By John Gunnell
Classic car restoration work can generally be divided into three main areas of repairs: mechanical, body and interior. As you carry out a restoration, you take care of each of these systems and you wind up with a car that looks like new again. Dealing with the car's engine is a big part of mechanical restoration.
While some experts say that the cosmetic aspects of a restoration — the bodywork and upholstery — are the most difficult phases of a restoration, there is nothing easy about dealing with your car's engine
Most true classic car restorers are interested in rebuilding a car's original engine or finding an exact, period-correct replacement. Usually, the home restorer will "yank" the engine out of a car, disassemble it, take it to a machine shop for machining, find or order new parts, install the new parts after the machine shop is done, put the rebuilt engine back in the car and test and tune its operation.
Although you can mail-order high-performance "crate" engines for American cars, there aren't many catalogs for complete, original MG TF 1250 engines like the one that mechanic Vince Sauberlich is seen tuning up here.
There aren't many mail-order sources of authentic older engines, although there have been some companies that catalog Model T and Model A Ford engines and several shops offer mail order rebuilds of British sports car engines.
Promar Precision Engines, based in Paterson, New Jersey noted a nationwide resurgence of classic car restorations and started a program designed to meet the demand. The company sent representatives to car shows to promote the idea it could rebuild classic car engines shipped to it. Promar was already a remanufacturing company serving customers worldwide with a complete line of rebuilt and remanufactured engines, cylinder heads, crankshafts, engine restoration services and components. It tried to create a "mail order" business in doing older engines shipped to its New Jersey location.
Promar still offers the highly specialized service, but is not giving Classic Car Engine Rebuilding Services the same promotional push they got nine years ago. Shipping engines is expensive and that is a big reason that most hobbyists wind up yanking their engine and relying on local machine shops and rebuilders.
Taking an engine out of a car and stripping it down requires 5-8 hours. Typical shop rates would be $250-$400 for this job. Most "general contractors" can do this work themselves if they have an engine hoist.
Removing an engine is a job most hobby restorers can do. It takes at least four to six hours strip accessories like the carburetor, generator, starter and fuel pump off an engine, carefully detach its electrical connections and plumbing, remove all fasteners that bolt it in the chassis and lift the engine safely out of a vehicle with a hoist. At a $75 an hour, shops will charge $300-$450 to do this job and the same to put the engine back again. It is a job anyone can do and doing it yourself will save you up to $900 on your total engine overhaul.
Ted Sjveda of Monaco Vintage Motors in Manawa, Wis., gets a rare 2.5-liter Hemi V-8 ready for extraction from a 1960 Daimler SP250. Ted is using an engine balancer that Eastwood sells to ease the job of lifting.
You'll remove the car's hood and any sheet metal that's in the way of the engine coming out. Then disconnect the wires, cables, fluid lines and linkages that go from car to engine. Your car's factory shop manual will list all steps to take an engine out. Follow the instructions in the manual carefully. As you work, take lots of digital photos and keep a book handy to jot down notes. Have zip-up food storage bags, index cards and a pen nearby. Each time you remove a part toss it in a bag, write a description of the part on the index card and put the card in the bag with the parts. If you think it will help, make sketches of how parts go.
After removal of many accessories, electrical connections, plumbing and engine to chassis mounts, the 2.5-liter Daimler Hemi V-8 was finally lifted out of the car so the transmission can be removed for mounting in a stand.
As you move along, more and more parts will come off and the remaining parts will get easier to see. Eventually, you'll see how the engine mountings work and figure out how to remove them. At this point, you can move in with your engine hoist and lift the power plant out of the chassis. Some engines have lifting attachments to hook a hoist to, but often you'll have to put a sling around the block to lift it. Chains can cut into fresh engine paint, so think about a rope sling.
This MGB engine was torn down and rebuilt by enthusiasts from the Fox Cities British Car Club as a group project to help a fellow club member. The lucky lady who owned the car got a rebuilt motor for the price of the parts.
