All 1964–1974 Pontiac GTOs used some version of what we now refer to as the “traditional” Pontiac V-8. It was produced from 1955 through 1979 and a modified version continued for another two years. By the time the GTO rolled around, the Pontiac V-8 had a decade of improvements under its belt and a special version of the venerable 389 was developed for use specifically in the GTO. It featured cylinder heads from the 421 HO and a special camshaft designed to provide additional top-end power. Both 4-barrel and Tri-Power versions were offered with horsepower ratings of 325 and 348, respectively.
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As the years passed, displacements and horsepower ratings increased the base 389 grew to 400 ci, with new, freer-flowing cylinder heads. Optional round-port heads debuted in the 1968 Ram Air II. A 370-hp Ram Air IV was introduced for the 1969 and 1970 model years. An optional 455-ci engine also entered the line-up in 1970. A low-compression 455 HO replaced the Ram Air IV in 1971 and both the 400 and 455 remained in various versions until 1974 when they were replaced with a new 4-barrel version of the 350, which was used for just one year. It was rated at 200 net horsepower.
Time for a Rebuild?
The engine currently in your GTO may or may not be the original engine that was installed at the factory. Perhaps your car came without an engine altogether. Whatever your situation, this is a great time to build a Pontiac engine. Why? Because you can benefit from a level of aftermarket support for the Pontiac V-8 engine that is truly remarkable. My intention is to outline some ideas for rebuilding your engine to take advantage of this support while still maintaining the spirit of the original.
As street performance engines, Pontiac V-8s were among the best available. They boasted a generous displacement, fantastic low- and mid-range torque, and a responsiveness that left many race-inspired mills at the starting line. For the street racing movement of the 1960s and 1970s, most “competition” was stoplight to stoplight, so a big, torquey V-8 like a 400 or 455 Pontiac with a lot of low-end grunt was the usual winner in a short distance over a more high-strung engine like a Boss 429 or a 426 Hemi. Give either of those engines another block to rev up, and it was a different story.
The Pontiac engines are street-oriented performance engines, while the Boss 429 and 426 Hemi are race-oriented engines used on the street. General Motors left sanctioned racing in 1963, so only street performance could be offered. For that purpose, the Pontiac V-8 fit the bill admirably.
Today, those same characteristics of responsive street performance can be easily integrated into your GTO and substantially upgraded, whether it is for a restoration-style build or something a little hotter. Better bottom-end componentry, freer-breathing heads, computer-designed camshaft profiles, and more efficient exhaust systems can greatly increase power and reliability without disrupting the external appearance of your engine.
Over the past 20 years or so, the popularity of the muscle car movement generated a lot of interest in Pontiac engines. After all, they powered the GTO, the original muscle car. The aftermarket responded, first with intake manifolds, then cylinder heads, then a Pontiac-based race block, then forged-steel stroker kits all amazing developments, considering they are currently supporting an engine family that has been out of OEM production for three decades. In fact, it is now possible to build an entire Pontiac V-8 engine in displacements of 600-or-more cubic inches without using a single original part. This is further proof that while there aren’t any new Pontiacs being made anymore, there is a very strong and loyal fan base, which helps keep interest and values up.
If you are considering an engine rebuild, I assume you are not looking to build a mega-dollar race engine for your Goat. Instead, you probably already have an engine that will be pressed into service for this project, and you are looking for something reliable, powerful, and not straying too far from what the Pontiac engineers envisioned.
What if I told you that your 389 could become a 453, your 400 a 468, or your 455 a 474, all while still looking 100-percent stock and not costing significantly more than a stock rebuild? It is all possible from the magic of a stroker kit. By retaining the standard production Pontiac engine block with nothing more than a standard prep and clean-up overbore, the addition of a new balanced rotating assembly with forged pistons and rods and your choice of a cast or forged 4.25-inch stroke crankshaft, you can reap the benefits of up to a 1/2-inch stroke increase with much more durability than the stock cast pieces.
If you add a set of free flowing heads and a more aggressive camshaft, you could easily put out 525 or more completely streetable horsepower and have an engine that really lives up to the legendary status of the GTO. Several reputable companies can help you find the right combination for your specific block, including Butler Performance and SD Performance.
