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C. Time To Get Serious With The Engine

posted Jul 20, 2015, 10:15 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Apr 20, 2016, 5:23 AM ]
396 Before
This is what the 396/350 hp Big Block looked like when I received it.  With 162,000 miles on the odometer and the last (perhaps only) rebuild occurring in the early 1980's at 105,000 miles it was time to do something about it.  The valve cover gaskets, rear main seal and oil pan gasket all leaked (as did the trans from numerous places) so the buildup was 1/2 in places!  The upside of the leaking is that it really preserved the floor pans as they were being constantly bathed in oil / transmission fluid.  

This is no way to run a Speed Shop, so the motor and trans had to come out for a proper rebuild.  The goal  is to keep the El Camino as original as reasonable because the value of these is increasing and original examples of these are becoming difficult to find.  We've always loved El Caminos and this really makes a great shop truck, so the engine build will be to stock spec (depending on what we find we we open it up) with perhaps a cam to give it a bit more low-end torque.  Because this truck will live most of its life from idle to 4,000 rpm and it has an automatic, the cam will be reasonable.

Here is a good shot of just how much grime had built up from years and miles of oil leaks.  With the accessories off and just before it came out it became apparent there was some work to be done...  Once the motor came out the decision was made to replace the inner fender wells as well as the front fenders.  This El Camino came from the factory with plastic inner fenders, so plastic will be used to replace them.  It isn't evident from the picture, but both had numerous cracks, as do all of them with any age.  It seems that GM didn't really understand how to attach them without this happening.  Today the trick is to tighten the bolts hand tight and then use thread locker to keep the bolts from coming out.  This allows movement of the plastic and relieves the stress that otherwise would lead to new cracks.  NOS GM front fenders were found so that the El Camino could retain factory metal and these will be installed once the motor is put back in.

Dane Belden
Well, it's out and on the engine stand.  It will be disassembled and checked so that it can be determined what the next steps will be.