Building a 330 HP 350

January 9th, 2011

I found a 1989 350 ‘M’ motor and had the short block bored .030 between business trips to Albuquerque.  This is a one-piece rear main seal 4-bolt truck block.

If you want to look for this block in the boneyard, check the casting number on the back of the block behind the passenger side cylinder head.

Roller Cam Provision Hiding Under the Intake

A big advantage with this older block is that it has provision for the mechanical fuel pump, so I can use the carburetor Vortec intake mainfold that came with the retrofit kit I used to build my Ram Jet.  There are other choices or intakes depending upon whether you want use a single or multiple carbs, a Quadrajet, or square-bore carb.

Ideal 1-Pc 350: Roller Cam Plus Fuel Pump Pad

I hoped to use a TBI fuel injection system from an Impala, and one vendor recommended the GM 330HP 350 HO was a great base engine for TBI.  This is an older GM Performance Parts crate engine, but it can be easily made using this recipe, or this one.  It calls for pistons 12361371, but I needed them in a +0.30 oversize.  The Pace Performance description shows a 12514101 piston.  The Silv-O-Lite index at Beck Racing cross-references the 12514101 piston to an H1476 piston, hypereutectic, destroked .020″, 3.14 diameter head recess .070″ deep with four valve reliefs.  This equates to an approximate 11.5cc dish.  This piston uses 2-5/64″ rings and 1-3/16″ ring.  The closest +0.30 piston and ring kit I could find is Z8KH423NCP30, which has a 10cc dish.   Close enough, I hope.

Special Use Only - Mmmmmm...Special....

The rest of the parts I needed to make the 330HP engine is the 24502476 hydraulic cam  and 1.5 ratio self-aligning rocker arms 12495490.  Most 350 pushrods and timing kits will work with this combination.  The rockers are the ones on the head to the left.

VortecZZ5DT Comparison with 8060 Conventional Head

The cylinder heads I am using were a discontinued Pace Performance special reworked head called the VortecZZ5DT.  Pace took a 8060 head and machined it for screw-in rocker studs plus dual valvesprings to accommodate a .550″ lift cam.  In addition, they drilled the intake face to accept a pre-1986 12-bolt conventional intake manifold, using special Fel-Pro gaskets.  My plans have evolved since I purchased the last pair of these they stocked.  They will be total overkill for the 330HP cam, but I can always upgrade the cam and lifters later.

1980 Wagon Rear Axle and Suspension Upgrade

November 12th, 2009

Leaker removed, factory TH200C and driveshaft

Time to upgrade the leaky factory 2.41 axle with a refurbished 7.5 GM axle, (swiped from the 1980 coupe) that was originally built for the old wagon twelve years ago.

Out with the old and in with the new

The new one has an Auburn cone-type limited slip and 3.73 gears.

Cuts in factory chassis braces

Installed the Hotchkis tubular control arms and frame stiffeners, also saved from the old wagon.

Braces tie the upper and lower control arms together

When I swapped in the refurbished axle, I also installed Hotchkis G-body rear coil springs to lower the car.  But the wagon weighs about 200 lbs more, all the extra over the rear axle.  That’s why the drag racers have eaten most of the decent Malibu wagons.  Cheap and light for a drag car that can take a big-block.  Ended up swapping in a pair of wagon Car-Go Coils from Moog (CC627).  Easy to change later if I decide to go back down.

1980 Wagon Front Suspension Upgrade

August 15th, 2009

Time to drain the water bed.

Battered greasy factory suspension

I jacked up the front end and pulled the entire front steering and suspension off in one big floppy chunk.

Steering and suspension removed without breaking a joint

Slid it all out  from under the car on a sheet of plywood. Took the whole mess to the car wash.  Two cans of Engine Brite and 6 dollars in quarters, not too bad.

No feet!

Look Ma, no feet!

Front Spring Pockets

In case you were curious.  Rubber silencer is Moog# K160044 for the pair.

Soaked in Spic'n'Span and scrubbed with a wire brush

Even cleaned the rotor shields.

Stripped and painted

Krylon primer and semi-flat back.

Lower Control Arms

New ball joints, polyurethane bushings, new bump-stops, and control arm cross shafts.

Factory vs. Hotchkis Front Springs

Reinstalled the control arms with Hotchkis G-Body Springs.

New Spindles, Hotchkis Springs and Upper Control Arms

And finished the job with new binders.

New Rotors and Calipers

When I went to install the 18mm nuts and bolts on the idler arm, I found an 18mm professional socket inside the frame rail.  One more rattle resolved.

Free MAC Tools Pneumatic Socket

Last, I installed all new Moog tie rod ends, center link and Saginaw 800 close-ratio steering box.

Moog Steering Replacements

32mm IROC Camaro Sway Bar and 12.7:1 Steering Box

Wagon Gets New Shoes

August 12th, 2009

New Shoes

Stock 14″ rims have been replaced with 16×8 S-10 “IROC” wheels. Had to shave a 1/32″ lip off the inner diameter of the hub to clear the front rotor hubs. Used 235-60-16 tires, slight rub on fender liner at extremes of steering lock.

