The oil-soaked details behind our big-block 396 Redline Rebuild

Our latest Redline Rebuild is a rapid-fire restoration of a 1969 Chevrolet big-block 396, and there is more to the greasy-to-shiny story of this V-8 than the time-lapse process shows. For an engine that was freshened up just five years ago, this poor workhorse was tired and in need of some love. Fortunately, Davin Reckow was on the case to nurse it back to health.

To explain all the hows and whys of every step of this build Davin sat down with Ben Woodworth and talked through the oily details behind returning this 396 to its muscle car heritage. The process Davin went through to bring this engine back provides a great opportunity to talk details, and there are lessons even the most seasoned engine builder will appreciate.

Looking back at the months of work on our big-block gives Davin a chance to reflect on plenty of fun facts. For example, he goes over why this block was not subject to the boring bar, but rather an aggressive hone to prep the cylinder wall. A previous rebuild machined the cylinders to 40-thousandths of an inch overbore, and the next step would be 60-thousandths. Due to the wear on the cylinder walls, getting to the proper bore diameter didn’t require much material to be removed.

Removing cylinder wall material precisely involved using a torque plate. Commonly implemented when machining an engine that is setup for high performance, a torque plate replicates the cylinder distortion the block will experience when the head is tightened down during assembly. By distorting the block this way during machining, the cylinders will be perfectly round when the engine is assembled.

A few of my favorite tips come from the assembly phase, as Davin divulges why he chose reliability over originality for the valvetrain. Dual springs, a roller camshaft, and roller tipped rocker arms all add up to a slight bump in horsepower, but also reduce the need for any type of special oil or zinc additives that flat tappet camshaft would call for. This engine (and car) is destined to return to regular duty in Ride & Drive events, and we’d rather not do another rebuild five years from now.

Redline Rebuild Explained It is a long watch, but grab your favorite cold beverage and a snack or two, and settle in for a fun time talking about the greatest gearhead passion—engine building. Was there something you learned from this video? Something you are surprised Davin didn’t do? Tell us about it in the comments below.