LS RETRO BUILD, PART 3

WE COMPLETE THE SHORT BLOCK

 

Build, text and photos by Mike Mavrigian

  In this build installment, I'll cover camshaft, timing, oil pump, windage tray, oil pickup, front and rear engine covers, oil pan installation and more. Due to the length of this article, I'll save cylinder head details and installation in the next part of this build series, including installing lifters and head gaskets, measuring for pushrod lengths, installation of the crank pulley and more. In following installments, I'll also provide a few surprises with regard to achieving that "old school" hot rod look. We hope you enjoy this installment, and we urge you to stay tuned for the remaining articles. In total, this project will provide you with a complete road map to building an engine identical to our example.

CAMSHAFT

Our cam is a custom-order steel billet grind from Crane. Our custom cam specs will provide a classic “hot rod” chop and sound. This custom-grind bumpstick features a tighter lobe separation as compared to LS cams that are designed for use with fuel injection.

 


Our camshaft is a steel billet custom-grind from the good folks at Crane Cams. The tighter lobe separation (as compared to OE LS cams) is better suited to a carbureted engine. Combined with the 228/236 duration, she should provide a nice traditional hot rod "chop."

  OUR CUSTOM CRANE CAM SPECS Lobe lift………………………0.324”/0.324” Valve lift…………………….. 0.550”/0.550 (w/ 1.7:1 rockers) Duration @ 0.050”…………... 228 deg. intake; 236 deg. exhaust Lobe separation……………… 110 deg.  


Our cam kit includes Crane's roller lifters, featuring more durable trunions that the OE lifters, as well as slightly increased height to accommodate higher lift.

 

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As usual, Crane did an outstanding job producing our custom-order camshaft. I checked all lobes on my cam checker, and every dimension exactly met our specs.

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The OE roller lifter (left) and the Crane roller lifter (right). The Crane lifter bodies are a bit taller to accommodate a higher lift and smaller base circle, insuring that the lifters won't disengage from the lifter buckets. Crane's trunions/bearings are much more stout than the OE setup as well.

 

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In order to insert the new camshaft in a controllable manner, a camshaft installation tool is always a good idea. I used this newly-introduced cam "handle" from Trick Flow (available through Summit Racing). Camshaft installation requires extreme care to avoid nicking a cam bearing (which can easily lead to a drop in oil pressure). A "handling" tool provides much-needed leverage and control during cam insertion.

 

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The Trick Flow cam handling tool features a multiple-hole face to accommodate most camshaft nose configurations.

 

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As you can see here, the cam nose dowel engages into one hole, indexing three bolt holes for easy installation.

 

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Cam tool installed to the camshaft and ready for installation.

 

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After coating all journals and lobes with Royal Purple Max Tuff assembly lube, the camshaft was carefully inserted into the cam bores. The handle of the Trick Flow tool provided excellent control, even with slippery lube on our hands.

 

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If you've ever had trouble handling a slippery camshaft, you should be able to appreciate an installation tool of this type.

 

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With the camshaft installed, it's time to install the cam plate and timing setup.

 

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The OE camshaft retainer plate (new plate seen here) features a printed elastomeric seal, so there's no need to add any sealant (the printed gasket side of the plate mates against the block). Wipe any excess lube from the block face at the retainer plate mating location.

 

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The four camshaft retainer plate bolts are sized 8mm x 1.25 x 25-30mm. Apply a bit of lube to the cam nose step shoulder before placing the retainer plate into position. Apply a drop of medium-strength thread locking compound (Loctite 242 or equivalent) to the threads of all four bolts before installation. Tighten all four bolts to a value of 18 ft-lbs.

 

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BLOCK PLUGS

Remember to install all block plugs before front and rear engine covers are installed. A small 16mm-diameter expansion plug is installed to the left front lower block face (driver side). Apply a smear of RTV around the plug outer wall.

 

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Initially place the 16mm plug into its bore. Note: the block is oriented upside-down on the engine stand in this photo.

 

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Using a driver that features a flat face larger in diameter than 16mm (we're using a 17mm socket here) and a hammer, tap the cup plug into the block until the plug face is flush with the block surface.

 

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Verify that the plug is flush with the block.

 

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Notice the hole in the rear of the block (block is upside-down in this photo) that is located in the upper left (driver side)? This is an open oil passage that requires an oil relief plunger.