Revisiting the Ghosts of Wagons Past

August 11th, 2009

Here is the first Malibu.  Gold 1980 wagon with 267 V8 and woodie paneling.  I freaked out my Junior Prom date when I had the car completely airborne on Smithbridge Road in Delaware, 1984.

Off to the Senior Prom

Shortly after I my parents gave me this car, I got hit by a drunk driver.  With the insurance money, I got a newer, less offensive one.  Well, at that time, anyway.

Road Trip to Ft Lauderdale for Spring Break

This car came with the 229 V6.   I swapped in a 1984 Formula Firebird 305 and 700R4.  I later  ate the engine drag racing in Florida.  Later I built a 400 small block and added in a 200R4 overdrive transmission.

Organ Donor Dragged Back from Warwick, RI

The Connecticut doors gave up, and the Florida doors never got painted.   But I had fun watching those annoying rice racers disappear in the rearview when they flashed the brights to get me out of their way.  I would unlock the torque converter, drop it into third and gallop away.  I loved that ever- shrinking look of shock…

Hawaii Dive Car

With 3.73 gears and a posi-traction, I  scored a 14.6 second  quarter mile at 92 mph in Barber’s Point, Oahu.  Yes it was way ugly.  But it was a great car for that time of my life.  Drags on Friday nights, dive car on Saturdays and Sundays.  Room for four friends and ten dive tanks…I provided the wheels and they provided the gas, lunch and air fills!  And we parked  anywhere without ever having a break-in.

February 1996 Back on the Mainland

Near the end of my tour in the Navy, my sub moved to Portsmouth, NH.  One of my favorite pictures is Hawaii plates under snow.  When I got parole the Navy and moved to New Mexico, the car was so rotten from Connecticut salt rot (bottom up) and Hawaii surf rot (top down) that it was not worth the expense to make a second 2500 mile drive or to ship it.  So, I parted it out like a Thanksgiving turkey.  In the southwest, one can unscrew 30-year-old muffler bolts.   I got Coupe Fever…


See more in upcoming posts on the other cars…

The Boss Wagon

August 9th, 2009

5/23/2009. Welcome to the newest project. Bought it on EBay while waiting to change planes at Dallas Love. Drove it 300 miles home from Colorado Springs.

1980 Chevrolet Malibu wagon. Exactly like the car I learned to drive in back in 1983. Same gold color, same camel vinyl interior. The only difference is that below the beltline, it’s white, where the old one had the vinyl woodgrain stuff.

Goodwrench 350 under a Quadrajet. Fair engine swap from the 229 V6 some years ago. A/C runs, but not very cold. New paint, but they put the old window fuzzies and dew wipers back in, which are now falling apart. 100K miles. Forgot how big old GM cars handle like a waterbed during an earthquake.

Factory 14″ rims with whitewall tires and honeycomb hubcaps.DSC_1959

Installing the HO 350 into the 1980 Coupe

July 29th, 2009

Finally, it was time to install the new engine.

First things first, I installed the flywheel clutch and pressure plate onto the engine. For a one-piece rear main seal small block, you need the ’86 and later flywheel, but it need to fit the small G-body bellhousing.  I found one at Pace Performance that is used on the Camaro, 14088650.

26-spline F-Body Cutch Kit

Next, I slipped the clutch fork, throwout bearing and fork boot into the bellhousing.  I used an all-steel Hayes bearing because the freebie included in the clutch kit was partly plastic.  Chevrolet engine blue.

G-body Bellhousing

When hunting for a later 350, here is where to look for confirmation…the block casting number is on the other side of the distributor.  Earlier, 2-piece castings have the block casting number on this side.

Block Casting Numbers

Next, I set everything up on the curb.  I took off the clean factory grille to avoid disaster.  Chrome is hard to touch up…

Ready to Swing

I pulled the bare block and transmission out and set them aside.  The T-5 was brought out for some comparison photos shown elsewhere in the postings.

Expensive Legos

I bolted on the Tremec…

Mating the Tremec

I managed to persuade my pregnant wife to join me at the curb.  We brought out the covered swing to provide shade so she could point and laugh…

Say Ahhhh...

The difficulty with installing an engine into a lowered car is that the engine hoist runs into the control arms and frame.  It was necessary to put the front of the car on jackstands.  However, this helped out later when I needed to crawl under and align the transmission crossmember.

Hanging Iron

The engine tilter was a useful addition for this project.  I had to pull off the crank and use a ratchet to clear the lift arm, but it was instrumental in clearing the firewall and radiator header.  I’m glad I had the chance to fit up the crossmember prior to dropping in this motor.

A Peek Though the Grille

Here it is with the hood back on.

A Nearly Whole Car

Done.  Some further parts will add weight to the front and level the stance a bit more.

Upgrading the 1980 Coupe to a Tremec TKO 600

July 23rd, 2009

The Ram Jet 350 is advertised at 350 HP.  The old workhorse non-World Class T-5 was not going to survive long, so it was time to upgrade.  I had already experimented with the T-56, and I liked it, but I did have to do a lot of work to the floorboard to make it fit.  The Tremec is smaller and  is designed to handle more horsepower and torque.  Plus it was $500 less than the T-56.  The major disadvantage is that it’s a long stretch between 1:1 fourth and 0.63:1 fifth gear, compared to the T-56 has an intervening 5th gear at 0.82:1.

