Pinstriping at home

I needed to put some pin stripes on my Dodge hood to copy what the company did back in the day. I didn’t want to go back to the body shop and expect them to do it for free – even if they did a less than perfect job. So I thought I’d give it a go at home.

I needed to put contrasting black strips along the edge of the hood and up over the cowl. I wouldn’t want to try this free-hand. That’s what the professionals get paid for. Since the lines were to follow the hood edge line I thought I could do a passable job. First I ran a strip of 1/4″ green painting tape along the hood edge. This was going to be my base to work from. The black striping would follow the tape. I cleaned the hood, cowl and any area where the pinstripe would be applied with paint thinner to be sure there was no wax or grease remaining.

This is what it looked like part way through the job. I had run a 1/4″ black pinstripe along the first green strip. I then ran a second 1/4″ green strip next to the thin black strip. I used that strip to run the wider black strip. When the pinstripes were in place I simply removed the green tape.

I tucked the pinstripe under the windshield moulding, cut the tape between the hood and cowl and rolled the lips down and then I wrapped the stripes around and under the hood front lip. The wider tape was a bit harder to get in place. It didn’t want to fit into the curve on the cowl and it tended to leave bubbles if not pressed down as you went along. Not a perfect job, but acceptable for me. Job done!

Next – back to Studebakering.

Fitting the valve lifter valley cover

In my last post I was busy stretching an old (likely 40+ years old) all cork gasket for the lifter valley cover. The elastic bands was my way of trying the get the gasket into the reverse curves.

I decided to use some Perfect seal on this gasket as well. The sealant wants to settle out quite quickly. I used a bent piece of coat hanger in my hand drill to mix it up each time I used it. I then coated the side that fits to the cover.

Here it is back on the cover and with its downside also coated with a thin film of Perfect seal. Hard to see, but there are new copper sealing washers on the hold down bolts. They are originals from Studebaker – still made with what appears to be asbestos and copper. I’ll use a 1/4″ socket drive with a straight handle to tighten things down. The manual calls for 3 to 3.5 ft lbs of torque. This way I shouldn’t get them over tight.

I hate trying to line up oil pans, lifter covers, etc when I have a gasket covered in sealant. I like it to fit were its going to stay. So I put in headless guide bolts in place to line things up.

Lifter cover in place. No problem getting the bolts started since the guides kept everything lined up. A bit of tape to keep things from falling into the engine and causing me to have to remove the valley cover or the heads – not my idea of fun. I also took the opportunity to fit brass plugs in all the oil gallery holes and fitted a new temperature sender in place as well. I will have to be careful not to damage it when it comes time to install the engine.

Last job on the block will be installing the water pump housing. Note the fuel pump opening has been blocked off. I’ll be going with an electric fuel pump from the start.

Lifter adjustment & gasket stretching

Basic tools needed to adjust the valves cold. 1/2″ wrench to turn the lifter screws, a 1-1/2″ socket to turn the crank using the crank screw, .025 feeler gauge (Intake) and a .027 gauge (exhaust- combination of two). I’m using two feeler gauges so that I’m not bothered with switching back and forth.

So as not to get mixed up I marked each valve rocker as intake or exhaust. There are any number of ways to adjust the valves cold. I chose to use the method suggested by Jim Pepper and recommended by Isky cams.

You do one cylinder at a time. Rotate the engine until the exhaust lifter is just beginning to rise – adjust the intake. Then continue to rotate until the intake closes – adjust the exhaust. I went around the block once and then a second time to make sure all were adjusted correctly. Again there are different ways to use a feeler gauge. I prefer to set them gap so that there is a slight drag pushing it in or pulling it out.

Next it was time to restore an old dried out cork gasket for the valley lifter cover.

Way too short to fit any more.

Here I’ve laid it on the bench on some paper towels and soaked with water. I covered it with a cotton cloth and soaked that too so that the gasket was wet top and bottom. I left it that way for a couple of hours. Quicker if you immerse it in hot tap water – not boiling water. Usually 20 minutes works fine.

