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Discussion Starter #1
Hey Guys, Sorry if some of these questions are simple but this is my first engine build and I am trying to minimize trial and error. I am quite a few weeks out on the block and a few more weeks past that on the heads. I'm starting with a 455 short block assembly from Len Williams (the 455 short block is a stroked 400 with all new internals) and I am going to use a pair of ported 6X heads machined by Nitemare Performance (stage 2 heads). I started compiling a list of other parts that I'll need to put this together I ran into a couple questions.

How common is it to need a shorter timing chain on a rebuilt block and how do you know you need it? Would this be a question to ask the machine shop or do you start with a standard size and see how it fits? What are opinions between head stud vs head bolts? I was leaning towards studs but was curious how others felt. Any opinion on running the PCV valve through a valve cover rather than the valley pan? I was leaning towards a Butler oil pump with Canton oil pan with the correct oil pickup and a 1 piece oil pan gasket. Solid decision or better options?

As a little background. I am building this for street use only. I have no intention of running my car on the track so I am not looking to squeeze every last ounce of power out of it. I am leaning towards this cam:


I want to run the ram air manifolds, car does not have power brakes and has a manual transmission. Any concerns?

I am sure I am going to come up with more questions.

Thanks in advance.
 

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That cam and the RA manifolds should be fine. As to the short timing chain, that's only necessary if significant meat was cut out of the block for the line bore. That's a question to ask Len Williams, but I would be surprised if you needed it. Actually you said you purchased a short block assembly. It should have the right chain on it now.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the info. I don't think the short block comes with the timing set. It's just the rotating assembly, no cam installed yet. I tend to way overthink these sorts of things. I drive the wife nuts.
 

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Good choices on short block and heads. Assuming you are going with a compression near 9.0? As pointed out, typically you won't need a shorter chain unless the main caps or their bores were way off or had been damaged. Len Williams would be the one to direct that question to, but I would think if it needed the shorter chain that he would have notified you or even offered to supply it as part of the $build.

Studs are better and what I am going with on my 455. They provide a more consistent torque. The important thing is to not bottom the studs out in the blind holes Pontiac uses in their block. I am sure Len Williams has already used a chasing tap (not a cutting tap) on those holes. Another question you can ask Len. If you happen to need to do this, you can rent a chasing tap set as they do offer a rental set at O'Reily's down here in my area.

Follow the instructions for installing the head studs. They will use lube on the threads, but very lightly - and that will come with the studs if ARP's. Put the lube on the threads and then wipe off with a lint free rag to remove excess, but still leave a light coating. Too much lube can be a bad thing. Same thing on the top threads and a little lube under the washers.

Get the Butler blueprinted Pro 60 PSI oil pump. It will have a paper that'll show the pump's increased flow. Put the gasket on the block and then on the oil pump to make sure no gross mis-match between the oil passage in the block-to-oil pump base. Get a good aftermarket hardened oil pump driveshaft. I went with Nitemare's oil pump drive. It is a little more on the budget, but insurance. BearGFR said he had a slight problem with interference on the pump body, but a little clearancing with a grinder took care of the issue - so check for this.

The Canton pan's, with matching oil pick-up, will have oil baffling which is a good thing. You want to make sure the pick-up sets about 1/4" off the bottom of the pan (probably could go a little more, but I would not want any less than 1/4"). Install the oil pump/pick-up, oil pan gasket, and some guys use a ball of aluminum foil on top of the pick-up and then put the pan down and give it a little pressure to compress the foil ball and this will give you an idea of your clearance.

I went with an oil pan stud kit because I could, and it seemed easier, especially with the 1-piece pan gasket. Assuming you are going with the Canton 6 Qt factory replacement pan, Don't forget the factory corner braces that are found at the rear of the pan on the back corners.

I am also going with a crank scraper and not using a windage tray - personal choice. If you do use a factory tray, the long tray has 3 (three) 1/4" drain holes, the short has 2. Drill a 4th drain hole on the long tray. Open the drain holes to 1" diameter, or simply add a series of additional 1/4" drain holes. This lets the oil drain much better. (Pictures inserted) Get the correct intermediate dipstick tube for the tray. If not using the tray, then you will need the corresponding intermediate dipstick tube having an L-bracket on it that attaches to a main cap - don't forget this or your dipstick will slide right into the crank throws and get snapped off on first fire up, not a good thing.

My opinion - the cam looks a little small for what you have. The added cubes and much better flowing heads can go more cam, duration & lift. Assuming 1.5 ratio rockers? The 112 LSA is my choice. Duration on intake - I would not go any less than 280 and I would want lift closer to .500". Remember, the bigger cubes will make a cam act smaller on it versus the smaller cubes of a 400CI. This would be a better choice and looks to be the same specs as the XE274 cam with 110 LSA. I ran that cam in my low compression 400CI build and it was a good cam in that engine. The 112LSA will make it work better in the stroker. But, it is still a small cam, but a good choice for a street engine and should provide plenty of power.


Nitemare Performance can also supply a cam grind for your build.