Comparison of T-5 and Tremec

While switching to a different transmission, I decided to also add an aftermarket dual-hump crossmember to enable true dual exhaust.  Jeg’s offers a 2-1/2″ dual exhaust system, 555-30556, headers,  555-30060, and two crossmember options that work together on the G-body.  I chose the Jegster 555-41050 (intended for use with the TH350).    Here is the factory crossmember compared to the Jeg’s TH350 crossmember.  If you follow the angle between the left and right mounts, you can see that it bolts into the factory frame locations.

Jeg's Crossmember

I did have to remove the catalytic converter heat shield to make clearance for the crossmember.  But I was not going to need it any more.  No guilt, because the Ram Jet EFI system will burn significantly cleaner than the 1980 emissions standard.

Really Big Alignment Tool

Since I keep all kinds of crap I might possible use later, I happened to have an extra block and bellhousing.  While checking how parts fit, I thought it would be better to wrestle a 150-lb bare block than a 550-lb complete engine while test-fitting the Tremec and the Jegster dual-hump tranny crossmember.


Here is the front of the Tremec poking up from the trans tunnel.

In position supported by a jackstand

The next trick was to open up the factory shifter hole to fit the Tremec.  It really helped having a car lift, but it has been done on four jack stands.

Fitting the Shifter

Here is the Tremec in place.  The rear hole is where the T-5 shifter used to fit.   The Tremec shifter sits 1.5″ farther forward.  The big cut forward on the left is where the factory floor shifter used to be.  Carefully cut and marketed on EBay, it paid for half of the purchase cost of the project car.


As you can see, the top of the transmission still hits the tunnel.   Before I started hacking things up too far, it was necessary to resolve a conflict underneath…

Fitting the Chassis

Here is the Tremec installed, sitting on the Jegster dual hump crossmember.   The Tremec tailhousing interferes and the crossmember could not be aligned with the factory bolt holes on the frame rails.   Notice that the crossmember has a straight section between the humps.  This one was made for a TH350.  I ordered the Jegster 555-41051 700R4 crossmember.  Here they are side by side.


The kickout makes a difference. I swapped in the 700R4 version which has a kickout in center section that moves the trans mount backwards 1.5″, and lines up perfectly with the frame holes.

The Fit

But, there was one more conflict.  In order to clear clear the F-body torque arm holes under the yoke end of the tailhousing, I still had to make an angled cut behind the mounting perch, then weld in a patch.  Better to cut up a $139 crossmember than modify an $1895 transmission.

Notched to clear transmission rib

So now, everything cleared and all the holes lined up.  Sadly, it was still necessary to open up the floor in order to fit the top cover of the Tremec.  But the driveline angle now matched the original yoke position.

Hacked Floor

Here is the installed block,bellhousing, transmission, and front suspension. Two trips the car wash, several cans of brake cleaner, a paint scraper, a wire brush, and a tub of Fast Orange for the greasy paws, prepped this area for more primer and Krylon semi-flat black before all the new parts went on.

Cleaned Crossmember

As a preventative measure, I put a small dimple in the floor under the driver’s seat because the crossmember was about a millimeter away from the hump.  I knew it would make me crazy later.  New body mounts will probably also help, but that is a bigger job for later.  The carpet will later cover the sins of the son.

Floor Dimple

Here it is clear that the new Jegster crossmember will easily accommodate the headers and 2.5″ dual exhaust.

Crossmember in Place

The transmission tunnel requires some complicated sheetmetal fabrication, and it will be covered in a later installment.  For now, I am using the rubber floormat to keep the cats out.

, but the Tremec tailhousing interferes.  Later, I ordered the Jegster 555-41051 700R4 crossmember.  Here they are side by side.  The kickout makes a difference.

1980 Coupe Rear Suspension and Brake Upgrade

July 22nd, 2009

Here begins the brake installation, performed during the Summer of 2006.

The Artist

It was time to upgrade the rear suspension and brakes to match the front of the car.  I swapped in the GM 7.5″ corporate 10-bolt axle that has a 3.73 Richmond ring and pinion set on a matching Auburn positraction.  This dates back to the Malibu station wagon I had in Hawaii in my Navy days.  By now I was totally sold on  I ordered new Raybestos severe-duty rear shoes, new wheel cylinders, and all new adjuster hardware and spring kits for both sides.

Fresh Colorful Rear Brake Shoes

Such artwork will sadly ride inside new black-painted rear drums.   Turning the old ones would cost as much as the new ones.   Not obvious are the new wheel bearings and Moser forged replacement C-clip axle shafts, painted cast-iron to match.  I decided that the factory ones had 100,000-too-many miles on them, and the C-clip design is famous for dramatic failures under power.  I put in metric wheel studs to match the front hubs.

Suspension, Springs and Air Bags

Here is the upgraded axle installed with the Hotchkis lowering coil springs, upper and lower tubular control arms, arm braces (hidden) and G-body sway bar.  The Air Lift airbags were on the Malibu station wagon to provide a little bias for the drag strip.  The money was spent a long time ago, why not use them again?

