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Projects FlatCab: 1932 Cabriolet, Hot 1941/42 Merc Flathead Build

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Bored&Stroked, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. To Float . . . or Not to Float . . . 21A Rod Bearings: Okay a little history for the newbies. When the 1949 to 1953 Mercury flathead came out, it had a larger stroke crankshaft (4" stroke) - which gave you a 255 cubic inch factory flathead. The 49-53 Ford engines continued to use the same 3 3/4" stroke that had been used for many years. So a "1/4" stroker became a popular combination . . . as you could drop that 49-53 crank in a 39-48 flathead (along with the right pistons) and immediately enjoy the extra cubic inches. If you ran the standard Merc crank, then you could either run the late style rods (with 'modern' insert bearings), or the earlier 29A full-floating rods.

    But, racers are crafty . . . and custom crankshafts were (and are) a lot of mullah$$$. So, somebody got the bright idea that you could take that Merc crank and offset grind the journals to the earlier 221 cubic inch size, run the smaller ID earlier rods and now you'd have a "3/8" stroker. The term "3/8 by 3/8" flathead was the legend being born --a combination of an offset ground 49-53 Merc crank (giving you a 4 1/8" stroke) and a 3 3/8" bore . . . for the magic number of 296 cubic inches. That was a serious big deal for hot-rodders all over the United States. Many a town had somebody who had the money and gumption to put one of these "full race" engines together . . . to the envy of most everybody else.

    Well - once you offset ground the Merc crank to the smaller 1.998 rod journal, you could no longer run the later rods, so what did you do? You picked up a set of 1939 - 1942 rods from a 221 cubic inch Ford flathead. The earlier rods were labeled "91A", the later ones (41/42 or so), "21A". Folks claimed the 21A rods were a bit better - but they only had about 10 grams of more steel to them. So you could easily end up with a 4 1/8" stroke engine by some fairly simple crankshaft grinding procedures, using cheap rods and bearings . . . the only thing you needed to order from a speedshop was a set of pistons with the pins in the correct location for a 4 1/8" stroke crank.

    Okay - enough of my boring history lesson . . . you still awake???

    In building this engine, I could have easily just thrown a set of H-beam rods in it (with Buick insert bearings) and been done with it. It would actually have saved me time and money to do so. But - I wanted to build this engine the same way they did "back in the day" . . . so I had to go with the 21A rods . . . which use a full-floating bearing. Also, my reciprocating assembly will be very light - so it should rev really nicely. :)

    So, what is a 'full-floating bearing' some may ask? It is a bearing that does not have a tang to fix it to the rod bore, it "floats" between the rod bore and the crankshaft journal. Essentially the ID of the 21A rods are another polished bearing surface - the bearings float on this surface the same way they float on the crankshaft journal. You might say you have TWO bearing journals being used at the same time . . . pretty cool setup.

    Out of the Box Full Floater Bearings . . . They Need Work!

    One of the challenges of setting up 91A or 21A rods is that full-floating bearings need manual adjustments in almost all cases to actually "float" like they're supposed to. Some sets of bearings are perfect, they turn easily inside the rod bore and on the crankshaft - no work needed. In many other cases you need to use a deadblow hammer, and a block of wood to get the bearings to correctly fit the rods and crank. Some bearings will be too wide at the parting line (meaning you have to put them on end and tap them to narrow the gap), others are too narrow, which means you need to hit the backs of them (while sitting on a hard block) to widen them back out just a bit. It it one of those exercises that seems a bit daunting at first, but once you get into it - you'll get it figured out.

    Bearing Preparation - Red ScotchBrite and Lacquer Thinner: What I first do is take all the bearings and using very fine (red) ScotchBrite, I hand polish both sides of them - using lacquer thinner as a lubricant. Remember - both sides are bearing surfaces - so both sides need to be prepped before you do anything. Then I follow up with 'grey' ultra-fine ScotchBrite.

    Here are some bearings before I started. I like to use what were known as 'Cadmium Silver' or "Heavy Duty Truck and Bus" bearings - if you can find them. They are a software bearing than the typical hard-copper ones. I dug in my stash and found about 6 pairs to work with. Here is what they looked like "out of the box". Some had a yellow/clear protection layer on them - it easily comes off with ScotchBrite and lacquer thinner.

    Full-FloaterRodBearings1 copy.jpg Full-FloaterRodBearings2 copy.jpg

    Figuring Out Rod Bearing Clearances: How to mic a bearing: If you don't have a bearing mic (which I don't have). You take a steel rod pin, put some tape on it and put it in the vise. Then you use a 1" mic to measure the rod bearing against the rod pin. (The rod pin solves the problem of dealing with the radius of the bearing ID).

