The Olds’ – Part 3, New Engine!

The Olds’ – Part 3, New Engine!

Olds - February 2024
Olds – February 2024

Note: This part is laden with great photos so that you can follow right along. Click on any of them to enlarge.

The parts combination Frank came up with worked really well. So well that we slowed the blower from 6% under to 9% under to 11% under to 13% under in an effort to resolve the problem of it banging the limiter at the hit of the throttle. Even at 13% under it was a handful. I was still on a street tire though – you know the kind, those big car show tires that look the part but don’t stick for nothing. My buddy Lee was like, “Man, you ain’t puttin’ that kind of power down on those tires.” He was about the hundreth person to point that out. So,I ditched ’em in favor of some Hoosier Quick Time Pro D.O.T.s – same size, 33×22.5×15.

OK. Now we talkin’! So, time to speed the blower up as I got more and more comfortable with it. By the time I got back to 6% under, which made about 7 pounds of boost, it was absolutely bonkers. So bonkers that it would pick the front wheels up from a dig after only a 5sec burnout or so. A few that got that ride swore they’d never get back in it. My buddy Chris had sea legs an hour afterwards – Dude, you scared the hell out of me. People don’t even know what fast is – that thing is nuts. So it was good for about 10,000 of the 22,000 miles on this combo. Let’s call it 800hp.

By the end of 2019, it was obvious that the Olds’ needed some love. Each year, it used a little bit more oil. By now, it was at the point at which it burned 1/4 to 1/2 a quart every time I took it out for the evening (think 50-75 miles). The oil consumption was such that it was nearly impossible to manage the drivability part of the tune. While it idled OK, the transition off idle was wildly unpredictable. [I explain why in the It Runs Hot . . . blog.] So, it was time to freshen it up a bit. I figured that I could deal with it through car season, address the problem over the summer of 2020, and then be back on the road in the fall for car season. The final straw for the combo was a massive backfire through the intake manifold at like 6,500 RPM in 2nd gear which shot a 5ft flame out of the pop-off plate. After changing my drawers, the realization stepped in. It was time.

A New Engine!

If I’ve learned anything over the years as a hot-rodder, it’s that what at first may seem like a reason to cry in one’s beer is really an opportunity to improve what you have. I mean, why not make it better vs just fix it? So, my brain was a whir and I had Frank on speed dial. What about this? The next day, Scratch that nonsense, this is what I wanna’ do! And so forth for about a month. As the Olds’ is a street car, the idea of putting that power to the pavement is the name of the game. So, from the word go the new engine couldn’t been a mountain motor or even a stroked combination that would make a bunch of torque down low that I couldn’t put to use. And let’s get real here, the combination I had was legit.

My first thought was to put some modern aluminum heads on it, freshen up the bottom end, use a solid roller so we could spin it up, and call it a day. After all, it was already more than I ever needed. That would have ended up as a 467ci BBC with similar bottom end torque as it already made and higher power up top – perfect for a street car. Then, Frank suggested to me, Dude, we can build a 509 – that’s not a stroked combination and it’ll give you more just where you want it. And we don’t have to spin it so fast to get the number you want. So, that’s what we agreed on. I also agreed that we would be building it ground up with a Dart block, which is why I sold the old long block. She so fine my 509 . . . perfect.

And then came the pandemic. Man, did that slow us down. And our business at CE Auto Electric Supply went through the roof. Parts availability was a real challenge on all fronts. We couldn’t get the Morel Black Mamba hydraulic roller lifters Frank spec’d and we had the lifter bores cut for them by Dart. So, we were at a standstill for months. Finally, we agreed to move to a solid roller as those lifters were in stock. Adding a Jesel valvetrain, this would allow us to spin the 509 – yeah, shit yeah! We set our sights on 900-950hp on pump gas and that was us with my old, trusty Weiand 6-71 . . . no ridiculous giant billet blowers for me. I wanted it to look like an old school blown big block to fit the theme of the car. We both felt that power was attainable.

The Long Block – Dart Iron Block, worked Brodix Race Rite 3 Cylinder Heads, Morel Black Mamba Solid Roller Lifters, Jesel Valvetrain

Assembly – Getting it ready for the Dyno

I sent the blower to Littlefield to have the rotors teflon stripped for gas as I figured it would need all the help it could get to fill the larger cylinders of the 509. I also figured we’d need some water/methanol injection to keep the IAT reasonable with a stripped blower spinning at top speed. And a Moroso vacuum pump likely couldn’t hurt. So, the plan came together and fast.

While the blower was apart, I took the opportunity to polish the snout and idler pulley bracket. I also drilled and tapped the carb adapter for the solenoids for the water / methanol injection system. As blowers push the air/fuel mixture forward in the manifold, Frank wanted the water/methanol to be sprayed towards the rear of the blower in an effort to manage EGT of the rear cylinders with respect to the front ones. [That really worked well on the dyno!] After the blower was all back together, my buddy Matt Luster helped me put the blower and induction together at BRE in preparation for it being loaded up on a dyno cart.

