We finally got over the hump with our '75 Laguna project car. As most of you know from your own project cars, there's an important psychological barrier you cross once the engine and transmission are installed, and we finally got past that with this month's installment of Project Talladega.
Installing a driveline into a project car sounds like it might be simple enough, but there are lots of small things that need attention. Among them are the cooling system, fuel system, ignition system, exhaust, gauges, driveshaft, and rearend. Pulling your engine out and swapping in another also provides the opportunity to clean up the engine bay, which we did with our Laguna.
In most cases, an engine and tranny install like ours is something you'd want to spread out over weeks or months, depending on your ability, your bankroll, and your talent for deal making. Let's face it, a job like this requires some help, and there are lots of pieces you'll need-not all of them cheap. We made some key choices to keep the cost down, like retaining the stock 10-bolt rear. We also stayed with a mechanical clutch fan, a mechanical fuel pump, an HEI distributor (albeit an expensive one), and we kept the stock alternator. Using Russell's less-expensive, push-lock-style hose and fittings instead of braided stainless also saved a lot of cash too. The most cost-effective thing we did, however, was to use Summit Racing for the bulk of our needs, thus saving us hundreds of dollars over a local speed shop. Nevertheless, after selling off the old 400ci engine for $500, and the recently rebuilt Turbo 350 for $600, we still spent over $3,400, and even that didn't include the exhaust system. If you ever wonder why so many projects get stalled at this stage (and end up for sale!), now you know why. It's also why so many guys are reluctant to sell their projects after completing this part.
After pulling the old engine...
After pulling the old engine and trans, it was time to clean up the engine room. We decided to yank the factory HVAC unit from the firewall, and cover it with a blanking plate made from an old file cabinet. A can of Dupli-Color stands at the ready.
To get us over the hump, we enlisted the aid of Don Lee Auto Service in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Proprietor and head mechanic, Tim Lee, has helped us before, most recently with our Street Sweeper '68 Chevelle. We like his work, so we felt comfortable trusting him with our most recent project. Tim and his guys didn't disappoint-they specialize in classic muscle car performance, and work on many of the local hot cars that troll up and down Foothill Boulevard-aka Route 66.
Next month, we'll detail the fabrication of a NASCAR-style side-exit exhaust using components from Dr. Gas. We went with an "X" crossover and flat tubing for a low profile-and the sound is simply amazing. We also had our fabricator build a custom double-hump crossmember that we'll reveal to you. Project Talladega pretty much stops traffic everywhere it goes, which is exactly what we had in mind.
|PROJECT TALLADEGA |
|THE COST SO FAR |
|Description: ||PHR Issue: ||Cost: |
|'75 Chevy Laguna ||Oct. 2008 ||$5,000.00 |
|Phoenix 700-R4 trans, flexplate, and converter ||Feb. 2009 ||$2,800.00 |
|Sherwin Williams paint, materials, and labor ||March 2009 ||$3,979.73 |
|Makeover (tires, wheels, graphics, seats, etc.) ||April 2009 ||$2,989.95 |
|408ci solid-roller small-block ||May 2009 ||$7,685.00 |
|Global West rear suspension ||June 2009 ||$1,699.36 |
|Global West front suspension ||July 2009 ||$2,569.83 |
|Global West front brake upgrade ||Sept. 2009 ||$1,118.45 |
|Engine and trans installation ||Oct. 2009 ||$3,430.36 |
|Total: || ||$31,272.68 |
We're big fans of the HEI...
We're big fans of the HEI because it's simple and reliable. The Performance Distributors Racing DUI distributor packs a fierce punch with its Dyna-Module and racing coil; the manufacturer even suggests a plug gap of 0.055 inch, which maxes the power and prevents plug fouling. This model features DUI's instant timing knob (seen just behind the valve cover). One half-turn clockwise equals 1 less degree of timing-no timing light or wrenches needed! Check out the locking thumbwheel at the base, which prevents vibration from altering the setting.
We needed a good vacuum signal...
We needed a good vacuum signal to run the power brakes, and the best way to get one (at least with a Holley double-pumper and an Edelbrock Performer Air Gap) is with a spacer so equipped. We picked up this Mr. Gasket spacer from Performance Carburetors in Ontario, California. Note the 3/8-inch vacuum port at the back of the spacer. As a point of interest, our vacuum-operated power brakes work just fine.
After a good scrubbing and...
After a good scrubbing and being hosed down with a few cans of satin black, the bay was now ready for the 408-inch solid-roller bullet. What a huge difference this makes aesthetically.
Our 1 3/4-inch Hooker Super...
Our 1 3/4-inch Hooker Super Competition long-tube headers fit perfectly. Even with our raised-port AFR heads, there was plenty of room around our stock starter. The collectors snugged up nicely to the floor without getting too close. Note the Performance Distributors Livewires and billet wire looms. These really nail the NASCAR look and work great too.
Believe it or not, Summit...
Believe it or not, Summit makes a direct replacement aluminum radiator for our '75 Laguna for about $250. It even has a built-in trans cooler. The Summit-branded radiator fit perfectly; since the car has been on the road, the coolant temp has yet to top 160 degrees.
From previous experience,...
From previous experience, we knew we would need a killer breather system for the Laguna's 560hp solid-roller small-block. We found the perfect breathers from Moroso. These spun aluminum pieces clamp to the valve covers with a large locking nut. The top unscrews for the oil fill, and is sealed to the bottom half with an O-ring. A screen and a sponge inside the breather separate the oil from the crankcase vapor, and a vent carries the vapors to the 1-quart breather tank on the firewall. We used -10 AN fittings with Russell Twist-Lok hose ends and hose.