Fire ! ….. wait…. what?


The day was finally here. After checking and double checking that I have hooked up everything correctly, it was time to fire the new engine for the first time. My buddy came over to help and we hauled the car to my father in law’s place in the county as to not disturb the neighbors with excessive noise and smoke which tend to accompany such events. The car made it on the trailer with no issues (I was worried given my lack of ground clearance with those headers) and we stopped at the gas station to put in 8 gallons of premium fuel. Why 8 gallons you ask? Two reasons. First, 8 is my lucky number and should bring good luck along and Second, I needed to see if the fuel guage now worked (it didn’t before I installed the new tank and sender and does now).

There is a whole procedure to breaking in a new engine that you can bing! about to learn more. In a nutshell, you add all your fluids, remove the distributor and prime the oil system, find top dead center (TDC), set your static timing at 8 degrees before top dead center (BTDC), carefully install the distributor making sure to both engage the oil pump mechanism AND point to #1 cylinder, prime the carb with fuel, start it up, raise the RPMs to ABOVE 2000 and keep it there for 20 minutes to let the new cam get aquainted with the rest of the new parts. Then ramp down nicely to idle, and change the oil immediately.

I would like to say that is just how it went, but those lucky 8s weren’t with us today. It’s even 8/18, that should have worked. Oh well. The little engine just cranked and cranked but didn’t fire. The carb “fired” a couple of times, but not the engine. After checking and re-checking everything (yes, including the ignition wiring order) 8 times or so, we decided to go back to square one and find TDC again. To do this, you pull the spark plug from #1 and put your finger over the hole (not IN the hole) and tap the starter until the air blows your finger off. This tells you you are near TDC. Then align the timing mark on the crank pulley and check that your distributor is pointing to #1. Voila! It was pointing to #6, meaning we had it 180 degrees out of phase. Fixing that, we try again.

This time the engine roared to life. oil pressure? Check, Tach wired right? check. The rpms were brought up to 2500 and held for 5 minutes with no problems. A small oil leak on the passenger side, but not too worrying. Things seemed to turn for the better. If you are looking for a happy story to read today, stop here, watch the video linked for the good progress and go about your day with a smile. I hope the video link works, since my free blog wants you to pay if you upload directly. Don’t they know we have a car to build?

Still here? You were warned. Like many things in life, they do not always go so well for the inexperienced. This is my first ever new engine break in you know. At the 10 minute mark, I noticed the water temp reaching dangerously high levels and sent my assistant to retrieve the block of wood holding the accelerator linkage in place to keep the RPMs up in the level needed. Before he could reach it, someone yelled “FIRE!” – just like that, in all caps. I lept to the car to shut the key down (still roaring away at 2500 RPMs which caused a tremendous backfire) as there was no time to nicely ramp down the beast. Luckily, my trusty assistant is a ford guy and quickly doused the flames with the extinguisher. Fords must catch fire alot, since it didn’t even phase him. We let the smoke clear and car cool while frazzled nerves had time to relax.

The fire was put out so quickly that no visible damage was done at all. Investigating the leak on the passenger side, it was determined that it was ATF coming from a loose cooling line attachment. This wasn’t the easiest thing to track down, given Royal Purple uses purple in engine oil, ATF, and even the gear oil. I used all of them. I was able to crank down that connection to hopefully fix it. The fire started from oil dripping on the driver side exhaust header. That is still a mystery. It looks like a lot of oil hit that header, but no obvious leaks could be found. I will clamp down everything I can find and try again tomorrow to complete the break in (assuming I’m not broken already).

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One Response to Fire ! ….. wait…. what?

  1. sreekanth says:

    oh. I hope the damage is minimal. Good luck for tomorrow’s attempt.

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