The Rebuild Story


Today my "new" engine arrived, a 1989 Tuned Port Fuel injected 305 from a Camaro. The weekend before I was in Timaru and saw Fraser Christie and he talked me into buying one of his used engines. How could I say no? It was cheaper than a used engine from a shop, and incidentally, it was the engine that went with the 700-R4 transmission that I bought from Fraser a few years earlier.

I could see however there would be a lot of work ahead of me especially since this was my first rebuild, not to mention an injected one. Over the next few months I studied the engine and began taking it apart, labelling everything as I went.


Dropped off the heads to Cylinder Head Specialists for a working over. This will include crack testing, porting, larger 1.94" intake valves being installed and better springs. To be able to run 91 octane fuel (due to high fuel prices), it was determined that the block be decked 0.018" in order to achieve the correct compression ratio. This took into account the dished pistons being 9cc, the chamber in the heads being 60cc and the head gasket of 7cc (0.040"), totalling 76cc. Adding in the cylinder size makes for a total of 624cc so technically after all this, I'll actually have a 4.992L engine!

My custom camshaft from Laser cams that I had ordered from the USA had arrived yesterday so that was perfect timing.


Somewhere around this time I took the engine block and crank to Christchurch Engine Reconditioners. Their job was to crack test the block, hot tank it, deck the block 0.018", install new camshaft bearings and cap, install frost plugs at the rear of the block, and install oil gallery plugs. The crank was polished.


Today I picked up the heads, block and crank. It all looks fantastic and now I'm looking forward to getting other parts together and finally get this engine back together.


Took the crank back to have 0.010" removed due to abrassions on the journals. I also took the pistons so that they could be cleaned and I asked that they supply me with cap bolts and new connecting rod bolts and nuts. I should have also taken my push rods in for cleaning, but I guess I'll do that next week.


I picked up the ground crank, cleaned pistons and new bearings and bolts. The piston rings hadn't arrived yet but they should on Monday. When I get the rings I will take my oil pump in for them to inspect to determine if I should bother getting a new one. The connecting rods have ARP bolts and nuts installed and these by themselves seemed pricey. My next buy will probably be timing gears and a new chain.


My piston rings had arrived so I went to the engine conditioners and got them. Rodd also checked out my oil pump and said the pump was in great condition and will give many more years service. He gave it a thorough clean for me too. He said I should bring the rear main seal in to him so he could check that out also.

On the way back to work I dropped in at American Auto parts and bought a roller timing chain and gears. Hopefully this coming weekend I'll be able to begin assembling the engine.


Today Graham came round and brougt his tools and we started assembling the engine.

We got the crank installed and measured a bearing clearance of 0.020" with 0.004" crank end float. The crank spun freely which is always a good start. After that we checked the piston ring gap which did vary depending on where in the bore the ring actually was, but ended up being 0.0020" at the top.


The rod side clearance was measured at 0.011" and the camshaft thrust was 0.008" when measured with a feeler gauge, and was 0.003" with a DTI. I picked up the timing cover, oil filter fitting, and camshaft cap from the engine reconditioners after they'd cleaned them. I trial fitted the camshaft gear and found it to be too thick for the timing cover and so I will need a deeper cover.


Got another timing cover which didn't fit either, but I discovered it was the camshaft pin. After knocking it in my original cover fits. Then I checked the distributor and it appeared badly corroded under the cap, but this cleaned up very nicely.


I went to Graham's place to pick up his ring compressor to finish installing the pistons and a piece of pipe to install the lower timing sprocket.

After that I went to American Auto and returned the aluminium cover, and instead bought a chrome timing cover. In addition I bought gaskets for the sump, heads, one piece rear seal and other miscellaneous gaskets like the water neck, mechanical fuel pump plate, distributor etc, and three ARP bolts for the upper timing sprocket.

Installing the timing sprockets was quite easy, and I used red Loc-tite with the new bolts.


Nothing much happened today, I installed the frost plugs and that was it.


Alan came round to help me degree the cam. Despite having had the procedure explained to me a few times by different people and have now even seen it done, how to do the process still hasn't sunk in. Still, it's done now with the cam intake lobe centerline at 108 degrees, as per the cam specifications list.

