Engine carnage

So I recently bought a batch of 5.9 (360) engines to rebuild. With the pending purchase of another car and the need to swap the engine out of the 71 when I do the 5 speed install, I thought it would be a good time to gather some stock for the builds.

I made a deal with a guy local to us who has a barn full of motors. I ended up with two complete long blocks and one bottom end. As luck would have it, the first teardown was a bust. The motor looked brand new on the outside. The paint was still shiny black. I have no idea exactly what happened, but I was told that the oil filter reportedly came off of the motor and the person kept running it. In my 35 years of working on cars, I have never seen one this bad that didn’t fly into a hundred pieces!

I guess the fact that it would not spin at all should have been a hint! The #3 bearing spun and the bock was black as could be right there. The piston pins were welded to the rods! I managed to be able to save three of the 8 rods. Get a look at the rod bearings!

So, good news is the supplier is going to bring some more cores by so I can continue with my original plan of a three engine build.  may keep this block and build it later as a low RPM truck motor or something. The crank is beyond repair. I may make some funky yard art out of it.

With that, I was happy to see that the heads looked like brand new, so I ordered a set of springs and retainers from Hughes Engines so we can at least get some top end action going!


Roll your own…….HEI that is

Ok, well here we go! Done, and done! New HEI system is all installed and she runs great!


Yes, you too can do this! It may be blasphemy to some, but I can tell you that this is 100 times more reliable and the spark hotter than a Mopar or Direct Connection box. While not as fancy as a full MSD or Mallory setup, it comes at a fraction of the cost! All you need is a stock Mopar distributor, GM HEI module, and a coil. No more ballast resistor!

Here is a great article from Elizabeth Puckett at Power and Performance Magazine about how she did it.

Here is how it’s wired.  Don’t forget the heat sink paste on the module and mount it to aluminum for cooling.

One note is on the distributor cap. The older (late 80’s to around 92 had a clip down cap, where later ones had the screw down cap. The later cap has HEI Male terminals, where the older one had standard female wire sockets. I did find a cap at Mancini racing that had the male HEI terminals with the clip mount cap, and it was $48!! I have seen some on eBay but as of now haven’t tested them.

And here we have the first firing. Timing was not set yet, but she sounded pretty mean for a cold start!


Feel free to email me: nick@excopllc.com or hit me up on Facebook if you want help setting up your own!

And here we go …again!

Remember me talking about Chinese junk a few posts ago? That awesome HEI distributor? Well, here we go again! Took the car from a cruise and on the way home it died like the switch was turned off. At first, I thought it’s almost 100 degrees out, so maybe vapor lock. Nope. I noticed when it shut down that the tach died immediately and pegged at zero. I managed to limp it home by cycles of driving and cooling, driving and cooling. That was fun!

I started checking things over. While letting the engine idle I noticed the weirdest thing! The damned distributor cap was wobbling around while the engine was running. Turns out out wasn’t the cap, but the entire base plate! I opened it up to have a look and the entire base was full of oil! Pic below was after I had spilled some of the oil. The stator was full of oil as well. Absolute JUNK!

UGH!! Soooo… off to my scrap bin and picked out a Mopar distributor. Now I am back to rolling my own ignition module and coil setup the way that I want it. I’ll update that as soon as I get it fired up!

On a really good note, JEGS was more than happy to refund the money for the purchase even though I told them they were getting a box of parts back.

Grounded by Chinese junk!

Well I am as about as cheap as anyone…I mean, I shop bargains and I have seen some good products out of China, but this week has seen two huge failures from my bargain shopping. I guess lesson learned.

First one, I noticed the brake lights on the Charger staying on all the time. What did I find? The “no-name” switch from Rock Auto melted down and fell apart.

Luckily the local parts store had a quality version for about $10. Problem solved and we move on to the next day. I went for a good drive and towards the end the car started stuttering and backfiring. I got home and looked everything over and nothing. Next day, off for another drive and everything was great then… again. Skipping, backfiring, the whole thing. It finally hit me that either the coil was breaking down or the module had issues from overheating. The distributor was a JEGS HEI replacement for the Dodge stock distributor. This guy right here:

Fix for it… swapped out the module and coil with Accell parts and man she runs AWESOME!

Super Coil and their HEI module seemed to make life grand. I can hardly wait until the weekend to go for a drive.

Lesson learned… do be cheap! 🙂


Can’t get enough of this!

April is on the way! That means track days at Daytona International speedway! Hopefully I can run the BRZ one day and the Dodge he next. I can hardly wait! Spring in Florida seems to be kicked off with the 500 even though it is in February. Since I posted last, I have managed to get the lettering done on the Charger, and got her all egal here in Florida so I have made a few runs with her now to test it out. Not quite the low end beast I had hoped for, but she loves that high end wind up!

I did a short video out on the 95 on the way to the speedway to do a photo shoot. Man that was fun! Almost as fun as being flocked by German tourists wanting to do a photo shoot with it.


I wished I could simply say that I am done and ready to just drive it. I still have to rebuild the entire rear end. I have new shocks, sway bar, and springs to go. She drives awesome now like she is. Corners like a beast! But… still not quite track ready. I can’t wait to hear the echo of this thing going under the tunnel ad Daytona in the spring!

Thanks to everyone that has been following, sponsored, helped out, gave me ideas, and generally watched a 50 year old act like a teenager. Hopefully you will still be hanging out listening to more of the story!

The two year mark…and then some.