On the PCV question, Lemansguy will answer that as he has had good experiences with his set-up. Just remember that you have to have a breather on one of the valve covers.

Pan & Windage Tray.JPG
01  Windge Trays - Long vs Short.JPG
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That is a ton of good information and I thank you! The short block will already have the oil dip stick tube installed. When I spoke to Len a few weeks ago he said he only uses windage trays on the blocks that came with them from the factory. So the engine he is building for me may, or may not have one, it just depends on the year. I will touch base with him this week to see where we are at.

Like what you have said, Darrin, at Nitemare, also recommended a more aggressive cam. He asked a bunch of questions about my car and was really helpful. Right now my car has 3.23 gears out back so I am trying to keep the power band on the lower end. I told him I was shooting for around a 9-1 compression and he said he would go a bit higher with what we have available at the pump in NE. I have to trust his judgment since I told him what my goals for this are, The power levels he quotes are quite a bit higher than I expected.

Side note on this. I finally got around to tearing apart the 400 that was in the car. It is a 74 block. The crank was broken in 4 places. I could not find one crack in the block anywhere from the failure. The back two pistons did hit but other than a couple small nicks at the very bottom of the piston sleeves, the block seems to be sound. It looks like all the the damage was to the rotating assembly and two of the main bearing retainers (the big one in the back was cracked). Is it worth bringing it to a shop to get it cleaned and checked for cracks in case I need it as a spare in the future?
 

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You are doing it right and super spot on advice from PJ. I also did use the blueprinted Butler oil pump and hardened shaft. I added a washer, that they have with that pump that bumps the oil pressure up slightly.....from 60 PSI to 65 to 70.....I did not want the 80 PSI. So talk to Butler on that. They are super and did my short block and supplied the crank and many other parts. I did use Harland sharp roller rockers with a flat tap pet cam. I really like them and feel they smooth out the engine.

As for the PCV. Yes you can run one in a valve cover, that is where mine is. Use a baffled valve cover. Not a baffled grommet, they do not work. If you use the original style valley pan, it is baffled. You must use a breather also as PJ said in the other valve cover.

I can’t say it enough, we build these beautiful Pontiac engines and then we don’t put on an efficient PCV system to get rid of all that acidic mixture from blow by, condensation, contaminated Oil and dirt that is swirling around in the crankcase. That acid is eating up your internals over time and mucked up everything. So let the engine exhale! And breath fresh air.

we go to great pains to port the heads and talk about flow through the valves then disregard all that knowledge and choke out the crankcase. If godflow applies up top, it applies down below too.

If you want it in the valve cover, it will work great. I recommend a ME Wagner dual flow PCV in a baffledvalve cover. A K&N valve cover breather filter in the other side. And a catch can. I use a radium engineering Catch can. That will make your engine run better, and cleaner and much longer!
 

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Found this on Youtube. Installing the oil pump screen. The guy uses a drill bit to check clearances between screen and bottom of the pan - pretty simple. I think I will do this myself.

 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for all the help guys. This is my first time specing out an engine and want to make sure I get it right. Will the cam you listed still work with the RA manifolds? I'm not completely opposed to headers but I had them on an 80's Camaro and fought gasket leaks all the time which did sour me on them a bit. I have a brand new Pipes exhaust system on the car already so I can go either route with about the same amount of work.

I ran across the same oil pump video a couple weeks back. Seems pretty simple. He specifies TIG welding it. I'm wondering if using my MIG would be OK or if I should have a shop do this part.

Great information on PCV options. I think we have all heard the PCV valve be called an emission system requirement only. I had no intention of eliminating it, just looking at my options on where to place it. I wasn't sure if Pontiac put it in the valley cover for a particular reason or not.
 

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The cam PJ mentioned will work fine with the RA manifolds. The key is not getting the LSA too tight. I like to run my engines with larger cams, but I'm after performance. Personally I would go much larger, but I think the last cam mentioned would work very well for you.
 

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I forgot to address the bolt/stud question. I always use the factory head bolts on factory heads. There's absolutely nothing wrong with them. AND - they have the bolts with studs on them to bolt on accessories. I haven't found an aftermarket bolt like that ,and certainly studs would not have that capability.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Good to know on the cam. I'm holding off on ordering manifolds until I am way closer the the engine going back in. By then I may have talked myself into headers anyway. I realize I am leaving some power on the table with this build but it should still have way more than what came out of it. I am planning on ordering some parts this week so I can have some stuff ready for when the block gets here. I see what you're saying on the bolts with the studs. Mine had 4 of them like that but only one of them was utilized for anything. That was what the tube for the starter wires was attached to on the drivers side. The other three were bare. Possibly something that was used on the car the engine came out of (AC or whatever).

Thanks again for all the help on this. I have gotten some great advice on here.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That's probably how mine was supposed to be too. The previous owner attached the main ground to the intake manifold where the alternator bracket mounts. I've found a bunch of other small things that were just slightly off during the tear down. Now's the opportunity to put it back together the right way.
 
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