289 Ready for Assembly – Step 1: Short Block

After tearing down the 302 and realizing it was a 79 block dressed up with 68 parts, I found an original early 68 289 block that will fit the period correct requirement for the 67. I switched gears mid stream and had the machine shop stop on the 302 and finish the 289 for this project. Well, they are done and I have the block and heads, plus all the various parts back at the house.

For this one, mostly original was my goal, so I used the original heads and crank. No stroking it for more cubes, or trying to go radical power with aluminum heads. They balanced the rotating assembly, bored the block .030 over and supplied a new rebuild kit with a mild cam and pistons to fit the bore. They took the original piston arms and put new bolts in before mounting them on the pistons. From there, everything is in a box and ready for me to assemble.

I wasn’t sure if they were going to put the plugs in as well, or leave that for me, but it looks like they put in all the freeze plugs. My first step from here is to tape off the new deck surface and oil pan surface and put some paint on it.

I went with Old Ford Blue, mostly because I like how it looks. I used a rattle can from O’Reilly’s which is good enough for me. As I make progress, I will clean off the various over-spray surfaces like the timing chain cover gasket area.

The 65 project came with a pile of old books, one of which is a recommended engine assembly guide called “How to Rebuild Small-Block Ford Engines”. While old school, it does a good job of detailing every little step, including what the machine shop had to do. I am using that as my guide to get things back together. Next step is the cam.

Since it takes some specialized tools to get the cam bearings in, I had the machine shop do that. At this point, I just need to get the cam pre-lubed and in place, then the thrust plate bolted on.

My thrust plate was one of the ones that goes on a specific orientation, but it was pretty hard to get wrong. I blasted it and left it clean, expecting the engine oil to preserve it.

At this point, I realized I didn’t put the dowel pin in the cam. I took it back out, then realized I had 2 pins that came with the cam. After some googling, I learned that the short one is for the 2 piece fuel pump eccentric, and the long one is for the single piece fuel pump eccentric. It seems the 79 engine had the dual piece eccentric, so I used the shorter pin. The difference is the dual piece eccentric has a flange bent in that locks it in place where the cam pin is in the timing gear. The single piece would have the pin going through the gear and into the fuel pump eccentric to hold it in place.

Dowel pin chosen and in place, the cam is back in the engine again and the thrust plate is too.

Next is on to the crank. I did more reading in the book and watching videos. I have 5 pairs of bearings and needed to learn where the one that is not like the others goes. It seems its the thrust bearing and it goes in the center of the block. You can see the 4 are just a thin C shaped flat piece. The center bearing has a lip on either side and locks in on the surface much more securely. Also note the ones that are installed first have a slot and a hole for the oil, lining up with the hole in the block. The other side does not. Getting that wrong would suddenly give me more experience building an engine as I would get to do it again right after firing it up the first time.

The Crankshaft is in, bolted in place and torqued to spec. I was sure to put a good coating of engine assembly lube on all the bearings for both the cam and the crank. As a bonus, it still turns, pretty easy by hand, as it should without any pistons on it.

Next was the pistons. I made some mistakes here and learned some things. Mostly, I gained experience doing things several times that I should have had to only do once.

First, I sat down and put the rings on. The directions with the rings said if the ring has a dot, that dot faces up. If it doesn’t have a dot, it doesn’t have a direction. Not sure why some did and some didn’t, but if they had a dot they faced up. I also made sure that the ring gaps faced the 4 corners, starting about 2 o’clock, with adjacent rings having gaps on opposite sides where possible. I also used a ring expander tool from Summit for the top 2 rings, though not required.

Once they were ringed, I prepped for installation. I used some engine oil on the ring compressor and lubed up the bore. This was a job where I appreciated the latex gloves. To protect the crank surface, I also used some short sections of fuel line to cover the bolts while I inserted them. For added safety, I also made sure the crank was furthest away from the piston I was installing.