Throw Out the Stock Pistons and Rods
Even if you aren’t planning on a big jump in displacement, there is no longer any reason to reuse the stock cast connecting rods (PN 541000) in your Pontiac V-8. While they are fine for driving to the grocery store, they should not be considered high-performance items, even though they were installed in all factory GTO engines. Why build in a weak link? By the time you rebuild them and add new bolts, you could buy brand-new forged-steel connecting rods that are light years ahead of the production pieces in terms of strength and overall durability. Yes, you can purchase new forged steel connecting rods for under $300, so why use the stockers?
The same goes with pistons. There are so many good forged pistons now that a stock-style cast piston is not worth bothering with. Prices have dropped over the past several years, while quality and selection have improved.
The truth is, most engines being rebuilt for stock restorations are not stock on the inside and that is a good thing. With inexpensive and, more importantly, superior-quality internal parts being manufactured these days, most purists have come around on aftermarket pieces. If you can build more strength, durability, and reliability into your restorations and save money while doing so, it is foolish to rely on inferior, metal-fatigued originals.
Identifying an Engine
The Pontiac V-8’s high level of interchangeability did wonders to reduce production costs over the years, and it also went a long way to help shade-tree mechanics get their cars back on the road after a major failure. With an afternoon’s worth of work a blown-up 389 could be replaced with a later 350, 400, or 455. This could quickly put an ailing car back in service, but this ease of swapping engines also made for a lot of non-original GTOs. Add to that the fact that many blown-up factory engines were replaced under warranty with service replacement blocks, and finding an original, numbers-matching GTO is not easy. Fortunately for us, this is not a paramount concern but if you are interested in finding out whether the engine sitting between the frame rails of your GTO is the factory-installed original, read on.
Identifying a Pontiac engine is not difficult. What becomes significant to many restorers is whether the original engine is still in the car. How that is determined is by a careful examination of the various codes on the engine’s major castings.
The following is information about the casting numbers of engines originally available in GTOs from 1964–1974. Obviously, Pontiac listed many other codes for other applications, but these are the ones that GTOs originally came with. Also, keep in mind that codes were re-used and could have completely different applications assigned to them. This is why these codes all have to be cross referenced against the date code and the block casting number. Otherwise, you cannot verify the engine’s factory configuration. For example, the code YS could be a base-engine 389 4-barrel used with a 2-speed automatic or a 1970 400 Ram Air III used with a 3-speed automatic.
Block Casting Number
This number is found at the rear of the block. For the 1965 through early 1967 model years, the date code and casting number were both located near the distributor hole. From March 1967 on, the casting number moved to the area between the number-8 cylinder (passenger side) and the transmission/bellhousing mount points. For the purposes of identifying original engines, this book lists the correct block casting numbers for original engine installations for 1964–1974 GTOs. If your casting number does not appear in the list, it is almost certainly not an original engine.
Block Date Code
The date code is represented by a letter, followed by two or three numbers. The letter designates the month of the casting A is January, B is February, etc. The next one or two numbers representthe day of the month. Days before the tenth are usually not given a placeholder zero. The last number represents the year, the year of the casting date, not necessarily the model year. An early 1964 GTO may have a late 1963 build date, and if so, the engine casting date reflects that.
The engine date usually pre-dates the build date of the car (as seen on the cowl tag) by as much as six weeks, though that is certainly not an absolute. In some unusual cases, when bodies were put in storage weeks in advance, the engine casting date could be later than the build date on the cowl tag. Blocks may also tell you whether they were cast during the day or night shift and in some years they also list the hour with a clock cast in.
Block Code and Engine ID Number
Block codes and engine ID numbers are found on a machined pad on the front passenger side of the block, next to the water pump housing, just below the leading edge of the cylinder head. In most cases, the block VIN and the vehicle VIN were the same, but by late 1967, the block VIN was revised. It started out with a 2 (for Pontiac), the last digit of the year, and a letter for the assembly plant followed by the last 6 digits of the vehicle VIN. The block code is a two or three-character stamping that identifies the engine version, the transmission, and sometimes other information, such as air conditioning, California, or high-altitude delivery zone.