The gas tank has a dent, but the factory mechanical sender was installed to break the engine in on a carburetor.  A second tank rescued from the parts car is in better condition, and will have the 1987 Monte Carlo TBI sender with internal fuel tank installed when the fuel system is later upgraded to EFI.

Test-Fitting the S-10 Wheels

I swapped a set of steel 15″ rims and $150 for a set of four almost-perfect S-10 16″x8″ ZQ4 rims.  Not shown are the bald, dry-rotted tires, but they sure spruce up the vintage tin.

1980 Coupe 12″ Front Brake Upgrade

July 20th, 2009

In the Fall of 2005, with our first child on the way, I figured out that I had better make progress on my hot rod.  Wrench now or forever be in pieces…

I started collecting parts and unpacking boxes that had not seen daylight since I left Pearl Harbor.  Back in 1994, I purchased the Hotchkis 1LE/B-Body 12″ brake conversion upper control arms.  I hunted the junkyards in Oahu, and found a set of  spindles from a 1982 Caprice that had the 12″ brakes for severe duty on taxi and police cars.

Starting with Dirty Parts

At the time, I also purchased the Hotchkis boxed rear control arms and frame braces.  These I had installed on the blue wagon and enjoyed them at the track.  When I junked the wagon, I also boxed these parts for reuse later.   All told, this was about $850 in hardware that sat in boxes for 10 years.  I decided that it was time I made these parts useful.

Here is the shopping list provided by Hotchkis:

12" Brake Parts List from Hotchkis

I started collecting the remaining pieces I needed to make the conversion from Summit Racing.  Moog ball joints, inner and outer tie rod ends, idler arm, Energy Suspension control arm bushings (only plan to use the lowers).  Plus, planning ahead, I ordered a new harmonic balancer and MSD HEI distributor rebuild parts.

Merry Christmas from Summit Racing

Unlike the suspension parts, the 1LE rotors, on the other hand, were much harder to find.  Searching online led me to discover, the only place I could find the 1LE rotors.  I sprung the extra $100 to get the fancy slotted and drilled performance version.

1LE Rotor

Why go to 12″ brakes?  First, a lot more braking surface to grip and radiate the heat of hard use than the factory 10-1/2″ brakes.  On the left is the factory G-body 10.5″ brake rotor.  On the right is a 1LE Camaro ‘Brute-Stop’ 12″ rotor from Wagner.  Unlike the B-body, which uses a 5X5″ bolt pattern, the 1LE rotor has the same 5×4.75″ lug pattern used on the G-body.  Since it was only used on 1987 and later Camaros, it has the metric 12×1.50 studs.  The 1980 Malibu uses 7/16-20 studs.  More on this later.

Big Brakes

Second, the conversion conversion upper control arms offer more negative camber.  Simply put, the wheels tilt inwards at the top.  When the car dives into a hard corner, and the outer wheel is pressed upwards, it tilts to vertical, not beyond like the factory setup does.  That means the contact patch where the tire grips the road stays almost flat and maintains the greatest traction (right column of images below).  The  factory setup (left column of images below) ends up rolling over onto the sidewall, reducing the contact patch dramatically.


Later, I heard an enchilada calling.  I decided that I should also go for tubular lower control arms and performance lowering springs as well.  At Christmas, 2005, Global West Suspension Systems was the only source for the G-body, at almost $600 for the pair.  (Since then, Ebay has a dozen competing vendors, including Summit Racing.)  I was pleased that they came with polyurethane spring isolators and spherical sway bar end links.

Replacement Parts

I cleaned up the Impala control arms and painted them to be worthy of the fancy control arm hardware.  On the left is Hotchkis upper control arm that allows use of the Caprice / Impala (B-body) spindle with the 12″ brake rotor. In the center is spindle assembly from a 1982 Caprice that had the heavy-duty police / taxi brake option.   On the right is the Global West lower control arm.

Fast forward to April, 2006.

Step one: remove the old beaten parts.

Here is the original right front brake assembly on the car. After lifting the control arm with the floor jack, the upper ball joint was broken loose with a ‘pickle fork’, and then lowered until the spring is mostly released from supporting the car.  If you are working next to your wife’s $20,000 new car, I recommend restraining the springs with a rope or strap tied to the frame rail.  I once shot one across the yard when I was younger and dumber.  Fortunately, nothing got in its way…

Breaking Apart GM's Handiwork

Here’s a comparison of the old and new:

On the left is a factory G-body V8 front coil spring.  On the right is the Hotchkis performance spring that will lower the car 1-2″.   Note the thicker wire and the higher number of coils per inch.  This is how the same or higher spring rate is achieved with a reduced ride height.   Cutting coils from the factory spring also lowers the car, but adversely impacts the strength of the suspension and might cause the car to bottom out on those bigger bumps.