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The white nylon oil relief plunger (I suggest using a new one) is inserted into the rear of the block as shown (grooved white end inserted first, with blue O-ring end facing toward the rear of the block). Be sure to lubricate the entire plunger with clean engine oil before insertion.

 

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Insert the oil relief plunger until the rear face is flush with the block.

 

REAR ENGINE COVER

 

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The rear engine cover may be installed now (once the oil relief plunger is in place). Here we positioned the Mahle-Victor rear cover gasket (taken from the very complete Mahle-Victor gasket set). To ease installation, I temporarily installed a pair of 8mm x 1.25 studs simply for gasket positioning.

 

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The rear engine cover is a cast aluminum piece that incorporates the rear main seal. When you purchase a new rear main seal, it should include a white nylon installation aid (seen here installed to the seal). This is absolutely necessary to properly engage the rear main seal to the crankshaft.

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Carefully align the rear cover (with the white installer ring in place on the seal). Gently push the cover into place. The trick is to keep the cover, seal and ring square to the crank flange. Once the seal slides over the crank flange, the white nylon installer ring will fall out. This may take a few tries if you're not experienced at this. Before fully seating the rear cover, use a small penlight to inspect and verify that the front seal lip is angled forward around the circumference of the crank flange. The rear main seal features two lips. The front lip must be installed angled forward and the rear lip must angle rearward. The installer ring allows you to accompllish this. If both seal lips are installed angled rearward, you'll have a nasty oil leak. By the way, contrary to what you may think, the rear main seal must be installed DRY (if lubed, it'll leak). DO NOT lubricate the seal!

 

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Once the rear cover is fully seated (with the rear main seal properly engaged on the crank flange), the nylon installer ring will slide out of the seal. This white installer ring is used only for seal installation to the crank. Once the rear main seal is properly installed, either toss the installer ring or save it for future use.

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Apply a drop of medium strength thread locker onto each rear cover bolt's threads and install finger tight. Place a straightedge along the oil pan rail, over the bottom of the rear cover to make sure that the bottom of the rear cover remains flush with the block's pan rails. In a crisscross pattern initially tighten all bolts to a value of 60 in-lb, then to 10 ft-lb, and finally to 18 ft-lb.

 

TIMING SET AND OIL PUMP

Our timing set is from Melling. For our specific application (the 5.3L iron block LS), we used timing chain P/N 3SR60, crank gear P/N S827 (22-tooth) and cam gear P/N S826 (44-tooth).

 

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The crank gear features a keyway for crank indexing and a series of wide teeth on the outer wall for oil pump drive. The chain tooth side of the gear installs first, placing the teeth close to the block. The extended end (featuring the oil pump teeth) faces outward. Interference fit of crank gears may vary depending on the specific crank snout. Ours featured a light 0.0005" interference, which was easily driven onto the snout using a soft aluminum tube and a hammer, using gentle taps. Apply a thin film of oil to the crank snout first, to ease installation.

 

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Rear view of the cam gear. Test-fit the cam gear to the cam (install the cam gear bolts hand-snug) and check for camshaft endplay (fore/aft play). GM lists the acceptable endplay at 0.001 to 0.012". Our checked out at 0.0035". After checking endplay, remove the cam gear.

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With the engine block oriented normally (crank at bottom), rotate the crankshaft to place the crank gear timing dot at 12-o'clock. This will place the crank snout key at about the 2-o'clock position. Oil-soak the timing chain. Rotate the camshaft so that the camshaft nose dowel is at the 3-o'clock position and install the cam gear. The cam gear timing dot should be at the 6-o'clock position and the crank gear timing dot should be at 12-o'clock (the two dots should face each other). Apply a drop of medium strength thread locker to the cam gear bolts and tighten to 26 ft-lbs.

 

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 Our year-2000 5.3L LS design did not originally feature a timing chain damper/guide (later models did feature this). I didn't like the bit of slop in the timing chain, so in order to reduce potential timing variations, we decided to add a GM OE chain guide (the black plastic piece seen here). Since the 2000 block was not drilled and tapped for mounting this rub-block, we fabricated our own mounting bracket (seen here), at my Birchwood Automotive facility. The three bolt holes in the bracket attach to the lower bolt locations of the cam retainer plate. This required careful measurement for proper rub-block placement and bracket/bolt clearance.