Cylinder Head Casting Number
This number is usually a raised cast-in number or alpha-numeric code located on the center exhaust port of the cylinder head. In the 1965 GTO, the code was on the far right exhaust port, viewing the head from the exhaust side. Date codes are also used on cylinder heads and intake manfolds, following the same coding system. This can be helpful determining whether the heads are original to the block.
Other Information Sources
If your engine doesn’t appear on any of these lists, or appears but is in the wrong year, there are other resources that can help you identify them. Wallaceracing.com has a list of engine codes for all years of the Pontiac V-8. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete McCarthy’s fantastic book on Pontiac engines, Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955–79. If you really want to know about the traditional Pontiac V-8 history, this is one-stop shopping. When I was on staff at High Performance Pontiac, my colleague Bart Orlans nicknamed it, “The second book of Pete.”
For updated information on modern assembly techniques and components, Rocky Rotella’s CarTech book, How to Rebuild Pontiac V-8s, is an authoritative guide on the subject.
Choosing a Machine Shop
Selecting a machine shop to handle the preparation of your Pontiac engine is a little easier said than done, though with the addition of some common sense, you will be able to make the right decision. Just because your friend had good luck with a shop that bored out his 350 Chevy, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the shop for you. It also doesn’t necessarily rule it out either.
Word of mouth is, in my estimation, the best way to find a good machine shop in your area. In years past, I have had good luck by going into the pits at a drag strip and talking to Pontiac racers about their engine builds and who did their machine work. Time and time again, I was able to pick out one or two good shops within a 100-mile radius.
Today, finding that sort of information is another reason to be on the Internet. Logging onto the various Pontiac message boards and starting a discussion thread like “Looking for a good Pontiac machine shop in Kansas,” usually gets the names of companies that can do the job. It’s also a good idea to check with Pontiac parts suppliers for their recommendations. Places like Butler Performance or SD Performance also pass along the names of customers in your area who will agree to talk to you for recommendations. This is also one of the great things about the Pontiac hobby that you will come to appreciate the people are great, and most are more than happy to help out a fellow Pontiac enthusiast and/or owner.
Once a shop has been chosen, be sure to talk to them in detail about what you want done and what you do not want. Have them walk you through the entire process you are paying for from beginning to end. The idea is to avoid any surprises, such as decking the engine and having all of the factory-stamped information obliterated. If that happens, the block ID that makes your car a numbers-matching example has been ruined and the car is worth dramatically less. Will they be hot-tanking the engine? How many steps does a clean-up overbore entail? How are valve jobs done? Will they be installing hardened valve seats? Will the combustion chambers be cc’d?
Once the ground rules have been laid down and a price is agreed upon, be sure to photograph every marking on every piece that you are sending off to be machined. It wouldn’t hurt to mark your pieces on a non-visible and unmachined area and let them know that you did so. Show them the marks so they can keep track of your items.
Repair or Replace?
Just as with the rest of the car, once an engine is apart, some surprises can pop up, even in a running engine. When parts are Magnafluxed, sonic-tested, and pressure-checked, problems can arise. Remember, you are dealing with castings and rotating assemblies that were built during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Many components and problems could have occurred over the ensuing years. Maybe it was that overheating back in 1981 or that time it was over-revved in a street race in 1986 that did it in. In any event, the decision has to be made repair or replace?
If you do happen to have an original, numbers-matching GTO, there is no doubt your overall investment is enhanced by keeping it that way. If that means locating a correct, dated-coded cylinder head to replace the cracked original or tracking down previous owners to see if they still have the original carb, then take the time to do so. You might be surprised with what you find.
There are also enthusiasts who pull out and store the original driveline, then build replacements so they can race the car without worry of risking damage to the original engine. Most competitions, such as the annual Muscle Car Shootout in Stanton, Michigan, or the Factory Appearing Street Tire (F.A.S.T.) Series, do not require an original powerplant. F.A.S.T. allows for a whole host of modifications, while the Muscle Car Shootout requires the cars to be stock and correct. Either way, it is an option that not all builders fully explore.
If the original engine is gone, you actually don’t have the burden of keeping it numbers-matching and you can then explore other avenues. There is one point I want to make perfectly clear: Locating a replacement engine does not require it to be an original GTO engine. For example, let’s say your original YS-coded engine is long gone from your 1966 GTO. You can get almost the same exact engine in a much less expensive YE- or YF-coded 389 4-barrel out of a 1966 full-size car.
