NOT GOOD FOR GEARHEADS
Here is a topic that’s often discussed by many people in the car hobby. The one about transplanting a later model engine, transmission, differential, suspension, steering or brakes in an old car. This discussion sometimes goes like, “I’m going to put an LS based engine and an overdrive transmission, in my blah blah blah.” Speaking from experience, one then starts seeking out info from others on how to do this transplant. Seeking out books, publications and articles in a myriad of magazines is also a source for accomplishing this goal. I’ve looked and read and talked to many people about how my goal could be met, as have many of my friends.
One thing that seems constant is how, when talked about, it’s always an ‘easy’ ‘simple’ one or two step process. Well, some of that is right, the process part. I’m here to tell you the easy part or the simple part usually ain’t. And the “all you gotta do is…” is never ALL YOU GOTTA DO. Neither is the, “you only need one of…!” It just isn’t true.
It’s unfortunate that is no “Best” way to make one of the “updates” easy. I read maybe three or four “How too…” books on what parts to buy, what parts work together and what don’t. Why this way or that is “Best.” And still I’m frustrated at every turn. Here is an example. One book said that “this” pan was the best fit and would work with my engine transplant into my 55 Chev. Well it fits alright but the sump is too low, a couple inches below the front frame cross member. Of course I wanted the car to be lower than stock so I bought dropped spindles, new springs etc. to use with my new tubular “A’ arms, new and improved power steering gear box blah blah blah. It all seemed to fit together and it looked great when I assembled the frame but then when I set the engine in on the new motor mount brackets and tried to install my new headers, the one on the right side of the car fit and cleared everything well but the driver’s side header wouldn’t clear the steering gear box. More research revealed the dreaded answer, “Oh, those headers won’t work with that application, you need to use…”
I’ve discussed this situation almost at every turn with many of friends. We have all experienced a similar thing. Bob installed and uninstalled his engine and trans maybe 30 or 40 times, (I’m exaggerating, it was only 29) but you get the idea.
My friend Jeff and I were narrowing and building Ford 9” differentials at the same time and the same was true in that process. Ford 9 inch diffs are offset to one side and have to be centered in a Chevy to keep the driveshaft in the proper relationship with the engine/transmission. This is in addition to making sure you have the correct pinion angle. My son was putting a 400 small block in his pickup that had had a small block in it already. He experienced difficulty with fitment issue too. He was exasperated (and tired) when he said, “I just want it to go back together with ease, I’m tired of fighting every step. I don’t understand why it won’t work…” I tried to calm him frustration by explaining that when we get these bright ideas to “fix” our cars and trucks we are actually re-engineering a machine. Unfortunately we don’t have the knowledge that trained engineers have or the resources, so our process is simply trial and error, or my case, error and error.
It’s almost funny when I think about how many parts I’ve bought only to find out “that won’t work with this” or “that only fits if you also use one of those.” I’m sure that many of you can relate to this situation. You know though, it’s really all part of the fun. I like the challenge of figuring out how to do things I’ve never done before. I get a sense of accomplishment when I succeed. I think that’s one of the reasons we mess with this car hobby.