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Our custom chain guide in place. I simply didn't like GM's excessive chain slop design for the 200 model-year 5.3L engine. This GM OE chain guide greatly reduces chain slop/slap. Maybe not necessary, but it makes me feel better.

 

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OIL PUMP, WINDAGE TRAY AND OIL PICKUP

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Our oil pump is Melling Performance's standard-volume / high-pressure pump, P/N 10295. This is a direct bolt-on replacement, with the added assurance of outstanding made-in the USA Melling quality.

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The Melling oil pump features the same oil pickup engagement port as the OE design.

 

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The oil pump driven gear engages onto the crank snout gear for direct crank-driven oil pump operation.

 

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Take the time to center the oil pump to the crank snout. Mount the pump to the block and tighten the four mounting bolts to a mere 45 in-lb. Center the pump by nudging it around until you achieve an equal 0.002" clearance around the entire drive gear (use a 0.002" feeler gauge on one side, then move the feeler gauge 180 degrees away, etc. Continue to check with the feeler gauge until the clearance is equal at all points around the circumference of the drive gear). Once the pump is centered on the drive gear, tighten oil pump bolts to a value of 18 ft-lb. If the pump is not properly centered, you can place a stress on the system which could lead to a very nasty failure down the road. This is an aspect of LS assembly that many people are not aware of. Pay attention!

 

 The oil pump's inlet is shown here (block upside down on stand here). The pickup tube engages here, sealed with an O-ring.

 

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The windage tray installs onto the OE main cap outer studs.  10mm x 1.25 nuts and loc washers secure the tray. The windage tray must be installed prior to installing the oil pickup.

 

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The oil pickup tube features a mounting bracket (close to the pickup screen) that secures to one of the outer main cap studs. Shown here is the Holley pickup tube and oil filter threaded adapter (supplied with our new Holley LS aluminum oil pan kit).

 

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Lube the new pickup tube O-ring with engine oil and install to the tube. Always use a new O-ring for the pickup tube-to-pump.

 

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The OE pickup tube is secured to the oil pump with a single 6mm x 1.0 bolt. Apply a drop of medium strength thread locker to the bolt threads, install and tighten to 106 in-lb. make sure that the pickup tube bracket is located onto the available main cap stud (the pickup tube forward end must be engaged to the oil pump and the rear support bracket must be engaged onto the main cap stud at the same time).

 

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The pickup tube support bracket attaches to the left (driver side) outer No. 4 main cap stud. Tighten all nuts that secure the windage tray and this pickup tube support bracket to 26 ft-lbs.

 

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View of windage tray and oil pickup tube fully installed.

 

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FRONT COVER AND OIL PAN

The Mahle-Victor front cover gasket is placed into position. Similar to the rear cover gasket, this gasket features a metal core with an imprinted sealing bead. No additional sealant is required.

 

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In order to ease front gasket and cover installation, I temporarily installed a pair of 8mm x 1.25 studs to the block face. This serves to hold the gasket and cover in correct alignment during assembly. Remember to remove the crank snout bolt before attempting to install the front cover.

 

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Apply a light smear of engine oil to the front cover's crank seal. The front engine cover is secured to the block face with eight 8mm x 1.25 x 30mm bolts. Finger-install the bolts first, then place a straightedge along the pan rail (each side) to nudge the front cover's bottom flush with the block oil pan rails. There isn't a bunch of play to move the cover aound, but it's worth a few extra minutes to optimize the cover location. Tighten all 8mm bolts to 18 ft-lbs.

 

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The oil pan gasket and block feature two in/out passages for the oil filter plumbing. Some LS engines (in original vehicle builds) feature remote oil filters. It's easy to adapt to a direct screw-on oil filter with a small aluminum housing and an oil pan that features a screw-in adapter.

 

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Don't wanna use the original boring oil pan? Holley now offers a gorgeous cast aluminum pan that's a direct bolt-on. The kit includes a new pickup and spin-on oil filter adapter kit.

 

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Holley's LS oil pan features a convenient oil filter spin-on location. The kit's threaded filter adapter threads into the filter port. An aluminum bypass housing bolts onto the outer wall. This gives you a choice of running a spin-on filter or an OE-type remote filter plumbing.

 

 

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While Holley's LS oil pan is a thing of beauty out of the box, in order to follow our "retro" look program, we painted the pan with the same old-school Chevy orange paint color. We secured the pan using a set of polished stainless pan bolts from ARP.