    MicTheBearingThickness copy.jpg

    Once you have the number, then you subtract the pin diameter. My measurements were (with the pin) - .8645. So when you subtract the pin, each shell is .1145 thick (these are .010 bearings). To figure out your bearing clearances --> you take the crankshaft journal size, and twice the bearing thickness and subtract from the rod bore ID. In my case:

    .1145 x 2 = .229 + 1.9885 = 2.2175. The standard ID for a full floater 91A or 21A rod is 2.220, so I have .0025 rod bearing clearance. This is exactly what I planned for this street/race engine.

    Testing Fitment - Takes Some Trial and Error: I take a rod, torque the cap on it and put it in a rod vise. I then work with each set of bearings to get them to precisely fit the rod bore. I want them to equally touch the bore and slide up and down. I've made a video to show you a bit more - as it is kind of hard to explain. I had to apply the hammer a few times, do the ScotchBrite some more . . . just keep working with them until they fit as they should . . . easily sliding up/down in the rod bore.

    It took me about 3 hours to prep the bearings and get them correctly sized for the rods and crank. You cannot skip this step with full-floaters . . . or you'll have bearing issues (as they won't float!)

    Here is a short video that kind of shows the full-floating bearing fitment in a rod:

    Last edited: May 30, 2015
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  2. Degreeing Cams: Profile Mapping, Analysis and Decisions: As many of you know, I'm kind of a nut about camshafts in general - a sickness that has been going on for 40 years or so. Anyway, I have been using software from 'Performance Trends' named Cam Analyzer for quite a few years (beats the hell out of my old graph paper methods 30 years ago!). I decided to use this opportunity to map the profiles on a set of different cams in the same engine, using my large degree wheel . . . such that I could collect the data, compare profile graphs, review velocity and acceleration and also make some timing choices (where to install my roller cam at).

    1) Process - Manual Data Capture: With the degree wheel mounted on the crank, I install a cam with the correct lifter (flat, radius, roller, etc) and tighten up the lash such that there is NONE. I always start capturing data on the opening ramp of #1 intake valve, with my initial data point at .010 lift. I write down the degree wheel number and the lift. Then I continue to rotate the degree wheel and take a lift measurement every 5 degrees of crankshaft rotation. I do this through peak lift, down the closing ramp side . . . all the way until I hit .010 once again. I also deliberately take additional readings at .020 and .050 lift (both open and close).

    I repeat this same procedure for the #1 exhaust valve at the same time.

    2) Data Entry: Then I add all these data point in the CAM Analyzer software - such that I can do my graphs. Here is a screen grab of what the software looks like (at least one small portion of it):


    3) Basic Cam Information (Isky 404-A): The software will process the information and calculate the high-level overview facts about the cam - with timing information at .050 automatically done. Here is a small screen shot that I use all the time - just to validate the timing information, duration, centerlines, etc.. I know for dang sure whether a cam meets the 'timing tag' specs that came with it and also whether or not it is advanced or retarded as installed with standard timing gears.


    Notice that I can see the duration at .050 - is 241.2 for the intake and 239.8 for the exhaust. Also, I can see the lobe separation and Advance/Retard of the cam . . . along with all the other timing information. Isky typically grinds the 404A on about a 111.5 degree centerline (even stamps it on some of the fronts) - notice that the software shows that above. Also, the lobe separation and advance readings are key - I'll use them to setup the cam timing.

    4) Reports: It will create a report that shows the details of the entire profile -- and very importantly for me, what the peak amount of profile rise per degree of crankshaft rotation. I can compare profiles and see how fast the valves are being opened and where on the profile. This allows me to compare multiple camshafts in minute detail.

    Note: I highlighted that on the 404A radius profile, that the peak velocity is 9.738 thousands of lifter rise per degree of crank rotation - and it happens at 18 degrees ATDC and when the profile is lifting .163". That is quite a bit 'faster' than you'll see with a flat tappet profile - regardless of total lift.

    5) Graphs: Now this is the cool part, I can plot/print the profile graphs and include velocity, acceleration and even jerk:


    Here is with Acceleration Included:


    6) Graph Overlays: I can even load two or more tests and have them overlay on the same graph - such that I can compare profiles, timing, etc.

    Here is my custom roller cam - overlayed on top of the Isky 404-A. Notice how much more duration the roller cam has up until about .160 lift . . . then the profiles are very similar.


    Based on this chart and other information, I decided to advanced the cam 2 degrees (which I can do on the graph) - this can even be shown:


    I won't bore you with all the testing data - and I've done 5 different cams and have one more to do (Potvin 425 that is coming from Pete Samuelson at D&L).

    Having data like this has enabled me to make some very interesting observations over the years -- especially as it relates to flat tappet, versus radius lifter, versus roller cam profiles. I've found it especially interesting to compare roller profiles versus radius cams . . . but I'm not going to go into the details here.