After that I installed the oil pump and installed the one piece seal in the aluminium cover. If I get time tomorrow I'll install the one piece seal to the block.


In addition to going to USA day, I installed the oil pump and then test fitted the heads and the manafold and tested the play on the oil pump drive shaft, which was 0.015" when measured with the DTI.

Then I went and bought two cans of etch primer, two cans of black enamel paint for the block, and a can of evaporating degreaser. With this stuff you spray it on, it does its work and then dries without needing to hose the residue off. I sprayed CRC on the block after using the degreaser to prevent rust forming and I wiped off the excess.

Then I got various parts together for cleaning. Small parts I put in a bucket of liquid degreaser, but brackets etc I will take to get sand blasted for painting.


Masked up the engine and applied one layer of etch primer.


Dropped off water pump, engine mounts and a bracket for sand blasting.


Installed one piece rear main seal and finished painting block.


Picked up the sand blasted parts and began priming them.


Finished painting water pump and engine mounts.


Earlier in the day I took the manafold, runners, plenum, thermostat water neck and throttle body to Alan to get polished and powder coated.


Picked up the polished parts from Burnham and then went and bought more primer from Mitre 10. I then prepared and primed the sump, sump rails and fuel block off plate.


The weather was great the last few days for painting, and today I was able to finish painting the sump, sump rails and fuel block off plate, the latter of which I also installed.


I bought some ARP head studs and sump bolts from American Auto and installed the sump after work. It's starting to look like an engine!


I bought 6 new grade 9 bolts for the engine mounts. I wanted black bolts to match everything else but they only came in a gold colour for grade 9. I thought about painting them but I couldn't be bothered and I just installed them. They won't really be noticeable when the engine is in the car anyhow.


I got the heads painted today, thankfully the weather was good and due to an early start this morning I got them finished from naked iron all the way to the final coat.

I test installed the head studs but discovered there was one missing. I returned the kit to American Auto but they didn't have another stud kit in stock. I was given the phone number of a guy who worked there and I was to call him tomorrow as he might have a stud I could have.


I called up about the stud, but he didn't have one. So I'll return the kit to American Auto and they'll get me another kit.

I went to Alan's and we played about with his Camaro and got it running a little better. He modified my oil filter fitting to remove the bypass. I installed this to the block and took off the pully on my alternator to prepare it for polishing and an electrical test.


Took the alternator to Riccarton Auto Electric for testing and sadly to say it didn't work. I'm not sure if I'll rebuild it yet, I may be able to get another one from a good source.

American Auto found me a second hand ARP head stud so now I can finally get the heads on.


Tonight I got most of the lifters rebuilt. Some of them were difficult to pull apart giving me quite sore hands, even after soaking them in engine degreaser for a while. I doubt I'll get the others done tomorrow, but there's always Saturday. The lifters I did clean tonight are currently bathing in oil.


Fortunately I was wrong about not having enough time to finish the other lifters as I got them completed. For a while I was wondering how long it would take because I had lost two sirclips, but they proved not as hard to find in the garage as I thought.


This morning I cleaned the keepers that keep the lifters in their bores. After that Alan came round and helped me install the head studs, heads, lifters, keepers, and the spider that holds the lifters in place. I felt like we got a lot done in no time at all.


I picked up the alternator and power steering pump bracket today from the metal polisher. Over a week late but not to worry. I took it to the power steering shop and I was so happy when they said they could put the pump back together today since it was their last day of work before the Christmas holidays.

The pump was all back together in the bracket by the afternoon and it looks so beautiful! All I need now as far as that bracket goes is a functional alternator.


Today I got back my intake manafold and rocker covers from being powder coated. Man they look good! I'm very pleased with them. I cleaned the manafold torque screws and installed the water pump and the power steering pump with bracket.


This morning I water blasted the rocker covers to get the excess powder off from the powder coating process. Alan came round and helped me set the rockers. Then we installed the damper and the intake manafold. It's starting to look more and more like an engine.