Come dyno day, I had quite the group show up for the power pulls. My posse’ as my buddy Mike Modena calls it. Oh, he was there too. Everyone knew someone from back home with a 540 and an 8-71 that made 850hp on pump gas, so those were the kind of numbers that were being thrown around. Frank and I had made a few preliminary power pulls the evening before with only a base tune and no water / meth. 800+hp at like 6,000 RPM. So, we knew better. Now, if you’re a hot-rodder and you’ve never sat at an engine dyno next to the operator, let me assure you that this needs to be on your bucket list. I captured the datalogs for each pull and kept Frank apprised of the IAT via the Holley software. We made 18 power pulls that night. I’ve sat at that console numerous times, but this time was different. I’ve never heard a roots blown Big Block Chevy pull clean to 7,500 RPM like that. Fortunately, we got video for you to see and hear as well!

So where did it end up? How about 1,008 hp @ 7,400 RPM and 816 lb-ft @ 5200 RPM! On 91 octane pump gas that is. We used a mix of VP Racing M1 Methanol and distilled water (4 parts water, 1 part M1) which was injected based on the engine’s actual fuel needs and managed by the Holley software. Nobody could believe it. She was all done at 7,400 RPM. My lil’ ol’ 6-71 was just done at 9% over (8k RPM blower speed)! We were 50hp more than I expected anyhow, so that’ll do Donkey, that’ll do. If I need more later, there will still be 10-71s and better fuel . . . We all left grinnin’ from ear to ear.

Really, pics and a dyno sheet just don’t do this one justice. Check out this video my buddy Matt Luster captured during one of the pulls. As for car guy moments, this day is solidly in my top 5. The only thing stopping it from climbing higher is the old school 6-71! But that’s OK . . .

A Fresh Engine Bay!

With the engine out of it, the firewall looked like it was used for shotgun practice. It seems that every prior owner took it upon themselves to drill 5 holes minimum. That’s obviously a safety issue. And, I wanted to add a flexplate shield for a little bit of added safety. So, off to my buddy Mike Modena’s shop, Modena Motorsports, to get some metalwork done. Mike also enlarged the trans tunnel accordingly to fit the new carbon fiber flexplate shield, painted the engine bay, and got all that sorted. While it was there, he also swapped the stock upper and lowers for QA1 parts with single adjustable coil-overs. Perfect. Mike handed it back to me in November of ’21.

Trans Tunnel Surgery

Paint it Black and Put it Back

All We Got Left to Do Now is Finish It Up!

This is where the rubber meets the road. There’s a LOT to a vehicle like this and it can’t be wrapped up in a long weekend. So, at this point, I did just like I illustrate in my books – divide the work up into subprojects and tackle them one at a time. I typically complete each subproject fully before moving onto the next one so that I’m able to leverage my thought process to the fullest. This is what sets apart a reliable and enjoyable vehicle from a non-reliable source of stress.

I spent the next few months on all of the subprojects. The process was lengthy, but enjoyable. And it really came out nice. You have no idea how hard it is to NOT mount something or drill a hole in a firewall that just had 75 holes filled! I planned accordingly. So, here are all the subprojects in the order I undertook them. This is where its nice to own an auto electric supply company that keeps the shelves stocked – I was on a veritable shopping spree nearly every day!

Throttle Bodies, Plug Wires, and New Starter Cable Assy

This was the perfect opportunity to use one of our ALL-NEW Littlefuse Waterproof Dual MEGA / AMG Fuse Holders. This is one of my favorite power distribution products we offer. Not only does it have a through bus for the battery to starter (which is non-fused), it also has two fused outputs tied to that bus. So, I would use one fused output to supply the interior auxiliary fuse panel and the other to supply the new power center under the hood. Super slick!

Routing the Main EFI Harness to the Throttle Bodies, Distributor, Sensors, and Integrating the Water / Methanol Driver

This was one of the most time consuming parts of the job. All of this stuff need be routed in such a way that it ends up at the correct point while not passing nearby anything that is a source of noise – the distributor, ignition box, coil, etc. The box and coil are actually mounted on the interior side of the firewall for just this reason – same as what I illustrated in SA209. In addition, I interfaced the Holley Water / Methanol driver into the main harness.

We sell all of the Cable Mounting Solutions and Cable Covering & Dressing shown here to make your life that much easier!

Building a New Front Clip Harness for the Lighting, Water/Methanol Injection System, Etc.

I built the original harness for the lighting in the front clip LONG before I owned CE Auto Electric Supply. So, I took the opportunity here to build an entire new lighting harness from scratch. I integrated our HRK2 Headlight Relay Kit and the wiring harness for the Water / Methanol Injection System into this and routed it all neatly out of sight under the core support. I used Weatherpack Connectors to connect to the parking / turn signal lamps and Packard 56 Series Connectors to connect the horn. Our Snap Bushings provide excellent protection for the loomed harness as I snaked it through the core support.