I can’t believe that has been a little over two years in the making. The entire idea behind this project at first was going to be a Roadkill style beater. Just make it run and drive it to work. Fortunately, (or maybe not) this car was too far gone for that silly idea. Then… why not make an off road car out of it. Well, because we moved to Florida, that’s why not! Sooo.. let’s build a street legal NASCAR tribute car. That should do it! I am so happy with the direction we went. I still have a long way to go to finish all of the little fine details on this thing, but two years has shown a LOT of progress!

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All primed up!

Soooo. here we go! 75 degree day in Daytona and I finally threw down some primer!

Yes, home paint booth, YES, Harbor Freight “Professional gun” and YES, used air compressor from Facebook marketplace. I did aid water and particulate filters.

First off, when you start painting a car, you will find MANY opinions, instructions, warnings, naysayers, YouTube certified experts, etc. I was warned that my garage would explode, I would die, my cats would die, the car would look like shit, I was not a pro, etc. THEN I was told to go for it! I was shown many exampled of home paint booths and some bad ass results. I hadn’t done this since around 1995. It all worked out pretty well and I am happy with the results. That is Eastwood 2K Urethane filler/primer. It shot really well even with the Harbor Freight gun that was going to be the death of the whole project according to some online certified paint guys.

I finally have gone over the whole thing with some wet paper. I used some 800 grit since it was all I have handy. The paint arrives tomorrow so lets hope we get some warm weather here in Daytona.

Quick Trick alignment

Before someone asks the question…. yes, an alignment shop could do this. Maybe! Most shops, unless you have one like we do nearby where an old NASCAR mechanic works, won’t even come close because all they have is the data in the machine. They can’t adjust to a target or setup for a specific track or front end parts. So here we go.

Disclaimer: I haven’t done this in well over 20 years! I learned on an old Hunter machine that really was strings and projectors. It was called the Lite-A-Line.

Luckily, my mentor back then was an old retired NASCAR guy. Too bad now, 30+ years after, I can’t remember all that I learned.

So now, we laid out the string to get started:

There are lots of details all over the internet about laying a string alignment. I’ll do a video on it later, I promise. I used the string first because the front end was so far off due to this being a completely new front end build. The one thing I was missing was the grease or bearing plates under the front wheels. This allows the wheels to turn easier to get more accurate readings. The idea with the string is getting a fixed and square measuring point to be able to set the front toe in. The left side was well over an inch out and it needed to be near 1/8″. So I got that done rather quickly then enter the Quick Trick Alignment tools.


To be honest, my ex father-in-law and I made a setup almost identical to this back around 1995 when my son was racing go-karts. If only I had been smart enough to sell it then! This tool makes the rest of the setup very easy. Also disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement. I didn’t get anything free or otherwise for this review. Hoping to get a sticker or something in the future! So anyway, I found  this setup on Amazon. I had some points saved on my card, so I nabbed this setup for under $100. Their website price is around $289 I think. I have seen them on Amazon and eBay for under $200 for the “last year’s model”

I will do a full instructional post soon, but my review thus far is that that the tool is well built and does come with everything you need minus the wrenches. you will need the specs for your particular application. Everything is beefy enough to last and having it in a carrying bag makes it easy to take to the track with you. The “only” thing I might add will be a second level. Also thinking of devising a laser level mount so that you can set alignment using a laser level from the rear wheel shooting a gauge on the front. I’ll see how that works.

My Firm Feel front end pieces require:

4 to 4-1/2 degrees positive caster
> 1 to 1-1/2 degrees negative camber
> 1/16″-1/8″ toe in.

And I will illustrate that when I do the entire setup. For now, I wanted to get hands on with the tool and get a basic alignment done. Having one wheel toed out over an inch made the car hard to roll in and out of the shop.

That’s it for now!

Sanding Elbow!

Well, I gave this so much thought. After all of the work that Sammie and I have done on this car I just can’t bare to hand it off to someone else to paint. We’ve had zero outside labor help since the day I picked it up. Once the previous owner helped shove it on the carrier, that was the end of the help. Painting it and doing the graphics just seems like we will be writing another of our own chapters in the build!

I am no paint and body guy. Not in any form or fashion! I think I may have found the end of the internet while searching and watching YouTube tutorial videos though! I’ve already bought a spray gun, and the primer from Eastwood. I am waiting to buy the paint until we are closer to the finish line. I still have to get the new(used) compressor and get it plumbed into the shop. My little buzz bomb won’t run a paint gun.
So any way, I have been religiously hitting the car with 320 grit by hand right now. Jesus that is one big car! Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be satisfied with the work and be ready to throw down some primer. I’ll save the home grown paint booth for another post.

Thanks for following along!

Ok, let’s try this again!

So with my wife’s illness and a few other things, I was certainly in a slump. I started looking at the budget and decided to go buy a low mile junkyard long block, 5.9 magnum engine. Let’s face it, the $12,000 budget for the new 408 build will just have to wait. Anyway, I am ok with that because I wanted to try the 5.9 Magnum conversion to start with. I have been reading up a lot on Magnum Swap.

Junkyard Magnum from a well maintained state vehicle was about $450! I’ve ordered a new oil pump, timing chain set, LA timing cover, LS oil pan, and a new intake and mechanical fuel pump. I will detail more of this on the engine build page. About all I have left to have a moving car is the torque converter. I am not sure which one I’ll go with just yet and the choices are plentiful!

Work in progress :

This thing turned out so awesome! I could not be happier with the result.

I’ll go update the engine page as soon as I can!