After a good soaking I was just able to stretch it on the cover. I needed some extra help from a couple of rubber bands and a block of cork, from an old gasket, to get it to fit into the reverse curves. I’ll leave it like that till it dries. I’ll then add some Perfect Seal to both sides, let it firm up and then put it in place.

From here on things will be moving a bit slower. Summer and lots of other things to be done. I’ll post when I do get a chance to work on the engine. I’m keen to get the engine installed and run in.

Getting the heads on

The heads have two 7/16″ alignment pins to help with the head installation. The pins are all short pieces of thin walled tubing. Two of them double as passages for oil to return to the pan from the rear of the heads and two are blind holes up front.

One of the pins was missing and fortunately it was from one of the blind holes. I tried removing the piping from another set of heads, but I found it impossible. So I cut off a short piece of a 7/16″ bolt and epoxied it into the head. I used the threaded end so that the epoxy had lots of surface to grip.

My head gaskets are NOS and have suffered a bit over the years from poor storage. I used a scotch brite type pad to clean away the small spots of rust. I will use a gasket sealer to make sure I don’t get any leakage of gases, oil or antifreeze.

A Studebaker buddy gave me some Perfect Seal gasket maker to use. This is the stuff that Studebaker recommends in their original manuals to be used on the head gaskets. It’s pretty thick, but goes on not to bad with a cut-back disposable brush.

I put a thin coat of Perfect Seal on the side of the gasket that will be placed on the block. I was careful to get sealant into all the groves. As you can see I am using the thin style gaskets. From here I placed the gasket on the block and coated the other side also with sealant. I then positioned the gasket for a best fit with the block passages.

I rested the head on the alignment pins and moved the head up until it slipped in place. I then installed the 9 lower short and the 5 upper medium length cap screws – just a snug fit.

Here are my used lifters and rods. Each is marked so that the lifters fit back to their original cam lobe and the rods go back in the same lifters. I replaced the rocker arms with new ones so the mating of the rods isn’t all that important.

There is a sequence to engine assembly. You need to install the lifters and push rods before installing the rocker arm assemblies. I coated each lifter and lifter bore with engine assembly lube. Old toothbrushes are great for this.

Rods and lifters in place for the right head. I put a dollop of engine assemble lube on the top and bottom of each lifter rod – and on the top of each valve.

The rocker shaft is in place. It is a bit awkward to get the rocker shaft mounting brackets in position so the long cap screws can be threaded in by hand. Some of the push rods hold the rockers up because the cam lobes are at the lifting point. Once the cap screws are all loosely in place the rocker arm can be pulled down compressing the valve springs as needed. I also ran in the smaller bolts – two of which are for the valve cover hold-down nuts – before snugging down the four long cap screws.

Once the rocker arms are in place the heads can be torqued down. The manual calls for all the cap screw threads to be dipped in oil before assembly. This will effectively increase the torque by about 10%. The specs call for 55 to 65 ft lbs of torque. I first torqued the head at 40ft lbs following the torque sequence laid out in the manual. I then re-torqued them to 65 ft lbs and then went over them once again to be sure they were all still at 65 ft lbs.

Heads are in place and the valley cover is loose fitted.

Next I will adjust the valve lash – cold.

Head assembly

These are all the parts needed to install the valves on the prepped heads. Each will be dipped in clean oil before being put in place.

The valves will be installed with a light coat of oil to lubricate the valve guide on startup. The valve seals will keep the majority of the oil off the valve stem, but when the engine is hot the oil fumes will add minute amounts of oil to the stems. All the other parts have been dipped in oil including the seals to help slip them over the tops of the valve stems and past the keeper groove.

First the spring is inserted in the spring damper. Then the valve spring retainer is placed on top and all fitted over the valve stem that already has its seal in place.

A valve spring compressor is a must for this job. With the spring, damper & retainer installed over the valve stem they are squeezed by the spring compressor until there is enough of the stem exposed on top to install the keepers.

