Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit... - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 22nd, 14, 07:01 AM Thread Starter
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Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Hi guys,

Soon I'll have to rebuild my Rat's core, so I've started to look around on web about the availability of rebuilding kits for my 396. The first thing I'll do when taking it off from the car will be to check its casting number, anyway...
Browsing thru E-Bay shops I've noticed mostly three suppliers of kits. I'm reporting below the links related to their master Engine rebuild Kits, so the most complete option, right?
These suppliers are:

Titan Engines: http://www.ebay.it/itm/300838579968?...MakeTrack=true

Mabbco Enterprise: http://www.ebay.it/itm/GM-Chevy-396-...item3cb0d464c8

Clegg Engines: http://www.ebay.it/itm/330752617632?...MakeTrack=true

Have you had any experience with any of these kits? Components quality? Troubles in rebuilding or after, when it has been time to let the engine run?
Which one would you suggest? By my (Zero) experience, the Mabbco kit seems a bit more flexible, because they also allow to choose a special camshaft instead the stock one, but maybe, after contacting vendor, also the other ones can do it...

Of course, if you have further suggestions about alternative brands, your hints will be very welcome.

And now some technical question:
  1. The Mabbco kit specifies "dome top pistons", the others don't... Should i expect that also Titan Engines and Clegg Engines give dome top pistons in their kits? I mean, are standard-like pistons already Dome Top on a 396?
  2. Similar to previous question: Mabbco specifies "hydraulic", while referring to lifters, the others don't... Aren't hydraulic lifters a standard equipment on this engine?
  3. Eventually I'll also need a new crankshaft, do you have any suggestion about types, brands?
Thank you all in advance, ciao.

Stefano - Vitamin SS
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 22nd, 14, 09:10 AM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

As for the dome top pistons you've got to specify whether you've got closed or open chamber heads. It's more critical if you've got closed chambers as a tighter "bathtub" fit. Open chambers are a lot more open so can accomodate most domes. Then you've got to check for clearance depending if your block's been decked and/or heads been shaved and to what extent. When I rebuild my motors I consult with my machine shop....I buy the parts and they tell me what I need. Also, if you get a performance cam you want to put in valve springs with rates and pressures to match the cam. I'm probably spending a little more than if I bought a kit but I've got the local heavy Chevy machine shop on my side as I don't want any valves clacking the pistons nor the pushrods binding when the cam lifts it up. I'm aiming for a 6500 rpm redline so my machine shop tells me to get a 6223 forged crank that's used and cut to .020, thumbprint stock rods with ARP bolts, and forged domed pistons for the closed chamber heads. I probably won't do more than 6200 or 6300 rpm as it's not an all out strip car.

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 22nd, 14, 10:16 AM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

I would not buy a rebuilding kit from EBay! Get in touch with Mike Wolf or Chris Straub over at our sister site Team Chevelle. Probe pistons is what I used from Mike Wolf. He is located in California.

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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 22nd, 14, 03:14 PM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Chris : http://www.straubtechnologies.com/

Wolfplace : http://www.lewisracingengines.com/

Both are top-notch !

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 23rd, 14, 03:31 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

First of all, ops, I earlier forgot to specify that my 396 is the 325hp version...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordr View Post
As for the dome top pistons you've got to specify whether you've got closed or open chamber heads...

...Then you've got to check for clearance depending if your block's been decked and/or heads been shaved and to what extent...

...When I rebuild my motors I consult with my machine shop....I buy the parts and they tell me what I need. Also, if you get a performance cam you want to put in valve springs with rates and pressures to match the cam...
Actually this will be the first time that I'll take the engine off the car, so I'll exactly know what's spinning in there only when I'll have opened it and pieces will be on a table. That's also why I want to check its casting number and the engine assembly stamp (Right now that part is painted so it's too difficult to read it. With engine off the hood and generator somewhere else on the room it will be much easier)
As far I can see from outside the heads should be the stock, cast iron ones. If I'm right, they should be closed chamber ones, right?
About the eventuality about the coupling plan surfaces, both from basement side than from valve head side have been already milled because of previous works around the engine, well, this will be harder to me to understand, probably I'll need some reference value to be compared with the measured one on my block.
I agree with you, the optimal solution to me would be a compromise with the "easiness" of a kit, but with the chance of "configuring" it, for example, with some non-stock part, for example, the camshaft. Some tuning, nothing really radical, though. This lady probably will never see a drag strip, for example. Some occasional burnout, some fast driving moment, but not much more.
Since I live in Italy, you know, it's quite crucial to solve the supplying phase with less shippings as possible, else time (And costs too) can increase noticeably, that's another reason that let me watch to kits with interest.
And, still about kits, I've looked at Summit Racing website, http://www.summitracing.com/int/sear...8/model/camaro could it be a valid alternative to the ones found in E-Bay?