Factory GM V8 vs. Hotchkis G-Body Springs

Here is a view you’ll never see on your Malibu.  With the entire left front suspension removed, here is a view looking up into the pocket in which the front coil spring is located.  There is a rubber noise isolator that sits between the coil and the ‘fingers’ in the spring pocket, viewed from below.  Replace this to avoid rattles later.  Moog part number K160044, find it on

Looking Up into the Coil Spring Pocket

The front lower control arms are asymmetric.  The shorter leg is towards the front of the car.  The factory G-body lower control arm is on the left, and the Global West tubular arm is on the right. The coil sits in thick polyurethane pad contoured to fit the spring exactly, and the shock mount is retained in the same location as the factory arm.  If it appears to you that the GW arm has a shorter distance from the bushing axis to the ball joint centerline, you’re right.  This caused me headaches later…

Factory vs. Global West Arms

Not only are the rotors bigger, the B-body/1LE capliers use larger pistons and brake pads.  On the left is the factory G-body caliper.  On the right is the 12″ brake B-body caliper. The bigger piston exerts much more force.  The new brake hose in the foreground fits a 1980 Malibu, but bolts up to the new caliper just like it belonged there.  Don’t forget to install the two copper crush washers between the caliper, hose end and bolt head to provide a tight seal.

10-1/2" vs. 12" Calipers

GM changed to metric fasteners starting in 1981.  Since this is a 1980 Malibu, it was necessary to use a 1980 B-body master cylinder to use the factory metal brake lines that use SAE threads.  Sadly this means 20 lbs of cast-iron.  But, this is an easier sacrifice than replacing the entire set of brake lines with metric parts used on the later plastic master cyclinder.    Note that the B-body cylinder has a larger bore diameter, increasing the pedal effort, but providing better pressure to the bigger B-body calipers.  Note also that the smaller reservoir used with the drum brakes is at the rear of the B-body cylinder, whereas it’s at the front of the G-body master cylinder.  The brake lines simply need a little bending to exchange where the thread in.  Don’t forget to ‘bench bleed’ the new dry cylinder before trying to bleed the brakes.  Otherwise it will take days to get the fluid down into the lines.

Master Cylinder Comparison

Skip forward to June, 2006.

Step two: install the shiny new parts.

After cleaning, the frame is most worthy of new toys.   I put the car up on my trailer to raise the work zone, but it also helped when I took the car to the car wash to blast off the worst of the mung.  Scrub out the nooks and crannies with a wire brush and prep for paint using brake cleaner which leaves no residue.

Upper Arms

The Hotchkis upper arm comes completely assembled with the ball joint and special offset shaft that helps enable that negative camber and accomdate the 1″ taller B-body spindle without excessive alignment shims or running into the frame.  Note the factory fuel line just inside the control arm mount.

Control Arms

When installing the new springs, use a wood block to protect your ugly jack from that shiny powder coat.   Insert the lower ball joint into the spindle, thread on the castle nut, and slowly raise it until you can take hands off the spring and it will stay in place.  On factory lower control arms, there are two holes in the coil pocket.  The spring end (tang) should be aligned between the two holes.

Other Side

Keep jacking, swinging the upper arm and spindle until you can insert the upper ball joint.  Note that with high performance springs, If you try to do this job without the motor in place, you may start lifting the car before you can assemble the ball joints.  In this case, use a spring compressor to squish the spring.

Passenger Setup

Here is a view of the final assembly. It is helpful to align the ball joints so that the cotter pins are fore/aft, so that they may be easily inserted into the castle nuts.

Rotor and Spindle

Here you can see all the parts together. Shiny, brand-y new.

Driver's Side Assembly

The driver’s side is assembled in the same fashion as the right front wheel.  I painted the non-friction surfaces of the rotor since rusty binders look bad through open rims.

'Blue' Painters Tape Comes Off Easily

Yes, doing this before installation might have been easier, but this way, nothing was scratched up during the install.  Hi-temp cast iron engine paint will probably stay put during brake operation.  Note friction surface was fully masked from paint spray.

Final Assembly

Here is the massive 12″ heavy-duty caliper installed in the 1LE rotor.  A 15″x7″ wheel just barely clears the caliper.  Unless you mount some wheels and tires, it’s hard to see that the hubs are now an inch farther out on each side.  Plan for this when you make your wheel selection.   It may be necessary to use wheel spacers on the factory rear axle to make the wheels look right forward and aft.

Now it’s time to install the steering parts.

Approximating the Alignment Settings

All-new Moog ‘Problem-Solver’ inner and outer tie rod ends, centerlink and idler arm, cleaned, primed and shot with Krylon semi-gloss black.  Also note Hotchkis tie rod sleeves.  Not as likely to slip out of adjustment during hard use.   Note the rusty factory parts in front, used to set up approximate alignment.  I    figured out later that the wider hub spacing also resulted in an increased distance  between the tie rod ends on the spindles.

Next, I cleaned up the suspension stiffeners.

Sway Bars and Front Frame Braces

At the top is a factory 7/8″ G-body ‘F41 suspension package’ rear sway bar, from a station wagon.   In the middle is a factory 32mm F-body ‘F41 suspension package’ front sway bar from an IROC Camaro (45 lbs of steel!).  At the bottom are a pair of frame braces that connect the front frame ends to the skid pad under the front of the crossmember, sourced from a junkyard Monte Carlo.   Hard to believe these are all interchangeable, but GM used G-body parts on Camaros, S-10 trucks and Astro vans.