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  3. HotRodMicky
    Joined: Oct 14, 2001
    Posts: 1,756


    Wow that is very cool!!!
  4. Update: Pistons and Valve Guides: While I'm waiting for some more coating materials, needed to complete the piston skirts. Once the C-110 MicroSlick coating has dried at least 24 hours, then you should hand burnish it with #0000 steel wool. This just provides an ultra smooth finish. I did all the pistons and then to answer a previous question, miced the piston skirt --> It was the same 3.3075" that it was before I began the procedure. This stuff goes on very thin and embeds itself into the blast profile pores and material in general. I sprayed two fine coats and after burnishing, you can obviously still see the coating, but it is extremely thin (so you don't need to worry about piston clearances changing!).

    Here is a completed piston:

    BurnishedPistonsSkirt copy.jpg

    1) Final Valve Guide Prep - Clearances in the Guide Bores: I purchased a set of guides from Red's Headers - I like their guides in that they supply a SOLID exhaust guide (no provision for an O-ring) - which is how Henry did it. Most suppliers use the same intake guide for both guides (Speedway for example). The solid guide has a better contact surface to remove heat from the exhaust valve and transfer it to the block - which keeps the exhaust valve cooler. This is obviously a good thing.

    One of the things that I haven't liked for awhile (in every Ford flathead I've built) is how loose the guides tend to be in the guide bores. This is not a wear thing (as nothing is moving in the guide bores), it is just a manufacturing tolerance issue. To me, any slop in the guides can transfer to the valve . . . allowing it to 'rock' back and forth on the seat - which can reduce seat life as the loose guide is causing the valve to 'recenter itself' - it kind of bounces back and forth until it finds the middle once again. This video will show you what I'm talking about (keep in mind, this block was STD bore and had been ran very little - so it is nothing to do with the block).


    I decided that now was the time to try a little experiment - why not just knurl the OD of the valve guides in my lathe and tighten them up a bit? Seems like a valid idea worth chasing. I used the smallest/finest knurling pattern and put two small knurls on each guide. I then polished them out just a bit with some 220 sandpaper and test fit each and every one in the block. This really worked slick - now they fit nice and tight when I pull them down with the valve bar!


    2) Intake Guides - Cutting the Tops Back: Due to the extensive porting work in the floors of the intake ports, the guides stick up into the intake port about 3/32 - a nice wall of obstruction. I chuck each one in the lathe and starting about 3/32 from the top, make a 3o degree cut back to the middle. This works out perfect and removes the obstruction from the port. I didn't need to do the exhausts - they don't have the issue.

    Here are some final valve guide pictures - you can see the two knurling 'stripes' and the cut/polished top of the intake guide. Once I get my valve stems coated - time to start the final assembly! About damn time :)

    IntakeCutBackProcess copy.jpg IntakeCompletedCutBack copy.jpg KnurledIntakeGuide copy.jpg FinishedGuides2 copy.jpg FinishedGuides1 copy.jpg
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  5. hotcoupe
    Joined: Oct 3, 2007
    Posts: 477


    dale, thanx again for documenting your work, looking forward to seeing what kind of horse power/torque this engine makes. do you have any idea? what are your thoughts on using bronze liners in the guides?
  6. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,772


    This thread is epic. I don't mean to be dramatic, but it really may be one of the best I've seen on here. Dale, if I lived within even 3 hours from you, you'd have a new best friend.

    I'm amazed at all of the thought that is going into building this motor. Simply amazing.
  7. Thanks guys! It comments like these and the interest that the HAMB shows that keeps me motivated to take the time to document all of this stuff. There are many ways to skin the 'Flathead Cat' - I share as much as I can as to what I'm thinking and why I'm doing it. I'm learning as I go . . . just like all of you guys.

    Stay tuned . . .
    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  8. orangeamcs
    Joined: Jun 23, 2007
    Posts: 600


    This is the most educational thread going!
  9. m.kozlowski
    Joined: Nov 2, 2011
    Posts: 134


    Dale, thank you again for documenting oll of your knowledge here.
    I've built about 40 engines to day, and i'm still learning new stuff each time. And i see how much i need to learn... Your thread is very, very interesting.
  10. dragsled
    Joined: May 12, 2011
    Posts: 1,977

    from Panama IA

    Great Thread Dale, Carl was telling me about and sent me the link the other day, Some of the best info out there, Plus Good pics!,, Tim Jones
  11. Been doing a lot more cam profiling work - will post a lot of detailed information by end of week. Have had some family events to attend to out of town.

