers, who turn out to all be selling the same $16 OEM oil pump made by Melling, at astronomical prices, with fancy names. after countless hours of research on oil pump failure, i decide to go with a Melling performance oil pump, with adjustable pressure and a shaft through the cover. once again referring to my trusty engine building guides, woe is the builder who neglects to check his oil pump clearances. for some reason i can’t remember now, the cover couldn’t be taken off, so i just bolted it in place. damn.
all the research about the fancy oil pans made me realize how important it is to keep your oil in place while salooning around in your stang. so I stopped by my local farm and fleet for a stick of metal to build my anti-slosh plates from. firing up the wire feed welder, i wasn’t getting the penetration that i wanted, so i turned up the volts a click, and promptly blew a hole in the side of the pan. damn.
after filling the hole and being pretty pleased about my creation, I once again slowly lowered the pan over my new Melling’s performance pump, and then, clank. the pan sat skewed on the block. now what? shining the flashlight up I could see the oil pump pickup tube hitting my slosh baffle. damn.
have you removed your EGR valve? make sure to stop those pesky hot exhaust gases from getting back into your heads by blocking them with the appropriate lower intake manifold gasket. of course the print-o-leak gaskets I had already bought had a big hole for the exhaust gases. damn.
getting ready to put the lower intake manifold, i read countless stories of having difficulty getting this or that to seal. have you noticed how many different types of sealant there is? unbelievable. the nicest application poster is by permatex. by the time I’m done, i’ll probably have wasted fourty bucks on this synthetic junk. damn.
it’s been five years now that my stang has sat outside. dents in the asphalt under the jack stands even with the plywood under the stand. but the engine is together and ready to be dropped in. i’m not going to do this in the rain fighting mosquitoes. i call a towing company. i need my stang moved into my garage, but i have a steep hill right next to the garage door. they can do it they say. with the car part way in the garage, the rear wheels held up by the hauler on the back of his $120,000 flat bed truck, the driver stands scratching his head staring at the jackknife angle between the stang and the hauler. he can’t lower the hauler enough to let the wheels touch the ground. in a flash of inspiration, he shouts “I got it” and promptly deflates the air suspension of the truck. the stang lowers. i hear him mutter; shit. the wheels are still off the ground. damn.
with the stang safely ensconced in my garage, i attempt to install those mysterious of all mechanical devices, the torque converter. carefully studying the installation instructions to not have a problem while installing the engine later, i meticulously measure the converter bolt ears to the bell housing flange. time and time again, the converter seems to be engaging the splines correctly, but the measurement comes up short. finally, during a moment of exasperation, I look at the back of the engine block, which has an inset, of the same dimension that I’m short. damn.
engine in the car, ready to fire it up. turn of the key, fuel pump filling the lines. second turn the engine fires to life. should be more emotional, but it’s taken so long to get it running. sounds good, maybe it’s done. some white smoke from the tail pips. then more. clouds of white smoke. huge billowing clouds of white smoke obscure the sky. damn.
in the silence of the stopped engine, watching the white smoke wisps slowly twisting and rising from the tail pipe tips, my thoughts moved to the new, and now ruined, O2 and wideband sensors I had just installed. damn.
white smoke is to coolant burning as hot girls are to money. pulling the intake manifold, the gaskets look fine. at least I confirmed the right stuff wall of china was good. slap it back together and fire it up. more smoke. damn.
winter is a good time for projects. more investigation and hypothetical conjuring results in a diagnosis; cracked head. off came her head. my trusty certified machinist can pressure test that, no problem. the call came a week later. the head was warped so bad the straightedge rocked on it he said. he was high. i had checked the heads with a machinists straightedge before assembly. my certified machinist proudly said he has fixed all my problems by milling my head flat. great, I said. how much did you take off? 8 thou. WHAT? he said we had to take that much off to get rid of the swirl marks from the 3M gasket remover pad. i looked at him. i had looked at those head surfaces a hundred times, there were no swirl marks. good thing I had retarded the cam 4 degrees not 2, i thought. he handed me the bill, $100. i gave him my card. he gave me back my card and the receipt. i looked at the receipt. it read $1000. damn.
fully trusting that my trained and certified machinist had competently assessed and rectified the situation, i confidently re-re-assembled the engine, and fired it up. the haze of white smoke before my eyes slowly clouded my belief in mankind. damn.
ready to dump the thing, i thought, what hell, why not try one more time. remembering that internet experts proclaimed my 38# Lucas injectors to be pathetic junk, and that the on-line fuel injector calculators told me I had to have 20% spare capacity on my low 6 psi boost setup, i decided to spring for the coveted 80# Siemens DEKA fuel injectors, which cure all ills. receiving these lovelies in the mail, i quickly seated them in their new home. firing up the car, white haze gently rose to the trees. damn.
the sense of touch can bring profound revelations. not putting enough spit on your finger and touching the hot header does not sizzle, but the pain follows quickly. turning in my mind over and over, why is only the header for cylinder #1 not getting hot, i switched the injector wiring plugs between cylinders 1 and 2, and fired her up. the header for cylinder #1 burned my finger, and 2 was cold. brighter minds than mine would have deduced upon first startup that the eec fuel injector driver for cylinder #1 had failed, but not me. damn.
after replacing the computer, it took a while for all the gas in the mufflers to burn out, but at least it didn’t explode. things can always get worse. then the smoke started coming from the rear wheels, strange, the drum brakes didn’t seem that hot. replacing the rusty and crusty rear wheel cylinders which I thought were locking up, the white smoke from the rear wheels continued. damn.
it bothered me that the car kept peeing right in front of the pumpkin. ah, must be differential fluid leaking past the seal and getting flung by the U-joint onto the hot mufflers. i’ve got this diagnosis business figured out. under the car, the growing puddle didn’t seem to be 80 weight, but thin and clear. where the hell is this coming from? looking up past the spider webs, the flaking rusted driveshaft, up into the very bowels of her ovaries, was the most contorted rear brake line setup i’d seen, as the drop of brake fluid hit my cheek. damn.
six years have now passed since that fatal snap, and now, back together again, it’s trying to run. a couple years of eectuning reading, fiddling with binary editor, and wa la, a custom tune. then I saw decipa’s a9l2 bin, which i promptly downloaded and put in a few particulars for my car. i fired it up knowing that the sage programming wizardry of decipa would make my car run like the Mach 5. the engine hesitated, stumbled, burped and died. damn.
i don’t know what made me pull the vacuum line of the beautiful billet anodized BBK adjustable boost-referenced fuel pressure regulator. but the droplets of gas that emanated left a strong odor on my mind. eschewing more billet, my local o’reillys offered up a steel gold anodized oem replacement fuel pressure regulator for 25 clams. putting my old tune back in, the old girl is now running better every day, while I dial in the maf. i haven’t tried the a9l2 tune again, but you can bet I’m going to think about getting his d.e.c. with the engine warranty when it comes out.
Damn fuel injector driver failure.
anyway, here’s the current tune. datalog was too big to upload. the tune has timing simplified to the sealevel table, fuel simplified to the fn1360 table, EGR removed, OL, adaptives disabled, scaled for boost to 120 load. now on to solving the low voltage charging problem...
1990 Mustang GT, 302 stock short block, Trick Flow heads and stage 1 cam, cam retarded 4 degrees to get piston to valve clearance, GT40 intake, 80# injectors, 80mm Granatelli MAF with 38# injector supercharged calibration, 255 ltr/hr in-tank fuel pump, long tube headers, Vortech S-trim 6psi, C-4 with reverse manual valve body and 3500 stall, GUFB/A9L/QH/BE/EA, Innovate wide band.