Any expectations on vintage Saabs must be tempered, sort of like being an actor in Hollywood these days. In the old days, “I got a role in a movie!” would have been a reason to celebrate. Now, it’s “I got a role in a movie…with Kevin Spacey…”. So, that being said, I’m happy to report some actual good news on the motor front. Progress! Sort of…
Several months back I traded some emails with Jack Ashcraft where I asked how I could get my hands on a smaller, lighter starter for my V4. I mean, after all, why do we have such a huge starter for a little motor? It’s like our starters hung out with Roger Clemens personal trainer… So I asked Jack if he knows of any lightweight and/or smaller starters and his reply was: “On the starter—get over it”. Hmmm… challenge accepted…with tempered expectations, of course! After the better part of a year of looking, I finally connected up with a factory overseas who was willing to help me research the issue. I’m happy to report that I was able to get them to source me a starter that is literally half the weight! In addition its a full inch smaller in diameter, which is good news for those interested in running low profile engine mounts. And best of all, it actually has more starting torque! So if you’ve upped the compression on your V4, you’ll be good to go.
In addition to the new starter, I decided to step up the cam profile as well. This is another situation where things can go off the rails pretty quickly. Everyone wants max power, but when it comes to cams, a huge cam in a street car is a pretty quick way to ruin drivability. Choppy idle, no vacuum, and the low-end torque of an electric weedwacker awaits those who fall into this trap! So, as usual, I reached out to V4 guru Jack Lawrence and he suggested his “street” camshaft. The more aggressive profile gets you a power band of 3500-7000 RPMS. So I sent off my stock cam (core) after the new one arrived. Since these cams are reground, you need to run taller lifters to compensate. And according to Jack, the stock lifters weigh as much “as a dead dinosaur!”, so it was good to make a change on that front anyway. So along with the cam, I ordered up his lightweight hollow lifters. Just to verify Jack’s claim, I threw a stock lifter on Mrs. Sonett’s postage scale… 102.9 grams, while the new lifters checked in at 76.3 grams. Knocking 30% off your weight in the valvetrain is unreal! It allows higher RPM operation without needing substantially higher spring rates. So more good news there.
Since I was on a roll with exceeding my expectations, I decided to take a look for new flywheel mounting bolts. The stock ones are one-time use only (torque-to-yield) and are worth about the same as a used 8-track. Everyone knows my fixation with ARP bolts… but from what I understand, there are worse fixations to have… I think there is a Matt Lauer joke in there somewhere… More good news, ARP makes part 151-2801, which works for V4’s! Another box checked off.
With most of the prep work done, it was time to start putting things together (without too high of hopes, of course!). I lubed up the cam and balance shafts and put them into the block (machine shop had previously installed the new bearings). I coated the block plugs with some black “Right Stuff” oil-resistant sealer and tapped those in too.
Speaking of bolts, I don’t want to use any of the factory ones for my mains and heads. We know how important good bolts are, right? Since no one makes great head and/or main studs, I decided to come up with some on my own. Working with ARP, I’m happy to report that I now have both main and head studs for the V4! Studs allow much more even clamping force, which is probably a good thing at 7000 RPMS and under boost… I screwed them into the block (by hand until finger snug), snapped down the new bearings, and checked my clearances with some plastigauge. With everything looking good, I applied some Royal Purple Max Tuff to the bearings and dropped in the prepared crankshaft. With the other half of the bearings and caps on, I broke out the torque wrench and torqued down the main caps!
With the crank in, I put the pistons into the ring compressor and tapped them into the block, making sure to put assembly lube on the rod bearings too. A little ARP fastener lube on the ARP rod bolts, and those got torqued down to spec too. With ARP lube, you get superior torque accuracy (vs oil, etc), so it’s the only way to fly. The caps were numbered so make sure those match up when putting things back together. An short time later, all four forged pistons and resized rods were in the block.
So progress and good news! And I’m not telling CNN, that way it won’t be fake news…!!!