Thursday, June 9, 2016

Motors: Crate of Rebuilt? That's the Question.

It's damn near impossible not to hear about the numbers-matching topic when talking about cars. And if you own (or are planning to purchase) a classic, this subject will come up at some point or another.

In the case of my 1976 Corvette, since the car is basically all original, the powerplant it came with from the factory is the original 350 cubic-inch Chevy motor. But, since it was built in 1976, it also has the original 185 horses of that era, although by now, it seems that at least half of them are suffering from emphysema. Yes, my Vette is a dog!

Plus, as many other C3s out there, leaks seem to be ever present. And try as I may, tough to eradicate. And lets not even open the burnt-oil stinky smell can of worms.

It is time to do something about all that!

Removing an engine is not rocket science, but a basic familiarity with the process is helpful and having the right tools is mandatory. After 56 years on this planet I must admit that I've gotten a tad lazy and very protective of my well-being, so crawling under a 3000+ lb. car is not my idea of fun anymore.

My "dirty math" calculations about buying a KwikLift, engine hoist, engine stand, and a bunch of other necessary tools quickly added up to about $2,000.

And while the KwikLift is always lurking in the back of my mind as a great addition to the garage, it shall remain in the bucket list for a while longer.

Oh, and after selling my small, yet loyal, 20 gallon air compressor eons ago—and never replacing it with a larger unit as planned—I would be working only with hand tools, and power tools are the way to go for these kind of tasks.

I stopped by Sunrise Automotive here in Orange City, Florida a couple of days ago to chat with my bud Mark and pick his brain to see how much they would charge me to do an engine swap. Since Mark is a true Corvette enthusiast, he gave me the "friends and family" price, so I am looking at about $1,200 for that portion of the job. A pretty decent price if you ask me.

But when I mentioned the "crate motor" idea I was considering, he told me that it would be crazy not to have the original, numbers-matching motor rebuilt.

My argument against having the original engine rebuilt involved costs involved to have a 185 hp, but Mark said that he would call a speed shop he worked with and get me a quote to have the original 350 mill rebuilt and balanced, new pistons and cylinder heads ported, plus a higher-lift cam good to about 300 to 320 horses on premium pump gas, while having good street manners.

Mark called me today and the speed shop can have my engine done in about 3 weeks for $2,350.

So I can have the original 4-bolt Corvette 350 motor bumped up to about 300 hp (up from 185), painted the correct shade of Chevy Orange with ceramic-enamel (no extra charge), installed and tuned up properly, for roughly $3,600.

Not a bad deal at all.

I checked prices online from several crate engine vendors, and you can get a 290 hp Chevy 350 long-block for around $2,100 if you shop around. And if horsepower is not important, you can get a GM Goodwrench 195 hp 350 long-block (with 4-bolt mains) for $1,500. Seriously? Go through an engine swap for an additional 10 horses? Meh!

I am already thinking along the lines of keeping the original, numbers-matching motor with the car, even though I am not a purist. Besides, I feel that a few extra hundred dollars don't justify stuffing a crate engine under the hood.

I guess I am a purist of sorts after all.

Stay tuned, and thank you for following my C3 Corvette adventures.