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Modifying Small
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Engine Assembly
Assembling an engine is likely the most exciting segment of engine building. This is where we put
our hands on all of an engine’s components and set them into productive motion. But, to put them
into a productive, power-making motion, we have to assemble them properly, and with painstaking

Before assembly begins, we need to houseclean, with all components clean and laid out in proper
assembly order. It’s a good idea to wash down everything with a solvent to remove all dust and
debris. Brake cleaner is a good cleaning solvent, as is the solvent we use in parts washers. If you’re
using a parts washer, you want fresh solvent; don’t use dirty solvent.

It is very important to keep pistons and connecting rods in proper order to avoid mismatches. Since
each piston has been sized to each bore, we don’t want to make the mistake of installing pistons in
the wrong bores. This is also important for the sake of dynamic balancing.

Engine parts, centered around the crankshaft, need to be set up on the work bench. Pistons and
rods need to be laid out around their respective positions on the crank. The oil pump and
driveshaft need to be parked off to the side. Main caps should be bolted to the block in their
respective positions. At this point, our block and heads need to be ready for assembly. Heads,
especially, should be completely assembled, ready to bolt on.
The block needs to be safely mounted on an engine stand that allows you to rotate it 360 degrees.
This enables you to rotate the block as you install the crank and assemble the bottom end. We
discourage building the engine on a workbench, which a good many of us do when resources aren't
available. Because engine stands are very inexpensive these days, it makes sense to buy one.
Torquing the main caps on a Ford 289 Engine Degreeing the camshaft on a Ford 289 Rotating the crankshaft to degree the cam on the Ford 289 Engine
Bolting the timing chain assembly onto the Ford 289 engine
Now for the fun part -
but don't get too excited
and mess something up.
Take your time and do it
right the first time.
Short Block
Short-block assembly should begin with the camshaft for ease of installation. Install the camshaft
first because the crankshaft won’t be in the way. We can guide the cam through its journals more
easily when we can get our hands in there. It’s so easy to nick the bearings and create new
problems if we can’t guide the camshaft. Cam journals get a dose of engine assembly lube. Flat-
tappet cam lobes get molybdenum grease – a thick moly-coat lubricant that aids camshaft break-in
during that first firing. Do not use molybdenum on the cam journals.

Roller-tappet camshafts get engine assembly lube on both the journals and lobes during
installation. The same is true for the roller tappets when they’re installed. Use lots of engine
assembly lube on the lifters and rollers for best results. With freshly machined main saddles, the
main bearings should fit comfortably and stay put. Some builders lubricate the main saddles prior to
bearing installation, which is just wrong. Main and rod bearings need a firm grip at the saddles and
journals. When they don’t have a firm grip, they can wrap themselves around the main and rod
journals, causing extensive damage and engine failure.

There is more to installing main bearings than fitting bearing halves into the saddles. We have
witnessed main and rod-bearing failure for reasons most of us never think about. For example, if a
piece of dirt or grit gets in between the bearing and saddle, it distorts the shape of the bearing,
even when this debris is very small. This distortion causes the bearing surface to rise up against
the crankshaft journal, causing a pressure point and premature bearing and crank wear. The high
spot, that pressure point on the back of the bearing, wears first, wearing down to the copper. Once
wear finds its way into the copper, crankshaft journal wear accelerates. This is why bearings must fit
perfectly in the saddles and rod journals.
Before you lay the crankshaft in place, it’s a good idea to thoroughly wash the crank, including oil
passages, using a rat-tail wire brush. If you’ve already done this – do it again. This dislodges any
stray particles that may have been missed during initial clean up after machine work. Once clean up
is accomplished, we suggest measuring the crank journals one more time to confirm proper bearing
sizing before installation.

