Richard Holdener
December 13, 2006
Along with the new spark plugs, we also installed a fresh set of 8.5mm Super Conductor performance plug wires from MSD (PN 32229).

The final fuel-related component to be serviced was the fuel filter. We have no idea how long the current filter has been in service, so we opted to change it to eliminate any future problems. We plan on upgrading the fuel pump at a later date (with a Holley 255-lph unit), but the stock pump will suffice for now.

With our spark plugs removed for the compression check, we naturally replaced them with a fresh set. Normally we would simply put in a new set of factory replacement plugs and be done with it, but we decided to kick things up a notch. In this case, that meant a set of Denso Iridium plugs (IQ16s). We have always had excellent results with these plugs, especially on forced induction applications. Though they are probably overkill for this near-stock early Two-Valve application, they will be put to good use at a later date. We gapped the precious metal plugs at 0.045 (take care to not damage the ultra-fine electrode).

We gapped the Denso Iridium plugs to 0.045. We will likely be closing the gap once we install a blower or turbo, but for now, the large gap provides plenty of spark energy to ignite our mild mixture.

With our attention focused on the ignition system, we replaced the spark plug wires with a set from MSD. The 8.5mm Super Conductor plug wires offered a combination of low resistance, high EMI suppression, and a tough silicone sleeve for maximum heat protection. In addition to the Super Conductor wires, MSD also came through with a set of new high-performance coil packs. Having already tested the effectiveness of the coil packs up to 1,400 hp, we had every confidence installing them on the mild '96 4.6. We will probably include an ignition ampli-fier once the powerplant is subjected to boost, but for now, we should have plenty of spark energy.

In Part 1, we installed a set of BBK underdrive pulleys. One thing we noticed during the installation was that the factory serpentine belt had more than its fair share of surface cracks. Serpentine belts are one of the marvels of a modern mod motor, but the last thing you want to do is have the one belt that drives all your accessories (including the all-important water pump) check out on you. Can you say stranded? To put our fears to rest, the questionable drivebelt was replaced with a new Dayco unit (PN 5060975).

With our days getting warmer, we decided it was a good time to replace the factory 192-degree thermostat with a cooler 180-degree unit. Think about it-your motor will make more power with the coolant temperature at 180 degrees than 192 degrees. The 180-degree thermostat will allow your motor to run as much as 12 degrees cooler, since the minimum operating temp is determined by the thermostat. Testing back-to-back shows that the 12-degree drop can be worth 4-6 hp at the wheels. We will always welcome an extra 4-6 hp on the street. Though the temptation is there to go even lower (to something like 160 degrees), know that such a drop can keep the car in warm-up mode, where extra fuel is supplied-not good for daily driving.

The old coil packs were removed and replaced with the hot MSD units.

The final maintenance modification involved filling the crankcase with a fresh batch of synthetic oil. Lucas Oil supplied the necessary quarts of 5W-30 synthetic oil. Given the high mileage, we wanted to make sure the motor had plenty of lubrication. Synthetic oils dramatically decrease friction, absorb contaminants better, and offer a longer life between changing. This really shouldn't be a hard sell. High-performance motors deserve synthetic oil, and since we had every intention of transforming our near stocker into a real performance piece, why not start things off on the right foot? A new oil and filter should be on the to-do list every 3,000 miles (you can go longer between changes with synthetic, but I still try to stick with the 3K mark).

There you have it, Project RSC is now properly maintained and ready for some more dyno thrashing. Tops on the to-do list is a trip to MagnaFlow where we will install an X-pipe (with just two cats instead of the six that currently exist) and a new after-cat exhaust. After that, we plan on a set of Comp cams followed by a set of long-tube Hooker headers. Look for a new clutch, pressure plate, and flywheel system as well as ported (non-PI) heads and a new intake.

The 300hp mark is still a ways off, but stick with us, we'll get there-or someone's going back up for adoption.