Now...Featuring Paint

Here are the parts sanded, primed and shot with semi-gloss black Krylon.


Here is the Malibu with the new suspension parts and tires installed. The ‘wheelie’ stance will go away when the engine is installed soon.  The puddle under the car is when I drained the rear brake fluid and missed the pan….The Zebra truck is hiding in the background. That’s a whole other story unto itself!

Next: swapping in the new motor.

Building the Ram Jet

July 18th, 2009

In 2005,  I swapped a friend some parts and some cash for a Vortec retrofit kit.  Heads, pushrods, rockers, and carb intake.

I saw a GM Ram Jet 350 installation at a car show and researched it online.  I discovered a Service Parts List for the Ram Jet 350 and noticed my heads on it.  It turns out that the Ram Jet is based on the 12556121 partial engine assembly.   GM used this assembly in the 12568758 (Goodwrench #12520270) 1987-1995 Truck Engine and  the 1996-2000 Chevy & GMC Vortec 350 (Vin Code R).  If you want to build a Ram Jet 350, you could start with this last one, changing the cam, lifters and timing chain, and then installing the Ram Jet Intake assembly 12498032 and ECM/harness assembly 12499116 plus the 1.6 ratio rocker arm 12367346 (set of 16 is 19210729).

I could have also built up the motor from a new GM bare block 10105123 for $859.  However, one day I opened the new Pace Performance catalog and found the 12510735 short block assembly, and picked up one the last few for $869.  It came with flat top pistons, so I had to exchange them to lower the compression down to the Ram Jet’s 9.4:1 with the Vortec head’s 64cc combustion chambers.

Checking the Service Parts List, the Ram Jet 350 uses piston assembly 12522850 and ring assembly 12522848.  I was able to cross reference these part numbers using a Weatherly Interchange Index I found online.  The pistons cross over to TC3402 and TC3175A.   I found a set of eight Clevite TC3175A pistons on EBay from Northern Auto Parts for $129.  I used ring kit 41616CP from Clevite/Perfect Circle.

More digging turned up a GM 5.7L parts list that someone may find interesting.

I enrolled in an auto shop class at the local community college, just so I would have a shop with lifts to use.  Sure is nice having room to spread out.

Short Block

I used the stock Vortec heads which are supposed to flow as well as the old ‘Fuelie’ heads, but for $329 each from Summit Racing, p/n 12558060.   Genuine GM quality marks.  Boy head on the right, girl head on the left.  Fraternal twins, I guess.

Boy Head, Girl Head

I found the 14097395 roller cam at GM Parts Direct.  This cam has a lift small enough (.431″/.451″) to work with the stock  valve springs on the Vortec heads (.465″ lift max).   This cam is also used on the GM Performance Parts HT383.

Remembered Camera After Gluing the Timing Cover On...

A special timing chain set is required for roller cam applications from GM, p/n 12371043.  I tried to take pictures as I put this together.  Sometimes enthusiasm got the better of me.

Bottom End

For straightforward assembly, no messy sealer, or chance of screwing it up, I love the late-model one-piece oil pan gasket!

Roller Lifter Kit

To use the cam, I also ordered a new roller lifter kit, p/n 12371042,  from, which includes the retainer spring and bolts.

Partial Assembly

Note the flats machined on the tops of the lifter bores .  Those accommodate the ‘figure-eight’ lifter guideplates that keep the rollers oriented properly on the cam.  The three tapped pedestals cast into the lifter valley accommodate the ‘spider’ cam retainer spring.

Getting It Together

To finish the assembly, I installed the the roller lifter push rod kit, GM p/n 12371041, plus the self-aligning rockers GM, p/n 12495490, that were included in the Vortec head deal.

Dirt Under the Nails Beats Keyboardin'

I put the carb intake on the motor until I can swing the $2000 for the Vortec intake computer and harness.  Notice the vertical bolts at the corners. The Vortec heads use a funky intake bolt pattern, so if you want to take advantage of their excellent flow characteristics, it’ s necessary to the purchase of the right intake.  GM part number 12366573 will get you the right one, but it’s steep: has it for $379.  Accepts conventional SBC water neck.  There are other options from Edelbrock and others.

Bizarre Bolt Pattern

The late model centerbolt valve covers solve the common leak problem of the older GM heads with the four perimeter bolts.  Fortunately, I found a decent set that had the screw-in oil fill cap.


My engine project so far has cost $1692.  Later, I plan to install a serpentine belt and pulley system.  Never squeals, never throws a belt.  You can rescue the complete setup from a junkyard motor like I did, or you can part with $812 and get it all new from, p/n 12497698 or there is a version without the smog pump 12497697.  It is necessary, however, to use water pump specific to the reverse rotation used on the serpentine belt system.  I chose a Flowkooler high volume pump, p/n BRA-1774.