    Posted using the Full Custom H.A.M.B. App!
  12. TexasSpeed
    Joined: Nov 2, 2009
    Posts: 4,604


    I love this thread. I'm learning so much..
  13. Thanks! Makes it all worthwhile for me . . . stay tuned, lots of updates coming up!
  14. Additional Coatings - Valve Tops, Valve Stems, Rod-Bearings and Cam Bearings:
    I went ahead and coated the rod bearings with the same dry film lubricant that I used on the piston skirts (it is an air-dry formula). The bearing surfaces were already prepped in that I'd been using ScotchBright to polish and clearance them for correct fitment in the rods/journals. (You don't garnet blast bearings or other bearing surfaces!). Once the bearings were cured (5 days), then I used the same 0000 steel wool that I used on the piston skirts to polish/burnish the coatings a bit.

    The valve tops were masked off (big pain in the butt!) and prepped with a 100 grit garnet-sand blast (to take the shine off and give the thermal coatings something to stick to). The valve stems were lightly prepped with a very-fine ScotchBright pad as well - then masked off to only let the coatings be in the guide contact areas. Also, I made metal ID tags to attach to each valve as once they're coated, one can't see the numbers on the heads anymore . . . and they need to go back into the correct locations!

    I coated the tops of all the valves with the same ceramic thermal barrier as the piston domes and then I switched over to a bit thicker over-cure dry-film lubricant on the valve stems (used 2 coats). Having over-cure coatings on the tops and stems meant that I could oven cure the valves a single time and be ready to use them within a 24 hour period.

    The cam bearings were lightly prepped with ScothBright and then I applied the same oven-cure dry-film lubricant that I used on the valve stems. They were baked at the same time as the valves and then polished/burnished with steel wool as well.

    Here are a few pictures of the parts mentioned above - looking forward to seeing how the coatings perform and last over time!

    2015-06-17 15.43.14 copy.jpg 2015-06-17 15.46.37 copy.jpg 2015-06-17 15.47.23 copy.jpg 2015-06-17 15.47.40 copy.jpg
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  15. Jet96
    Joined: Dec 24, 2012
    Posts: 970

    from WY

    I just about can't wait til you get that thing fired up ! Using the coatings is something I've wanted to try on other projects. Thank You for indulging us!
  16. 38 coupe
    Joined: May 11, 2008
    Posts: 155

    38 coupe
    from Texas

    I'm really curious how much difference the coatings make over time. Is there good documentation on coatings after many miles of use?

    Thank you for documenting all of this where we can follow along. Excellent work sir!
  17. Pistons, Rods and Rings:

    Now that I've coated the pistons and rod bearings, time to get things assembled. As a reminder, the pistons are a custom set of Ross forged racing pistons -- I specified the exact pin-offsets (compression height), the location of the rings, type of rings, etc.. I made sure that the top compression ring down from the relief area such that it was protected from too much heat.

    I'm using a metric set of rings (1.5mm, 1.5mm, 3.0mm) - manufactured by Total Seal. This is the first time I've used the Total-Seal ring package on a Flathead Ford (we are using the same type of ring on the FlatCad).

    The top-ring is called "gapless" - which is a bit of a misnomer . . . there is a gap (as there has to be to account for heat expansion and bore wear) - but there is a companion ring for the top (almost looks like an oil-ring 'scraper') - that combined with a more normal looking compression ring, gives you added sealing as compared to a single top compression ring. If you've never worked with Total-Seal rings, you'll find that the gapless top-ring is a bit of a pain in the butt to install, but you'll get used to it! Make dang sure you don't substitute an oil-scraper ring for the top compression companion ring - keep your rings organized!

    1) Ring Prep: I always order my rings to be .005 larger than the bore . . . what is commonly referred to as 'file to fit'. Basically this means that they DO NOT FIT out of the box, you have to file/gap them for the specific bores of the engine block you're working on. I file/gap the ring packages for every cylinder and keep them organized as such.

    I used to file/gap rings with a hand-file (takes a lot of time and it is hard to keep the ends square) - now I use a little device from Jeg's with a diamond wheel and a hand crank.

    RingGaps copy.jpg

    These tools are awesome, but you need to get used to how FAST they will take material off. If you're a newbie, I'd recommend practicing on some old rings - to get a feel for how many 'handle-cranks' it takes to remove 'X' amount of material. One word of caution, you need to get used to the fact that different ring materials file at different rates - so what works on the second ring will probably not work on the top! I usually go really slow on the first set of rings and write down my procedure - "top ring takes 15 cranks, second ring takes 12 cranks". There is a bit of 'art' is using these things - so take your time.

    Gaps: There is a ring gap chart supplied with every ring set I've ever bought - so follow the instructions of figuring out the correct gap for your application. It will differ based on whether this is a street engine, street/strip, blown, etc..

    Note on the Total-Seal - Top Compression Companion Ring: The small companion ring is NOT filed - it will work out as supplied.

    Note on Oil Rings: The oil-ring package is not gapped/filed - it is ready to go out of the box.

    Gap/Edge Corners: You should take a very fine file and manually break the sharp corner/edge of the compression rings (top and second) - so that you don't put scratches in the bores. You only need to just barely break the corner - don't round it off much.

