Now the fun part begins

The engine is again back on the engine stand. The final block cleaning job will be honing out the cylinders to remove the surface rust residue and give them a nice cross hatch pattern.

I went to pickup some new hones and they only had 4″ units.  My originals were 3″ only.  These are medium stones and I decided to go ahead.  I figured I could just turn the pressure adjusting screw up a bit and that would make up for the extra surface area.

This is typical of what the cylinders looked like after I had run the 3″ stones through them a few times.

I oiled the hones each time with engine oil and also ran oil around the cylinder.

Between each run I put the hone through warm soapy water.  Not sure how much good it did since I was using engine oil which tended to stick to the stones anyway.  So I wiped each stone and applied clean oil.  I also wiped each cylinder each time and re-oiled it as well.

My bore measuring tool read right around .040 oversize before I started.

It took a number of turns with the hone to reach this point.  Each time I ran the hone through 40 cycles.  If this had been a newly bored block I imagine one run of 30 cycles would have done a nice job.

Not noticeable in this photo is tiny dark grey spotting on all the cylinders.  This I imagine is some deeper corrosion.  My hope is that most of that will be removed as the rings seat into the cylinders.

I used my drill on low speed and pulled the hone back and forth very quickly.  Not sure if this is the preferred 45 deg. cross hatch, but it’s going to have to do.  Hopefully the cast iron rings will be able to seat satisfactorily.

This is not going to be a race engine nor will it be a high mileage engine.  I’m shooting for a smooth running dependable engine that has better than stock get up and go.  It will be driven on highways the majority of the time and I don’t expect to put more than 30,000 miles on it.

Same cylinder after the hone job.  It is showing a little under .001 over the .040 bore size.  This had me a bit concerned for awhile.

My measuring tools are good, but I may not be using them properly.  At least that’s what I was thinking.  A better test might be using a feeler gauge as per the Studebaker manual.  This is the position of the piston and the feeler should be in the top or bottom.  They give an inch pound rate for pulling the feeler gauge out from between the piston and the cylinder wall.  I don’t have a puller gauge, but even with the cylinder and piston oiled it took a significant pull to get the gauge out.  I’ll assume all is OK and time to move on to the next step.

Next a little piston work before I test the crank with new bearings.

Will the cleaning never end!

Just when I thought I had everything cleaned up – and after I had cleaned out all the oil galleries.  I flipped the block to find some spots where water must have condensed and ended up rusting the block.  A good shot of WD40 and a wire brush should do the trick.  This side of the main bearing saddles also needed some attention.

Not too much to clean everything off.

My favourite sealant is Permatex Aviation  Form-A-Gasket.  I’ll coat most threads and gaskets with this stuff to help fight against Studebaker’s tendency to leak oil from wherever it can.  The brass plugs are for the oil galleries.  Steel would be fine but, I like adding little extras just for the fun of it all.

Maybe now I can get the block back on the engine stand and begin assembly – the fun part.

Yet more cleaning

This block cleaning is a whole lot of bother. Normally you have the block cleaned, bored and checked by an automotive engine re-builder and there is no need for all this cleaning.  I could have sent the block out but, all the cleaning in the world would not have removed the surface rust that needed to be removed and it made no sense to pay someone to do grunt work.  So I’ll soldier on and get ‘er done!

A little flat filing, some wire brush work with solvent and taping out the bolt holes, except the oil gallery plug, and the back of the engine is ready for the next step.

Time to do a final clean out of the block from top to bottom.  I’ve upended it on the work bench so that I can flush any left over crud out the two oil galleries.

Here’s another Princess auto item I picked up to clean out the oil passages.  I will end up using the brass brushes. The only drawback to these, for this job, is that they are too short to reach down the full length of the oil galleries.

While working my puzzler an idea popped into my head.  Ever wonder where these ideas come from?  Well this one was just right.  I realized that I might be able to use my shotgun cleaning kit to clean out the oil galleries.  Sure enough the 20 gauge brush fit the oil gallery bore perfectly.

Next on with the job.

