Back in the days of eight-track...
Back in the days of eight-track tapes and The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, a friend of Rob's, former Source Interlink Publisher Bruce Jones (on right) "donated" the 327 that became available when he was building a new powerplant for his "slingshot" dragster.
Back in the June '08 issue, we reported the story of Rob Sutter's long-dormant '59 and the efforts of his business partner and Rob's wife to secretly replace the way-too-radical drag race engine in the car while Rob wasn't looking.
The story is reminiscent of a popular TV series, beginning with the car being spirited away from under Rob's nose for an engine transplant, courtesy of friend and business partner Bob Yeoman. Seems Bob owed Rob big-time for volunteer work on a restomod '55 Chevy that was ultimately sold to help fund the company that Bob and Rob started together.
While the project escalated well beyond a simple engine transplant (no surprise here), Bob's original idea was to spring for installation of a crate engine in Rob's '59 so it would be fun and easy to drive. And while the project took on a life of its own, resulting in wholesale brake, steering, suspension, and other improvements, the genesis of the project was installation of a crate engine, and here's how it went.
The engine was way too radical...
The engine was way too radical to use on the street, but it was available and the price was right, so Rob seized the opportunity and dropped the engine into the newly refurbished chassis of his basket-case '59. Don't you just love the snow tire on the R/F?
All dressed up with original-type...
All dressed up with original-type cast iron intake and exhaust manifolds, period-correct WCFB carburetor, and original-looking air cleaner, valve covers, and ignition shielding, the ex-dragster engine hid the secrets of compression and cam lift that were totally unsuitable for regular street use, even though it looked quite docile. Hard starting, poor (or no) idle quality, and unhappy performance under about 4,000 rpm made this engine, and therefore car, unpleasant to drive and, as a result, it saw little use for several decades, racking up less than 1,500 miles in 30 years!
Let's see: Looking for a strong, relia-ble powerplant that will bolt right in to the '59, be dead reliable, and have enough ponies to push you back in the seat without having to search for race gas or fuel additives. Where to look? How 'bout on the GM Performance Parts website? Lo and behold, the obvious choice leaps off the screen-their 350ci, 290hp pre-emissions long block. With peak horsepower at 5,100 rpm, 326 lb-ft of torque at a street-friendly 3,750 rpm, and a compression ratio of 8.5:1 that's perfectly happy without the need for premium fuel, it was perfect for the job. Here are the specs:
GM Performance Parts PN 12499529
Horsepower: 290 @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 326 lb-ft @ 3,750
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Block: Cast iron, four-bolt mains
Heads: Cast iron, 76cc combustion chambers
Valves (I/E): 1.94"/1.50"
Camshaft Lift (I/E): 0.450"/0.460"
The powdered metal connecting rods offer strength and durability, hydraulic lifters provide quiet, maintenance-free operation, and the heads feature a conventional 12-bolt intake manifold bolt pattern to accommodate the most popular small-block carburetor and manifold combinations.
Transplant duties went to Gardner's Automotive, in nearby Easton, Penn-sylvania, which has done a great deal of Corvette work over the years. Staffed by founder Gary Gardner, his son Craig, and grandson Kyle, the three generations of Gardners have the experience with, and love for, Corvettes of all kinds.
| DIFFICULTY INDEX ::: NNN |
|ANYONE'S PROJECT | no tools required || N |
|BEGINNER | basic tools || NN |
|EXPERIENCED | special tools || NNN |
|ACCOMPLISHED | special tools and outside help || NNNN |
|PROFESSIONALS ONLY | send this work out || NNNNN |
GM Performance Parts 350/290 hp pre-emissions crate engine
Edelbrock No. 1406 - 600 cfm with electric choke
Brass Radiator PN 241001
Tune in next time when we'll cover the front-end upgrade, including coilover IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, and disc-brake conversion.
Partner Bob spirited the car...
Partner Bob spirited the car out from under Rob's nose and had it flat-bedded to Gardner's Automotive in nearby Easton, Pennsylvania, for transplant duties. With lots of experience with C1, C2, and C3 Corvettes, the Gardner guys knew just what to do, all with the care and attention to detail worthy of this soon-to-be-special '59. Three generations of Gardners, including third-generation Kyle-a 16-year-old aspiring race-car driver and very capable mechanic in his own right-handled the engine-swap duties.
Ever so carefully, out came...
Ever so carefully, out came the drag-race motor, which may well find its way into Kyle's next race car. Fortunately, the interchangeability of SBC engine parts and accessories made for a straightforward swap.