    Rings-Chamfering copy.jpg

    2) Piston to Rod Assembly - Bore Orientation - You should use a high-quality assembly lube to coat the piston pin bores and pins. I make sure to 'glob' a bit into the pin oil holes and associated grooves. You should pay attention to piston-to-rod orientation - as some pistons are 'directional' . . . they need to be installed in a certain manner (which side faces the front of the engine). Even if your pistons can be installed in any direction, I always install mine such that I know which side of a rod faces the front of the engine and which side of the piston is 'Up'. Keep in mind that the orientation changes from side-to-side. So - you should label your pistons/rods with a 'marker' to know which side of the engine they go in and which specific bore! Remember - we just talked about sizing rings to bores - so you need to know which rod, piston, ring package goes to which bore location!

    Spiro Locks:
    Most modern piston manufacturers use what are known as 'Spiro Locks' to hold the pins into the pin bores.

    Spiro-Loc1 copy.jpg

    The first time you see these suckers, you'll be wondering "How the hell do I install these things???" . . . and you'll probably attempt it and be frustrated and unsuccessful. (Ask me how I would know this?). The key is to manually pull them apart and expand them so they look like a spring - this is the key part!

    Spiro-Loc-Expanded copy.jpg

    The second part is to have a small little screw-driver as a 'helper' tool. I made a special screw driver - with a little ground 'step' in the end of it - 1/2 the blade width and about 1/32 to 1/16 deep - helps a bit. What you need to learn to do is to sort of 'thread' the spiro-lock into the bore and wind it into the groove.

    Spiro-Loc-Installation copy.jpg

    I didn't take a video (as I didn't have a tripod and this jobs takes two hands). Here is a video link to the procedure:

    Important Note: You'll probably find that you have 32 spiro-locks supplied with a set of pistons. These are not spares! You need to put in TWO spiro-locks for each side of the piston pin . . . 4 per piston!

    3) Ring Assembly - Putting Them on the Pistons: If you've never done this, then pay close attention to the instructions that come with the rings! You must absolutely understand the direction that the rings are installed (which side is 'up'). Usually there are markings on the rings (dots, etc) - and/or the ring has a specific orientation that will be denoted. Focus and pay attention - if you install any of the compression rings with the wrong orientation, they will not work as designed.

    I used to install them on the pistons by hand - which is 'okay', but it is easy to scratch a piston with the gap areas and also quite easy to break a compression ring. Buy yourself a little/cheap ring installation tool (looks like a funny set of pliers) - they work great and you'll be glad you did.

    RingInstallationTool copy.jpg

    Installation Order: I've done it all sorts of ways, but with Total-Seal rings, I tend to put the top gap-less set on first, then the second compression rings, then the oil rings.

    Important - Ring Gap Orientation: You should pay close attention to where the ring gaps are in relation to the pistons and bores. It is standard procedure to alternate the ring gap locations around the piston - so that you sort of have them 120 degrees apart. The reason is that you don't want the gaps all aligned - such that compression gasses can easily just "run down the gaps" and escape into the crankcase.

    Important - Gap Orientation with a 'Relieved' Block!: If you have a block that is relieved, then you'll learn in a hurry that you should NOT have any of the ring gaps oriented such that they are in the area of the piston that corresponds to the relief of the block (top of the pistons). This also means that when you assemble your rods/pistons that you mark them as to which side is 'UP' for every rod and piston. As most of my flatheads are relieved, I will space the ring end-gaps around the bottom 2/3rds' of the piston. Usually the top and second compression ring gaps are at about 3 and 9 o-clock and the oil rings at 6 o-clock.

    4) Installation in the Bores - Let the FUN Begin Boys!: There are a ton of videos on how to install pistons and rods out on the internet . . . but probably not too many associated with flatheads and 'relieved blocks'! Make sure you have turned the crank such that the rods and rod-bolts can't hit it (so turn it to be completely 'down/away' from the bore you're working on). Cover the rod bolts with tape or rubber so they don't nick/scratch the crank and pay particular attention so as to NOT touch the crankshaft with the rod bolt ends or rod cap/surface edges. Don't ruin that new crank!

    Lubrication: Again - use LOTS of assembly lube on the bearings, crank journals, cylinder bores and piston skirts! I use different lubricants for the crank/bearings versus the bores, pistons and ring packs. (I'll update this thread later on).

    So lets get specific . . . First of all, what type of ring compressor are you using? I've tried quite a few, but I always go back to my old banded spring type compressor with a 'crank' on the side. Why? Well, when you're dealing with relieved blocks, you'll need 3 hands if you attempt to use the 'pliers' type . . . due to drama in the relief area!

    a) Major Problem - Rings Want to Expand Out into the Relief: This is about the time that you'll wish you never heard of 'relieving a flathead block' . . . but hang on, there are tricks to the piston installation process! Maybe a bit crude, but effective none the less!

