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Bottom End

All cleaned up, all the new parts are here and correct, we gotten the right gasket sealer...


Alrighty then, let's put this puppy back together!

Camshaft Bearings installation
Step 1
  • Using the driver shown at left, install the cam shaft bearings
  •  Install the cam timing gear on the cam shaft.  Don't forget the cam retainer ...


  • Carefully set the the cam shaft aside -- we won't be installing it just yet ...



crankshaft installation
Step 2
  • Lots of folks have trouble getting their main seals to fully seat, resulting in a leaky engine.


  • To improve installation of the rear main seal, try making a rear main seal seating tool  (called a "Herbison") from a Ford 302 V-8 piston as shown.  The Herbison's diameter exactly matches the inside radius of the Chevy Stovebolt (i.e., 216, 235 and 261) rear main bearing cap and journal.


  • Carefully work the rope into place



  • Insert the main bearings.  Remember that each Main Bearing is unique to it's journal on the crankshaft so keep them in order.  Once installed, apply assembly lube to each one

Main bearings & seal installation

A "Herbison" vastly improves the quality of the rear main seal installation and will prevent people from mistaking your engine for a GMC or a Detroit ... :)

Crankshaft installation

  • Most procedures involved with engine rebuilding are critical but probably none more so than a proper crankshaft installation.  After all, it's the focus of the whole system.


  • Before you go any further, reinstall the road tube baffle plate.


  • With the main bearings in place, carefully place the crankshaft in the block.  This is a two-person lift.  Be careful of fingers or clothing getting caught.


  • Put the main bearing caps in place and tighten the bolts but do not torque to specs yet.


  • Insert a 1/2-inch drive breaker bar into the front end of the crankshaft and gently rotate it.  Does it rotate easily without any tight spots?  If the crank has been properly ground and there were no issues with the journals in the block, then it *better* rotate freely!  If it does, proceed!  If not, start working backward through the mains to see where the problem is.


  • If it freely rotates, then torque the mains to spec and repeat the rotation check.


  • While we are here, lets go ahead and install the crankshaft timing gear on the front of the crankshaft as shown in the image at left.
    • Be sure to firmly wedge a block of wood between the back of the crankshaft (where the flywheel attaches) and the engine stand to absorb the thrust applied from driving the gear on.
    • If you've drilled the end of the crankshaft to accept the harmonic balancer retaining bolt, then you can use that to drive on the gear.  But either way -- be careful!  It is easy to destroy the crank at this point and you don't want to do that ...


  • So far, so good.  Now, put your favorite music on the shop stereo and settle in --  this next step takes awhile and is very methodical ... we'll be checking clearances.  Start at either end of the crank and check the clearances of each main bearing one at a time.
    • Remove the bearing cap and place a strip of plastigage on the crank journal longitudinally (see image at left -- unsquished part of the plastigage is from the oiling groove in the bearing)
    • Torque the bearing cap bolts to spec (100-110 ft-lbs), then remove the cap to measure the plastigage.  On our rebuild, We reduced the torque specs slightly (about 10%) because the thread lube we used was anti-sieze compound instead of the recommended 30 weight motor oil. Better thread lube equates to less turning effort to get the necessary "stretch" on the fasteners.
    • The ideal Plastigage measurement for a street-driven engine is around .0015", but that depends on how the crankshaft is ground. The machine shop that ground our crank does mainly race car engine work so the machinist used the "low side" of the tolerance on the rod and main bearing journals, resulting in about .001" extra clearance on all the bearings. It's pretty routine for race shops to add a little clearance to assure good oil flow, and use a high volume oil pump to keep plenty of oil flowing through the bearings. This adds some extra cooling effect, and also prevents the engine from tightening up when it's run hard at high RPM.  So this engine has .0025" clearance on the main bearings which should be no problem as we will be running 15W-40 oil from now on in this engine.
    • Additionally, the 1960 Chevy shop manual states that acceptable clearances on the main bearings are  .003" max to .0005" min.  So we are good to go.
    • If you have *less* than .001" clearance, you will need to shim the bearing.  Open the little brown envelope of shims that came with your gasket set.  Use your micrometer to find the ones you need.  Remember, you may not need to shim both sides of the bearing ...  Just repeat the plastigage process until you get the correct clearance.  No shims?  No problem -- see the image at left ...  Happy shimming!
    • Once the bearing checks for proper clearance, clean off the plastigage, reapply assembly lube, replace the main cap and torque to spec.  If you can't get all the plastigage, no sweat -- it will quickly dissolve in the assembly lube/engine oil.
  • Once all the clearances are checked, shims (if needed) are in place and the caps are torqued ...  Congratulations!  You've installed the crankshaft!


  • Reinstall the cleaned (or replaced) timing gear oiling nozzle on the cylinder block front end plate and, using a new gasket, reinstall the plate on the block.  Tighten the screws to 15-20 ft-lbs and stake securely at the bottom of the slot (i.e., use a small chisel to make a wedge in the metal of both the edge of the screw and the edge of the plate to keep the screw from loosening).

Plastigage is easy to use -- the wrapper provides the measurement.  Just match the width of the squished plastigage to a bar on the wrapper to determine the clearance.

Forgot the shims??  No problem!  Beer cans provide excellent shims and mostly are the same thickness and material as a shim ...  Win Win!  Check it with the micrometer, though. advises against drinking beer while rebuilding your engine...  You can, however, drink beer while watching someone else rebuild your engine...