Over the Christmas and New Year period I polished and painted the fuel rails, bought a 100psi fuel pressure gauge, adapted it to the schrader valve and painted it an aluminium colour. Then I polished up the coolant sensors and installed them in the heads and the manafold, and later installed the EGR valve and new gasket.


I took my water pump off the engine and took it to Alan's. He was selling his engine from his Camaro and I'd noticed his water pump had a a bung in it, presumably for connecting to a heater. This I needed for being able to run the heater in my car, so I was grateful to Alan when he said we could swap.


Nothing has been happening recently as I've been away on holiday in Japan. However while there, on this day, I placed an order with Speedtronics for a PROMinator Pro. This will allow me to do real time programming of the ECM with the engine running. I will be able to have multiple programs for the engine such as performance, economy and valet modes. The PROMinator will allow me to do this much faster than playing with EPROM erasers, programmers and a UV light box.


The day before I arrived back from Japan a letter had arrived from Customs informing me that my parts from Parts from Pace Performance Parts arrived. I'd spent over NZ$400 which means I needed to pay duty before the parts would be sent to me.


Dropped off injectors for cleaning. Yesterday I phoned a couple of places to get prices for injector cleaning and decided to take them to Columbus Car Clinic. On arrival I was told that they didn't do that anymore as that side of the business had been sold, and they gave me the phone number of a guy to call. After making contact I dropped off the injectors at his house.


Picked up cleaned and tested injectors. One is a tad rich, another a tad lean, but none leaked and all had an "average" spray pattern. On the way back to work I bought a new crank bolt as my existing one had bad threads. That night I borrowed Andrew's tap and die set so I could retap the crank thread.

Here are the injector flow rates at 3 bar pressure.

Injector #1270120
Injector #2272122
Injector #3272122
Injector #4270120
Injector #5277122
Injector #6272120
Injector #7272120
Injector #8268118


Took fuel rail to be ultrasonically cleaned to a Blind Cleaning service as there was a slight build up of surface rust.


I picked up the fuel rail from the Blind man, stripped off the old paint and primed them.


Finished painting and polishing the fuel rail and reinstalled the fuel pressure gauge with Loc-tite.


Dropped off TPI aluminium parts to polishers for repolishing and took the alternator to Riccarton Auto Electric for disasembly so it could be polished. Then I bought 4 O rings for the fuel rails. In the evening I installed the fuel rail and then Graham and I use the tap and die set to do the crank bolt hole and because of powder coating filling up the threads, the thermostat, front fuel rail and TPI runner bolt holes were also tapped out.

The big job of the evening however was removing an oil gallery bung just above where the oil filter screws onto. This bung was installed in error by the engine reconditioners as I hadn't told them not to put a bung there. This location is for the oil pressure switch. In the event of engine failure or something this switch will turn off the fuel pump.


To my pleasant surprise, today my PROMinator arrived! All the circuitry looks tiny and I'm quite looking forward to getting it installed when I'm ready to do the wiring.


I installed the water pump pulley and crank pulley. I used a little Loc-tite on each of the fasteners for the crank pulley and torqued them to specification.


I got a call from Riccarton Auto Electric to tell me that my alternator had been pulled apart, ready for polishing. I also finished tapping out the remaining bolt holes on the manafold.


I took the TPI harness to the auto electricians for them to replace the fuseable links. As my alternator had now been taken apart I took the alternator casing to the metal polishers. On arrival I was told all my other parts were polished and they certainly looked great, except the throttle body still needed some work. I'll pick up everything from the polishers when it's all ready.


The alternator case had been polished so I took that to the auto electrician so they could begin rebuilding the alternator.


I phoned up several places wanting to know if they stocked torque bolts as used with the plenum. The only place that did was in the north island at a place called Speciality Cars. They also had the gaskets I was needing for the throttle body. During my conversation with them I was informed that going the MAF route was not a good idea and I should be using MAP for a variety of reasons. I sort of didn't need to know that, after having come this far and having spent money on a PROMinator for a MAF system. I will continue with the MAF setup for now for this reason and will consider converting to MAP if I have a MAF failure or something. Also, because MAF is more forgiving and adapting on a "bad" tune etc, it's easier for me to learn with compared to MAP.

