Machine shop litmus test - Pontiac GTO Forum
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-24-2016, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
 
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Machine shop litmus test

So after being absent for awhile, I am starting to finally get going on my delayed project of rebuilding my numbers matching engine to my '65 GTO convertible. I still have a printed copy of my exchanges with Geeteeohguy and some other members of this forum with advice about how to go about my project.

But first I have to shift to a thread I read last night about a forum member who was burned by a supposedly reputable Pontiac engine builder in central Virginia. After reading the entire thread, I started to question what several posters mentioned: The need to find a machine shop that knows how to build a Pontiac V8, or knows Pontiacs.

I must now ask the question: what exactly differentiates a Pontiac engine builder from a shop that builds any other make of engine? I ask because a Pontiac V8 is not some exotic engine. If a competent machinist has the right parts and has access to the specifications for the engine, shouldn't be any different than rebuilding any other engine?

I was actually in Tennessee for my job and during my down time I drove 60 miles east to Lawrenceburg and visited Butler Performance. Interesting people and a neat facility. I talked about what I wanted to do and the guy told me they would throw away everything to my engine except the block and head castings and the oil filter mount and start over. I think he didn't grasp my goal. I'm not trying to build something that will set a new NHRA record. I asked for a ball park figure to build my engine and he said $12,000 and they were a year out on work. I think what they quoted me and how they wanted to build my engine is equivalent to swatting a fly with a Buick. I'm building a street 389, not a 461 stroker race engine.

I'm not putting down Butler here. In fact I will likely purchase some of my parts from them. But what does my neighborhood machinist have to know about a Pontiac engine that he can't get out of the shop manual?

I think I am going to have my local machinist handle the machine work and I will get involved with the rest and the two of us will put it together.
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-24-2016, 01:24 PM
 
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I think any good machinist can do the job. Your trouble seems to come about when they try to rebuild the Pontiac like a Chevy, or Ford, or...... in that the pontiac has a different approach in producing power - build for lower RPM torque whereas a Chevy uses higher RPM horsepower.

The main stumbling blocks are the cam and the heads. You want a Pontiac grind cam having a dual pattern - either more lift, more flow, or both, on the exhaust side to get the gasses out. If your builder recommends a single pattern cam because he builds chevy engines where the intake/exhaust pattern is the same, then it won't optimize the cylinder flow and you'll have poor results. Stick with a factory grind and you will be safe.

With regards to the heads, the valve seat angles are different and you don't want a chevy guy grinding the seat/valves aka chevy specs because he thinks they will work better. A good 3-angle Pontiac valve grind is a real performance improver and should be done. Some will recommend installing hardened valve seats to better handle the unleaded fuel or your valve will sink into the head. My opinion, and I am not a machinist or everyday engine builder, is they are not needed unless there is minimal material at the valve seat diameter (ie several valve jobs) leaving little edge/margin for the valve to hang on to. Super high valve spring pressures and radical lift cams could probably benefit from hardened seat as well as roller cams with their fast and aggressive lift and slam close properties, and heavy nitrous use. For near stock or a little hotter build I think stainless steel valves are a must, and a good margin of valve edge hanging past the valve port opening, plus reasonable spring pressure, bronze valve guides to ensure the valves are straight & centered as opposed to trying to skimp and go with the old guides or knurl them. I suspect you won't be using it as a daily driver either.

You also want the hi-performance 60psi oil pump from Mellings. It was used in the GTO. There was a lesser pump use in the big cars, but essentially you machinist should be able to get the right one, or you can buy it yourself. I bought the blueprinted 60psi pump from Butler which is indeed more money, but it is insurance that I will not have to worry about pump pressures. Don't get me wrong, the Mellings 60psi pump is a great piece and works just fine and is used in most rebuilds, so don't be afraid to use it. Do not use the 80psi pump for street.

There are other optional improvements for your rebuild, but it all depends on what you expect out of your engine. If you are going stock, then you don't need to do a whole lot. $12,000 for rebuild has got to be for a high HP race prepped trun-key drop-in 461 CI using all new parts, and even then, that seems a lot to me using iron heads.
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-24-2016, 04:29 PM
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When I spoke with Butler they seemed to be more into monster builds rather than stock or slightly modified Poncho engines.
Pretty much the same vibe from Sandoval.
After getting totally reamed by a "Pontiac specialist" in Central Virginia I found an old skool machine shop Southwest Engines who did all types of engines but one of the veteran machinists had a passion for Pontiac but had few of them come through the shop really wanted to help me especially after he saw how badly I got screwed.
This is the only shop I can recommend but it is on the west coast in San Bernardino.
Good luck with your search.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-24-2016, 06:29 PM
 
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Many different sources can provide competitive prices on quality engine parts. This is something that can be discussed with your machinist/engine builder, on engine builds, I've often let my engine builder source nearly all new internal parts. Have, myself on occasion, sourced forged rods, custom pistons, occasional a cam, specialty gaskets.

For local high quality Pontiac V8 savvy machine work & assembly, wouldn't hurt to get a recommedation from Rocky or Jim Rotella in Omaha. Both are long time Pontiac guys & are as good as gold. Steve Schappaugh in Lincoln (mymusclecarmemories.com) is also a Pontiac guy & great local source.
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-24-2016, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
 
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I am acquainted with Rocky Rotella from the car show scene in Omaha. Good idea. I will get in touch with him.