    The major issue is that as you start knocking the piston through the ring compressor and into the bore, things seems to be going smoothly until the dang oil rings pop out into the relief area. STOP! Now your first inclination is to just hit the top of the piston harder with the rubber-coated handle of your favorite hammer (yes, that is what I use - a 2 lb sledge hammer . . . the rubber handle side only!). You cannot just force the oil (or compression rings if they pop out) past the relief! You'll screw them up and damage/break the rings . . . and probably never install any pistons as a result.

    So, here is what I do. First - remember the section above . . . you should have NO ring gaps in the relief area. If you see a ring gap during the installation procedure (in the relief area) - take the rod/piston assembly back out and re-orientate your ring packs!

    From the Start . . . gently tap the piston down into the bore and when you see the first oil scraper ring "jump out" into the relief, slow down - you'll need a 'helper and tool' to push/prod it past the relief area such that you can continue knocking your piston down into the bore.

    Relief-OilRingIssues copy.jpg

    So . . . you're thinking "What the Hell do I use that won't damage the rings???" - the answer is NOT the hard edge of a screw driver. I always have a handful of paint stir sticks on hand - and I use them to push/tap the rings back in place (with a rubber hammer) - such that I can get the pistons installed. Checkout this picture - it will explain it a bit . . . just "try it, you'll like it" . . .

    Place the edge of the paint stick against the oil scraper rings and either push them back in or 'tap' them just a bit. You'll see how you can push them back out of the relief area and then gently continue tapping the piston down into the bore.

    Relief-PushingOilringBack copy.jpg

    b) Compression Rings: As they hold their shape well, you usually won't have an issue with them in the relief area - AS LONG AS YOU DON'T HAVE ANY GAPS in the relief area. If you do, then again . . . pull the piston back out and re-orientate your ring gaps. Pay attention in case one jumps out into the relief area - use the 'paint stick' to push it back in if needed.

    Job for Two of You?: As you can see, this whole process is a bit scary for one person to handle it - especially if you're new. You might want to enlist a fellow flathead friend to take over the 'paint stick' ring manipulation aspects while you handle the ring compressor and rod/piston assemblies. Just trying to help you out and save you some grief!

    4PistonsIn copy.jpg

    Okay, enough for now . . . onto the top-end . . .

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2015
  18. Runnin shine
    Joined: Apr 12, 2013
    Posts: 2,851

    Runnin shine

    It's all just so damn lovely.
  19. another great job Dale and your photo's are top notch!!
  20. Cam and Valves Installation:
    Time to put the top-end together! The cam is a custom roller cam - 8620 billet core, Isky grind. BIG! . . . probably too big.

    1) Securing the Oil Pump Drive Gear: It is a good idea to use some method to ensure that the rear oil-pump drive gear doesn't come loose. It presses onto the shaft and there is a small 'flat spot' that is supposed to keep it from turning - and it usually does. However, if you're running looser bearing clearances and heavier oil, then on cold days, there is quite a bit of load on this gear . . . and I've seen instances where it spun on the camshaft, causing you to loose oil pressure - not good. So, all I do is take my TIG welder and put a small 'extra insurance' spot weld on it - job done.

    Cam-WeldedPumpGear copy.jpg

    2) Camshaft Installation: I've previously timed the camshaft and have the correct gear and advance settings that I'm looking for. Before I install it, I always put a lot of assembly lube into the oil grooves on the journals. The way I figure, this lube will go into the cam bearings or the main crank bearings upon startup, probably a good thing.

    Cam-BearingLube copy.jpg

    a) End-Play: I previously checked the camshaft end-play (against the timing cover - with a gasket installed), so I'm good to go there.

    3) Intake Guide Seals: Some gasket sets come with square edge seals - I find them a pain to install. I use the rubber o-ring style seals (usually they come with the Best Gasket sets) - or order them from Red's Headers. I should just figure out their dimensions and order them from an industrial supplier . . . just been too lazy to worry about it. Make sure you lubricate them a bit.

    IntakeValveAssembly copy.jpg

    Note - Silicone Gasket Sealer Method: Some folks don't use these seals at all - they just use a bunch of silicone gasket sealer. Personally, I can't stand having that stuff all over myself and in the ports . . . so I use the O-rings.

    Note - Exhaust Guide Seals: I use the solid exhaust guides (do not have seal grooves in them). These are the best way to go in that having more guide-to-block surface area helps to pull heat from the exhaust valves. If ALL your guides have seal grooves, then you may want to put seals in them. I believe that carbon will rapidly seal the guides anyway, so I wouldn't even worry about it.

