May 1, 2007
Where is all this budget building leading? Take a look at the engine shown here. This is where we ended up with the first full build. This great-looking, aluminum-headed 5.0 cranks out power in the mid 300s. Cost, as seen here, is $2,289 plus hard work.

If you like the lead shot, be aware that we don't get to that stage of the build until next month-although you'll need to follow what is done here to get there. Maybe we're jumping too far ahead, so let's backtrack to where we left off on the last installment of the saga of the Comp Cams special budget-build project.

Working with select students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), the plan is to build an all-purpose race car that, while performance is a priority, having fun with it and limiting costs is equally as important.

We started with an '88 manual-shift 5.0 already equipped with a number of basic speed parts, but with a really tacky interior. Race cars don't generally have interiors, so our 5.0, sourced by Dale Sciranko of Custom Performance in Concord, North Carolina, was acquired for the princely sum of $2,800. After detailing it and overhauling the limited-slip diff, we made a best pass at Mooresville's eighth-mile strip of 9.044 seconds at 77.2 mph. This equates to 14.13 at 96.7 in the quarter for a total cost of $2,862.

When a Zex nitrous system jetted for 75 hp was added, our best went to 8.77 at 81.9 mph (13.57 at 100.7 mph), but torque-induced wheelspin was very much a limiting factor. The cost, including the Zex upgrade, brought our total to a little less than $3,400. Everything done engine-wise came under the heading of maintenance or bolt-on. The car was capable of bettering such a performance, but traction from old tires was a major handicap and our first problem to address. But on with the engine-with its high mileage, it was time for an overhaul.

If the bores have no measurable ridge, as is often the case with injected 5.0s, then a cheap and easy-to-use glaze buster can be used to recondition the bores to accept new rings.

Budget Block Build
It was entirely practical for us to overhaul the engine currently in the car, but with deadlines and such, it was far better for us to get a complete junkyard motor and start from there. In fact, to make life easier, we started with two junkyard engines and did tests on one or the other, but we will deal with them as if we were working on a single unit. Because you can go with what's already in the car, we are not counting the cost of our junkyard-sourced long-blocks, which, by the way, typically cost $150 apiece.

One of the assets of 5.0 fuel-injected engines is that they do not wear out bores at the rate of a carbureted engine because fuel wash on the bores is almost eliminated. This means far less metallic junk in the oil. As a result, crankshafts last much longer even if the bearings don't. Tear down a few 5.0s and you will find that, for the majority of them, a rebore or a crank grind is far from mandatory. This has been the case with the last four out of five engines I've torn down.

The first job was to drain the oil, then wash off the engine. To clean the entire engine, there is little substitute for a few cans of Gunk and a 1,000-psi pressure washer. After a couple of hours, we had a pretty clean engine, but my 10-year-old daughter, Jacque, and I looked more like we hit pay dirt on an oil-drilling rig.

Other than lifting off the intake, heads, and crank, we had this engine stripped to the bare block in about three hours. Block inspection showed near zero bore wear and that a three-leg, spring-loaded glaze buster (about $25 from NAPA) would fix those bores in next to no time. But first the block had to get down to bare-metal clean.