Going on holidays to the USA is cheaper than paying freight (AKA, why I brought half an engine back from America in my luggage)

Living in Australia can be beaut, for around 10,421 reasons. However, it sucks The Big One when it comes to having to ship everything across the Pacific Ocean, because that is damn expensive.

And so it was I found myself needing to buy some Edelbrock cylinder heads for my Pontiac, but not wanting the hundreds of dollars in freight it was going to cost (plus import taxes the Australian government wanted to charge me). The solution was to put them in my suitcase and bring them home with me when I was in the USA for the annual SEMA trade show.

I ordered my cylinder heads (and a P65 dual-quad intake manifold) through Original Parts Group, who I have probably spent the best part of the annual American defence budget with on Pontiac parts. They graciously held my parts in their warehouse for a few weeks before I flew in at the end of October to pick them up.

Hi. This is me, beaming with joy at the silly life decisions I make. Or is that grimacing?

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Yes, I did literally pack them into my luggage. Somehow I didn’t even get charged for having overweight bags!

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December 2017 and I started pulling apart my perfectly good, freshly built iron-headed 400cui motor (see my other blog post for more details on this engine build).

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I had sold the heads, which were from a 1966 GTO (#92 castings). The new heads are 72cc Edelbrock D-port items that should see me end up with approximately 10.5:1 compression, which will be beaut on our pump fuels.

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Everything looked good in there… as it should with only 45mins run time on this motor!

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I dummy-fitted the heads to check pushrod length and to see if I needed to modify them at all. Some Edelbrock Pontiac heads need clearancing in the pushrod hole if you want to run a rocker over 1.6:1 ratio. Mine are 1.65 but (thankfully) didn’t need clearancing or modification. I did end up needing longer pushrods, however.

The advantage of running the higher ratio (stock is 1.5) is it buys me nearly 10% more lift from the camshaft without having to run a wild cam in what will be a cruiser. Pontiac themselves ran 1.65 ratio rockers on their high-performance Ram Air IV engines.

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The new pushrod (9.45in) on the right, with stock 1966-spec  items on the left.

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I was properly excited so I decided to place the spare valve covers and EFI intake manifold on just to give me an idea of what it would look like.

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Despite the vintage Edelbrock finned valve covers being the wrong colour, I liked what I saw. The car should keep an old school 2×4 muscle car flavour, even though my intake will have electronic injectors and custom fuel rails hanging off it.

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With the heads cleared for fitting I had the fun job of smearing this assembly lubricant over each of the ARP bolts and washers. This is important as it stops the bolts bottoming out in the threads before they’re fully seated.

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The heads were torqued down in three stages: 45lb-ft, 70lb-ft, and then 90lb-ft, as per manufacturer instructions.

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The Yella Terra 1.65 ratio rockers went back on and I learned how to check the preload. This was done quickly for now, just to get it close. When it comes time to start the engine myself and a more experienced friend will actually get it much closer once we’ve heard how noisy or quiet the rockers are.

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It was about this point I realised I should paint the cylinder heads as I wasn’t loving the bare aluminium (aluminum). I got something as close to the blue my block and valley pan are painted, but it isn’t a close match. I bashed the valley pan back on, and threw the freshly media-blasted valve covers,  on too.

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Just to jazz up the valve covers a bit I hand-painted some metallic gold on the Edelbrock script, which matches the Mooneyes steering wheel I have. I am now thinking of blasting the black air filter housing and doing it raw, with a similar treatment on the Edelbrock script on its leading edge.

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I refitted the Vintage Air A/C and Ram Air Restoration exhaust manifolds, and left the intake manifold off so I could get a headstart on wiring up the Haltech Elite 950 ECU that will run my custom EFI set-up.

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