What are the differences beyond the codes and casting numbers? A slightly milder 066 cam instead of the 067, and 1/4 point of compression, the total of which is 10 hp and 2 ft-lbs of torque less a power level easily recaptured in a performance rebuild and a whole lot more, if you plan ahead.
If you aren’t concerned with the fact that a sharp-eyed Pontiac fan might notice that your cylinder heads say “092” instead of “093,” it is a much more cost-effective way to go. Where a rebuildable, correctly coded engine for a GTO can run in excess of $3,500, a similar engine from a full-size car may be in the $500 to $750 range. Whether the additional cost of a correct engine is worth it is up to the person footing the bill, and that is you. I’m of the opinion that if you build the car the way you want, you will want to keep it. If you build it “for the next guy,” he is the one who will ultimately get the car.
Detailing the Engine
Once the engine is back together, it’s time to paint and detail it to give it an authentic, correct appearance. In addition to the paint, other areas to pay attention to are fasteners, wiring, and hoses.
Ideally, the engine should be painted in the same manner as the rest of the car in a paint booth using a quality paint gun, proper, and safe equipment. If that is not possible, you can still get very professional-looking results with spray cans. After all, they are simply very compact, one-time use, compressor sprayers. But you need to be sure that the surface of the engine is clean, free of grease, and properly prepared. Make sure your painting area does not have contaminants and air flowing through it, which means do not paint your engine in the driveway.
Whether using a spray can or a spray booth, the secret to satisfactory results is the preparation of the surfaces. Every little sanding scratch or bit of oil will show up when painted over.
Surface preparation is fairly simple, but time-consuming. If you want it to look right, take the time it deserves. If your engine was at a machine shop, it was likely hot-tanked, but still requires chemical degreasing and a thorough rinsing. After that, a primer coat will indicate any imperfections that need addressing. Remove all rust before any degreasing takes place.
One area of Pontiac engines that requires a different approach than other V-8 engines is the exhaust port area of the cylinder heads. This area burns off paint very quickly. The reason is because the port has a 135-degree turn, which puts an immense amount of heat just before the port’s exit point right where the casting code is. At car shows you see that area almost always has the paint burned off and rust is starting to form.
Although it seems like nothing really stops the problem dead in its tracks, many restorers and engine builders have had good luck with priming those areas with several coats of VHT header paint. The rough-cast finish of the exhaust port and the flat finish of the paint work provide a good base for top-coat adherence. If you are using a spray gun, look for a high-temperature version of the correct-year engine paint for your Pontiac engine. A product like Bill Hirsch Engine Enamel does a good job.
If you find that your exhaust ports are still starting to discolor after a few weeks of driving, make a template to mask off the surrounding areas of your engine and touch them up. It generally needs to be done once or twice each season. It is just one of the little idiosyncrasies of owning a Pontiac.
For exhaust manifolds, use Eastwood’s Factory Gray Hi-Temp Coating. It does a great job of replicating the color of bare cast iron without the threat of rusting like a bare metal piece inevitably does. Interestingly enough, the manifolds don’t get as hot as the exhaust port, so this paint holds up fine.
Other Eastwood paints do a great job of replicating bare cast finishes. If you want to retain that fresh-cast look on aluminum and other surfaces, check out its detailing paints.
Fasteners, Wiring and Hoses
Once again, the automotive aftermarket has come to the rescue with many items that have long since been depleted from dealer inventories. Even more importantly, wearable items, such as hoses and belts, should be replaced with newly manufactured items. The reasoning is this: even if you could find one, do you want a 40-year-old radiator hose on your car? Do you want fuel lines not resistant to today’s gasolines, which contain at least 10-percent ethanol? How about old plug wires arcing between each other? No, no, and no.
With companies like Ames Performance Engineering, Original Parts Group, Year One, and Performance Years taking the time and money to invest in the manufacture of quality reproduction hoses, correct clamps, distributor caps, engine wiring harnesses, wire loom separators, plug wires, Ram Air pan gaskets, and other related items, it has become customary in the last decade or so to refrain from seeking out original pieces. Instead, restorers grab the latest GTO restoration catalogs to see who has what and who has the best deals.
