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Mighty Mouse Lower Engine Build

Mighty Mouse, Part 2 of 5

383 Stroker Engine build In Part 1 of our article our GM Performance Parts (GMPP) 383 stroker block had arrived and we took it to Schmidt’s to give it the royal machining treatment. Now that all of the goods from Wiseco, Holley and Lunati have arrived, we are ready for the lower engine build.

If you haven’t built an engine before, don’t sweat it – it’s not really that difficult, but you will need a few special tools, many of which you can rent, and I strongly suggest that you get a good book about building engines. I have personally built about a dozen Chevy small block engines (and a few other Jeep and Ford engines too), but I still reference several books in my library.

Chevy small block buildWe chose a fully balanced Lunati rotating assembly which included a Lunati Sledgehammer crankshaft, Lunati Voodoo cam, Lunati aluminum roller rockers and various other Lunati components (e.g. pushrods, polylocks, etc.). The Sledgehammer crankshafts are Nitride heat treated, sonic cleaned and forged from 4340 non-twist steel. This non-twist design produces a crankshaft with higher tensile strength which increases fatigue life. The Lunati Voodoo series of hydraulic roller camshafts deliver more area under the curve than any other series of hydraulic camshafts, which means better throttle response, quicker acceleration, more vacuum, and better efficiency – this translates into greater efficiency and maximum horsepower and torque output from your engine. We also received a set of Wiseco Pro Tru flat top forged pistons.


Engine Highlights: 

  • GM Performance Parts 383 Stroker Block, 1-piece rear main seal, 4-bolt main – part # 88962516
  • GM Performance Parts Serpentine Accessory Drive System w/out A/C – part # 12497697
  • Lunati fully balanced rotating assembly
  • Lunati “SledghammerSledgehammer” Forged steel stroker crank
  • Lunati “Voodoo” cam, roller rockers, push rods, double-roller timing chain and lifter set
  • Holley Stealth Ram multi-port fuel injection system – Part #: 91603211
  • Holley aluminum 2.02 heads – Part #: 300-552-1
  • Holley billet aluminum high-performance distributor
  • Pro-Tru aluminum flat-top pistons
  • High Performance engine bearings
  • MSD Ignition 8.5 mm super-conductor plug wires


Part 2 – Lower Engine Build, Crankshaft Installation

I enlisted the help of my 14 year old son, Nick, in part because I needed to take photos, but more importantly because I wanted to spend time with him and have him learn about building engines. Plus he was starting to chase girls and I wasn’t ready for that as a father, but I digress. Nonetheless, his small-engine shop class in Junior High paid off as he knew what most of the parts were and how they functioned.
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy small block 383 stroker build projectChevy small block 383 stroker build projectWe started the lower-engine build by cleaning the Lunati Sledgehammer crankshaft engine block journals with some chlorine-free brake parts cleaner and a lint-free rag. We then installed the main bearings into the block journals and caps, and then applied a thin coat of pre-assembly lube to the bearing surfaces. All bearings come as matched sets, so be sure to only install one set of bearings at a time, and keep them clean.
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy small block 383 stroker build projectWith crankshaft cleaned and all of the bearings installed in the journals and caps, my son went off to chase girls. I was still in need of an extra set of hands so I convinced the lil’ lady to put down the laundry basket, and help install the crank shaft into the engine. (Don’t tell her I said that… seriously).
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy small block 383 stroker build projectCarefully, the crank was lowered into the engine block and set into place. The main-journal bearing caps were then put into place, and torqued to the appropriate pressure and in the correct sequence to seat the bearings. After a few spins of the crankshaft, we pulled the caps off again so that a small strip of PlastiGauge could be applied to each of the crankshaft main journals to ensure proper bearing clearance. Ours came well within specs, so we cleaned off the PlastiGauge and re-torqued the main caps.