Flat filing and thread cleaning

The next step in this long process is to clean up the pan and head surfaces and to clean out the many threaded holes in the bare block.

Like everything else the oil pan surface has a fine rust patina.

First step was to use a fine long flat file to clear off the majority of the rust and even out any high spots. Using the arms from the main bearing saddles I was able to keep my file perfectly flat.

The filing still left some crud that needed to go.

This is a necessary tool to have to clean out the file grooves when they fill up with rust and crud.  Another Princess Auto product.

The get the last of the rust I wrapped the file in 320 grit paper and flat filed the surfaces again.  That removed the remainder of the rust and left only some dark spots in the grain of the metal.

Next I cleaned out the pan bolt holes with a regular tap.  There are proper thread cleaning taps as opposed to the cutting tap above.  These are supposed to clean out the threads without removing metal.  I’m not sure how much metal gets removed, but the threads were shiny when I removed the tap and there didn’t seem to be much on the tap except rust residue.

I was a bit nervous cleaning out the blind holes.  I was careful not to strain the tap when I hit the end of the bore, but if there is a flaw in the tap it might bread off simply from repeated use.  Breaking off a hardened steel tap in the bore would be a major problem. The block would then have to go to an engine rebuilder for that job which wouldn’t do much for my budget project!

While I’m at it I decided to clean out the timing cover bolt, cam plate and water pump manifold holes.  I didn’t touch the oil gallery holes (on both sides of the cam opening) as they are pipe threads.  I just used a wire brush the clean out the threads. I tried a brass NPT plug and it fit nicely so no more is needed there. Next I will flat file the timing cover and water pump manifold surfaces. After that I will go on to the head surfaces.

Looking a whole lot better.  The lines are not from the file.  They are in the casting from the original machining. The water manifold openings are on the same plane as the timing cover so I was able to do them at the same time.  Holes all cleaned out and ready.








The openings for the water manifold have some restricting casting metal from the original mold.  I thought it might be a good idea to clean that away and maybe increase the fluid flow into the block.


My tool is another Princess Auto special.  It is a variable speed so I could run the filing tool at a lower speed.  I have used these at high speed and although effective, they shoot off small slivers of steel at high speed.  I had real problems getting some of them out of my hands when I forgot to put on my gloves.  Still use gloves and eye protection.


Cleaned out easily.

Time to tackle the head surfaces.

Came out fine as well.  I can still see the marks from earlier head gaskets.  Starting to clean out the head bolt holes.

Next I need to tackle the job of cleaning out the block.









How to ruin cylinder honing stones!

This is #1 main bearing saddle.  A red patina all way around.  Simple to clean up.  I’ll just use my 3″ cylinder hone and some wd 40 lubricant.

It did a pretty nice job except for a little rust not cleared out from the center.   On to do the other four saddles

About the same but getting progressively worse.  Here’s why.

The hone stone ended up wearing really fast. I noticed this after the third saddle.  So I replaced the worst stone and did the 4th.  Not as bad.  For the last one I replaced two of the worst stones – I didn’t have any more!  Two good and one not so good did a fair job.

The caps didn’t fair out any better. Especially the rear cap.

Nothing for it but to finish the clean-up by hand.

400 grit wet/dry sandpaper (with water), some elbow grease and the centers cleaned up nicely.

The caps came out nice too.

The main bearing notches were not easy to clean with sand paper.  But they did clean up real fast with a dentists dental scraper.  Whenever I go to the dentist I ask for some old scrapers – ones that look like the one above. My dentist’s hygienists usually have a handful of old scrapers and picks.  Great for getting in small places to clean out rust and crud.


Now for the valve lifters


The lifter bores have the same rust issues as the cylinders.  My idea to clean them up was to use a small two stone hone for small wheel cylinders.

The rust is evident in the bore on the left. The bore on the right is how it looks after a couple of goes with the hone and parts solvent. the rest of the lifter gallery is pretty good with the factory casting paint holding on quite well.  I will wire brush any rust areas and if anything does peel off when the engine is started it will end up in the filter or the pan.