OT part: By the way, I've relatives in Kelowna.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DT View Post
I would not buy a rebuilding kit from EBay! Get in touch with Mike Wolf or Chris Straub over at our sister site Team Chevelle. Probe pistons is what I used from Mike Wolf. He is located in California.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence454 View Post
Thank you guys for the names, and the links. About components, I'm trying to get what's the right compromise price and quality can fit to my money budget. And about Lewis Racing Engines, gosh, there's the Atlantic between us. But, good news, I know already who can do the cylinders re-boring, reasonably close to my place. Of course good advices from who has surely worked on much more US engines than anyone at my place is welcome.

@DT: Of course I basically agree with you, price and quality are proportionally related. What I still don't know about those three kits is where, on quality scale, they can be placed. For sure not at the top, but how much at the bottom side, and if they could fit enough to the use I'll do of the car, mostly the relatively quiet life that any classic car does.

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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 23rd, 14, 09:08 AM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Hey Stefano, cool that you've got family here.... since you've got the 396 - 325 motor you probably have the closed chamber heads. You can turn that motor into any mean powerplant you want! The stock cam in it is the lamest big block cam that around so changing that out will be a big improvement. I can't imagine what the shipping charges would be for you to have a kit sent overseas!

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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 23rd, 14, 12:55 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordr View Post
Hey Stefano, cool that you've got family here....
Yeah, a cousin with his family.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordr View Post
since you've got the 396 - 325 motor you probably have the closed chamber heads. You can turn that motor into any mean powerplant you want! The stock cam in it is the lamest big block cam that around so changing that out will be a big improvement.
So, any change I'll do to it, it would improve it. It sounds great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gordr View Post
I can't imagine what the shipping charges would be for you to have a kit sent overseas!
Just consider, starting from oprder invoice and shipment costs, to add an abundant 30% because of EU import tax and Italian VAT. And, not secondary, the time needed for the shipping. You know, it's quite easy to forget some item, so a second order and so on... that's why I basically like complete kits, in these cases.

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 24th, 14, 07:12 AM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

I have an engine builder customer in Italy that I work with, if you want his contact info I can post it for you.

Chris

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old Nov 24th, 14, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

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Originally Posted by cstraub View Post
I have an engine builder customer in Italy that I work with, if you want his contact info I can post it for you.
Hello, thank you, although I've already found the hands who'll make machining and head adjusting work, a further option is always welcome.

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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 15, 05:46 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Now I've pulled out of car the engine and, after examinating it, I've got some surprise.
  • As first I removed the paint over the Engine Code stamping and, now able to read it correctly, it gaves me: CE465885, so it's probably a service engine, installed on 1974, so not the original unit.
  • Casting number 3999290P, and piston code 3969974, so it seems a 402cui with still standard bore, right? Anyway the cylinders wearing is noticeable...
  • Cylinder heads number 3931063, as far I've read around the web, these closed chamber heads shouldn't be so bad.
  • Crankshaft shows wearing. Experiences made by some other US-V8 owners around here suggest that grinding it can be as expensive as getting a new one.
  • Valvetrain seems ok, except than camshaft, worn.
All these considerations make me reformulate the question about my needs. A rebuilding kit isn't enough anymore, I need a whole rotating assembly, I guess that already balanced could be great.
Browsing thru spare parts webshops, though, I haven't found any of these kits ready for my unit, and this makes things a bit more complicated. Is it necessary to order a "custom kit" or something? In this case, can anyone suggest me what to put into shopping bag for the correct configuration?



And, since the engine isn't the original one, I could even consider the option about stroking it, I've read that from a 396/402cui is possible to get a 434/440cui, is it simply a matter of getting the correct parts or does it need also relevant modifies to the block/heads (Except overboring, I've anyway to do that)?


I'm sorry about my previous posts, disturbing you folks about a problem that now has been overtaken by another, bit deeper one. I hope you folks will help me also again.