Again, the Pontiac message boards are great places to see what supplier pieces are better than others and which ones come from the same supplier. You’d be surprised by how much of it is the same.
Engine Disassembly and Inspection
Step-1: Remove Carb and Valve Covers
You don’t know what lurks inside a Pontiac V-8 until you disassemble it and thoroughly inspect all of the components. A crucial part of inspection is not only identifying obvious and not-so-obvious damage, but also determining which component problems, parts failures, and assembly issues caused the problems in the first place. If you don’t identify and remedy the core problem that initiated or created the failure in the first place, when you rebuild the engine the core problem will still exist and the engine could likely fail again. There’s nothing more demoralizing than tearing down the entire long block, performing a diligent rebuild, only for the engine to grenade again. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-2: Inspect Cylinder Bores and Block
The cylinder bore wear can be seen from both ends but you can see if there are cracks at the bottom of the bores. Also, keep in mind that the number-4 main cap holds the thrust bearing and this is the journal that takes the most abuse. Pay particular attention to this area and look for visible cracks. There may be some that you cannot see but if they can be seen, you likely have a block that is not usable. If it passes a visual inspection, you may still want to have it Magnafluxed to detect other cracks. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance.)
Step-3: Inspect Lifter Valley and Block
Pontiac blocks have an inherent weakness in the lifter bore area. It is largely open and there is not a lot of metal, so if there is excessive spring pressure and/or cam lift, cracks may appear or a lifter bore can break. Extreme high-horsepower cases have seen blocks split down the middle, but it is a rarity with street engines. A worthwhile upgrade for a performance rebuild is an SD Performance Mega Brace, which supports the lifter bores and greatly increases the strength of the block. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance.)
Step-4: Inspect Cylinder Walls
With any engine that has seen high-mileage and hard use, the cylinder walls show wear and sometimes scoring. This particular block shows extreme scoring and needs an overbore. Feel for a notch or a ridge around the circumference of the top of the bore. One typically develops after many miles and/ or hard use. If one has developed, the block needs to be overbored. Any visual damage also requires an overbore.
Use a telescoping micrometer to take precise measurements at the top middle and bottom of the bore. Compare these measurements to the stock specs to determine the amount of overbore required.
A .030-inch boring procedure usually cleans up any cylinder wall damage and allows enough material for a future rebuild. Even so, you need to determine the size of overbore before you order pistons, as another pass on the boring bar may result in pistons too small for your build.
Step-5: Measure Engine Block
This cylinder wall has been deeply scored, which necessitates an engine overbore. Use a telescoping micrometer to measure the bore size at the top, bottom, and middle. If the block wall is too thin and it’s been overbored to .060 inch, have it sleeved or replace the block. You can go with an OEM unit or an aftermarket block that supports much more horsepower than stock. But of course, then the engine is not factory correct and the engine package is worth far less.
Step-6: Inspect Engine Internals
This engine has suffered severe engine damage. The entire main bearing is nearly worn away, and when it wore it sent metal throughout the entire engine that damaged the bearings, the connecting rods, crankshaft, and cylinder walls. Main bearings should never look like this, and if they do, expect to see damage throughout the entire engine.
Step-7: Inspect Crankshaft Journal
Crankshaft journal damage is ugly, and this crankshaft may need to be replaced. Use a caliper micrometer to measure the journals near the fillets and also in the center of the journals to determine any variance or unusual wear pattern. The crankshaft main journal spec for a Pontiac V-8 is 3.00 or 3.25 inches. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-8: Inspect Crankshaft Journal
Another view of this deeply scored crankshaft journal. Pontiac V-8 rod journal diameters measure 2.249 to 2.500 inches. These oil feed holes supply lubri¬cation to the main bearings.
Step-9: Inspect Crankshaft Journal
Metal from the main cap bearings have embedded in the crankshaft journals. Note that the oil holes in the crankshaft journal have been slightly chamfered. The crankshaft journals have suffered enormous damage and must be turned down. Oversized bearings must be fitted to the crankshaft. Crankshaft runout must be measured as well.