Good news was that all the polishing had been completed and it looked very nice! I got the runners, plenum and manafold absolute temperature sensor (MAT) installed and discovered that I hadn't misplaced any bolts for the plenum, or the TPI cover plate. I just need mini torque screws for the IAC valve section and gaskets and then I can install the throttle body to the plenum.


This morning I installed the thermostat. It took two trips to Mitre 10 to get the correct bolts and even then I had to hacksaw them short in order to fit. Aside from that, piece of cake.


I phoned Speciality Cars and confirmed that I wanted the upper and lower throttle body gaskets and torque screws for the IAC cover. I paid for it via direct banking so I expect this will arrive later in the week.


My alternator was rebuilt so I picked it up at the end of the day and installed it on the alternator/power steering pump bracket. All it needs is an adjuster bracket so I can get the tension of the serpentine belt correct.


The fusible links had been replaced so I picked this up from Riccarton Auto Electric. I installed the tubing for the EGR valve and throttle body along with the short wires for the MAT sensor. I hope my throttle body gaskets arrive tomorrow so I can install it.


The gaskets arrived and they would have got here sooner if the supplier had spelt my street name correctly. Not to worry. I got the throttle body assembled after a trip to Andrew's place because I needed a 32mm socket in order to torque the IAC valve. I couldn't be bothered waiting a few days to get hold of such a socket so it was indeed a special trip to the other side of town. But it's done and it looks great. Just need to do the TPI top cover plate now.


I prepared and painted the brackets that attach the coil to the engine, two brackets for the coil, and one that bolts to the intake manafold. I also painted the coil's coil. To get ready for my second attempt at painting the throttle body cover plate I dunked it in a jar of degreaser for a while.


Installed the coil bracket under the manafold bolts and installed the coil to its bracket. Then I polished the words "Tuned Port Injection" on the throttle body cover plate and covered the words with canola oil to protect them from the painting process. I got two coats of primer on and the oil trick seems to have done the job.

I had installed the PROMinator to the ECM's board a few weeks back but the case couldn't be screwed together because of the connectors interfering. So to fix that I used a hacksaw and a die grinder to cut away aluminium from the edge of the case and the PROM lid to allow everything to fit together.


Got the painting of the throttle body plate finished. After the paint had well and truly dried I scraped the lettering and thanks to the oil the paint more or less fell off. It looks beautiful!


As part of my wee obsession with clean parts, I decided to get some new torx screws for the throttle body plate. Although they weren't exactly the same as the factory originals, they did have the benefit of being free. A good price I thought.


I felt like I made a good bit of progress today. I reattached the air neck and MAF and the engine's original harness to all the sensors. Then using a diagram I found on the internet and a digital multimeter with an audio continuity tester, I identified and labelled all of the engine's wires where they would go through the fender.


Today I went to Hurst Auto Dismantlers and bought an alternator adjuster bracket off a Nissan engine. I'm anticipating that the serpentine belt I'll have to use on the engine won't be the exact length so the adjuster will take out the slack. However in doing a trial fit with the adjuster and the 1.3m belt I got from Alan it was clear that I needed a much shorter belt.


I called Butlers Automart to see what size belts they had. In both 5 rib varieties they had 1.195m and 1.205m so I bought them both hoping that one would fit and I'd return the belt I didn't use. As soon as I got home I tried both belts and the 1.195m belt fitted perfectly. I won't need the adjuster at all now. My only concern is whether or not the water pump has enough drive from the belt to work effectively. I guess I'll find out when I start the engine.


After brushing aside a little nervousness, I went down to Dick Smith and bought some heat shrink tubing and began splicing the two ECM harnesses together. I was worried about whether or not I was actually ready to do this or not, but I decided I should just get stuck into it.

I joined the wires by stripping a little insulation off each one, tinning them, slipping a bit of heat shrink tubing on, and then soldered the wires together. After putting the tubing in place and heating it with a lighter to make it shrivel, I did a resistance check between the appropriate terminal on the ECM plug and the engine plug it went to. All connections gave a 0.3 ohm reading, which matched the DMM's own internal resistance reading.


