Well, with the Sonett officially off to Connecticut today to join up with it’s new owner, it’s time to list the last piece of the What on Earth is a Sonett sweepstakes! [UPDATE 4/24/19: The engine is now sold as well!] Looking back, I actually have more money into the engine than the chassis. It’s hard to believe, given the amount of time spent on the chassis. With the engine, it’s the components and machine work that definitely add up!
The plan for the engine was simple: create the most powerful Saab V4 of all time. And this long block is ready to deliver! Most of the upper end engines built by some of the Saab greats have crested in the 180-190 HP range, impressive given what that motor came with for horsepower bone stock. And there were whispers of a Saab factory effort cresting over 200 HP using a turbo back in the day. I didn’t want there to be any doubt, so this was designed to handle a full on sequential fuel injection system (available separately!), a high end Borg-Warner EFR series turbo, and methanol injection. Power was to start at around 220 HP and crest in the 270 HP range under “full kill” tune. To handle that, this is a summary of what was done:
- Full hot tanked and cleaned Saab V4 block out of my 30,000 mile ’72 Sonett. This received the same machine work as Donnie’s (machine shop owner) 1000 HP ZL1 Camaro. With 30+ years of Ford and past V4 machine work experience, there was no better choice of machine shop. The piston bores were opened up to fit the new custom pistons (more on that in a second), and the high tech boring & honing machines did a beautiful job. The deck was checked for straightness and the main crank journals checked for alignment. New cam, balance shaft, and main bearings were fitted. Block casting was then painted in POR-15 to protect against rust.
- Crankshaft was cleaned, Magnafluxed to ensure no cracks, journals polished, and balancing brought up to modern standards.
- Rods were resized to match the crank perfectly and to fit the new pistons. Top of the line ARP rod bolts were installed (accept no substitutes!). Rods were also balanced. New rod bearings were provided too.
- New Wiseco forged pistons were selected for their strength in boosted applications. These were personally specified by Saab V4 legend Jack Lawrence of Motor Sport Specialties (MSS). Included new matching rings, which were custom file-fit and installed on the pistons by my machine shop. The new forged pistons were then hung on the connecting rods by the shop too. The new pistons bring the compression up (along with the revised combustion chambers) to 9:1 compression. Up a full point for much better power off-boost, but still low enough for proper turbocharging.
- ONE OF A KIND, custom CNC-ported V4 heads. Yes, you read that right. I had a mechanical engineer write a personalized CNC program and personally oversee my cylinder head modifications. We chewed through a number of scrap V4 heads until the program was absolutely perfect, then my actual heads were cut (after a proper cleaning, disassembly, and Magnaflux by the machine shop). The end result are heads that are practically jewelry! Every runner, every combustion chamber, is exactly the same. This gives you consistent performance across all four cylinders. The chambers were unshrouded to allow the oversized intake and exhaust valves to do their job. This also allowed us to run the forged flat top pistons without too high of a compression ratio. The silly and way oversized intake valve boss was removed to open up the intake runner, and the exhaust port reshaped for a dramatic increase in flow without hogging out the port (preserving velocity!).
- The heads were professionally cleaned yet again after the CNC machine work and the heads resurfaced to ensure a perfectly flat surface. New valve guides were installed, and a 3 angle valve job performed. New higher performance valve springs from MSS were installed, along with spring dampers and new retainers. New viton valve seals and cooling jacket plugs too, of course. POR-15 paint was then applied to the exterior of the heads to protect against rust.
- Jack Lawrence then specified a performance cam that would deliver results in streetable manner with great drivability, without sacrificing power. He also sent along new lightweight lifters to replace the original ones. Lastly, he sold me a full metal timing gear set to eliminate the durability concerns of the original “fiber” gear ones.
- Brand new oil pump and oil pump driveshaft were installed using Royal Purple Max-Tuff assembly lube. An original NOS oil pan was sourced, stripped, and powdercoated to look original but last much longer. New stainless bolts were used to secure the oil pan.
- A rare, no-fan-bearing, V4 timing cover was sourced. It was then soda-blasted to remove the old paint, and then covered with POR-15’s Detail Paint to simulate fresh cast aluminum.
- Engine was assembled with custom ARP main and head studs to seriously improve clamping force and even torque across the crank and heads. An expensive, but correct, insurance policy on a high end motor. Every gasket and seal is brand new, as expected.
- The flywheel was lightened to Saab Sport & Rally specs, resurfaced for new clutch work, and then machined by MSS to allow the use a diaphragm clutch. This is a massive improvement over the factory style clutch! The clamping force is superior to even a race version OEM-style clutch, but the pedal is light and easy to engage. You get the best of both worlds! It just costs more… sounds familiar? 🙂 ARP flywheel bolts were used to secure the improved flywheel, and a new pilot bearing installed.
- Brand new diaphragm clutch and pressure plate specified and provided by Jack Lawrence as well! This will go with the motor to the new owner.
- Brand new, high torque and ultra light starter motor was imported to replace the giant (but weak) OEM one. Also being thrown in along with the motor, saving you $300 plus overseas freight.
- Royal Purple oil filter was fitted, and another one is ready to go after initial break-in runs. Royal Purple “Break In Oil” was sourced, and a batch of their HPS High Performance Synthetic oil is ready to go in after break in.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. With basic 115 horsepower rebuilds using cheap cast pistons going for $6,650 (no clutch, no starter, no CNC chamber & intake port work, no ARP bolts & studs, no timing cover, etc), it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I have nearly $9,000 into this motor. I’ve never seen another one like it. Just like the chassis, no expense was spared in making the V4 the very best it can be. Given what I have into this, asking $5,900.00 should be an absolute steal for someone in the vintage Saab V4 community. Heck, it’s cheaper than a basic rebuild! Plus you don’t even have to pay freight to ship your old motor to me, and you don’t have to wait for it to get done. It’s ready to go, sitting in my heated and air conditioned garage. If you’re interested, send me a note at jcayea99 at gmail and we can work out the details.
And with that, I’m officially out of vintage Saab parts to sell! Best regards to Andrew, who purchased my Sonett chassis, and to Ramses who bought my gearbox. I’d love to see some finished results down the road! But as of this writing (1/20/19), all that is left available is the fuel injection setup and the long block engine (UPDATE 3/31/19: The fuel injection setup is now sold!).
I’m going to leave the blog up indefinitely in hopes that it helps someone else out down the road, and maybe I’ll make a blog post here or there for the heck of it. Especially if I get some updates on my past project Sonett. But, as for me going forward, I’m taking Saab’s advice and Finding My Own Road…