Water / Methanol Injection System Components Mounted & Plumbed

In addition to the Solenoid Driver, the Water / Methanol Injection System has a reservoir and pump which must be mounted, wired, and plumbed. So, I used the real estate on the driver’s side behind the headlights for these components. Pay no attention to that $3 patch job that a former owner did there – super DEE-LUXE. It just so happened that I needed a place to mount the catch can for the Moroso Vacuum Pump, so I integrated that into this area as well. Don’t worry, the bracket was painted before final assy here to keep it from rusting!

Proper Grounding

At this point, it was time to get my grounding in order. Ground points were chosen via our tried and proven recipes – all outlined fully in Getting Grounded. Note that no ground is complete without the correct hardware and I used a LOT of our Zinc Plated Internal / External Star Washers to ensure low resistance connections to all metal surfaces. This was also an excellent time to get the belt alignment spot on for the alternator and route the charge lead.

Building a NEW Power Center with all the Cool Stuff that the Olds’ Just Never Had!

Man, we had all these SUPER COOL Waterproof PDCs from GEP and Littlefuse that simply didn’t exist when I wired this car to begin with. So, I was anxious to use all of it! The New Power Center came together quickly and has TONS more utility and serviceability than what it replaced.

Building a Custom Voltage Reducer

The Olds’ has run 14 Volt Batteries since 2012 or so. One of the downsides of that is that the alternator has to charge at North of 17 Volts to keep the batteries fully charged and happy. The downside of that is some devices can be damaged by this additional voltage. My AutoMeter Sport Comp AFR Gauge was one such casualty. So, I designed this cool little doo-dad around a GEP 12 Position Waterproof PDC and four of our 6A Diodes. A diode has a .7V series insertion loss, so I needed (4) in series to get the 3V drop I was after. Perfect.

Building an Indicator Panel for the Water / Methanol Injection System

During the dyno sessions, I had rigged up a simple indicator system that showed the status of the water / methanol injection system. This allowed us to tell from the dyno operator station that the system was in fact working. As the Holley driver uses PWM to drive the solenoids, I wired some incandescent bulbs to the outputs to each solenoid. As the duty cycle increased, the bulbs got brighter. It worked perfectly. So, I wanted to carry this into the vehicle as well. The dash in the Olds’ is a shell of the original dash structure that someone cut in half and . . . well, let’s just say there’s some real estate under it. So, I used a pair of holes that someone had mounted a gauge of some kind to in the past to mount the following in such a way that the indicators point up through the defroster vent and reflect off the glass. Outer bulbs show duty cycle of the water / methanol injectors and the inner LED is the low fluid warning indicator.

Firing it up!

It was that time. April of 2022. My buddy Matt Luster came over, we flushed the main fuel line as I had to shorten it. This gave us the opportunity to inspect the fuel which had been sitting in the tank since spring of 2020. To our surprise, it was totally fine. When Matt signs off, we’re good. We pressurized the fuel system to check for leaks and the tower on the rear tbi unit leaked like a sieve. In seconds, it filled the rear barrels. We soaked up the fuel, pulled the injector tower, swapped the o-ring, and problem solved. The engine fired right up. We had a few minor things to fix, but success was ours!

To Present Day

All of the drivability issues caused by the oil consumption with the old engine were gone. I had spent so much time on that area in the tune, this engine just took that and ran with it. Nobody, and I mean nobody can believe it purrs like it does at idle, cruises as nice as it does around town, and the throttle is instantaneous when you want it. Here’s a combination with a roots blower, BIG solid roller, etc. You’d never know it was 1,000hp cruising next to me. You really can have it all with a correctly tuned modern fuel injection system atop an engine built by someone as talented as Frank.

1,000 hp is a lot – I don’t care what anyone says. It’s absolutely ridiculous for a street car. And it’ll take me a bit to get my hands around it. It’s been two years now and I’ve put only 750 miles or so on the new combination. It’s absolutely scary as it skates around a bit unpredictably past half throttle. I still have not found the time to get the double adjustable QA1s in the rear which will help immensely. That will take some modification as the shock bodies are larger than the antique Koni coil overs that are still on it. Once that’s done, it needs some suspension tweaking and wide open throttle efforts to see if we can actually harness it on the street. The rear TBI unit also continues to be a challenge and Holley no longer offers support or parts for them. So, over the summer I’ll swap the TBI units to a traditional injector plate atop the blower with dry throttle bodies above.

So for now, there you are. You’ve got the inside scoop on the Olds’. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed telling it. I’ve owned it since 2006 and will likely never sell it. It’s just too big a component of who we are as a company. Down the road there will most certainly be a Part 4 as we rip out the gold carpeting . . . ha!


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