All 16 lifter bores needed honing and it is not an exciting job!  When the honing was done I used a 3/16″ drill to clean out the oiling holes you can see above, that lead into the oil gallery running the length of the block on both sides.  I ran the drill down by hand being careful not to break it off in the bore.

Once the lifter bore honing was done I lubricated them and tried each lifter in what will be its final location.  I’m keeping the lifters and the cam lined up as it was in the original JT. All the lifters showed a very small amount of play when fitted in the bore.

Again, I’m not sure what the original lifter bore size should be and what the clearance tolerance is.  I measured a lifter and got .094″  I locked the caliper and then tried in the lifter bore.  It just fitted in.  This being a budget project, I will go with this unless someone tells me otherwise.  I have built two well used Studie flathead sixes and I didn’t need to use oversize lifters.  I did replace the original lifters as I was using new cams.  If the wear had been at all bad I would have found low oil pressure problems.  Fortunately I didn’t.

Hard to see, but this is the original JT cam.  The lobes are shiny but don’t appear to be scuffed or worn. A bit may be worn off the top of the lobes but, I can live with that I think.

Next I fitted the cam.  Before that I looked at the cam bearings.  I couldn’t see any wear.  Only some discolouration.  I cleaned them up carefully with a scotch-bright pad and check them with the calipers.  I couldn’t find any signs of wear between the up-down and side-to-side measurements.  This block was originally cleaned and bored.  When I had my sixes bored and cleaned I had the shop install new cam bearings.  I believe this is the case here.

I ran the cam into the engine (very carefully) and it seemed very tight with no noticeable play. I don’t have a .001″ feeler gauge but I d have a .0125″  Thin stuff!.  I tried to fit it in with the cam but this is as far as  it would go without forcing the cam in.  Again, unless someone tells me this isn’t OK for a budget engine I’ll just motor on.

Next will be the job of cleaning up the main bearing seats.








A handy little tool

As you can see I have changed the main photo at the top of the blog.  This is the ’66 Commander that will get the new engine.  It will also be getting new rear fenders and rockers, but that will be a later blog.

An old mechanic friend who is now in a nursing home (and sadly, suffering from alzheimers) gave me this tool when he helped me check  a 170 a number of years ago to see if the bore was over the limit top-to-bottom.  I finally remembered that this tool would also measure my actual bore size. It consists of the dial attached to an arm and plate to slide up and down the cylinder, various lengths of tips for the dial gauge, a tool to set the basic width to be measured and a set of feeler gauges.

This part of the tool is made up of plugs of various sizes which can combined give you a base width for setting the dial gauge.  I combined the plugs to come up with 1/16″ over3.5″ which just happens to be the exact size of a standard Studebaker V8 engine bore – 3.5625″.


I then added a rod length to the gauge which was just enough to allow for expansion beyond the standard cylinder diameter.  I then set the gauge on the measuring rod between the two uprights (the one of the left is hidden behind the gauge mount) and set the needle to zero.

I had earlier cleaned the bores out just enough to remove the majority of the surface rust. I slipped the tool into the bore and found that the cylinders are about .040″ oversize for a total cylinder diameter size of 3.6065″. The pistons are 3.6025″ which leaves a difference of  .004″ or .002″ all around between the piston and the bore – my tool and my actual measuring ability may result in some variance.  All the cylinders read the same and of course there was virtually no difference between the top and bottom of each one.

The Studebaker service manual says to check with a .002 feeler gauge. They use a long gauge that fits the full length between the piston and the cylinder wall.  I don’ have one so I made do with a standard one of about 4″.  The manual says it should take 8 – 12 lbs to pull the gauge out.  I don’t know what their gauges were made of but I doubt that my feeler could handle that amount of pull without breaking. When I did pull the feeler out it took a noticeable pull so I’m hoping things should be fine.  I still have to do a final hone which will clean out the last of the rust stains, but shouldn’t remove any significant metal from the walls.

Next will be cleaning out the lifter bores and checking the lifter fit.







