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.

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