Big Block Chevys and Don

I have another savior now. Cousin Don. He doesn’t replace the “other” one. Don is an addition because he knows everything there is to know gasoline burning engines. I’ve known this for a long time, but it was brought home to me again, today, when I called to talk about my over-developed truck.

It’s a 1968 C-20 that’s the home for a 1973 Corvette 454 engine that’s been bored over to 462 and develops around 500 hp. That’s a BBC, and a lot of ooomph for an old truck. One of these days I’m going to get the body fixed up and make it pretty enough for Diane to ride in. Right now she shudders at the thought. So, I use it to haul trash to the dump once in a while. Seems like a waste of a classic vehicle, doesn’t it? I agree. Until last week I didn’t have sufficient motivation to get beyond considering that truck anything beyond a “future project”. It ran, and that was good. I left it ugly so no one would mess with it. So far, no one has.

Now, about last week … before we went camping at Big Eddy, I decided to investigate why it was sounding like a John Deere tractor. BBCs aren’t supposed to sound like that. Part of the problem, I knew, was the broken exhaust headers, and the forever loose connection between them and the exhaust pipes. It’s really loud and smelly. So, I went about the task of replacing the plugs, wires, rotor, distributor cap, and points.

Before I began, I made sure that I understood the firing order (18436572), and where on the distributer cap #1 was. All of that was really fine information that I extracted from the internet. I checked it twice. Too bad I didn’t check the old distributor to see which little connector had #1 because my engine was one plug off of normal. That’s what prompted the call to Don. Trying to start the engine in that situation resulted in some window rattling backfires that caused Diane to come running, more than once, to make sure I was OK.

Don said, right off the bat, the plug wires are in the wrong position. Now, I KNEW they were in the correct positions because the internet told me so. Therein lies the rub … “position” to Don doesn’t have the same meaning as it does for me. For me it was “sequence”. I didn’t get it until he showed up to resolve this communication issue.

As a test, he made me remove the #1 plug so he could check the gap setting. Since I had just installed them without checking, I was a little worried he would punish me, but he deemed them to be good. During this evolution I learned that spark plugs should be torqued to 10 lbs, which isn’t much more than finger tight.

Next we set about the task of finding the rotor position when the #1 piston was in the TDC position. That’s Top Dead Center for you rookies. I actually already knew that one, but didn’t let on. We did this by aligning the timing marks on the fly wheel and the little gizmo that marks degrees to the left and right that’s connect to the engine block. So, when the engine turns, each time the marks align, #1 should fire.

We checked the position of the distributor rotor and discovered that it was pointing to a position somewhere between the 7 and 2 positions in the firing order. To compensate, we moved all the plug wires one connection counterclockwise, then loosened the distributor and moved it the rest of the way to line it up with #1. Don used a hammer for the critical portion of the alignment then had me start it up. It fired and ran! I would have never figured that out in a million years. The only way that could have happened is by removing the distributor from the engine, and putting it back in a couple of teeth off. Hmmmmm. But it ran!

Now all I have to do it get a timing light and adjust the distributor as Don instructed me and it will run perfect. Now I have motivation.

Acting on that motivation, I visited a mechanic to find out if he had access to BBC exhaust manifolds. He did, but the left and right were in two different locations. So, I checked eBay and found a complete set, brand new, free shipping, for less than the other two which would have required me to drive to two remote locations to retrieve. eBay delivers to the house. How convenient. They will be here by the end of the week.

Before they arrive, I’ll have that thing running like a top. A really noisy top. I think I’ll also replace the current tires with something a little less stressful to the exhaust system. About 15 years ago I put the biggest tires I could find on the rims I had. They’re so big that I cannot turn the steering wheel all the way, either direction, without the tires rubbing on the exhaust. They are the cause of my exhaust issues, something I’ve known for a long time. Now it’s time for normal tires, some body work, and a paint job.

Here’s what it looked like the last time it snowed …

I used this picture because it’s starting to get hot outside and thought maybe it would cool a few of you off. Maybe not.

The body is in pretty good shape – only one little dent neat the drivers headlight. Insignificant. A pittance in the scheme of things. Bondo will fix that post haste. Now I need to go to work to figure out what all I need to make it worthy of Diane’s presence in the passenger seat. It’s going to take some serious work, but I actually think I’m up to making it all happen. This will be a big surprise to Diane because I haven’t told her. I know she’ll read this, so the secret is out of the bag, but I know she’ll be pleased. We may have to defer some trips to pay for all the repairs, and paint, but that’s the way the old cookie crumbles. What’s a lost trip compared to having possession of a primo 1968 C-20? I suspect I’ll be finding out.

Wish me luck on that.