June 11, 2003

Step By Step

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Last month we assembled the 302 short-block using Summit Racing's Engine Rebuild kit. This month Bob Oster of B&B Performance Machine completed the job and we dropped the engine back in the car.
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Oster installed the oil pump driveshaft, which is driven by the distributor. We used a hardened shaft from Ford Racing (PN M-6605-B302) rather than a stock 5.0 shaft. Priced around $20, the hardened shaft is cheap insurance and should be used in any high-performance application.
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The oil pump was fitted, but not installed permanently at this time. After making sure it would clear the Canton main girdle, Oster removed the unit and disassembled it so he could inspect the pump and make sure no foreign matter was inside.
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The pump was clean so he squirted in some assembly lube and then bolted it back to the engine along with the Canton windage tray and the Canton pick-up tube.
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The oil pan was test fitted to make certain that the pick-up was between 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch away from the bottom of the pan. If the pick-up is more than 3/8-inch from bottom of the pan the result may be oil starvation. The pick-up was right on so the pan was blown clean with compressed air and bolted down.

They called it Poopy, they really did, those foul-mouthed editors down the hall. They said my project car didn't have chance at becoming a hot-to-trot 5-liter with a lion's heart beating beneath. But Poopy, which I prefer to call Project Hot Handler, wouldn't be denied an opportunity at MM&FF project car stardom.

I'll admit, when I first purchased the '87 5.0 it was in sad shape. But I had a plan. The 165,000-mile LX begged for new paint and we gave it to her. It cried for an interior rebop, and we upgraded the office with a new rug, much nicer seats and we painted the plastic interior panels, too. As for the suspension, it was so old that the car wiggled and wallowed in the turns, so we ripped out the old springs, shocks and struts and bolted in a complete HP Motorsports suspension package. And when the engine bearings showed signs of weakness, well, we changed them too.

Today, I'm glad to announce that after a brief vacation, our little Mustang is back in action and making great power. Most importantly, I can proudly proclaim she is Poopy no more!

Hot Handler, as we'll call the trusty LX from this point on (Yo, you hear that Hedenburg, Baur and Campy?) was the beneficiary of a rebuilt 302 that we've been assembling in the past two issues and now she makes a great noise. As you can see, we've completed stage three of the engine buildup and then installed and tested the Mustang before the deadline. And while we haven't tuned the engine for optimum power (yet), we did break in the mill and make a few pulls just to baseline the 302.

With all the bolts tight and the wiring hooked up, we turned the key and the 302 came to life. Glenn Knell of Crazy Horse Racing set the base timing (with the spout connector removed) to 14 degrees BTDC and then we set the idle to 850 rpm. Idle quality is often a concern with modified EEC-equipped engines so we took precaution and cleaned the caked-in carbon out of the IAC (idle air control) motor and we connected all the necessary vacuum lines, replacing the ones that were in bad shape.

The only problem we encountered was a bad ground from the battery to the engine block because of the freshly painted block. Once we scraped away some of the paint the battery grounded properly.

Next, we let the engine get up to temperature and poured in the correct amount of coolant. Within a few minutes the coolant temp stabilized and Knell set the fuel pressure to 42 psi with the vacuum line removed from the regulator. All systems were go, so we drove the LX directly to the dyno and strapped it down. Before making any pulls I ran the car on the rollers to get the transmission and rearend fluid up to operating temperature. This is important, especially on cold days. Then I shut down the engine so it could cool down to about 125 degrees.

When the 302 was cooled off Chris Winter took over and made three pulls. On the first pull he only ran the engine up to 4,000 rpm. Knell and I looked on, watching for smoke and leaks, and listening for any off sounds. Winter also listened on and paid close attention to the air/fuel meter on the screen. Everything look good so he cut it at 4,000, reset the dyno and let it rip. Hot Handler cranked out 274 hp and 314 lb-ft of torque. The air/fuel meter read 12.3:1 for most of the pull (about a full point rich), so I decided the one change I would make was to knock out some fuel pressure.

I didn't have a gauge hooked up anymore, so I backed off the regulator by 3/4 of a turn, just to play it safe. And on the very next pull the 302 made 286 hp at 5,400 rpm and 319.9 lb-ft of torque from 3,600-4,500 rpm. With tuning we hope to close in the 300-rwhp mark and we expect to gain a little torque as well.

Judging by the dyno sheet, I think we accomplished our goal of building a budget-minded engine that's emission-legal, idles well and has lots of low- and mid-range get up and go. Now, all we have left is a little fine tuning and we're off to the races. See you there.