I completed the ECM wiring with about 5 wires left over. Some of these I won't be needing for my install, but I've yet to decide what to do about the two fuel control wires and the transmission clutch lockup. In 1987 these wires got routed through connector C207 but in 1989 they went through the firewall connector, C100. I'm not sure which route I should make the wires run, the C207 method or the C100 method.

Both will require a bit of effort in rewiring, which is fine, but I'm more concerned about which route is the better one, if either. Then there's the wiring of the wipers to worry about.


I worked a little more on the harness and figured out what to do with 3 of the wires. One of these was the transmission clutch control (TCC) and I decided to route this via C207 instead of C100 as it was originally on the 1989 harness.

The reason for this is that it's easier to route wiring on the engine harness while it's out of the car. Had I gone with the original wiring via C100, it would have meant getting well in behind the dashboard in my car to wire up the socket side of C100. Since getting into the dashboard would be awkward I decided to make things easier on myself and send wires via C207 where possible.


The two remaining wires on the harness were for the fuel pump, one of the wires went to the ALDL connector and the other went to the ECM to control turning on and off the pump. I decided also to route these wires via C207 rather than going through the firewall connector C100.


Sometime last year I got hold of a in-car wiring harness from Fraser. With this harness I should be able to wire it so as to simulate the inside of a car, complete with fuse block, ignition swtich, C100 socket connector, and C207 etc. At first glance the harness didn't seem to be out of a Firebird or Camaro that I could tell, but it was a very late 80s GM vehicle. That much was for sure because of the presence of VATS and style of fuse block.

After spending all of today with the harness, audio continuity tester, and various wiring diagrams, I had identified and labelled all the wires and plugs I needed to hook up the engine via C100, C207 and C235 (a small plug to house the injector and cooling fan wires). I'd been very particular with getting everything right that I felt 100% confident that this would work first time. Only tomorrow will tell.


Before I powered this up I went out and bought a 12V bulb to act as a SES light (Service Engine Soon), and some battery terminals. I installed the bulb to the dashboard connector between the SES wire and ground. Then I connected the battery but left the ECM unplugged and also didn't have the ignition switched on. I checked voltages in a few places, including the fuse block and everything that should have power, did, and vice versa.

With everything looking good so far I went a step further and turned on the ignition. Due to not actually having an ignition switch I used an alternative high tech soluton - a paperclip! I used this to bridge two female connectors on the ignition switch plug, one being a power feed from the battery via the starter motor and C100, and the other fed the gauges, ECM, and injector fuses on the fuse block. Checking again, power was now available at these locations leaving one more real test and that was with the ECM in place.

I decided to remove the PROMinator from the ECM just in case I'd wired something wrong. I plugged the ECM in and reconnected the battery again. Immediately I jumped as I got a fright from the fuel pump priming itself for two seconds, as instructed by the ECM. This was a good sign.

I decided to put the ECM into service mode by jumping pins A and B of the ALDL connector. Unfortunately the 12V bulb didn't flash but I knew it was in service mode because the IAC was buzzing away. After a little investigation I learned that the ECM controls a ground for SES, not 12V as first thought. This meant that I just needed to connect the bulb between the SES wire and a power source. Not a problem, I chose the gauges pink/black wire that ran from the fuse block to the dashboard connector and that worked nicely. As expected, the computer indicated no fault codes.

Now for the big one, enter the PROMinator. I reinstalled it into the ECM and powered it up. Everything worked just as before, and the LED segment displayed 0 to indicate the initial program. I connected an old laptop to the PROMinator via a parallel cable, fired up TunerPro RT and using a binary I'd modified from a 1989 Corvette I sent a program to the PROMinator with success.

Now to sort out a filtered fuel supply, exhaust, oil and filter, HT leads, spark plugs, distributor timing and I can start this bad boy up.


Today I got parts necessary to make up a fuel line for the engine. I needed a couple of female fittings to screw into the line just beside the alternator, fuel filter, and fittings to connect to the fuel lines that go to the pump. All these I got from Super Cheap Auto and Hydralink.


