Redline Rebuild: Watch this tired big-block 396 go from crusty to trusty

There is no sound quite like a tuned-up big-block. Sadly, when our 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS396 rolled in the shop it had more of a wheeze than a growl. This engine got a refresh just five years ago, but in that time the car’s duties included teaching hundreds of young drivers how to use a manual transmission, driving road trips, tours, and general use. Given the oil in the ‘Maro’s tailpipes, Hagerty’s Davin Reckow knew there was something wrong but wasn’t sure just how far he’d have to dig to figure things out.

The diagnosis once we got the orange big-block on the engine stand wasn’t good—Hammered valve stems and leaking piston rings meant we had one choice—a Redline Rebuild.

“This engine just didn’t have the character a muscle car should.” Davin said. “Even after the last refresh it wasn’t quite right. Now it sounds and feels like it should. It got its personality back.”

It was a quick turnaround on the project, too. From when the car came in for diagnosis to when it rolled back out was just over nine weeks. While that seems like an eternity in the world of one-week-restoration television, the reality is the camera setup and time-lapse documentation we do for each Redline Rebuild is quite time consuming, and we needed to squeeze in on short notice for time slots at the machine shop. (Davin and the production crew probably owe a few favors to the Thirlby Automotive team for their quick turnaround on the machine work for this one.)

Was the end result worth the effort? We’ll let the exhaust note speak for itself as the car rolls out of the garage—and lays rubber like a big-block Camaro should.