Building an engine is all about the details. Sometimes it seems like measuring everything is just plain overkill, but then you run into a situation like Davin did with the camshaft for the 283 Chevrolet small-block and it all starts to make sense. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Building an engine takes more than just bolting parts together.
The rub on this particular build comes at the installation of the camshaft and timing chain—two critically important pieces to a good-running and long-lasting engine. The first timing set Davin installed was tight as a bowstring. The second had proper tension, but the cut for the keyway did not allow proper timing of the cam. The original nylon gear-timing set fit perfectly, but it is likely on borrowed time before self-destructing. Only a final, fourth, timing set finally put everything into the right place for a proper running valve train.
With that finally sorted, it’s time for a quick check of pushrod length and valve clearance before bolting the cylinder heads on and torquing everything down. Some clay is placed on the tops of the pistons, the heads are bolted down, and the engine is spun over. The clay allows Davin to know exactly how close the valves are getting to pistons, and the top of the valve stem shows the contact patch of the rocker arm, thanks to a little scribbling with a permanent marker.
Luckily, everything spec’d out nicely and final assembly can begin. It’s going to start moving fast now, so be sure to subscribe to the Hagerty YouTube channel and never miss an update—including when this engine has its first start in just a few weeks.
— Kyle Smith
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