    4) Checking Your Horseshoe C-Clips for Guide Fitment: These clips are used to hold the valve assemblies into the block - and they are frequently slightly bent . . . or have galled/rough edges on them. You should check to make sure they easily slide into your guides BEFORE you attempt to install them. Don't make the mistake of having them too tight and then using a big screw-driver or other tool to bash them on the guides . . . why? Think about trying to get them OUT at a later date.

    IntakeValveAssembly-Complete copy.jpg

    Intakes - ready to go . . .

    IntakeValves-ReadyForAssembly copy.jpg

    5) Installing One Exhaust and One Intake - Setting Valve Lash and Measuring: I always install the first intake and exhaust valve, set the correct valve lash and then pull it back apart and measure the installed/final lifter height. I then use these measurements to pre-set the height of ALL the other lifters before I install them. This makes their final settings very close to what is needed and makes the final lash adjustments a LOT easier. I then use my lathe to hold the lifters and install/set the adjusters (I just use it to hold the lifters - it is locked from turning). I use a depth mic to set the adjuster distances from the tops of the lifters.

    Lifters-PreSettingHeight copy.jpg

    Note on Loose Adjusters: The secondary benefit is that I get to pre-check how tight the adjuster nuts are (if you're using adjustable tappets). Frequently I'll find one or more loose adjusters - so the time to 'fix' the problem is before I install it in an engine. I always have spare adjuster nuts - so I'll swap a loose one out for a tight one.

    6) Tools of the Trade: I have a couple different valve bars that I use - and they have been "well used" over the years. I find that what works for the intakes, sometimes is a bit different for the exhausts. I also use a 'shim/wedge' against the block at times (in this case an old GMC lifter).

    ValveBars copy.jpg

    ValvePryBar-Usage copy.jpg

    7) Turning the Valve Springs - to Align the Valve Bar Grooves: This is a little trick that I use. When I first put the valve assembly into the engine (before I pull them down), I look in the valley area and see if I can see the valve bar slot. If not, then I just manually reach in there and turn/rotate the valve spring such that I can see as much of the slot as possible. This makes it a lot easier to get your valve bar into the slot and pull the guide down for the C-Clip installation.

    ValveSpringOrientation1 copy.jpg

    Now that I've rotated it - see the pry-bar groove . . .

    ValveSpringOrientation2 copy.jpg

    Okay - all done . . . took about 3 hours from parts on the bench to everything in the engine . . .

    DeckPicture-AllDone copy.jpg

    Enough for today . . . enjoy!

    draider, volvobrynk and kidcampbell71 like this.
  21. lowsquire
    Joined: Feb 21, 2002
    Posts: 2,564

    from Austin, TX

    Fantastic documentation and really conscientious engine building!! Just a comment in Ross pistons, my last set came with 32 spirolocs as you described , and I thought it would be two per side as you described.. But the pistons were only machined to accept one lock per side, so that's all they got. There was no way two could have fit in the grooves. So you think this was a machining error?

    Posted using the Full Custom H.A.M.B. App!
  22. Hmmmmm . . . I guess it could be a machining mistake . . . but I've never experienced it with Ross or anybody else. Chances are that it was just tight. :) Truth be told, quite a few years ago when I received my first set of pistons with Spiro-Locks, first of all I just about lost my mind trying to install them (and thrashed my fingers) . . . and I thought "how nice of them to give me all these extras" . . . so I put one in per side. Not a big deal, never had an issue and when I tore the engine down to freshen it up, put 32 in the next time. I wouldn't worry about it at all.

    PS: Thanks for the note - appreciate your comments. :)

  23. Engine Assembly Continued . . . Odds n' Ends:
    Time to bolt on the rest of the stuff and get the engine ready to paint.

    1) Oil Pressure Relief Spring and Plunger: On 32 - 48 engines, the oil pumps did not have their own internal high-pressure relief valve, so there was one in the front of the block. This means that if you're running the typical 49-53 style oil pump (which I highly recommend), then you have TWO relief valves. What I always do is stretch the front relief spring about 1/2" and install it. Notice that the plunger has a little 'flat spot' on the side of it - it is supposed to be this way . . . it lets a little oil by to lubricate the bushings in the water pumps.

    2015-07-04 10.11.41 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 10.20.39 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 10.21.19 copy.jpg

    2) Bolts - Timing Cover and Rear Oil Pump Drive Cover: Here is a shot of the stock bolts - which I always use if I have them. The timing cover bolts are the typical Ford 'shoulder bolts' - which are hard to find, so I always bag them when I take the engine apart and the rear oil-drive assembly cover bolts are drilled for a safety/tie wire. The ones in the rear oil drive cover to not use washers - they go directly against the cover.

    2015-07-04 11.01.01 copy.jpg

    3) Rear Oil Galley Plug: Don't forget to put in the rear oil galley plug! I replace that damn soft brass one that has a screw-driver slot with an Allen style plug. Make sure it is NOT too long so as to block off the oil galley!