Connecting Rods and Piston Installation

Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy small block 383 stroker build projectIn our case, we needed to build the piston sets by attaching the connecting rods to the pistons. Our piston kit came with spiral locks that keep the wrist pin secured in place between the piston and the connecting rod. They’re a bit tricky to work with and a small, flat-blade screwdriver seemed to be the best bet.
Chevy 383 stroker buildThe piston sets aren’t quite done yet though. You will need to set your piston compression rings into the bores of your engine block and take a gap measurement and ensure it is within specs. Ours were smack-dab in the middle of specification.
Next, install the compression and oiling rings onto your pistons. You can do this by hand (which we do), or you can use a piston ring installation tool.
Chevy 383 stroker buildPrior to installing the pistons into the cylinder bore, we recommend giving it a good wipe down with automatic transmission fluid. Our sources tell us that this acts like an assembly lube for the pistons the first time you fire it up, thereby reducing initial piston / cylinder wall scrub-down.
Chevy 383 stroker buildNext, cover the connecting rod bolts with some soft plastic tubing (to prevent scratching the crankshaft and install a ring-compressor tool around the piston’s compression and oiling rings. Carefully slide the piston into the cylinder bore until it reaches the bottom of the ring compressor. Next, take a mallet with a rubber handle and tap the piston into the bore until the last set of rings clear the bore – remove the ring compressor tool. Ensure that the connecting rod bolts are clear of the crankshaft journal and then tap it home until the upper connecting rod bearing seats firmly against the crankshaft journal.
Install the connecting rod outer bearings and caps and set to your initial torque sequence. NOTE: Some manuals suggest a process whereby you torque the connecting rod bolts in a repeated sequence. Follow your manual for your engine.
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy 383 stroker buildInstall the Siamese piston as described above for the adjacent cylinder bore (the one directly across from it, not downstream). Once installed, be sure to take a gap measurement and ensure there is adequate clearance between the connecting rod caps. If you install a cap backwards (which is entirely possible), you will NOT have enough clearance and you will destroy your engine.
Repeat this process for the remaining pistons until all are completely installed. Rotate the crank a few times checking for connecting rod-to-cylinder wall clearance, free movement, etc. At this point, you may wish to double or triple-check all of your bolts torque settings.


Cam Shaft and Lifter Installation

Chevy 383 stroker buildOnce you are certain that your crank and pistons have been installed properly, it is time to install the camshaft. Start by placing all of your hydraulic lifters into a vat of engine oil. We distracted the little lady by pointing to a Tom Jones special on cable TV, and promptly stole one of her favorite Tupperware® bowls. Fill the bowl with engine oil and place each lifter into it, with the piston facing upward. Using a push rod, plunge the piston in each lifter several times to ensure oil fills the innards. Leave the lifters in the oil until you are ready to install them.
Chevy 383 stroker buildMoving onto the cam shaft… This is potentially the greasiest portion of the job. Coat the entire cam shaft quite liberally with assembly moly lube. Every new camshaft comes with a packet of this stuff, but we opted to buy a large tube high-quality moly assembly lube and use it copiously.
Chevy 383 stroker buildOnce coated, you can either screw in a long bolt into the face of the camshaft, or screw in a camshaft installation handle tool. We chose the former. Carefully slide the camshaft into the engine block, sloooowly. Take your time and be sure not to bang the cam shaft against the bearing faces. Slide the camshaft all the way in until the camshaft face is flush with the face of the engine. Remove the bolt / camshaft installation handle tool.
Chevy 383 stroker buildWith the camshaft fully seated in the engine, you can now drop each lifter into the respective lifter bore as seen in this picture. NOTE: Once a lifter has been run in an engine, it becomes matched to that specific lobe on the cam shaft – they are no longer interchangeable.
Chevy 383 stroker buildNext, there are a series of measurements that you can take on your engine, depending upon how particular you are with the build. For example, we took some piston TDC to engine block deck-face measurements.