When it’s time to lay the crank in place, use an abundance of engine assembly lube on the
bearings. The reason for this is simple: With the best-laid plans, engines sometimes go for months
and even years before they’re installed in a vehicle. Bearings and journals need plenty of
lubrication during “sit” time. And when it’s time to fire the engine, oil system priming is suggested as
a life insurance policy against friction during start-up. We’ll get into that in Chapter 6.

Main cap installation is an area that really mandates your close attention. With the crank in place
and main caps snugged (but not torqued), check crankshaft end-play and side clearances. Main
bearing caps are numbered from the front of the block as #1 through #5. Torque the #3 cap first,
then #2, then #3, then #1, then #5 for best results. Torque the main caps in third or half values.
Don’t torque the main caps all at once to the specified torque. Take it slowly and methodically.
Then, check end-play and side clearances again.
Building in Power
When we’re planning for power, we don’t always stop to consider how power gets wasted in an
engine’s design and construction. Friction is the power pick-pocket hiding in all sorts of places
inside our engines. Most friction occurs at the pistons and rings; some comes from bearings and
journals; and even more is produced between the pistons and piston wrist pins, lifters and bores,
cam lobes and lifters, and rocker-arm fulcrums and valvestems.

During the engine build, our goal needs to be compromise between having tolerances that are too
loose and too tight. Piston-to-cylinder-wall clearances are critical in order to have good cylinder
sealing, without too much friction and drag. The same is true for rod and main bearing clearances.

Another power-waste issue is engine breathing. You want an induction system that helps your
engine breathe well at the RPM range it is designed and built for. This means the appropriate
intake manifold and carburetor. Go too small on carburetor sizing and you restrict breathing. If ports
don’t match in terms of size, you restrict breathing. Opt for cylinder heads where port sizing is too
limited for your displacement and you restrict breathing. One example would be stock 289/302
heads on a 355-ci stroker. This brings compression to mind immediately. Run too much
compression and you kill power (and the engine!) through detonation.
On the exhaust side, you want a scavenging system that makes sense. You don’t have to have
long-tube headers for great breathing. Shorty headers will do the job just as well, and without the
shortcomings of long-tube headers. Go too large on header tube size and you hurt torque. Go too
small and you hurt power on the high end. This is where your exhaust system has to work hand- –in-
hand with the heads, camshaft, and induction system.
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This has been a sample page from

How to Rebuild the Small Block Ford How to Rebuild the Small Block Ford
by George Reid
One of the best reference books available for rebuilding the
Ford 221, 260, 289, 302, Boss 302, 351W, 351C, 351M and 400
Over the years, the small-block Ford has remained one of the most
popular and widely used engines on the planet. From the earliest
Fairlanes and Mustangs to the latest Mustangs and light trucks, the
Ford small-block has powered them all. With the amount of aftermarket
support and rebuildable cores out there, you don’t have to worry about
spending an arm and a leg for a quality rebuild – especially if you do
the teardown and assembly yourself. This all-new color edition of How
to Rebuild the Small-Block Ford guides you step by step through a
rebuild, including: planning your rebuild, disassembly and inspection,
choosing the right parts, machine work, assembling your engine, and
first firing and break-in. The Workbench format also gives you helpful
hints and tips on performance upgrades, including cams, heads,
ignition, induction, and more. It also points out problem areas to watch
for, professional builder tips, jobs that need special care or special
tools, and more. Whether you're a first-time engine builder or a
seasoned professional, this is the essential guide to rebuilding your
small-block Ford.
Chap. 1 - Before You Begin
Chap. 2 - Engine Disassembly
Chap. 3 - Selecting Parts
Chap. 4 - Machine Shop
Chap. 5 - Engine Assembly
Chap. 6 - Break-In Tuning
Chap. 7 - Buyer's Guide
Chap. 8 - Engine Math
This is one of the best reference books available for rebuilding the small
block Ford and something that any enthusiast will love!
How to Rebuild
the Small Block Ford
by George Reid
Condition: NEW
8-1/2 x 11"
144 pages
495 Color Photos

Item: SA102
Price: $
Click here to buy now!

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