 

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With the oil pan gasket in place, lower then pan into position, being careful to allow the oil pickup screen head to enter through the oil pan's built-in baffle tray. Here we test-fit the pan prior to painting. Holley's pan provided a perfect bolt-on fit, with no need to fiddle with any mods.

 

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The Holley oil pan includes a baffle plate, which is secured with four self-tapping screws. I applied medium strength thread locker to the screws prior to installation.

 

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The oil pan is secured with eleven 8mm x 1.25 bolts and three 6mm x 1.0 bolts at the rear engine cover-to-pan locations. Tighten all 8mm bolts to 18 ft-lbs and the 6mm bolts to 106 in-lb. Tighten in stages in a criss-cross pattern to evenly distribute the clamping load. Instead of re-using the oh-so-boring OE pan bolts, I naturally opted for ARP polished stainless 12-point bolts and flat washers, which really enhance the appearance. ARP offers a complete stainless kit that fits the original-style pan (the Holley pan uses the same length bolts as the OE version, so ARP's kit is an easy fit).

 

NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, the next article installment will cover lifter, cylinder head, pushrod and rocker installation. 

    CYLINDER BORE DIAMETER/STROKE/DISPLACEMENT OE (stock)…………….3.780” Our overbore………….3.790”   OE stroke……………..3.622” (we maintained this OE stroke)   OE displacement……….325.17 CID Our final displacement…326.89 CID (we'll just round it off and call it "327" CID)   Formula for determining displacement: BORE DIA X BORE DIA X STROKE X 0.7854 X NO. OF CYLS   Our displacement: 3.790 X 3.790 X 3.622 x 0.7854 X 8 = 326.89 CID (rounded off to 327)        

CYLINDER HEAD SPECS

                                                              OE                               MODIFICATION Combustion chamber volume……61.00cc ….…………… 58cc Compression ratio………………..9.5:1 …………………. 11.0:1 Intake port volume……………….200cc ………………… 220cc Exhaust port volume……………..   70cc …………………  78cc Intake valve diameter…………… 1.89” …………………. 2.00” Exhaust valve diameter…………. 1.55” ………………….. 1.55” Valve springs: These were changed from the OE beehive springs to Trick Flow Pacoly #TFS-15408 beehive (130 lb @ 1.800” / 318 lb @1.200”). These springs are a bit heavier than OE LS6 springs.   Note: Do not skimp on valve springs by re-using original OE springs. Also, be aware that if using LS6 springs, not all of them feature the same coil-bind height. OE LS6 springs are available in several versions, so you never know what you’re getting. The best approach is to obtain quality aftermarket springs that are consistent.    

OE CYL HEAD FLOW (CFM)

LIFT                    INT            EXH 0.100 ………….. 63 ……….. 54 0.200 …………. 128 …….. 93 0.300 …………. 179 …….. 121 0.400 …………. 210 …….. 145 0.500 …………. 218 …….. 163 0.550 …………. 221 …….. 168 0.600 …………. 226 …….. 174    

OUR MODIFIED CYL HEAD FLOW (CFM)

LIFT                   INT            EXH 0.100 …………..  65 ……… 48 0.200 ………….. 145 ……... 114 0.300 ………….. 215 ………166 0.400 ………….. 254 ………222 0.500 ………….. 293 ………244 0.550 ………….. 306 ………252 0.600 ………….. 310 ………256   

OUR MEASURED CLEARANCES/DIMENSIONS

Main bearing oil clearance……0.00198” (spec is 0.0007 – 0.00212”) Crankshaft endplay…………...0.0035” Rod bearing oil clearance……..0.0015” (spec is 0.0009 – 90.0025”) Rod side play………………….0.0200” (spec is 0.0433 – 0.0200 Piston deck clearance…………0.005” (below deck) Camshaft endplay……………..0.006” (spec is 0.001 – 0.012”) Crankshaft runout……………..0.0006” (max allowable is 0.00118”) Main journal diameter…………2.5585” Main journal taper……………..0.0001” Rod journal diameter…………..2.0994” Rod journal taper………………0.00008” Rod bearing bore dia. …………2.2245” Lifter bore dia. …………...……..0.844” Camshaft bearing bore dia. 1&5….2.346” Camshaft bearing bore dia. 2&4….2.326” Camshaft bearing bore dia. 3……..2.307” Top ring gap…………….0.019” Second ring gap…………0.018” Oil rail gap………………0.025”  