Serpentine System

If you are retrofitting this serpentine system to an older vehicle, you’ll have to make some modifications.  These will simplify your installation: if you salvaged the serpentine system from a boneyard donor, to eliminate the smog pump, use 10129569; to wire in a newer style A/C compressor, use 12101937; to wire in a late-model alternator, use 88987962

You must use the right flywheel for the later one-piece rear main seal block, but the 26-spline 10.5″ clutch and pressure plate from the old 2-piece motor fit up just fine.  I also put in a Moroso roller pilot bearing and an all-metal Hays throwout bearing.

26-spline F-Body Clutch Kit

Finally, I installed the ‘697’ Malibu bellhousing, which is unique in that the fork is clocked a few degrees counterclockwise and angles downwards to clear the floorboard of the Malibu/El Camino/Monte Carlo.

Flywheel, Clutch and Bellhousing

Next, a new gearbox.  There’s the shipping box in the backgound…
12556121 – GM Performance Parts 350 Partial Engine (Shortblock) Used With 12568758 (Goodwrench #12520270) (1987-1995 Truck Engine) & 1996-2000 Chevy & GMC Vortec 350 (Vin Code R)

1980 Malibu Coupe

July 17th, 2009

In the summer of 2001, while spending endless nights and weekends in the UNM Engineering School library in order to compensate for my 34-year old brain cells, I found out about a church across the street where I could park for less than on campus.  In the apartment lot next door, I spotted a sad-looking gold coupe that never seemed to go anywhere.  Someone had decorated the hood and windshield with a cinder block, but otherwise the car was in fair condition.  So, enterprising as usual, I left a note on the windshield.  Three months later, I got a call…”bring $150 and a battery and you can have the car, I am leaving town next week.”

A Clutch Pedal and Shifter!

I was able to start the car and drive it up onto the trailer.

Factory Clutch Linkage

It had a floor-shift three speed and the teeny 200 ci V6, wind-up windows and no AC.  Grandma’s car.  The title was original from when it was sold new in 1980!  I did what I do best…took it home and took it apart.

Wheezy 3.3L Gone!

I also took advantage of the Kirtland AFB Hobby Shop lifts and dropped the fuel tank to drain the old gas.

Little Help From Dave and a Transmission Jack

While it was up there with no motor in it, I tried out the Impala nylon fuel lines.  I was a ble to make them fit along and through the frame rails, but the were too long.

Impala Fuel Lines

Since planned to eventually swap in the TBI system, so I punched a hole in the firewall to route the ECU harness.  Might use that later.  Found a plastic door plug in the Impala that filled the hole for now.

Planning Ahead for EFI

The driver’s door had a dent in it so I swapped in one from the ’79 parts car.  Then I swapped the V6 for a 1991 5.0 from a salvaged Impala.  I drove it around a while with the factory shifter hole covered in cardboard after the neighbor’s damned cat used it as a kitty-door.  I installed the T-5 and 3.73 axle from from the ’79 parts car.  Then the progress slowed down, as I got a real job.  Now I had money to put some tires and wheels on it but no time to do more.

New Shoes

On a whim, I cut out the shifter hump and sold it on EBay.  I made $75.  Woohoo!

50% Paid For

I spent more time fixing up the ‘new’ house than working on my hot rod.  So sad.

Prototyping with a T-56

July 16th, 2009

[Time-traveling again.  This time, I am revisiting work done in 2001 while finishing up my BSME at UNM.  I had returned from an internship at a combustion laboratory near Zurich.  Met some cool people there…]

We all dream of a rich uncle leaving us a windfall.  Even more fun is finding a friend who likes that same car, and is willing to pay for the parts so you can try them out in your car before sending them over.  In this case, it was my good friend Florian, who lives in Switzerland.  He has Malibus and wanted to upgrade from a Saginaw.  First, I researched everything and then purchased an F-body conversion T-56 from Sallee Chevrolet, in Bend, OR.  In 2001, that was $2350.

Unwapping the T-56

The transmission comes with an adapter plate to mate to either a tilted F-body bellhousing (the T-56 is upright, unlike the t-5) or to a conventional Saginaw or Muncie 4-speed.  the input shaft is one inch longer to accommodate the plate.

Adapter Plate

The T-56 is ‘honkin’ bog compared to the T-5:

Side-by-Side Comparison

The trans tunnel will need some mods…

Mmmmm. Beefy!

And so will the driveshaft. The T-5 is 3″ shorter than the G-body TH350; the T-56 is another 2″ shorter, for a total cut of 5″ off the factory G-body driveshaft.

T-5 vs. T-56 Yoke Position

I fabricated a crossmember using a 1991 Impala donor as a starting point.

Oh, and the Angle Is All Wrong...

I made a Z-cut, and then welded it back together.  Then I needed to make a frame extension.  I used a sheet bender and some 11 gauge sheetmetal, close to what is in the car.

Mind Those Brake and Fuel Lines...

First, I bolted on the adapter plate.

Lifted the Motor Using the Bellhousing...

Next, I lifted this beast up into the car, and marked the floorboard for the huge cutout.  Note: four jackstands are a must-do for this swap.

Lifting the Beast into Place

Note that the driveshaft I made for the T-56 fits (5″ shorter).  Yes!

T-56 Shifter, Hump and New Seats

Solved the backup light circuit problem with a button on the shifter.