The crankshaft has been carefully placed in the block.  The main caps are in place but not fully torqued.  The timing gear has just been installed using the end bolt jig.

Setting the timing
Step 3

Install the cam shaft

  • Carefully  insert the cam shaft into the block (retainer and timing gear have been installed on the cam, and the cam bearings are all liberally coated with assembly lube, right?)  Do not drag a lobe or a journal on anything or you might score it.


  • As you get the cam into place, align the timing marks on both gears as shown.  Guess what happens if you don't get this part right?  If you guessed "I get to start over from the beginning with a different engine" then you are correct.

Check the timing

  • Once the cam is in place, rotate the engine upright.


  • If you have a new cam, then you should have gotten new lifters, as well.   Get them out now and temporarily install them.
  • Refer to the Shop Manual for this part -- Pg 8-2
Installing the pistons
Step 4

Clean the ring grooves

  • DO NOT PUT PISTON IN A VICE.  Just hold it.
  • Use a piston ring groove cleaner to scrape carbon deposits and gunk remaining after the bath from the ring grooves.


  • Scraping a little metal is okay.
  • Check the wrist pin for proper fit -- insert the wrist pin and hold the piston on its side.  Slide the wrist pin out so that only one boss is holding it.  It should be tight enough that it won't fall out, but just loose enough that thumb pressure is enough to push it back into place.  Check both bosses.
  • Use a punch held in a vise to hold the piston by the wrist pin to avoid bending the rod
  • Before tightening the clamp bolt, center the wrist pin in the piston and the connecting rod in the center of the two wrist pin bosses.


Install the connecting rods

Install the piston rings

  • The set of new piston rings (sized to match whatever sized pistons you are using) will have 2 cast iron compression rings and one oil ring (a steel spacer sandwiched between two steel rings or "rails")
  • The cast iron compression rings are installed with the bevels/dots facing the top of the piston.  Rings without beveled edges can be installed either way.
  • Use the piston ring expander tool to install the compression rings.  If you try to spiral them in, they will snap.  Make sure the gaps don't line up.  They will spin around the piston in use, but you want them doing their job right at the very beginning/1st start and break in.
  • Spiral the steel rails that sandwich the spacer into place.  If you use the expander tool on them, they will break or deform.


  • Locate oil ring rail gaps approximately 1 inch to the right and left of the spacer ends.



Install the pistons

  • Install the connecting rod bearings.  Coat liberally with assembly lube.
  • Cut two short pieces of 3/8 inch fuel line to put over each rod cap bolt (protects the crankshaft journals from damage during installation)
  • Temporarily remove the lifters and rotate the engine on its side -- if you have a helper to guide the connecting rod ends onto the crankshaft journals.  If working alone, you may want to rotate the engine upright and let gravity keep the rods dangling straight down.
  • For each piston, rotate the crankshaft so that the connecting rod journal for that cylinder is at the bottom dead center position.
  • Using a piston ring compressor, carefully insert the piston into the cylinder.  The little indent on the top of the piston should point to the front of the engine.
  • Carefully tap the piston down the cylinder with a rubber mallet handle or a dead blow hammer.


  • Slowly and gently guide the bottom of the connecting rod onto the crankshaft journal.  The blows on the piston will change their sound when you are "home."


  • Place the caps on and torque to 45 ft-lbs
  • Rotate the crankshaft after each piston to bring the next journal/cylinder into position as well as to check that the rotation is free with no tight spots.


  • Repeat until all pistons are installed.  Rotate the engine upside down.


  • When complete, recheck torque on all main bolts and rod bolts.



Step 5
Installing the Oil Pump[

If inspection of the oil pump indicated excessive wear, then replace the entire pump.  But if you are reusing the old pump, reassemble thusly:

  • Place the drive gear and shaft in the pump body and install the idler gear so the smooth side of the gear is toward the cover.


  • Install the gasket.  Install the cover and attaching screws.  Tighten securely and check that the shaft turns freely.


  • Place the oil pump in position in the block fitting.  Install the retaining screw, be sure the tapered end of the screw draws down into hole in the pump body and tighten the the lock nut securely


  • Install the oil pump to block oil line.


  • Install the oil screen and body assembly, and the oil pipe that connects the screen to the pump -- See the photo at right for how it is supposed to look.
  • Remember the two bolts that insert from the front main bearing
  • Use the good aircraft quality gasket sealer

Install the timing cover

  • Ensure the oil pan flange is flat.  At right, Jerry uses a piece of cut C channel steel as a die for flattening the flange with a hammer.
  • Place the oil pan gaskets on the block.  Be sure to get the front and rear main bearing rubber pieces to overlay the ends of the cork correctly.


  • Before you install the oil pan, let's make one more pass down the crank to check torques...
    • Rod caps: 35-45 ft-lbs
    • Mains: 100-110 ft-lbs


  • No need for goops, the oil will soak into the cork and make its own seal.  Just carefully place the pan in place and start, but do not tighten, all the pan bolts/screws.


  • Once everything is in place, go ahead and tighten them all down.  Tight but not over torqued!



Install the oil pan

Step 6
Installing covers and Pans

Jerry uses a piece of scrap channel steel (checked for a flat side!) as a die to flatten the oil pan flange for a better seal.

Roll the engine upright ...  you are done with the bottom end ... for now.  Let's go topside!

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