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Rebuilding Big-Block Mopar Basics

by Arvid Svendsen

There are several type of engine rebuilds. You can rebuild an engine to strictly stock OEM specs and NOS or equivalent aftermarket parts. Or, you can performance a stock rebuild and use upgraded components so the engine package performs at its best. Select your parts carefully and consider the follow information.

Rebuilding a Stock Engine

A bone-stock, or strictly stock, rebuild is suitable for many cars and owners. Many people have a limited budget, and want to build an engine that provides reliable service for a minimum amount of dollars. The budget build requires paying careful attention to disassembly and inspection procedures, so as many parts as possible can be reused for the rebuild  with a minimum number of parts replaced.

For example, if the cylinders show little or no wear, larger bore pistons would not need to be purchased. However, pistons must be inspected for condition and size. Scored or damaged pistons need to be replaced. Many purists who are involved in a concours-correct restoration often prefer to do as little surgery to their numbers-correct engines as possible. Careful inspection determines if an engine could be restored to good power and reliability levels with a simple hone job and replacement of rings, rod bearings, main bearings, freeze plugs, and gaskets.

A number of sources for rebuild kits are surprisingly affordable, especially with the more recent advent of parts from overseas suppliers. Some complain about the reality of parts not made in America (I’m one of them), but there is no denying that the cheaper parts have made it possible for some on limited funds to enjoy the hobby.

Competition Products offers a basic engine rebuild package of rings, bearings, and gaskets starting at about $85. Of course, you can be penny-wise and pound foolish when rebuilding an engine. So unless funds are nonexistent, a minimal recommended rebuild is to step up to Competition Products Master Rebuild Kit, which includes flat-top pistons, matching piston rings, rod, main and cam bearings, standard volume oil pump, complete gasket set, freeze plug kit, cam and lifters, and a three piece timing set. It sells for about for $250 (at the time of this writing).

Rebuild kits can be upgraded to include a fully balanced rotating assembly, with higher quality parts available for higher cost. If your project is a four-door midsize that will not see duty above 4,000 rpm, these parts are more than sufficient for your application. Quite honestly, many older restored cars are rarely exercised above 3,000 rpm, making moly rings, forged pistons, and high-dollar connecting rods unnecessary.

bigblockmoparMany purists involved in a concours-correct restoration often prefer to do as little surgery to their numbers-correct engines as possible. Careful inspection may determine that an engine could be restored to good power and reliability levels with a simple hone job and replacement of rings, rod bearings, main bearings, freeze plugs, and gaskets. There are a number of affordable rebuild kits, such as Summit’s basic rings, bearings, and gasket kit for a 383 Chrysler for less than $300. Upgraded with forged pistons, an oil pump, and better rings, you can still get a rebuild kit from Summit for about $800. The prices increase with higher quality parts, but you do not have to break the bank to rebuild your engine.

 

Rebuilding a Strong Street Engine

The biggest mistake on most street engines, other than assembly errors, is the temptation to run too much camshaft. There is no denying that an engine with a big cam and compatible parts usually brings a big high-RPM number. However, for spirited street driving, big torque numbers bring the best seat-of-the-pants performance increase. If you are performing a strictly stock rebuild, use a cam with the factory lift, duration, lobe separation, and other specs; but if you want to increase performance, select a cam with high-performance timing events. That requires careful research and selection of all valvetrain components to ensure that the cam and all related components are compatible and complementary. A properly matched engine component kit takes into account the expected driving conditions. Everyone loves the big, rumpety cam for cruise nights, but a smaller cam that delivers in the lower RPM range typically makes for a better street engine.

Stroker kits are especially effective in producing the torque needed for street conditions. The Mopar B and especially RB engines with their healthy deck height blocks make them excellent candidates for increasing the engine’s stroke in order to gain displacement.

No matter what engine package and parts you select, you need to correctly perform every step of the assembly in a clean environment. After all, the goal is to rebuild a strong running engine that provides many years of reliable service. 


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