I assembled the fuel line and tested the pressure by applying power. The ECM primed the fuel pump for two seconds as it should but pressure didn't come up, yet nothing was leaking. I shorted the fuel pump relay to apply power to the pump only and pressure did come up to but it took a few seconds. On removing power the pressure dropped back to 0psi within a second or two. This didn't seem normal to me so I figured I'd investigate it further later on.

Also, Graham came round today and helped me transfer the engine from the engine stand down into a cradle. In the cradle I would start the engine.


To help with filtration of oil I bought a couple of powerful magnets (called Filtermag) to attach to the oil filter and transmission pan. The idea with these is that small metal particles that the oil filter cannot trap is kept inside the filter by the magnet, rather than be constantly circulated through the engine. I also bought a set of NGK spark plugs and two oil filters, one for the running in of the engine and the other for afterwards.

Lastly, I took off the plenum to take apart the fuel pressure regulator to see if I had made a mistake with something. I didn't see anything out of place so I gave it a wipe with a clean rag and reassembled it. This must've done the job because when I primed the fuel lines again pressure shot immediately up to 42psi. When I turned off the pump the pressure took 10 seconds to drop to 35psi and then took 5 minutes to drop to 18psi. A vast improvement over before so I considered it fixed.


The last purchase until it came time to start the engine. This was a set of Accel HT leads. I had to buy black coloured leads as these were the only ones in stock with a right angle spark plug boot on them. All I had to do now was make the leads up to fit on the engine.


The big day had arrived where the engine was started for the first time. This needed a bit of work and I was grateful to my friend Andrew for coming round and spending some hours helping me out.

HT leads were made up, manafolds bolted on, Y pipe installed, engine set to 0 degrees and distributor installed, filled with water, ECM program set to use 24lb injectors etc etc. On 0 degrees base timing the engine ran but ran better when it was advanced to a bit over 6 degrees.

Due to only having manafolds and Y pipe it was really, really loud. Andrew noted that the engine did seem a bit rough even with such a short exhaust and didn't rev as good as it probably should. Oil pressure however was very good.


Yesterday I'd had forgotten to install the new plugs so I put the new ones in. Then I connected a vacuum gauge to rear of plenum and started the engine. The vacuum at an idle of around 1000RPM jumped around violently between only 5-10 inches. At 2800RPM vacuum came up to 15 inches approximately but bounced around by 3 inches approximately. At 5000RPM I didn't really take notice of the vacuum but the oil pressure was 60psi as it had been the previous day. I tested the resistance of the HT leads and all of them gave good readings, the highest being 10k6 ohms.


I suspected that compression could be a problem so I borrowed a compression tester from Andrew and made myself a proper starter switch. When I initially started the engine I was shorting a screwdriver across the starter solenoid.


The moment I got home from work I plug in my starter switch and did a compression test. The results were not good...
CylinderCompression (psi)

I hit the phone and called Andrew to tell him the discovery. He suggested backing off the rocker nuts two turns to see what that did to the compression. In doing so, the compression shot up to 180psi. This meant that for some reason the valves weren't seating. I relashed all the cylinders and ended up getting the same compression numbers again. We thought because of this that possibly the reused lifters were failing.


I posted my findings on thirdgen and everyone was saying to relash the valves, saying I'd done it wrong. I called Dave at Cylinder Head Specialists and he pretty much said the same thing.

So when I got home I adjusted the rockers so that I got 150psi out of each cylinder. This required backing the rocker nuts off somewhere between a quarter to one and a half turns. When the weekend comes it'll be time to start the engine again and see how it performs.


I still couldn't get the engine running right. From having all cylinders at 150psi the engine started running rich and the EGR diagnostic switch also failed, throwing a code in the ECM.

Alan came and sorted out the engine. We took the rockers off and he backed off all the rockers so that they were at minimal clearance. We started the engine with the rockers off and Alan listened to what was happening. He noticed a puffing sound and identified it as coming from cylinder 2. This was the valves failing to close. He backed it off further until it went away. As a result oil shot up all the push rods and the engine sounded quieter than before, pulling a steady 20 inches of vacuum at about 1000RPM. When the engine is in the car we can set the rockers then.