With the engine out, the restorer must decide who'll tear it down. This is a job requiring skill and experience. It is easy to break things like head bolts and manifold studs. If you have done the job before, you shouldn't have a problem, if it's your first time, get help. Special tools and equipment will be needed, starting with a stand to mount the engine on. If you take the engine to a professional rebuilder, they may be willing to do the teardown along with everything else. Cost wise, you are better off doing as much as you can yourself. A friend had a GTO engine done by a top shop and it lasted only a few months before he had to redo it himself. You'll get better results if you learn to do it and roll your sleeves up.
After the engine is torn down, take the pieces to the machine shop. Discuss what you need. They will know what's best. Do not cut any corners. For an obsolete motor, the shop may need help finding parts. The engine will be at the machine shop awhile, but you can keep very busy painting parts like the intake and exhaust manifolds, timing cover, air cleaner and valve cover(s) that didn't go to the machine shop. I like to rebuild everything while the engine is apart, so I send the carburetor(s), fuel pump, water pump and distributor out to specialists to be rebuilt. If it is going to be necessary to rebuild the instruments, I consider this part of the engine job. When the engine is done, you will need to have it hooked up to properly functioning gauges to test it.
This METS (Mobile Engine Test Station) was purchased from Northern Tool. It includes a full set of gauges so rebuilt engines can be test run and tuned up in it. Other companies like Eastwood have since started handling this product.
What about "crate" engines? According to The New York Times (October 25, 2006) high-performance replacement engines for cars — known as "crate engines" — have become important revenue generators for American automakers. In his article, "Instant Horsepower In A Box, Delivered Straight to Your Hot Rod," Joe Siano showed that sales are growing steadily. Crate engines are used in "restoring" modified muscle cars and in building turnkey hot rods.
Siano said Chrysler sold $2 million worth of crate engines in 2004, $4.5 million in 2005 and $5 million in 2006. Automakers sell crate engines priced from $1,400 up to about $17,000. A hot rodder interviewed for the article said he purchased a 435-hp GM crate engine with a two-year warranty for $4,500 — about half what it would cost him to rebuild an old performance V-8.
Gale Banks Engineering is a well-known supplier of high-performance "crate" engines. These brand new motors are largely used to build hot rods and Resto-Mods. Car builders like the fact they come with a guarantee.
Classic car restorers who use crate engines feel they improve old cars and increase their values, too. With their reliability and warranties, crate engines have helped create a new type of vehicle called a "Resto-Mod" ï¿½ a car with mostly original appearance features that has some styling and many technological updates. Crate engines are also used in so-called "clone" cars. Craig Jackson, of Barrett-Jackson, said that crate-engined cars have brought over $200,000 at Scottsdale. Crate engines look great and can help create a very reliable car build. However, none are completely authentic as far as factory correctness goes.
Here is a list of sources of help for rebuilding vintage classic car engines and engine accessories.
A & C Casting Rebuilders (casting repairs)
3560 Big Valley Rd., Unit A
Kelseyville, CA 95451
Toll free: 866-935-3227
Advanced Engine Rebuilding (engine rebuilding)
176 Main St.
Wareham, MA 02571
Benchwick Carburetor, Inc. (carburetor rebuilding)
2747 Glenwood Ave.
Youngstown, OH 44511
Casting Salvage Technologies (casting repairs)
Toll free: 800-833-8814
CCS (carburetor rebuilding)
1020-A Princess St.
Wilmington, NC 28401
Toll free: 800-792-2077
Classic Carburetors (carburetor rebuilding)
3116 East Shea Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85028
Dale Manufacturing (harmonic balancer rebuilding)
3425 Fairhaven Ave. NE
Salem, OR 97301
Damper Doctor (harmonic balancer rebuilding)
1055 Parkview Ave.
Redding, CAS 96001
Diesel Machine Service, Inc. (Machining)
9795 Lincoln St.
Amherst, WI 54406
Toll free: 800-236-3674
J & M Machine (engine rebuilding)
40 Mt. Vickery Rd.
Southborough, MA 01772
Joe Curto, Inc. (SU carburetor specialist)
22-09 126th St.
