Modified Mustangs & Fords
Budget Engine Rebuild - Nothing Like Your First Time
Building Your Own Engine Is A Rite Of Passage You Shouldn't Miss
Low Buck Small - Block
At one point in our lives we know next to nothing about cars. Slowly, we latch on to bits of information and our knowledge of the inner workings of certain parts-engines, transmissions, and rearends-begins to accumulate. Sometimes it's a formal education from auto shop class or hand-me-down info from dear old dad or big brother. Maybe it was that weekend job working at the gas station (good luck finding that opportunity these days) or a high school buddy with the fastest car at school who took you under his wing. Some of us even learned the most basic car information from gluing together plastic model kits decades ago. However, you got that education, you listened to every word, and soaked up technical jargon and procedures like the proverbial sponge.
The problem as we see it is that not enough people from previous generations are passing along their knowledge to our youth. Whether they think the youth of today don't care or won't listen, we don't know. But it certainly couldn't hurt to try, right? Instead of griping at the neighborhood kid to get off your lawn, maybe a little Automotive 101 will crack that hard teenage surface and you might even teach them a thing or two.
We're constantly barraged by neighborhood kids of all ages because of the cool cars that end up in our driveways (project cars or press cars) and we use that as a stepping stone to educate them on everything from the basics of car parts (such as a brake rotor or cooling fan) to more detailed car repairs (depending upon their age, of course).
One area that seems to have really been hit hard by this lack of continuing education is engine building. Sure, performance crate engines, and even remanufactured long-blocks available at your big chain auto parts stores, really make things easier and the job go quicker, but they've hurt the situation as well, in their own way.
Building your own engine is something every car guy, gearhead, or wrench turner should accomplish some time in their lives. Having an engine build on your resume, so to speak, not only gives you great personal satisfaction when you hear that engine fire for the first time, but just think about the next show or cruise you go to where you can pop the hood and tell all the people who ask that you built the engine. Every part in that block you had your hands on.
This is what we want our youth to be able to say, too. To that end, we dragged an old 5.0 long-block out of storage, bolted it to an engine stand, and rolled out the toolbox for my 15-year-old son, Kyle, to completely rebuild on his own. I took the photos you see in this article and, except for the machine work and breaking the main caps free, Kyle did all the work himself.
Is this a 500 hp stroker engine? No, it's a very simple, relatively stock rebuild; something anyone can handle, which is exactly what we wanted to show our readers to encourage them to get out in the garage and do the same. We'll start from the engine already on the stand, so get yourself a good repair manual and some friends to help with engine removal. Check it out.
While I've built my share of engines, this project wasn't about me going at another small-block. No, it was my son, Kyle, a first-time engine builder like many of you. Before he headed out to the garage, I dropped off several books for him to read, including the very same copy of Tom Monroe's How To Rebuild Your Small-Block Ford that I used some 20-plus years prior on my first engine build-my younger brother's 289 from his '65 Mustang.
Today, with the Internet, DVD manuals, and more, it's even easier to get the information and help you need to build your first engine. So while we just scratched the surface here, I encourage you to seek out more information, then grab that old engine in the corner of your dad's or granddad's shop and show 'em all you can do it, too. We'll have more photos online that we couldn't fit here. Feel free to join our forums and tell us about your first engine-building experience.