With the rocker covers back on I decided to have a little play with the engine. Although it has no load on it, I gave the throttle a quick flick and it revved very, very quickly to 4000RPM, and shot blue flame out the Y pipe when I took my hand off the throttle. Oh yeah baby, this is gonna be a cool engine when it's installed!

Only downside now is that the engine has developed a hunting idle where it searches for an idle between 800-1100RPM. This can be caused by a variety of things, most of which relate to my engine being out of the car. However watching the fluctuating fuel pressure at idle, I'm betting that that's my problem.


I haven't done much with the engine for over a month. However over the last week and a bit I have made good progress.

In preparation for the install I put in the TPI fuel lines. Unfortunately I made a dog's breakfast of the flare nuts that screw into the fuel filter in unscrewing them, rounding off the hex shape more or less completely.

I considered getting new fuel lines made up as I believed this would be cheaper than having them ultrasonically cleaned. But I had trouble finding anyone who could make the same flare that was on the original fuel line so that a good seal could be made on the fuel filter and flexible hoses that attach to the lines in the engine bay. Because of this I changed my mind and thought to get the lines ultrasonically cleaned and was able to get the flare nuts redressed.

Contrary to what I thought, having the lines cleaned didn't cost much at all, a mere $20. Then I made them look pretty by painting the lines and installed them the following day. This turned out to be a real pain to do! What made it difficult I believe was because my car is right hand drive and the bottom of the air conditioning accumulator which would normally be on the other side of the car interferred with the path of the lines. To get around this I had to bend the lines appropriately. A bit ugly I thought and I ended up scratching the new paint but I couldn't really do much about it.

The installation of the lines required the transmission crossmember to be removed which was fine, but putting the crossmember back on wasn't so easy. The bolts holding the crossmember in place were nothing but coach bolts! Because of this I managed to strip the threads with little effort. I promptly replaced these with high tensile bolts and torqued them to 40ft/pds.


Yesterday and today I made some good progress with the fuel system.

First off I took out the fuel tank since it was near empty and removed the carb fuel sender and installed the fuel injection sender with a new rubber gasket. I used to think that there were no baffles at all in these tanks, but I could plainly see a baffle in there. But given how much the fuel gauge needle can move around I'd say that the baffles aren't in the right place or it's just a side effect of the method of measuring the fuel level.

Although I'm not actually using the electric fuel pump to fuel the carb, I thought up a good way to draw fuel from the tank. Because the return line on the sender goes down as far as the bottom of the pump, I used this as the feed line and used the breather line (used by the charcoal cannister usually) as the return line. The actual feed line and air-in lines were left unconnected so these could act as breathers. When it comes to fueling the new engine I can change these connections around to how they should be with ease.

I'd just like to say at this point that reinstalling the tank was the most difficult job I've ever done on the car. So difficult in fact that you could hear me in complete frustration utter the occassional bad word. Before I ran out of daylight I reassembled the tank, panhard bar and rear shocks. The rest I did the next day.

Then I made a hole behind the rear seat so I could install the fuel pump control harness. I did this with an electric drill, hacksaw blade, rivots, and a rivot gun. This was pretty easy to do but I didn't get it finished. The connector between the tank and harness is in place just like a factory unit but I haven't wired it into the car yet. This means my fuel gauge isn't working at the moment. I hope to finish this off next weekend.


To say that I haven't made an update in a while would be an understatement, don't you think? What can I say, I've been busy. and last year I disappeared overseas so I haven't really had a chance to write the rest of the rebuild story. But the engine is "finished" and installed and I have been enjoying driving it a lot. However it wasn't without major headaches and I'll get to that. You've waited this long for an update so another paragraph or two isn't going to make much difference to anything.

Contrary to what I thought, I still couldn't get the engine running right. No matter what I did the vacuum seemed really low and would bounce around a bit, so it wouldn't idle right. Everyone had their opinion as to why. But it was suggested to install the engine and adjust the lash on the rockers then, since the engine would behave differently with a load on it. So, I roped together some mates who helped me one day in the weekend to take out the old engine. First time I've ever done anything of the kind so it was quite an experience. It's one of those things that always takes longer to do than you anticipate!