Picture of keepers

One set of valve keepers

Each valve stem takes two keepers. They are tapered and have a boss that fits in the valve stem groove. The keepers are kept in place by the valve spring retainer and valve spring pressure.

Repeat 8 times and one head is done. Repeat another 8 times and this part of the job is done.

Now it’s time to install the heads on the block.

Something just isn’t adding up.

The heads are all nicely painted with POR 15 gloss black. The chambers are cc’d. It should be time to install the valves. But I have a nagging bug in my ear.

Why are the combustion chambers that are listed in the manuals from Studebaker as being 54.5 cc consistently coming in at 5+ cc over that. Here is a nice chamber from one of the bad heads. This from an unmodified ’63 R1 engine with a 1557570.

I decided to check one to see if it was about the same as the heads that got a valve job and .005 removed from the head surface. What I measured was between 58.9 and 58.6 cc. Five of my chambers in the restored heads are within 1 cc of these numbers.

So what is going wrong. Time to send off the details to the Studebaker gurus in the Turning Wheels Co-operator . I have worked with Jim Pepper on my earlier projects and so I sent the note to him.

His reply was an insight into the way things were done by manufacturers back in the day. Apparently manufacturers including Studebaker left a little extra ‘meat’ on the head surfaces which resulted in the combustion chambers being somewhat over the stated cc. This was usually in the range of 2-3 cc. They did this so that if a head needed to be planed it wouldn’t result in chambers that were too small. My heads may have had valve jobs in the past without planing to compensate. This likely why mine seem to be up wards of 5 cc over after my valve job. But then again maybe Studebaker meant for the chambers to be 3-5 cc over – who knows!

So now things begin to make sense. As I said earlier I had thrown enough canaries at that cat so I’m not going to plane the heads any more for now. I should have no problems with detonation at 8.1:1 which is good. I can always pull the heads and plane them if I feel the engine isn’t performing as I like.

So onward I go – getting the valves installed.

I see a (head) and I want to paint it black…

A bit of tongue in cheek for all you Stones fans. Time to get some paint on the heads before installing the valves, etc.

First things first – I tapped out each spark plug hole with a to clean the threads and remove any leftover dumdum from the head cc job.

Most of the plug holes had some corrosion or gunk still on the spark plug sealing surface.

This is the small sanding disk I used to clean the spark plug sealing surfaces.

Flat and shiny now.

I figured this is the best time to install the temperature sender plate on the left head and the block off plate on the right. Everything is primed and ready to go.

The plates are used and have some corrosion. So I am putting a ring of high temperature silicone red sealant/gasket maker on the plates and on the block to help the paper gaskets make a good seal. I don’t want to have to replace leaky plates once the engine is in place. I will torque each to the required 17 ft lbs. A bit of a sloppy bead. Usually nicer with my Valco Tube Grip.

On the head and ready for paint. I will trim off the excess sealant before painting.


This is the tube squeezer thingy in the photo above. I have used it a lot and it is the best way to lay down an even bead of sealant, glue, etc. It is a Valco Cincinnati Tube Grip. You can get them on their website at

Next it’s on to putting the valves in the heads and getting the heads on the block.

Getting things closer to what I want

This is one of my dished pistons. For some reason I thought that this was a full dish and that half dished pistons would be, well, half dished – not so! This turns out to be a half dished piston which is simply shallower than the full dish. This one has a dish depth of about 9/32″

This is good for higher compression, but I had sent out the heads to be planed .010 to make up for the cleanup I did on the combustion chambers. I got the job stopped at .005 so not too bad. At least I can be sure of good flat head surfaces.

