1975 Chevy Laguna - Gimme Back My Bullet!
The Laguna Finally Gets Its New Engine And Trans Installed, But We Needed A Bunch Of Important Pieces To Make It All Work.
From the October, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by Johnny Hunkins
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.
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT |
|DESCRIPTION: ||SOURCE: ||PART NO.: ||COST: |
|Throttle cable ||Lokar/Summit ||LOK-TC-1000U ||$35.95 |
|Throttle cable bracket ||Summit ||SUM-210240 ||$56.95 |
|14-inch flow-through air filter lid ||Summit ||SUM-239500 ||$40.95 |
|Reusable air filter ||Summit ||SUM-239818 ||27.95 |
|Air filter base plate (1.25-inch drop) ||K&N/Summit ||KNN-85-3549 ||$29.95 |
|Aluminum screw-on breathers ||Moroso/Summit ||MOR-69788 ||$82.95 (ea.) |
|Breather tank ||Summit ||SUM-G1306 ||$24.95 |
|Three-gauge kit (volt, water temp, oil press.) ||Summit ||SUM-G2889 ||$89.95 |
|Maximum Performance shift-light tachometer ||Stewart Warner ||SWW-114110 ||$263.95 |
|Aluminum valve covers ||Summit ||SUM-440600 ||$179.95 |
|Aluminum radiator ||Summit ||SUM-380457 ||$251.95 |
|Aluminum water pump pulley (single, LWP) ||Summit ||SUM-G3963 ||$30.95 |
|Aluminum crank pulley (double, LWP) ||Summit ||SUM-G3966 ||$37.95 |
|8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend installation kit ||Summit ||SUM-G7816 ||$65.95 |
|TrueTrac differential, 28-spline, 8.5-inch, 10-bolt ||Eaton/Summit ||DTL-912A556 ||$409.95 |
|3.73 ring-and-pinion gearset for 8.5-inch rear ||Summit ||SUM-741001 ||$134.95 |
|Aluminum rear diff cover ||Summit ||SME-8510300 ||$134.95 |
|Long axle studs, ½-inch -20 (set of five) ||ARP/Summit ||ARP-100-7704 (2) ||$12.95 (ea.) |
|Mechanical fuel pump, 130 gph ||Holley/Summit ||HLY-12-327-13 ||$87.95 |
|Custom steel driveshaft ||Inland Empire ||n/a ||$438.00 |
|Twist-Lok 1/2-inch hose (-8 AN), 25 feet ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-634203 ||$119.95 |
|Twist-Lok 3/8-inch hose (-6 AN), 25 feet ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-634163 ||$106.95 |
|Twist-Lok 5/8-inch hose (-10 AN), 6 feet ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-634413 ||$52.95 |
|-6 AN straight Twist-Lok hose ends ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-624013 (2) ||$11.69 (ea.) |
|-6 AN 90-degree Twist-Lok hose end ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-624163 (1) ||$19.95 |
|-8 AN straight Twist-Lok hose ends ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-624023 (5) ||$12.99 (ea.) |
|-8 AN 45-degree Twist-Lok hose end ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-624093 (1) ||$20.95 |
|Fuel filter, -8 AN inlet and outlet ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-650103 ||$21.75 |
|Carburetor dual-feed line, (-8 AN) ||Russell/Summit ||RUS-641153 ||$89.95 |
|Carb spacer with vacuum port ||Mr. Gasket ||4945 ||$23.95 |
|HEI distributor with instant timing knob ||Performance Dist. ||ITK127212 ||$449.00 |
|Ignition wires, 90° boot, over valve covers ||Performance Dist. ||C9053 ||$99.00 |
|Billet wire looms ||Performance Dist. ||9100 ||$59.00 |
|Super Competition 13/4-inch long-tube headers ||Hooker/Summit ||HOK-2116HKR ||$384.95 |
|Water pump, long-style ||Weiand/Summit ||WND-9241 ||$134.95 |
|Water neck ||Summit ||SUM-G3800 ||$9.95 |
|Pressure Master valve cover gaskets ||Earl's/Summit ||EAR-29E03BERL ||$49.75 |
|Remanufactured Delco power steering pump ||Rock Auto ||36516012 ||$72.49 |
|Power steering pressure hose ||Rock Auto ||80123 ||$16.59 |
|Misc. supplies and fluids (Royal Purple throughout) || ||$175.00 |
|Sell take-out 400ci engine and Turbo 350 trans ||-$1,100.00 |
|Total: ||$3,430.36 |
Inland Empire made a custom...