My neighbor is a retired machinist who built a machine shop in his garage. He is plenty busy with all kinds of vintage and race engine work. He works on Chevys, races one himself, but also has worked on Allis Chalmers car engines that are 100 years-old, Model T engines, and other domestic engines. It seems many of the machine shops don't want to mess with old stuff. I still have to determine if my engine can be rebuilt. I will have him examine it and we'll go from there.

What I want to build is similar to a 389 Geeteeohguy helped a friend of his build. He had a post about it on one of my initial threads about this topic. What I want to make sure is that all the machine shop work I will need done will be true. Parts selection has been hashed over a great deal on these threads.

I just kept hearing about the need for a "Pontiac shop" to build a Pontiac engine and I just think it can be done by any competent machine shop if the proper information (specs) is followed and good parts are used.

I am open to everyone's responses and I value them.
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-25-2016, 09:02 AM
 
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"...I just kept hearing about the need for a "Pontiac shop" to build a Pontiac engine and I just think it can be done by any competent machine shop if the proper information (specs) is followed and good parts are used.

I am open to everyone's responses and I value them."


The reason you keep hearing it may be because so many of us Pontiac guys have been burned by non Pontiac machine shops. I had 2 Pontiac engines built by a shop where they built mostly Chevy engines, and even raced a Top Fuel dragster.

The 1st engine lasted only a few passes. The 2nd, which was a very mild 350 bracket engine, lasted about 4 races, then locked up, just backing out of the shop.

But, I had a 400 Stocker engine built by a shop that had built several Pontiac Super Stock engines. It won lots of races, then ran in a DD street Bird, for another 2 years. Don't remember if I sold that engine, or put it another car & sold the car. Anyhow, that engine made a lot of 12 sec passes, then did a lot of everyday street duty, without problems. It does matter who does your machine and assembly work.
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-25-2016, 09:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Pinion head View Post
Many different sources can provide competitive prices on quality engine parts. This is something that can be discussed with your machinist/engine builder, on engine builds, I've often let my engine builder source nearly all new internal parts. Have, myself on occasion, sourced forged rods, custom pistons, occasional a cam, specialty gaskets.

For local high quality Pontiac V8 savvy machine work & assembly, wouldn't hurt to get a recommedation from Rocky or Jim Rotella in Omaha. Both are long time Pontiac guys & are as good as gold. Steve Schappaugh in Lincoln (mymusclecarmemories.com) is also a Pontiac guy & great local source.
This is great advice. Since you are acquainted with Rocky Rotella, I would recommend you get in touch with him. In his book on rebuilding Pontiac engines, he is very specific about having a conscientious machinist and showed several photos of machine work being done in a shop in Nebraska.

Best of luck with your build!
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-27-2016, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
 
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Before I buy anything I need to make sure my engine block, crank, and heads can be rebuilt. I will seek a Pontiac oriented shop in the Omaha area to see if there are cracks or if the cylinder walls are suitable for boring. Plan on getting the ball rolling after the holidays.

If my block is shot, my plan B is to revise the current engine in my GTO (correct engine) with updated pistons, valve train, etc.

Hopefully my numbers-matching engine is good to go. I want to help finance my project by selling the plan B engine.

I have one other question. When I visited Butler performance, the person I was talking to told me I couldn't use the I-beam connecting rods with the Ross pistons. He said I would have to use the H-beam rods. Those are more expensive and overkill for my needs. Is this true? I thought the RPM LG5-6625I SAE 5140 rods were the replacements? These are 6.625", 2.250" that use a 0.980 wrist pin. They cost around $300 a set. I'd like to use those. If not, is it out of the question to recondition my OEM Arma Steel rods and use ARP rod bolts?

Remember, I am trying to build a snotty stock looking street engine, not a drag strip stormer. I want to pattern my build similar to a '65 GTO 389 that geeteeohguy posted about that he helped a friend build a few years ago.

Last edited by extinctmake; 11-27-2016 at 10:53 PM.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-28-2016, 11:31 AM
 
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I would contact Ross Pistons at 1-800.392.7677 and talk with their tech guys about this (Ross Racing Pistons)

Not to say anything negative about BP but considering the nature of your build, I would check directly with Ross to get the straight scoop on this. I definitely would not use the fragile old rods as I value my rare engine block as you do.

Also, another member might have a different piston/I-beam rod combo that would work for you and chime in with it. Best of luck!

Last edited by 1968gto421; 11-28-2016 at 11:34 AM. Reason: grammar
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 11-28-2016, 01:03 PM
 
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The more info you provide on the Butler recommendations, the more it sounds like they were talking about an all out street/strip race engine.

The Ross pistons are geared more for racing. They are light weight, but this is somewhat due in part to the very short piston skirt. In my person opinion, you don't really want a piston with a short skirt for the street as it can have a tendency to rock and many of the aftermarket pistons use the narrower piston rings. Read this article on the pistons and look at the differences: Pontiac V-8: Pistons and Rings Performance Guide

I purchased the KB Iconn forged pistons for my 455 build because they had a better skirt, used the factory ring size, and most importantly, had the factory piston pin offset that Pontiac incorporated due to the longer stroke of the 455 ( most aftermarket 455 pistons have the piston pin centered). I am using a forged I-beam rod with these pistons.

Whatever piston you choose to use is basically up to you and the machine shop you use. Pistons all have their pro's and con's and specific uses and range from affordable pricing to way outta my league pricing.

I would first get your block checked out before getting too confused on the parts. Once you know what you have (or don't) then you can move forward from there.
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