Building or refurbishing an engine is one of the most exciting endeavors a hobbyist can undertake. Whether it's a complete new long-block assembly that you researched and painstakingly blueprinted, or an original '65 389 Tri-Power that you stored from your Great One, there are few things more disappointing than installing an engine in your Pontiac and having to pull it back out when a problem is encountered during break-in. Even for seasoned engine builders, oil leaks and component failure occasionally occurs.

Performing a specific break-in procedure before you install the engine may save costly headaches, as it serves many purposes, including breaking in the cam, seating the piston rings and testing the powerplant's seals and operation at low speeds. Options for the hobbyist or car club are to either purchase a commercially-available engine break-in stand that will cost $875-$1,250 or build your own for roughly half of that.

Engine break-in stands have been around a long time, but what works for a relatively light-weight engine, such as a 550-pound small-block Chevrolet, might be marginal for a Pontiac that often tips the scales at around 650-675 pounds. Various designs of break-in stands are available-some are good and others not so much. The converted T-oriented engine stand with an apparatus welded to the front is cheap to produce, but marginal for handling a Pontiac's weight from a strength perspective.

The engine break-in stand outlined here can be constructed for hundreds of dollars less and is safe. Though labor intensive, it's relatively easy to build. According to Steve DuSold of DuSold Enterprises: "An engine break-in stand is a great tool to have at the shop and has saved our customers hundreds of hours of labor by catching problems in an engine build that would require it to be removed from the car and serviced. As primarily a custom paint and restoration business, we encourage our customers to either have the engine destined for their restoration tested in an engine dyno cell or run on a break-in stand to avoid potential rework. The design of the engine stand outlined here is built specifically for Pontiacs, but it can easily be adapted for other engine brands."

You'll notice plenty of measuring, cutting, and welding in this story. If it looks too intimidating for you to attempt on your own, fear not, as this engine break-in stand will also be made available in kit form. If you know how to weld but would rather not do all the measuring and cutting, you can buy a pre-cut kit from DuSold that you weld together and source the ancillary components (radiator, fan, gauges, and so on). If you're not a welder, you can purchase another kit from DuSold that is already welded-all you have to do is source the ancillary parts and wheels and bolt them all on. Pricing for these kits will be discussed in Part II.

Follow along as we build the basic architecture of the stand in Part I, finish with the ancillary components, and conclude with the basic procedures to safely break in your engine in Part II.

Tools & Supplies
20-foot, 2x3-inch square tubing, 9-gauge
(3.0 x 3.0 x 0.15625)
24-ft, 2x2-inch square tubing, 3-gauge
(2.0 x 2.0 x 0.250)
10-foot, 1/4x6-inch flat steel, 3-gauge
1-foot, 3/8x2x6-inch flat steel
Swivel casters, steel (qty 4), 4.0 x 2.0
3/8x1.5-inch-long grade 5 bolts, flat washers and nuts (qty 16), swivel steel casters
3/8x2.5-inch-long grade 5 bolts, flat washers and nuts (qty 2), frame motor plate
3/8x2.5-inch-long grade 8 socket head cap screws (qty 2), motor plate to block
7/16x1.0-inch-long grade 5 bolts (qty 4), motor mount plates to engine block
7/16x3.0-inch-long grade 8 socket head cap screws and nuts (qty 2 each), plates between frame and motor-mount plates
Measuring tools (tape measure, caliper(s), square(s), angle gauge)
Drill bits
Welder
Tap set
Wrench and sockets (standard and Allen)
Cutting, grinding ,and filing tools
Marking pen, scribe
C-clamps
Jack (truck, bottle, and so on)
Engine hoist
Grease gun and grease

Conclusion
For hobbyists who would like to build their own break-in stand, it will take a number of weekends and the proper tools to complete the job. Shop equipment such as chopsaws and mills for drilling operations aren't necessary, but be forewarned that cutting and drilling in thick-wall metal is time consuming. In addition, cutting angles and double-checking your work is paramount to success.

According to Steve DuSold: "From a welding perspective, only MIG, TIG, or stick-welding will produce the intensity of heat and the penetrating welds necessary for thick-walled steel. Hobbyists who are not experienced welders or don't have the right equipment should ask a friend to complete the project or hire a machine shop and/or welder.

From a build perspective, it took us approximately 15 hours to design and build it to this point, with over half of the labor spent in the cutting and drilling operations." It should take you less time since you won't have to design it, or take notes and photos for a magazine article.

Hang on as the tough part is over. In Part II, the dashboard, radiator, electric fan, battery, and gas-tank subassembly builds are detailed. Once the stand is built, the ancillary components, such as the fuel, ignition, battery cables, wiring for the gauges, and electric fan, will be wrapped up so an engine can be loaded onto it and the procedures outlined to successfully break it in. For safety purposes, we will forego using a water pump-driven fan and rely on a SPAL electric fan for our cooling needs and Sunpro gauges to monitor the engine vitals.

Don't get psyched out of this project because of the detailed labor you see here. As stated in the introduction, there are easier options. If you prefer to avoid the measuring, cutting, and welding, you can buy the aforementioned kit and add your own fuel tank, battery, cooling system, and gauges and still feel like you built something and saved money in the process. Chances are you'll quickly become the most popular guy amongst your local Pontiac friends.

SOURCE
SPAL USA
1731 SE Oralabor Road
Ankeyny
IA
800-345-0327
http://www.spalusa.com
Actron-Sunpro Gauges
800-228-7667
http://www.sunpro.com
DuSold Enterprises
1491 N Kealy Ste 51
Lewisville
TX  75057
972-436-5151
http://www.dusoldenterprises.com
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