    2015-07-04 12.16.36 copy.jpg

    4) Assembly Lube on all Gears and Thrust Surfaces: As you can tell, I use a LOT of assembly lube - might as well apply it to all gears and thrust surfaces . . . might just be the thing that prevents a premature wear or galling issue on initial fire up.

    2015-07-04 12.20.20 copy.jpg

    5) Timing Cover - Modern One-Piece Seal: These seals are so much better than the old and leaky rope seals. You typically get them with a full Best Garket set - or call somebody like Red's Headers. I put silicone gasket sealer behind the seal in the timing cover - knock the seal in with a rubber hammer and install them both together. Always lubricate the back of the timing cover - as it rubs against the CAM gear and provides a forward thrust stop.

    2015-07-04 12.08.03 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 12.08.07 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 12.09.02 copy.jpg

    6) Tie Wire the Rear Oil Pump Drive Cover:

    2015-07-04 12.29.44 copy.jpg

    7) Full-Flow Oil System: There are a variety of 100% full-flow oil systems available out there. The one that I'm using is from Flathead Speed and Machine . . . it is reasonably priced and I like the hard stainless lines approach. Also, I like the fact that they retain the hardened steel cover (original one) and put an aluminum adapter plate on top of it. Here is their website - great guy to deal with:

    2015-07-04 12.59.30 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 13.16.17 copy.jpg 2015-07-04 13.16.22 copy.jpg

    Note: I've previously enlarged the main return galley oil port (the one that goes out the side of the bell-housing on the driver's side).

    I've pondered what type of lines to use for the outside lines . . . went ahead and ordered some seamless stainless tubing and flare ends - will see if I can 'bend up' a set of lines. I've going to covert one of the old flathead 'trickle' oil filters to hide a full-flow modern filter inside the canister, but probably at a later date - probably won't get to it before I fire the motor.

    Okay - time for paint prep . . .

    draider and volvobrynk like this.
  24. Thanks Carl - great seeing you the other day . . . really love your shop and the work that you do! :)
  25. Yea Dale it was fun have to do it again oct 3-4 at Eagle :D:D:D
  26. volvobrynk
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,588

    from Denmark

    This is a good thread, and this is some very good tech material!!

    Just as good as the @Dennis Lasy thread on frond end an Lincoln brakes.

    Wish there was a way to take your e hinge build tech and his front end tech more available to the masses, so if I ever gets to build a flathead, I know how to go about it!

    I like the whole thread/story!!!

    Keep at it, lad!
  27. Engine and Transmission - Color My World:

    1) Decisions, Decisions - What Damn Color? I struggled a bit with deciding on what color to paint the engine and transmission. Frankly, I've just seen too damn many red flatheads (and painted a lot of them myself), so I pondered matching the engine color to the interior . . . or going original dark Ford Green. Decided to see if I could find a good burgundy color to match the leather. I talked to Bill Hirsch Auto - the only color they had that was close was an 'MG Maroon'. Hmmmm - maybe just order a quart of it and a quart of black and darken the maroon to burgundy . . . so that is what I did.

    I cut a chunk of leather off the hides that I ordered and did a fast "color match" -- on my workbench! :)

    2015-07-07 15.16.47 copy.jpg
    Hard to tell in the picture, but way too light of a color - so dump in some black!

    Okay - now this is looking pretty good . . .

    2015-07-07 15.20.41 copy.jpg

    2) Resurrecting a 39 Box: Also, I dug out my good ole' 1939 Transmission with 25T Zephyr gears - that I built, blew up, built again and squirreled away about 35 years ago. I just knew I'd need it someday! It still had a nice bright red Dupont Imron paint on it. Now - I just about tore the whole thing apart and sand blasted the case . . . but then that little man in my head said "Are you fricking nuts! This trans only has 500 miles on it, is still full of nice clear gear oil . . . so don't screw with it! Sand the sucker and paint it!".

    Thank God I'm a bit older and actually listen to my own reasoning (or somebody else's) occasionally, as I was about 5 seconds away from tearing it apart. This dude won't rust for 500 years . . . as it has plenty of paint on it now!

    2015-07-06 20.23.26 copy.jpg 2015-07-07 16.31.44 copy.jpg

    Anyway . . . here are the pictures of the completed engine - with the leather to compare the colors. Hell, the match is close enough!

    2015-07-07 16.21.01 copy.jpg 2015-07-07 16.27.14 copy.jpg 2015-07-07 16.20.48 copy.jpg
    Runnin shine, draider and volvobrynk like this.
  28. Big Al
    Joined: Dec 10, 2006
    Posts: 1,398

    Big Al

  29. ^^^^ I'll say ! ^^^^ & I thought maybe you were getting ready to upholster that sucker. More new intelligence, of course. :)
    volvobrynk likes this.
  30. This thing is gonna be too purty to run........


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