Taking the T-56 for a Drive

Overall, the car was fun to drive, but I had to hand over the parts, so the car kind of sat for awhile while I finished up school.  In 2009, I finally scrapped the car, as I thought I had most of the part worth saving and I grew tired of hauling and storing a totally thrashed parts car.  Within two months of disposal, I wished I’d kept the control arms and spindles…

The End.

Setting Up for a Manual Transmission

July 9th, 2009

So, by now you hopefully have a complete engine ready to use.  Moving to the back of the block, it’s now time to figure out what flywheel to use.  If you started with some parts, it’s necessary to see what fits.

Chevrolet intermediate cars from 1978-1981 were classified as  ‘A-body’, and could be ordered with a manual transmission.  Chevrolet engines share the same rear bolt configuration, small or big-block.  A-body cars used one of two bellhousings, and while they look nearly identical, your choice of flywheel and clutch is constrained by what you have. The A-body intermediates used a special bellhousing that had the pivot ball rotated about 2 degrees counterclockwise, viewed from the trans end, and a unique clutch fork that had an offset curve in it.  This was to accommodate the floor pan in the A-body cars.  [The A-body intermediate Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac cars also used a special bellhousing unique to the A-body that also rotated the pivot ball, and used the same curved fork as Chevrolet.]

All cars with the 229 V6, the 267 V8, and most 305 V8 used the smaller 10.5″ clutch and a 12.7″ diameter, 153-tooth flywheel.  The bellhousing is the more common one marked with ‘606’ as the last three digits of the part number on the passenger side.  The starter bolt pattern is parallel to the flywheel, rather than staggered.   On the original 2-piece rear main seal engines, the correct starter for the 153-tooth flywheel typically had an iron nose assembly where it sticks into the bellhousing.

The cars that were ordered with the heavy duty clutch, such as the El Camino SS, and all 350 V8 cars came with the larger 14″ flywheel that accommodates an 11″ clutch.  Only the larger bellhousing bearing the part number that ends with ‘697’ will fit the larger flywheel. The starter in this configuration has an aluminum nose and the two bolts are staggered at an angle relative to the flywheel.

For more information, check out the Garage Scene website.

I lucked out and found my donor car came with the larger ‘697’ bellhousing.

An ’83-up F-body 26-spline clutch kit will bolt to either flywheel.

Next, a new gearbox.  There’s the shipping box in the backgound…

First Malibu Coupe

June 22nd, 2009

Here begins the tale of how Quinn took up with Coupes after so many years driving wagons…

Let’s do some time-traveling. Here is what current events looked like in 1998:


Welcome to Malibu Central

Your Source for Information on 1978-1983 Malibus

[Originally posted on the UNM student pages]

With As-Found Sketchy Landau Roof

1979 Malibu Coupe, purchased on Memorial Day for $200. The car came with a strange aftermarket Landau top with small oval cutouts over the rear windows. After 10 years of Santa Fe sun, the vinyl split, so I pulled it all off…

About 10,000 Rivet Holes

…and found that the morons that installed it using what must have been a Sawzall to trim off the drip rails.   Water leaked in and caused some serious rust around the rear window. I paid less, later, for a better car.  But, life is a learning lesson, and I learned a lot while wrenching on this leper.

Interior Shot (Really Shot)

The car originally came with a 4.4L (267 ci) V8 (made only in 1979 and 1980) and TH350, which were pulled before I got the car.  I did get the fan shroud.

With Cleaned-Up 1978 305

I initially installed a cleaned-up 305 V8 and converted the auto to manual using a Borg-Warner T-5 5-speed trans from a 1986 Firebird. I freshened the T-5 with parts purchased from SK Speed in Lindenhurst, NY.  For the installation, I modified the factory crossmember to accept the 18 degree tilted trans mount, and installed the factory trans mount.

Kludged Factory Crossmember

I used a bellhousing, pedals, and clutch linkage rescued from junkyard ’79 El Camino, with some new parts from the GM dealer.

Scavenged Bellhousing and Linkage

Had to shorten the stock TH350 driveshaft 3″. Used an 10-1/2″ inch G-body flywheel and bellhousing  (‘606’) from a 1979 El Camino Super Sport, installed a 26-spline 10.5″ clutch disc kit (specified 1986 Firebird at the parts counter) and cut a small hole in the tranny tunnel where the auto floor shifter used to be.

S-10 T-5 Shifter and Factory Console

The shifter, from an S-10 pickup, comes up in the center of the insert in the console.

Shifter Position

Almost an ape-hanger!  Like driving a tow truck.  (Been there, done that.)

Freshened 1976 4-bolt 350 with T-5

Over Thanksgiving break, I upgraded to a fresh 350 ci 4-bolt truck block bored .060, topped by an Edelbrock Performer intake and new Edelbrock 600 carb.

Say, "Ahhhhhh..."

I had to keep the frying-pan catalytic converter, so it wasn’t much of a highway hero.  The trans moved the car around with some difficulty, due to the 2.41 highway gear rear end.  I swapped in a 3.73 posi axle I salvaged from the blue wagon, and found that the car is much more fun to drive.  Here end the original posting…on to the T-56…