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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 15, 06:52 AM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

I have been through this thought process several times.

Each time I've concluded it is more cost effective to buy a complete short or long block.

The machine cost plus parts and labor add up real quick.

Ballpark numbers

A rotating assembly $1500-$2000 machine block $400-600. Rebuild heads $600-$800, cam lifters and springs $400-$500, oil pump, timing chain, gaskets plus assembly labor

My choice would be a 454. They are less expensive then 396/402 or the stroker engines. Great power and reliability.

For Example

Summit sells a nice 415 hp 454 long block for $3290 USD and a complete engine carb to oil pan with everything including spark plugs and wires for $4800.

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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 15, 02:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

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A rotating assembly $1500-$2000 , cam lifters and springs $400-$500, oil pump, timing chain, gaskets plus assembly labor
Luckily, machining, heads rebuilding and assembling would come for $1800, valvetrain, oil pump, timing are ok.
And of course I can also keep all the "external" parts, from the Edelbrock RPM intake, to the exhaust manifolds.
A full gasket set needs takes about $70.
The only unknown factor is the rotating assembly. On Summit Racing, for example, an Eagle Street and Strip with hypereutectic pistons for a 454 comes for about $1000. About $1600 with forged ones. But I' can't get if a similar kit is available also for my engine. I've sent an info request e-mail to Eagle, Scat and Probe, but still no answers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vega$69 View Post
Summit sells a nice 415 hp 454 long block for $3290 USD and a complete engine carb to oil pan with everything including spark plugs and wires for $4800.
I guess you refer to the ATK Engine, I also considered this option. The problem is the total amount: I've to add about 33% over the amount of (goods+shipping). If rebuilding my engine this would apply only to rotating assy and gasket kit (That would fit in a box, even if quite heavy), in case of ordering the crate engine, well, shipping and the mentioned +33% taxes would pull a relevant increase from the initial $3290.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 6th, 15, 03:26 PM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Steno, If I understand your reply, you will reuse the oil pump??? I would absolutely suggest you purchase a new one. Money well spent.

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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 7th, 15, 01:36 PM
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Since you don't have an original block, why not search for a 427 or 454 block (4.25" bore) ?

All of the other parts will be cheaper and you can figure a minimum one HP per cubic inch increase in power.

Plus you can run a smaller dome on the piston which will also help.

I think 396's are a waste of time and money. JMHO

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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old Jan 7th, 15, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Choosing a 396 Engine rebuild kit...

Quote:
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Steno, If I understand your reply, you will reuse the oil pump??? I would absolutely suggest you purchase a new one. Money well spent.
At a first sight, and by what who sold me the Camaro wrote on adv., the oil pump is new, so it shouldn't need to be replaced. I won't miss anyway to check it better, so, if needed, I'll change it. Thanks to remind it to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence454 View Post
Since you don't have an original block, why not search for a 427 or 454 block (4.25" bore) ?
On this side of the Atlantic there isn't much choice about these engines and, as I wrote on my previous post, importing taxes make the new engine option less competitive.

I'm going to submit the 402 crank to the machine-guy eyes, still hoping that it can be used. Unluckily it seems that new 3.76" stroke crankshafts aren't available anymore. So my path will be:
  1. If (Optimist option) my crankshaft can be renewed at a reasonable price, I'd go for a rebuilding kit, and maybe new rods. It would be the cheapest and easiest.
  2. If the shaft will be declared definitely ko, I'm considering the stroking way. At the moment it seems to me a convenient solution. But I've still some technical question before being 100% sure about that.
  3. If also option #2 won't convince me... 454 crate engine.
And now the technical questions.
  1. Basically, is the 434(+overboring) stroking consisting in putting a standard 454 rotating assembly (shaft+rods), but with different pistons, for example KB361 by KB Performance? Any other option?
  2. My engine heads are 3931063, so close chamber ones, and pistons are doomed. Does it create interference problems between piston top and head, or a too high compression ratio (I'd feed the engine with the common 95RON fuel)?
  3. The block casting is a3999290P, is it necessary to grind off some material from cylinder bottom because of rod bolts? I've read that in some case (But no specified with which casting#) it's needed, I don't know if I'm lucky.
  4. Balancing: When I've assembled the engine, what type of flywheel and flexplate should I use? At the moment, I've an internal balanced one...
Thank you again for patience and suggestions, opinions you're sharing.

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