After the engine was out I set to work preparing the engine bay. This consisted of painting the firewall to freshen up the paint, wire in the harness for the heater and paint the headers. The header painting was interesting because it wasn't summer anymore and I used high temperature paint because I didn't want it flaking off as soon as they got hot. So, one header at a time, I hung them up in the garage and used my 500W halogen lamp to warm them up a little. Then I applied two primer coats of high temp paint, then two top coats and they came up really good.

The following weekend a mate helped me install the new engine with the headers. It was easier the second time round since we were familiar with what had to be done, but I did need to remove the upper plenum and runners to avoid damaging them with the chain from the engine crane. Now with the engine and headers in, big work and long hours began...

I really wanted to get everything done and out the way so I took almost a week off work and everyday worked all day and into the small hours of the morning. I had studied wiring diagrams from the internet and also the factory manual for my car and I felt very confident about making the necessary changes on my stock internal wiring to integrate the TPI system. I was very meticulous about everything - perfect solder joins et all, and taking care to run wiring in existing wiring looms where possible to keep things tidy - to keep a factory kind of look.

With that all done it was time to start the engine again, and even after relashing the rockers it still did NOT run right! Being an injected engine it was more complex than a regular carb engine, so the fault could be many things. To make it worse, it was now back firing through the intake from time to time! A substantial amount of time was spent trying this and that and it came to be that the lifters were suspect since I had reused the old ones instead of buying new. So, I got new lifters, took the top of the engine off again and installed those. Initial testing with the engine apart indicated it might be the solution so I put it all back together again.

Did it fix the problem? Don't be silly!

The custom camshaft has .487" lift, plus the 1.5 ratio rockers on top of that. I wondered if with this lift, perhaps the slots in the factory rockers were not long enough causing valves to not seat properly thus causing the back firing in the intake. So I scored a set of roller tip, long slot Comp Cam rockers, and installed those. These were a true 1.5 ratio, not the 1.4 or thereabouts of the factory rockers. Did that help? NO! It made the problem even worse!

By now, as you can imagine, I really was not happy at all. It was beginning to make me feel depressed because I couldn't understand why it wasn't working despite being careful and researching answers to things without just blindly throwing money at the problem.

Then a mate who came over and helped me noticed that one of the rockers went loose after it had been lashed and suspected the camshaft. To confirm this, he suggested putting paper tape around the crankshaft with 1 degree markings on it. Then, take the suspect rocker off and set up a DTI on the pushrod of the same cylinder. Starting from 0 degrees, turn the crankshaft 1 degree at a time for two revolutions (4 stroke engine don't forget!), and record the number on the DTI. This number would be the amount of lift the camshaft provided at different positions of the crank. Did doing this help? Yes! Finally yes!

I plotted a graph of camshaft lift vs crankshaft degrees and it showed run out in the base circle of the cam. I took the engine apart again (getting really good at it by now!), and removed the camshaft and took it to Cylinder Head Specialists to find out if the camshaft was bent or not. Indeed it was! This meant that I hadn't done anything wrong at all! Franklin Cam Services in Auckland straightened the camshaft and sent it back to me in real quick fashion.

I had learnt by now that nothing about this engine was going to be straight forward, yet I still managed to be surprised when I broke off the head of one of the small bolts that hold the camshaft thrust plate on! Argh! So I eventually got that out, installed two new bolts and got everything back together again.

When the engine roared to life I was so happy! Using the PROMinator, I set a rev limit to 4500RPM and went and did some some break-in driving. Over a few days I set the rev limiter higher, finally deciding on 5700RPM. The roller tip rockers help there. I also changed parameters for when the transmission lock up converter kicks in plus one or two other things.

How does the engine go? Like a wounded bull! Based on drag racing times, my car now outruns a stock 350TPI and gets a reliable 25MPG. Now I just have to study hard to work out how to make it even more efficient, and I honestly do believe that can be done. Naturally this is one of those projects that never end.

From here on in, TPI related changes can be found in the maintenance and mods section.