Inland Empire made a custom steel driveshaft for the Laguna, which we needed because the 700-R4 trans (from Phoenix) is longer than the old Turbo 350. The proper way to measure driveshaft length is from the end of the output shaft (at the trans) to the face of the pinion yoke (which is also the centerline of the U-joint).
Russell's Twist-Lok hose and...
Russell's Twist-Lok hose and fittings are less expensive than braided stainless, but they'll last longer before needing replacement, and are just as strong as braided stainless. Installation is extremely easy: just cut your hose to length with a razor, and push the barbed end of the fitting (with some lube) inside the hose. It can't come off. This is the line running from the fuel pump to the carburetor feed line.
All GM 10-bolt rearends built...
All GM 10-bolt rearends built after 1972 use a stronger 8.5-inch ring gear, which will handle a significant amount of torque. Instead of throwing it away and putting in a pricey 9-inch or a 12-bolt, we decided to keep the 10-bolt. To bring it up to strength, we installed an Eaton TrueTrac posi, which is bulletproof in the burn-box and at the starting line. It also lays down torque evenly in the twisties without showing any bad manners.
You can see more of the Russell...
You can see more of the Russell Twist-Lok hose and fittings here. Note that we're using a 130-gph Holley mechanical fuel pump without a regulator, which is right at the upper limit for an application like this.
Setting up the shims and the...
Setting up the shims and the pinion depth requires an installation kit, which we also got from Summit (part No. SUM-G7816, 8-5-inch 10-bolt). With the Phoenix trans sporting a deep 3.06 First gear, and a super-tall 0.70 overdrive, we took advantage by installing a set of 3.73 gears from Summit.
The last piece of the strength...
The last piece of the strength puzzle for our stock 10-bolt rear was an aluminum cover from Summit. The cover is ribbed for strength, and features main cap supports that can be pre-loaded from the back of the cover. Note the convenient fill and drain plugs, and the cool appearance.
Since the axles were out to...
Since the axles were out to install the TrueTrac, we installed longer, wider ARP wheel studs (1/2-inch -20) to complement the NASCAR look. These were paired with the big 1-inch NASCAR lugnuts from Bassett that we bought earlier. We also took this opportunity to resurface the rear drums and install new brake shoes.
The following day, we got...
The following day, we got our new driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline Service. IEDLS says for strength, you should scale up the diameter of your driveshaft as length increases. They use 1026 steel alloy DOM tubing and Spicer solid-cross U-joints when possible. Their driveshafts are dynamically balanced to 3,800 rpm for smooth driving on the highway and on the track.
In the cockpit, we installed...
In the cockpit, we installed a Stewart Warner Maximum Performance shift light tach. A separate shift rpm and recall control pad is located remotely on the instrument panel. We plan on making it look a little nicer when we address the interior in a later issue, but we needed the tach now, so it went in anyway.
Summit offers private branded...
Summit offers private branded analog gauges at a smoking price-this trio of silver-faced backlit gauges consists of voltage, water temp, and oil pressure in a satin black panel. The kit runs $89.95, and includes the electric sending units too.
One of the last steps was...
One of the last steps was setting the TV cable line pressure on our 700-R4 trans. If this isn't done right, you can drive through your clutches and burn them up quickly due to not enough line pressure. This Lokar kit from Phoenix Transmissions has an adjustment for TV cable length, which according to Greg Ducato of Phoenix should be set "tight as a string" when the throttle is wide open. If it's too long, shifts will come too soon. Note the snazzy billet throttle bracket from Summit. On the subject of the trans, we needed to hook up a switched 12-volt wire to operate the converter lock-up solenoid on the trans.
Here's our solid-roller bullet...
Here's our solid-roller bullet completely installed, and ready to wreak havoc. About 10 minutes after this photo was taken, we got pulled over by a Rancho Cucamonga motorcycle cop. (We had our side-exit Dr. Gas exhaust and a custom trans crossmember installed by then.) He thought it was a real race car on the street illegally. (Imagine that.) Our paperwork checked out, so he let us go with no ticket.