Monday, November 14, 2016

In Search of Gusto.

Hey, guess what's different this time?

Yep: it's not been a few months since last time. Don't get used to it.

It's been a busy time with the shop and my beloved three-and-a-half-plus year old tyrannical kiddo, so time spent on the ol' 444 hasn't been well documented, and it often seems that there's hardly any sensible documenting to be done. It's always an hour or so one week, then another hour or so a week (or two or three or six weeks) later, with the poor old car either: 1) sitting alone and neglected, or 2) getting robust exercise at every opportunity. We prefer the latter.

Back when the car was to remain a regular daily driver, we first wore out an old 2130cc B20 that had been used in not one but two prior Volvos - this was the very first Volvo engine I'd ever assembled, a job which was completed in my bedroom before being wheeled out the front door on a skateboard and carried down the front steps by hand with the help of my two stout roommates. That was 1993, and that engine served me well without any major failure for more than 300,000 miles before being traded for a rebuildable 1971 B20E that was destined for use in my fabulous wife's fabulous '57 445.

We got the 444 back on the road with a well built but unremarkable B18. It was a low compression version, .040" over, fitted with a D cam, neoprene seals, HD oil pump and reinforcing ring, and some of those Cloyes aluminum/steel timing gears. Nothing super exotic, but easily capable of a hundred thousand trouble free miles. It got DCOEs partly because they were on hand and partly because DCOEs. I love them.

Simple B18. Back to our roots and stuff.
Then that whole endurance racing notion started, and every single thing about the car was changed except the engine (well, that and the transmission, which you heard about last time). And we talked about and thought about and hemmed and hawed about what engine would eventually live in the car. Our needs are simple, really: must run on pump gas at all elevations while making tons of torque from idle to redline. The B18 became a functional placeholder while the thinking and talking went on, and then a few magical things happened kind of all at the same time.

First, a guy I don't know found my number and called to see if I wanted a factory rebuilt AQ130 that had only 4 or 5 hours of running time before being stored since the late 1970s. For you who might not know, an AQ130 is a marine spec B20, which means it has some weird stuff on it that doesn't work with a car, but the insides of the engine don't care what the outside world does or does not include. Initially, I planned on finding someone with a boat who'd want to buy this engine, and I sort of tried to find that person for about an hour a very long time. And didn't.

B18 getting undressed.
Then I offered this marine engine to the car people, and none of them wanted to buy it either, so I thought I'd go ahead and repurpose it myself for use in the 444. Maybe it'd be good enough for the long term, and maybe it'd only be good enough to last until the "real" engine manifested itself (whatever that means - we still don't really know). So I took it apart to see what a factory built engine looks like on the inside. And also to remove the not-car-compatible stuff.

B18 removed.
The minor bummer: It wasn't built by anyone who was trained by Volvo. All the gaskets were heavily slathered with orange RTV, and there were blobs of the stuff floating loose inside the crankcase. The major awesomeness: aside from sloppy gobs of cheap sealant, everything else inside the engine looked brand spanking new. Like really 4 or 5 hours' away from new. And the marine engines all came with steel timing gears, which is plenty cool enough.

Marine camshafts aren't the same as automotive cams, and rather than find out what shortcomings the former might have when applied to use in the latter, we removed the boat-spec bump stick from the thing and sent it to Schneider Racing Cams down in California and asked them to regrind it to their "274 degree" spec. They did that, and sent it back to us. It's a lot less money to have them regrind your cam (if yours is good enough to regrind) than it is to buy one outright.

Marine heads aren't the same either, but they can easily be modified for use in an automotive application. This is really cool, as they have the biggest factory valves, and lots of material to work with should [ahem] anyone want to go about porting one for high performance use. The marine head (plus an NOS head that was part of the deal) went onto the shelf, and for this engine, we sent an old and well used head out to the machinist for reworking. This is a head that we ran on the 2130cc B20 mentioned earlier. It got new seats, guides and valves, and new double valve springs.

Ready for its new home.

We also managed to score a new valve cover by bartering away a copy of Swedish Iron. Good deal. A few teething pains - like the fuel pump flange warping and leaking 2 quarts of oil all over the underside of the car in about 40 miles, and having to rejet the Webers, but other than that, it's been a very decent (and more oomphy than expected!) pushrod mill.

2 liters of fresh goodness.
This still isn't the long term permanent engine for the old 444, though. If we manage to take it to Mexico for racing, we might have to run a B18 to be class compliant (or run against much newer and more powerful machines). If we can run a B20, this one might do the trick except that despite being pretty fresh and assembled with some good stuff, it's probably not quite the caliber we'd need.

And about the time that this boat engine got functional, we came into possession of a very rare old performance engine that we're now in the process of slowly rebuilding. We'll get into the details later, but for those of you familiar with old hotrod B20 stuff, stay tuned as we bring a 2400cc B20 stroker back to life.

'til then -


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