Step-10: Inspect Connecting Rod Bearing Caps
The connecting rod bearing caps are severly worn and remind me of the damage caused from debris that’s sucked into the engine. On the other hand, if the connecting rod bearings are copper in color, that means the engine has probably suffered detonation. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-11: Inspect Connecting Rods
The connecting rods have suffered significant wear during their service inside the engine. The original I-beam rod can now be stress relieved and shot peened, but the surface area has suffered extreme wear and must be overbored. In addition, it requires larger rod bearings to accommodate the increased size. Any time you’re rebuilding an engine you should invest the money and replace the stock rods with stronger forged rods. Rods are under enormous stress and heat cycling changes the metallurgy of the rods over time and weakens them. Most stock cast rods in a stock engine can last well over 100,000 miles, but if you’re rebuilding an engine, buy new rods according to your performance goals. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-12: Inspect Main Bearing Caps
The damage to this main bearing cap is plainly evident and deep scratches indicate that debris or other material circulated through the engine and damaged the bearings. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-13: Inspect Main Bearing Caps
After removing the main bearing caps, inspect the main bearings. As you can see, these bearings are heavily worn and must be replaced. The heavy grooves indicate that contamination at some point crept into the engine and caused this damage, or at some point there was oil starvation and the friction between the crank and the main bearings wore them out. Whenever you rebuild an engine, install new main bearing caps. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-14: Inspect Bearings
The cam bearings on this engine also need to be replaced. This operation should be performed by your machine shop, as it will ensure they are square to the block, which is essential to proper camshaft break-in and longevity. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-1: Install Main Bearing Caps
The Pontiac V-8 main bearing caps and connecting rods have been installed. This particular block has two-bolt main bearing caps. In three steps, torque the rear main bearing cap using a 15/16-inch socket. For the rear main bearing cap, torque to 40, 80, and then 120 ft-lbs. The rest of the main bearing caps are torqued to 80 ft-lbs in three steps. Once the main bearing caps have been torqued in place, verify that the crankshaft turns freely and there are no impediments. Turn the crankshaft over and feel for any restrictions. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-2: Select Rods and Pistons
When rebuilding a Pontiac V-8, you can opt for the OEM cast pistons and I-beam rods. However, if you’re horsepower target is significantly above stock, you need some high-performance engine internals, and those include forged H-beam rods and forged pistons. This piston-and-rod assembly can cope with up to 700 hp.
Step-3: Inspect Piston
In preparation for installing the pistons in the block, you need to complete the piston and rod assemblies. Use a piston ring tool to install the three piston rings. Once the rings are installed, install the wrist pin and connecting rod to the piston. The pressed pin is stock type and the floating wrist pin uses a bronze bushing. Be sure that correct clearance is achieved for the particular type of wrist pin, which means carefully measuring the small end of the rod and the pin itself. The pistons and connecting rods must match the requirements of the particular rebuild. Therefore, the rod length and big-end diameter must match the crank journal measurements. The piston must have the correct clearance to the valves. If the piston comes in contact with the valves, catastrophic engine damage will occur.
Step-4: Torque Connecting Rod Bolts
The piston-and-rod assemblies have been installed through the bores. And the connecting rod caps and nuts have been installed, so at this stage, it’s time to correctly torque the rod nuts to the appropriate torque spec. First, check with the rod manufacturer for the correct torque spec. The OEM and ARP fastener torque specs are often different and incompatible, so if you use the wrong torque spec, you may strip the fasteners. The factory torque spec for connecting rods is 43 ft-lbs. Use a 9/16-inch socket on a click-type torque wrench and torque the nuts to 15, 30, and finally 43 ft-lbs for the OEM nuts.