 TORQUE SPECIFICATIONS

Main cap 10mm inner ……………..…..15 ft-lb plus 80 degrees Main cap 10mm outer……………….....15 ft-lb plus 53 degrees Main cap 8mm side bolts……………....18 ft-lb Rod bolts (ARP w/ARP Ultramoly)…...15 ft-lb initial; 40 ft-lb final Cam gear bolts…………………………26 ft-lb Oil pump bolts………………………….18 ft-lb Windage tray to main studs…………….26 ft-lb Oil pump pickup to oil pump……………106 in-lb Oil pump pickup brace to main stud…….26 ft-lb Crankshaft pulley to crank………………37 ft-lbs plus 140 degrees* (using new pulley bolt) Front and rear engine covers....................18 ft-lbs Oil pan 8mm bolts......................................18 ft-lb Oil pan 6mm bolts......................................106 in-lb    

CYLINDER HEAD TORQUE SPECS

If using new OE cylinder head bolts: 11mm x 2.0 x 155.5mm bolts………22 ft-lb plus 76 degrees, plus 34 degrees 11mm x 2.0 x 101.0mm bolts………22 ft-lb plus 76 degrees, plus 34 degrees 8mm x 1.25 x 46mm bolts………..22 ft-lb (these specs based on lubricating threads with engine oil)   If using ARP cylinder head bolts 134-3609*: 11mm x 2.0 x 155.5mm bolts………75 ft-lbs 11mm x 2.0 x 101.0mm bolts………75 ft-lbs 8mm x 1.25 x 46mm bolts………….25 ft-lbs *Use ARP Ultramoly on threads and underside of bolt heads. (Do not use a different thread lubricant. ARP’s torque specifications are based on the use of their Ultramoly lube, which is included with their head bolt kit).      

OUR REPLACEMENT PARTS LIST

  ITEM                                                MFG                                    PART NO.   PISTONS                                 Sealed Power                         H1132CT (+.25mm) PISTON RINGS                         Hastings                               2M4978010 CONN. RODS                           GM                                        12577583 MAIN BEARINGS                   Mahle-Clevite                       MS-2199H ROD BEARINGS                      Mahle-Clevite                       CB663A CAM BEARINGS                     Mahle-Clevite                       SH18145 GASKET SET                               Mahle-Victor                         HS54340 CYL HEAD BOLTS                   ARP                                      134-3609 MAIN STUDS                             ARP                                      234-5608 ROD BOLTS                               ARP                                      134-6006 CAM GEAR BOLTS                  ARP                                       134-1003 OIL PUMP                                   Melling                                 10295 TIMING CHAIN                               Melling                           3SR60 CRANK GEAR                                 Melling                            S827 CAM GEAR                                     Melling                             S826 ROCKER ARM                          GM (OE 1.7:1 ratio) ROCKER TRUNION UPGRADE       Comp Cams                     13702-kit CAMSHAFT                                Crane                        144-HR-228/3241-252-10 4A VALVE SPRINGS                      Trick Flow                       TFS-15408 LIFTERS                                      Crane                                 144536-16 INTAKE MANIFOLD                 TBA 650 CFM CARBURETOR           Holley                           0-82651 Street HP FUEL INLET ASSEMBLY         Earl’s                            AT101185ERL FUEL PRESS. REGULATOR     Holley                            12-707 FUEL FILTER                              Earl’s                           AT230206ERL CARB INSTALL KIT                  Holley                             20-124 THROTTLE BRACKET              Holley                             20-88 6LS IGNITION CONTROL        MSD                                    6010 EXHAUST HEADERS                Flowtech                       91836-1FLT LS COIL COVERS                      Holley                                 242-1 OIL PAN  & PICKUP                  Holley                                 302-1 WATER PUMP                            Tuff Stuff                           1310B OLDS/CADDY RETRO AIR CLEANER                           Speedway Motors                 92511925 REAR OIL RELIEF PLUNGER         GM                                        12573460 FRONT OIL GALLEY PLUG     GM                                        09427693 (Note: Complete block completion kit is available from Scoggin-Dickey, P/N SDL SPK. This includes cyl. head dowels, trans. Dowels, all block plugs and oil restrictor)  

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