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Spring Automotive Projects

Spring Automotive Projects!

While many of our friends and loyal customers live in areas where seasonality is not much of a factor in their automotive pursuits, many more are just like us, locked in a climatically hostile environment for our beloved cars and motorcycles for about 6 months out of the year. While the most fortunate of us shut-ins have heated garages and can work on our projects year round, the reality is that most of us don’t.

What that creates is an element of celebration when spring finally arrives. The doors and windows are open for the first time in months, fresh air comes through house and garage, the garage floor slab “sweats out” as it warms up to reach our newly pleasant ambient temperatures, and the road salt and grime is whisked from our garage floors and streets in earnest (helped by the first spring thunderstorm!).

While my California friends look at me with kind of that tilted-head-puppy-hears-a-strange-noise look when I describe this re-awakening, anyone in the northern climes who sees some of their neighbors for the first time since November know exactly what I am talking about.

Spring has sprung, and the chores of fixing things and working on things in pleasant outdoor temperatures seems like hardly a chore at all. Neighbors our out putting fresh gas in the mowers, raking a winter’s worth of dreck out of the garden, and re-wiring the boat trailers for another season of landing lunkers.

As car guys, often our projects are a little more ambitious. The plans crafted over many wintertime smart-talking sessions fueled by nut brown ales and non-existent budgets are about to come to life.

In my case, I blew a head gasket on the last October drive of the year, right before I was to put my car into storage. It wasn’t terribly obvious that it was indeed a head gasket, as no errant coolant was involved in the symptoms, but due to the early warm spring we have had here, I know that now. All winter long it could have been anything, and speculation ran the gamut.

Now that I know what the problem is, and it is a problem since a small metal piece from the head gasket scored a cylinder wall, I am thinking of different ways to handle this project this summer.

Head Gasket


A little background is in order. This engine is one I built 8 years ago. It is a stroker Ford 351w, displacing 393 cubic inches. It has the Edelbrock Performer RPM package, which is heads, cam and intake. It has a base level Coast High Performance rotating assembly, using the base rods, cast crank, and forged Probe pistons. It is topped with a 750 Holley and exhaust exits through Hedman Shorty headers. Kind if a budget stroker, if you will, and it has served my needs well.

Now that it is just about ready to pull out, I am considering what I want to do with it. What I really want to do is put a 427 stroker kit in it using upgraded H or I-beam rods, a forged crank and a roller cam conversion with some newer heads like ARP 205s to better flow at that level of displacement.  My wallet says I should repair whatever damage there is and save my shekels for a manual transmission conversion.  The reality is I will probably do something in the middle.

A big priority is the roller cam conversion, as the 10 inches of vacuum at idle while in gear with an automatic transmission that is provided by the Performer flat tappet cam is proving to be a little cumbersome for the street, especially with power brakes relying on that vacuum. I also wouldn’t mind dropping the compression a little, since today’s pump gas is not getting any better (or cheaper!)

Anyway, that’s my project, and I am happy to say I have already started, at least with disassembly. Why don’t you share with us what your summer project is? We would love to hear what you guys are doing in the shop, so let us know. Let the summertime fun begin!


Bob Wilson

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