Step-5: Measure Piston-to-Valve Clearance
Once the pistons have been installed, you need to measure piston-to-valve clearance. Install the dial indicator and then rotate piston number-1 to TDC. At TDC, the dial indicator should measure no less than .080 inch for intake valves and .100 inch for exhausts. If the measurement is less than this, the crowns of the pistons may come in contact with the valves, and catastrophic engine failure can occur. Another way to take this measurement is by using modeling clay. Put the clay between the piston and the valve, rotate the engine, and then measure the depressed clay. Typically, using a stock-lift cam does not have an issue. If you are using an aftermarket cam profile, check with the manufacturer for recommendations on this critical clearance measurement. (Photo Courtesy Thomas A. DeMauro)
Step-6: Install Dipstick Tube and Oil Pickup
Once the connecting rods have been properly installed, install the lower dipstick tube. Insert the tube into the intermediate tube in the block. It is held in place with the windage tray. After coating the threads with thread-lock adhesive, use a 1/2-inch socket to torque the windage tray bolts to 15 ft-lbs. At this stage you also need to install the oil pump. Place the pickup tube in a freezer overnight so it contracts. When it is cold enough, it slips inside the oil pump body. Use a 3/4-inch open-end wrench and a hammer to insert the tube into the oil pump body. Then slot the oil pump shaft into the oil pump drive in the block. Two bolts fasten the oil pump to the block; torque them to 30 ft-lbs. (Photo Courtesy Thomas A. DeMauro)
Step-7: Prep Heads for Installation
Prepare the Edelbrock D port head for installation. (Photo Courtesy Thomas A. DeMauro)
Step-8: Torque Head Bolts
Smoothly and evenly apply force when torquing down the head. A jerking motion can cause inaccurate readings. The torque wrench will click when the proper amount of force is applied. (Photo Courtesy Rocky Rotella)
Step-9: Install Manifold and Carb
Once the heads and valvetrain have been installed, you can install the valley pan and intake manifold. Place the intake manifold gasket over the studs and into position. Place a pinch of gasket sealer on each side to hold it in the desired centered position, so it doesn’t move around. Lower the manifold into its correct position. By hand, thread all the manifold bolts until they are properly seated. Install the timing covers next and torque these bolts to 15 ft-lbs. Using an alternating torque pattern, tighten the manifold bolts to 40 ft-lbs. Then, place the carb gasket on the intake manifold. Slide the carb over the four manifold studs, and then torque the carb mounting nuts to 5 ft-lbs. (Photo Courtesy Thomas A. DeMauro)
Step-10: Install Distributor
Unless you’re restoring a 100-point concours car, you should install an HEI or similar distributor. A modern electronic distributor gives you far stronger and more consistent spark, and it doesn’t wear over time and require adjustment like a points-type distributor. The distributor gear needs to be compatible with the cam, and many distributors require a different gear for a roller camshaft. On the compression stroke, place the number-1 piston at TDC. Align the distributor’s rotor tip with the cylinder number-1 terminal. Make sure the distributor is sitting flush against the block and rotate the distributor to the right for the first time to run the engine. Then fasten the hold-down clamp with the appropriate socket. With a counterclockwise pattern, install the cap and route the plug wires to the correct cylinders in a 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2 arrangement. (Photo Courtesy Thomas A. DeMauro)
Step-11: Inspect Valvetrain
As you peer into the lifter valley, you can see the newly installed lifters and pushrods riding on the cam. Be sure to apply a good coat of the recommended break-in lube on the camshaft and lifters because you do not want the cam to prematurely wear on first start up of the engine. Submerge the lifters and rocker arms in 30W engine oil so these parts are thoroughly lubricated and prepared for operation. Flat-tappet cams require coating the face of the lifters and the lifter faces are definitely coated in this photo. The lifters should easily slide and move up and down in the bores. If there is any restriction or slop in the lifter bores, the lifter bores must be resurfaced. In addition, the pushrods should simply slide down through the heads and rest squarely on the lifters. There should be no impediments or restrictions, and the pushrods should match up with the stock stamped rocker arms. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)
Step-12: Perform Final Procedures
The engine is near final assembly. A number of procedures must be done before it is completed, such as installing the carb linkages, belts, valve covers, and fuel pump. A factory-correct restoration includes using the correct factory paint, and this V-8 is adorned with Light Blue Metallic. No matter what engine paint is required for your particular Pontiac V-8, be sure that it’s an accurate representation of the original paint. Do your research, look at message boards, talk to professional restorers, and best of all get recommendations from judges and club members so you use the best quality and most accurate paint available. If you get the paint wrong and you plan on entering the car in car shows, it will be judged harshly for this particular drawback. (Photo Courtesy Butler Performance)