I checked out the dish cc and found them to be 18.2cc. Which translates into 1.11 ci. The gasket is about .018″ and with a bore of about 3.75″ it is 0.199 ci; deck at .023 & 6023.602 bore (.040 oversize) it is 0.234 ci; bore at 3.602 and stoke of 3.625 it is 36.939 ci. The average combustion chamber volume is 59.95 cc. Using an online compression ration calculator I came up with 8.1:1. Fine for low test gas, but not my target of 8.5:1. I would have to send the heads back and have them cut by .024. I’m not sure that the heads could go that far and still keep the rocker/pushrod angles within tolerance. Originally those heads, #1557570, had chambers of 54.5 cc. The valve work increased that by about 5.5 cc which wasn’t made up by the smaller dished pistons. So no more canaries for that cat. I’ll just live with the lower compression. Maybe some day I’ll stick on a supercharger 🙂

Here is the engine layout with the cc volumes shown – firing order at the top. The arrows show pairs of cylinders that fire close to each other. I figure any big mismatch from one side of the engine to the other will add to vibration at low speed and diminish power at higher speeds. If I were building a racing engine I think it would be good to have all the cylinders very close in cc. Here I have two problem cylinders, #2 and #6. I opened up #2 to 59.4 and #6 to 60.0. The average for all cylinders is now 59.9 cc. the range of variation between all chambers and the average is +6 to -5. This is well within the 1 cc that Jim Pepper recommends.

Here’s what the chamber looks like after some grinding on the sharp ridges between the valves. The spark plug hole if filled with dumdum and the surface around the chamber is smeared with some vasoline to seal the lexan plate for the cc operation.

Lexan plate is in place and the pipette is feeding water in through one of the two small holes at the top. I can take a bit of jiggling on the bottom of the plate to remove some trapped air at the bottom of the chamber where it tapers up to the head surface.

So time to clean everything up, paint them gloss black and do the complete assembly.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

After doing all the chambers 3 or more times I came up with an average volume of 60.4 cc. The lowest was 59.6 and the highest was 61.0 The spread from average ranged from -.8 to +.6. I have been emailing with Jim Pepper on this project as I need a lot of help since this is my first time doing it on a V8. According to Jim + or – 1 cc from the average is acceptable.

Not willing to leave well enough alone I decided to work on the cylinder that was only 59.6 cc. It was the one cylinder with bad pitting. The exhaust seat was so bad it had to be replaced. This is what it looked like after a small amount of grinding. I left the valves in to protect the seats while doing the grinding.

I put a small grinding wheel on my electric grinder and smoothed out the chamber.

After this bit of grinding the volume jumped from 59.6 to 61.3 to become the largest chamber! Working the numbers the average is now 60.6 cc and the spread is from minus .6 to plus .7. Still within the range of ±1 cc.

Jim commented that it would be a good idea to radius the sharp point between the ports – see where the top bar of the caliper is resting. He said I should remove only a small amount of material.

Here is one of the chambers with a very small amount taken from the sharp point between the valves.

Next I’ll take the heads back to the machine shop to get .010 planed off to bring the compression back up.

CC’ing heads with basic tools

First thing to do was to get the heads set up so that there was a fair angle to the head face. This is needed to allow air to escape as you add water to the combustion chamber. The height is enough to allow the valves to seat and the shallow pan will catch the water as it is let out of the spark plug hole.

Next I used a blob of dum-dum to fill the plug hole. I tried to make it even with the curves of the combustion chamber. I put a thin coat of Vaseline on each valve seat. I also smeared a thin coat of vaseline on the head around the combustion chamber.

I am using a piece of thick plastic with holes that match up with the top of the combustion chamber. Actually I move the plastic up a bit to leave about half the holes open to the inside of the chamber.

Sorry for the side view. Can’t seem to get long shot to fit. This is the only tool I needed to buy. A simple calibrated tube with a stop cock at the bottom with a fine nozzle.

Here I’ve filled the tube to the 24 cc level. I then dribble the water into the combustion chamber until it is full. A bit tricky at times to get some of the trapped air out.

Here is the level after. It is about 85.6. So subtracting the starting figure of 24.0 I get a reading of 61.6 cc. This is actually quite high. I continue to do each chamber until I get two readings about the same. Each time I pierce a whole through the dum-dum and let the water run out. I then dry the chamber, refit the dum-dum and and plastic and re-fill.

More later once I get all the ccing done.