Flipping through Saab website after website, it seems like I’m picking up a common theme among us Vintage guys. These cars are rarely just “going”, and the owners are always doing something besides driving. Whether it’s looking through Craigslist to look for another tired example in need of saving, trying to find some weird & discontinued part to get another one running, or desperately trying to get one back together for a summer of driving; the story is the same. We’re always preparing! Now, I know there are a good number of nice, drivable Vintage Saabs out there, but even they aren’t immune. I see 2 stroke guys struggling with setting up their carbs evenly, other guys fighting off rust incursions, and others trying to pass occasional road-worthy inspections. So, I feel like this guy:
Resigning my fate, preparations have moved forward. With the work on the cylinder heads underway (more on that later…very cool stuff underway), I started gathering resources for the main engine build. I ordered up some top shelf motor oil, Royal Purple. RP was a favorite of engine-building great John Lingenfelter prior to his passing. John was really a smart guy, and his mantra was always to build torque in the rpm band where the engine would spend most of its time. He was so smart, that he didn’t tackle a V4… I’m not that smart, plus my head is harder than Lord Helmet’s. I also ordered up RP’s special break in oil that I’ll run for the first few miles to let things break in properly before switching to the full RP synthetic. The break in oil has a high zinc & phosphorus content that is perfect for flat tappet cams. A pair of oil filters (one for break in oil and one for the full synthetic oil) completed the order.
Dipping inside the engine, I knew I should go with new balance shaft bearings and new cam bearings. You don’t want to mess around with these, if the balance shaft bearings start heading south it negatively affects the oil pressure. So I ordered up new ones from Skandix. Jack Ashcraft’s V4 handbook shows you the different bearings, their width (all different!) and how they go into the block. I’ll let my machine shop install them, but I gave Donnie @ RAD the V4 handbook so that he would have the instructions handy if he needed them.
Continuing down this path, next up was the oil pump and driveshaft. This topic gets beaten to DEATH online. Old timers insist on going with a high-volume oil pump, and I disagree. In the old days, you needed a stronger pump to deal with the higher viscosity oil that was needed to run larger bearing clearances. But, I’m going to run the Royal Purple 10W-30 full synthetic, which is actually easier to pump than the original oil! And since the RP 10W-30 will protect the engine better than an old school 20W-50 anyway, I don’t see any reason to run a high volume pump. I ordered up a new Melling oil pump and intermediate drive shaft, which is made of heat treated carbon steel. The other argument against a high volume pump is that the loads on your cam gear go up significantly. Ford engines do not have a good history of dealing with those higher loads. An eaten up cam or distributor gear means metal shards going through your newly built engine. No thanks!
The crankshaft and connecting rods were dropped off to Donnie @ RAD Machine for some work. Donnie cleaned the crank, checked it for straightness, and Magnafluxed it to ensure there were no cracks. The crank cleaned up beautifully and Donnie took a micrometer to the journals, finding that we could run “standard” size main bearings. He treated it to a balance job (yes, factory job was off…) and bagged it up for reassembly. On the rods, he cleaned & magnafluxed them as well, resized the big ends so that they would be exactly perfect, and balanced them as well. But, we were not done there. On a connecting rod, especially a stock one, the weakest link is always the rod bolts. By this point you girls and guys know how mental I am about good bolts. The best of the best is always ARP. And while they do not make a set of rod bolts specifically for the V4, they do make them for the Ford 289/302 engine that uses the same rod bolts! It was actually cheaper to get the V8 set (154-6002) than it was to source a V4 set… When your engine is turning 7000 rpm, ARP is good insurance. I had Donnie install the new rod bolts too.
Next up was a “new” oil pan. Mine had see much better days with rust and a healthy dent in it. Skandix says they sell “NOS” ones but they don’t stock them in the US, so that meant ordering one from Germany. I guess that my idea of “New Old Stock” is different than the Germans… This one showed up with as much rust as my old one and a healthy scuff to boot! But, no dents thankfully. So I brought it by the powdercoaters and they blasted it with aluminum oxide with careful attention to the pan rail, as I don’t want oil leaks… They then powdercoated the outside. It looks fantastic! You can still see the original part number stamped in it and the inside is now rust free.
Of course a week doesn’t go by without talking to Jack Lawrence. He shipped new main bearings to me to go with the freshly cleaned up crankshaft. But the discussion went deeper this time, as it was time to pick pistons. The factory cast ones are lame, and sit nearly .080″ “in the hole”, making them prone to detonation. And cast pistons + detonation equal a very weak motor. So getting the pistons right are critical. Not surprisingly, Jack had some thoughts. He offered a set of 14:1 dome pistons that horrified me (I’m running a turbo after all). The other option was a set of 10.3:1 flat top Wiseco pistons. Knowing I had to open up the cylinder head combustion chambers anyway (for my oversize valves), I figured I could get the combustion ratio down to a liveable point. The factory rating was 8.0:1 and even though I’m running a turbo, I’m bringing that up. A low compression ratio gives you soggy off-boost power, but if you go too high, detonation can rear it’s ugly head. So I’ll shoot for around 9.0 to 9.3:1 all said and done. A few weeks later the new pistons and rings showed up. They look awesome! The keys here? Forged construction is much stronger and detonation-resistant than cast. Plus the pistons will no longer sit “in the hole” and will promote much better turbulence in the combustion chamber. And lastly, much thicker ring lands resist breaking under boost. So I dropped those off to Donnie to be hung on the freshly prepared rods.
So with all this work, the gameplan is clear: get the preparation out of the way so that this car can finally go! And since I’m making so many changes over the original 75 horsepower, maybe I can go… LUDICROUS SPEED!!!