More on the basic block

The engine was definitely bored and from what I can see with my simple gauge is that it is .040 over.

Original Equipment Quality

With a long history of producing engine components dating back to the early 1900’s Hepolite is well known for engine parts for many classic British vehicles, many of whom were supplied as OE with Hepolite branded pistons, rings & bearings.

The Hepolite range consists of pistons for many classic British vehicles, all of which are manufactured to the original specification. With interest in classic vehicles at an all-time high and values increasing, it makes sense to repair these vehicles with the same quality of parts as when they left the factory, therefore helping keep the value of the vehicle.

This set of Hepolite Aluminum Pistons are .040 over for a total piston size of 3.5625 plus .040 = 3.6025. So my cylinder bores should be about .002 over the piston size (3.6045) if it is all going to work as is.  I will need to use a tool to properly measure the bore size.

In the meantime I tested a piston in a bore.  It was snug fit but there was still wiggle room.  So I inserted a .002 feeler gauge in with the piston and it made the fit tight – or so it seems.  I want to do a proper measure to be sure all is within specs. That will happen a bit later.

The main bearing caps look ugly but they’re not as bad as they look in the photo.  I plan to sand blast the outsides of the caps first.  I’ll then install them in the block and using the cylinder hone and lots of solvent lubricant I’ll carefully hone each just enough to clear out the ‘patina’ of rust in the bearing seats.

This is a poor photo, but you should be able to just make out the surface rusting in the lifter bores.  I plan to use a small 2 stone wheel cylinder hone to once again just clean out the rust from each bore.  I did test fit one of the valve lifters from the JT engine and the fit seems tight. Strangely I have yet to find the lifter bore clearance specs in the Studebaker repair manual.  I’m digging online but no luck so far.

A shot  of the shelf in the background with all the JT components.  Lots of work to ready those parts!

Here is an interesting intake I picked up in my travels.  It is a highrise two barrel with a Stromberg WW carb.  Likely used on the early V8s.  I’m not sure if I’ll go with the original JT Carter AFB on a flat intake or go for just a 2 bbl on a highrise.  If I could find a larger 2 bbl carb that would fit on the original intake base I might go for that.  Unfortunately a Holley 2bbl won’t fit without some serious machining.  Jim Pepper says “The R1 intake does not have slots in the plenum divider so throttle response should remain somewhat crisp”  He later comments that a 1/2″ to 1″ spacer under the carb will help with fuel flow and reduce separation of the air and fuel as it bends at the floor of the intake.  Decisions, decisions….

OK time to start the R1 engine


This is the block I plan to use to re-create JT1841.  It sat around for years and was believed to have been bored.

I’m trying to find out if the casting number is the same as that on the original JT engine.

Hard to see but it reads VCH324 – 259 made in Canada in the month of August 1963 and the 24th made.  Jim Pepper tells me that there is no reason not to use this full flow block to re-create a JT 289.

The bores were surface rusted throughout.  I used a Lisle cylinder hone to clear out the rust to see if there was any serious pitting.  I used lots of washer solvent in the process and didn’t clean any more than was necessary to check everything out.  My simple dial calipers showed that the bores were maybe .002 under 3.6″.

And so the fun begins!









A new beginning

Time to start the winter projects.  The one big benefit of living in a country where you can’t enjoy driving for 5 or so months and you can focus on repairs and improvements to your favourite rides.

This year I’m doing the doors on the ’54 Champion.  I have new door trim boards land will be transferring the old vinyl to them.  I will also be replacing the front door seal.  It got destroyed when I positioned the door too far forward and it crushed the upper part of the seals.  I may attempt to install a new style radio but, that may not happen.

Second, I am starting the build on a 289 V8 using components from a ’63 Jet Thrust engine.  The JT block was destroyed so now I’m going to use a later model 259 bare block to put together a new JT 1841

My third project has nothing to do with Studebakers unfortunately.  I have a ’74 Dodge half ton that has been repainted and needs it’s trim re-installed.  I won’t be covering that on this blog.

Hope you find it interesting.