College Point, NY 11356
Daytona Cams (cam grinding)
Toll free: 800-505-2267
Daytona Parts Co. (Carburetor rebuilding)
1191 Turnbull Bay Rd.
New Symrna Beach, FL 32168
Delta Camshaft (cam grinding)
19838 Tacoma Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Toll free: 800-562-5500
Effingham Regrinding, Inc. (rebabbitting)
Egge Machine Company (engine rebuilding)
11707 Slauson Avenue
Santa Fe Springs , CA 90670
Toll free: 866-534-EGGE
Engines by Schmitts
554 E. Butler Ave.
Doylestown, PA 18901
Jon W. Gateman & Son (casting repairs)
PO Box 413
Beatty, NV 89003
Harkin Machine Shop (rebabbitting/rebuilding)
903 43rd Street N.E.
Watertown, SD 57201
Hedworth Carburetors (custom rebuilding)
707 S. Missouri St.
Macon, MO 63552
Kar-Go Carburetors, Inc. (Carburetor rebuilding)
30952 Ford Road
Garden City, MI 48135
Larry Isgro (Carburetor rebuilding)
1604 Argyle Rd
Wantaugh, NY 11795
Lawson Carburetor (carburetor rebuilding)
1109 N. Dort Hwy
Flint, MI 48506
Marx Parts (head gaskets, ignition)
7323 County Trunk N
Arpin, WI 54410
Ohio Pattern Co. (casting repairs)
Precision Carburetor (Carburetor rebuilding)
287A Skidmores Rd.
Deer Park, NY 11729
Promar Precision Engine Rebuilders, Inc. (engine rebuilding)
10 Peach Street,
Paterson New Jersey 07503
Toll free: 800-422-6022
Rick's Carburetor Repair
135 Blissville Rd.
PO Box 46
Hydeville, VT 06750
The Babbitt Pot (babbitting)
1693 State Rt. 14
Fort Edward, NY 12828
J & A Engines/Machine (engines and water pump rebuilding)
Toll free: 888-334-5811
Jim Taylor (SU carburetor and fuel pump rebuilding)
1222 Harned Dr.
Bartlesville, OK 74006
Terrill Machine, Inc. (fuel pump rebuilding)
1000 CR 454
DeLeon, TX 76444
Van Hook Vintage, LLC (SU and Weber carburetor rebuilding)
Vintage Engine Machine Works (engine rebuilding)
5959 N. Government Way
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815
West Amity Machine Shop (engine rebuilding)
61 Toledio St.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Wyoming Carburetor Technology (carburetor rebuilding)
Ace Alternator (starter and alternator rebuilding)
Phone: 239-821-6548 or 316-529-8854
Advance Distributors (distributor rebuilding-British cars a specialty)
1149 Quincy Street
Shakopee, MN 55379
Phone: 612-804 5543
British Car Part Restoration (SU electric fuel pump rebuilding)
E. Lawrie Rhoads
7 Knollwood Rd.
Medfield, MA 02052
Fondy Auto Electric (electrical part rebuilding)
765 Sullivan Drive
Fond du Lac, WI 54935
Toll Free: 800-236-2701
Burton R. Norton (distributor rebuilding)
0-1845 West Leonard
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Philbin Rebuilt Products (distributor rebuilding; electric motor rebuilding)
28 N. Russell St.
Portland, OR 97227
Precision Power, Inc. (starter and generator rebuilding)
630 Park Pl.
Lansing, MI 48912
Toll free: 800-794-5962
Bob Soucy Performance Automotive Ignition (distributor rebuilding)
Toll free: 800-556-1365
Wilton Auto Electric LLC (British car electrical restoration)
10 Stoney Brook Dr.
Wilton, NH 03086-5151