Timing Chain Installation

Each timing chain set is a bit different, but all of the ones that I’ve ever worked with (e.g. Cloyes, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Lunati, Milodon, etc.) have markings stamped into the face of them to help you align them and set the initial timing. Typically, you can set an engines timing pre-advanced by 4 degrees, neutral (zero degrees advance) or pre-retarded by 4 degrees this way. We chose neutral.Note: If you are using a GMPP 383 stroker engine block and a double-roller timing chain like, you will have to grind away a small amount of engine block material, otherwise the top of the timing chain will grind away at the engine. We learned this the hard way and were extremely lucky that the metal shavings didn’t destroy our engine after our initial running. This did however, require us to remove and completely dismantle the entire engine. Ouch! Trust us on this one.
To install the crank timing gear, tap the keyways fully into the valleys of the crankshaft using a brass mallet.
Chevy 383 stroker buildNext, slide the crank timing gear onto the crankshaft as far as you can by hand and make absolutely sure it is not crooked or cocked at an angle. Once aligned, use a large socket (a 1 ¼” socket works well for a Chevy small block engine) to drive the crank timing gear fully onto the crankshaft until it bottoms-out.
Now that the lower timing gear has been installed, check the timing mark alignment in your engine manual. Rotate the crankshaft until the timing mark on the lower gear is in the proper position (straight up and down for a small block Chevy engine). Ensure that the #1 piston is at TDC (if you’ve measured this height in the past, now is a good time to double-check your measurements to ensure there isn’t a difference – they should be the same).NOTE: If your engine is equipped with a camshaft retaining plate or thrust plate, it should be installed at this time. Some engines have a spacer between the camshaft and the camshaft timing gear, and some camshaft timing gears have the spacer incorporated into the gear. Check the installation manual with your gears to see if you have to perform this task.
Temporarily install your camshaft timing gear and rotate the camshaft until the timing mark on the camshaft gear is in alignment with timing mark on the crank gear. Remove the camshaft timing gear and loop the chain over the camshaft gear. Lift the camshaft gear into place on the camshaft. Install the camshaft bolt or bolts (finger tight for now). Check your manual again for the proper timing mark positions and make sure that both the camshaft timing mark and crankshaft timing mark are correct. If this procedure is missed by even one tooth engine damaged will result.
Chevy 383 stroker buildDuring installation, you can use a degree wheel like we did to ensure accurate installation. It is not required, but is recommended by most engine builders.
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy 383 stroker buildWith the crank and cam gears setup, reinstall the bolts using a good thread locking compound and secure with the bolt keeper tabs (if supplied – most are). Also, be sure to add plenty of assembly lube to the timing chain and gears. Don’t skimp. Lock the cam gear bolts into place by bending the locking plate tabs as seen in this picture.
Rotate the engine a few times by running a bolt and washers into the threaded end of the crankshaft, then rotating in a clockwise direction. Watch the connecting rods and pistons move on the bottom half of the engine (Tip:  Do this by looking underneath the engine.  Do not rotate your engine, otherwise the lifters will fall out). Then, watch the timing gears rotate and the lifter move up and down. While this is fascinating to watch, you should be looking for binding or rotation problems during this operation. Do not rotate the engine more than a few full turns.
Chevy 383 stroker buildChevy 383 stroker buildInstall your timing gear cover and seals. If you are using a chrome timing cover, we recommend scuffing the surface that the gasket and gasket sealer will be applied to. This will offer a better surface and prevent leaking. Using thread locking compound, install and torque the timing gear cover onto the engine.
Next, install your oil pump shaft and pump into the engine block. It is highly recommended that you do two things here; 1) pack the oil pump with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) as this will help prime the pump. 2) Tack weld the pump pickup screen to the pickup tube. I’ve heard of several stories where the pickup screen had fallen off resulting in an oil starved engine.
Chevy 383 stroker buildYour lower end of the engine is now fully assembled.
GM Performance Parts
Web: www.gmperformanceparts.com
Holley Performance Products Inc.
1801 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Phone: 270 782-2900
Fax: 270 781-9940
Phone (Tech): 270 781-9741
Web: www.holley.com


11126 Willow Ridge Drive
Olive Branch, MS 38654
Phone: 662-892-1500
Fax: 662-890-6309


Wiseco Performance Products
7201 Industrial Park Blvd.
Mentor, OH 44060-5396
Phone: 1-800-321-1364
Fax: 440-951-6606
Web: www.wiseco.com


ATK Engines
1102 West North Carrier Parkway
Grand Prairie, TX 75050
Phone: 866-721-2315
Email: salesdesk@high-performance-engines.com
Web: www.high-performance-engines.com


The Horsepower House
251 New Porter Pike Rd
Bowling Green, KY
Phone: 270-792-2399?


Steve Schmidt Racing Engines
8560 E. 30th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46219
Toll Free: 1-800-957-7223
Phone: 317-890-7178
Fax: 317-890-1829
Web: www.steveschmidtracing.com 


PSC Motorsports
11468 S FM 730
Azle, TX 76020
Phone: 817.270.0102
Web: www.pscmotorsports.com





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