The ring compressor I got from Summit was junk and only made it through 6 pistons before it started making a groove and shaving on aluminum ribbons. This is one where I was tricked by false reviews. I picked up a much better one from the local Napa to finish the job.

Pistons are in. These have a cut out to indicate the front. I also had an issue orienting piston 1 originally. Upside down, I started with 1 in the #8 position. By the time I got to 5, I realized my mistake and had to start over. In the end, I was more experienced and quicker with setting the pistons. Also, for this job I picked up a summit piston hammer. Its a little softer and a much better option than the handle of my 48 oz sledge. Highly recommended.

I skipped ahead earlier and put the timing chain on when I was cleaning the bolts. I got it right the first time, so I figured I should just leave it. The dots line up with #1 at TDC. Life is good. I also left the bolts blasted clean with just a coat of oil, which is how they looked originally. The crank bolt is going to be exposed, outside the engine, but the cam bolt will live in oil anyhow. The oiling now is just for the time it takes to assemble it. I have seen some rust while sitting on my bench and I want to avoid that here.

Next was adding the fuel pump eccentric since I plan on using the original style mechanical fuel pump. I am also doing my best to reuse original bolts. While the cost adds up, its really waiting for parts that slows everything down.

Almost done with the short block; just a couple pieces left. One is the timing cover, the other is the oil pump before closing it up with the oil pan. I am missing some of the bolts for the timing cover, so I had to wait on those to arrive. I found the bolts for the oil pump and the pickup, so I put the pump on. The book did say to not even think about reusing the oil pump shaft. I have it in place here, but I had to take a couple days off while I waited for a new one of those too. Trying to clean up the oil off of the pickup was a mess and I couldn’t get it clean inside the screen. The oil buildup was terrible. Rather than leave that in the engine, I opted for a new one which is also coming with the other parts.

After a few days, parts arrived and I am back to work. First was the timing cover bolts. It seems this timing cover is slightly different than the original 67 as the kit had 4 short and 2 long bolts, but it needed 2 short and 4 long. I managed to find a couple from the tear down pile and blast to clean them up. I put a light coat of oil on them, other than the head, as that was going to be blue shortly. A little oil on the chain, and the cover is on with a new gasket and some gasket sealant.

This is probably a good point to discuss the timing chain cover seal. I had 2 different ones, one with a lip and one without. It seems at some point in the late 70s, the timing cover changed to a smooth bore where the crank protrudes, so the seal has a lip, like mine pictured. Earlier covers had a groove for the seal to seat against, so they did not have a lip on the surface to show how deep they needed to seat. The later seems like a more durable and accurate solution. If you are unsure, just look for the bore of the crank hole. Smooth gets a lip, grooved gets a lipless seal.

So, with the new parts came the oil pump shaft, and the new pickup. I accidentally got some over spray while cleaning up some spots on the timing cover. I hope the oil doesn’t mind. I replaced the shaft and hand tightened the parts together. I couldn’t use a socket due to blockage, but I think I got it plenty tight.

With the oil pump and timing cover in place, its time to seal it up and put the oil pan on. The bolts were kind of nasty, and one broke during disassembly, so I opted for a new set of AMK oil pan bolts. I also use a new rubber style one piece oil pan gasket, like I used on Eric’s coupe. No need for the hanger locks this time since its upside down and easily held in place while I evenly apply the bolts with several runs around tightening it down.

I blasted the timing marker and painted it black so it stands out a bit. I also put the harmonic balancer in place. I screwed up the order here though. I needed to take the pan off again so I could lock the crank while I torqued the crank bolt on the balancer. Otherwise I couldn’t get past about 20 lbs before the crank started turning. Then its back together and moving forward again.

This is a good stopping point with a short block assembled. I think I have everything assembled correctly up to here. I learned a few things and got the opportunity to practice some things several times. Some call that mistakes, I like to call it experience. It’s easier to keep going that way.

Next I will tackle the heads and associated valve train. I have some parts to order still, and some reading to do. I already have the intake and some of the front end, so I will have to see how far I get in the next post.

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