John Barnes led the engine building process. John is very meticulous. For example, he was unhappy with the amount of play in brand-new valve guide sleeves (.004' or greater in the ones he obtained) so he made his own bronze guides. The tolerance on them is .0015", close enough to not need valve stem seals. There's always a trade-off though when you go the extra mile'things take longer and sometimes problems crop up.
The first problem to rear its ugly head was mis-alignment of the valve guides John installed with respect to the new valve seats. As it turns out, the seats were in a little crooked (they were done by someone else some time ago). Lesson learned: Do it all yourself. John started over with another pair of heads and this set us back about a week. (Tick, tick, tick went the CTD countdown clock.)
The next problem to appear on the scene was a crack between the #1 intake and exhaust valve seats. John's theory is that the deeper and wider (than stock) seats put extra pressure on an already weak seam. (The crack occurred on the parting line for the two halves of the head.) He rushed the head over to our local wizard welder, who cut out the cancerous section and welded in a big fat slug of nice new aluminum. That, of course, set us back a few more days since John had to re-machine that chamber of the head and the seat pockets and install new seats.
All sorts of other, more minor, issues popped up, mainly due to performance changes causing other stock parts to no longer fit.
Along the way, John and I decided to invite Ray Sedman up for the first running of the engine since he had contributed many parts to the engine, some of which were being tested for the first time. Ray was very gracious in rescheduling his trip a couple of times, to accommodate our slipping schedule and the terrible events of September 11.
Finally, on September 27, Ray flew into Seattle in the evening after work. By this time John had the engine fully assembled and we had started it outside the car, to shake it down and look for problems. The main problem was the carbs were not working well. I had originally purchased some 46 mm Webers and they proved to be in serious need of rebuilding. And, as I found out, they were really designed for a race application, not street. (The 3.1 liter engine size was technically big enough for the 46 mm carbs but the construction of them was not conducive to the street.)
Thus began our marathon to get the car on the road. Sleep? Who needs it?
Thursday night was spent getting a set of borrowed 40 mm Weber carbs on the engine (courtesy of Jeff Hines, a local Corvair and Porsche enthusiast/mechanic) and doing such mundane tasks as fiddling with the Weber linkage, cutting side sheet metal to fit around the intake manifolds, etc. John transported the engine in his Rampside to the shop where the car was being stored around 3 AM while Ray and I tagged along in my Rampside. We parted ways and made it home to bed at 4 AM.
Friday we got up at 8 AM after a nice 4-hour nap and went back at it. We experienced several 'delights' such as the roller rocker tips sticking (refusing to turn) due to old grease drying out, a failed U-joint, fabricating a temporary exhaust system with headers from two used systems that John had laying around, and deciding how to lay out the fuel delivery system in the engine compartment. (The rockers had been purchased in 1998 in anticipation of an imminent engine assembly. Oops.) We finally finished the engine installation and associated hook-ups at'of course'3 AM. Back to bed for another nice nap around 4 AM.
On Saturday, Ray and I slept in until the "decadent" hour of 9 AM and then rushed over to the shop, expecting to start the car and leave in short order. Except that: the distributor was missing a rotor. (We had used a borrowed distributor earlier and hadn't checked the one I owned.) After plugging in a freshly-purchased rotor, the engine fired and idled fine but didn't run well otherwise. Ray quickly noticed that the Chrysler electronic ignition was retarding the timing, instead of providing the appropriate amount of advance, as the RPM increased. Back to the auto parts store I went. (Ray says this is a common failure mode for these units. This is the third one I've purchased since 1995!) Of course, the first store I visited was out of the model we needed so I had to visit a second store to secure the correct unit.
Great! Now we're ready to go. Oops, wait: We needed to do a basic rear wheel alignment since this was the first time the car had been on the ground since the anti-sway bar installation.
OK, now we're ready to go. Except that: We forgot to install the clevis in the shift coupler and we had sent the part home with John. Doh! A trip to the hardware store solved that problem but clearly we weren't going to make the main CTD event (the car show).
Off we went finally around 3 PM. Needless to say, it was a mixture of exhilarating and scary to put the first miles on the car by backing out of the garage to head to Canada (a two-hour trip)! But heck, we had a few parts, a few hand tools, snacks, cell phones, and a AAA card...
The car ran well and we made it to CTD just as the late lunch/early dinner at Red Robin was ending. There was plenty of time to demo the engine to folks and to participate in a cruise-in at Mr. Hamburger. The hydraulic roller cam engine exhibits the same docile behavior (at low throttle) as the solid lifter variety. Ray and I were surprised though by how loud the valve train was—not nearly as quiet as we had expected.
All-in-all it was a great but tiring experience. Two clich's to live by: Hard work does pay off and good things are worth waiting for, especially Corvairitis Treatment.