Sometimes a really great deal presents itself to you. Other times, you just need to save a neglected car from a bad fate. In this case it was both. Poor old Rampage had been left in a field to function as a dog kennel for 5+ years in the desert southeast corner of Washington State. It was offered to me at a price I couldn’t refuse, I just had to come up with a way to transport it home. Initially I thought that fact alone would be a showstopper, but after a month of thought and planning, I managed to secure a truck to tow it home with.
My father-in-law was kind enough to allow me to use his Silverado. Poor old truck has nearly a quarter million miles on it. Amazing the thing still runs at all. So off I went, on the near 350mile trip out to pick up the new Rampage.
It’s a rough, very rough, Rampage. I don’t see this one going to any shows. But given a fresh coat of paint after a bit of minor dent repair, I think it’ll be respectable. The tow home was fairly uneventful. I had to stop just before cresting the highest pass on the mountains on the way back, as the old Chevy wanted to overheat. But after a short rest, and topping off the coolant, as well as leaving the AC and cruise control off, and letting the thing just crawl up the mountain at 40mph instead of the 55mph I had wanted to do, it maintained temp just fine. And of course, a big full size Chevy truck like that loves gasoline. Ended up spending $150 on the 750mile trip.
I found the most amazing spider on the truck when I got it home and went to wash the thing. That’s a “Jewel Spider”, pretty much completely harmless. Very cool looking. The body looks a lot like FreeBSD’s new logo. When dragging the car out of the field it was parked in, we discovered 4 active hornets nests. Two in the headliner, and two in the driver’s door. I noticed them AFTER I got in the truck and shut the door. Luckily I didn’t get stung, and we quickly dowsed the nests in hornet killer. When I was washing the dirt and grime off the truck, as well as vacuuming it out, I discovered no less than 35 separate wasp nests. And there are still more that I haven’t eliminated yet (tons under the bed, in the doors, etc).
The truck was missing the driver’s window as well as the back winder when I got it. Really was a good thing it had been stored in a desert, really was a bad thing dog’s had made a kennel out of it. The seats and door panels couldn’t be more shredded. I’m currently actively looking for replacement glass for the thing. No real luck on that front, yet.
In the month or so that I had to plan for the new Rampage, I tracked down a pair of engines that a local friend was selling. One is known good, it came from his Rampage that he upgraded to a turbo motor, and the other is a bit of an unknown. The unknown motor was rumored to be a race motor, or otherwise have been used in a race car at some point. Although it had been rumored to have been sitting around for 8+ years since that last race. Needless to say, I tore into the “race motor” as soon as I got home and got them unloaded. (For the record, two engines in the back of a lowered Rampage are no problem at all, if you drive gently. :)
The first thing I found was a special cam. I have no idea what cam it is, but it’s got paint on it, which is common on performance cams. It’s a slider cam, though, so I don’t see myself even using it. Note the studs in the cam caps. That’s because this is the elusive, 1 year only, very rare, 655 head.
Look at the size of those intake ports! All the later heads, the 455, 287, 782, the intake ports start a good quarter inch higher. Everyone always assumed the gasket was made by an idiot. Turns out this is the head that the gasket was designed for (why?!). Anyways, the head looks to be near mint, aside from having sat so long. I’m going to save it for some worthy project in the future.
This engine also had a brand new clutch. Sadly, it’s just an N/A clutch/flywheel, not a turbo one. But still nice, as the good motor had a very very bad clutch, and the truck came with an equally bad clutch.
WTF.. This is a G head turbo piston. Not an N/A piston. One thing I forgot to mention, this “race motor” had an oil return tube sticking out the back of it. So it was an ’84 turbo block. That oil return tube was capped off, and the engine had a carb intake and exhaust manifold on it.
So, ’84 turbo block and turbo pistons (+.020’s, so it’s been rebuilt).. Should have the early heavy rods in it…..
NO… It’s got lightweight rods.. Man I forgot how scary thin those things were! Pardon the rust and crud in there. Turns out the head gasket had been blown before they decommissioned this engine. More on that in a minute. Anyways, time for some wild speculation.. I’m thinking the block came from a parts store, one of their “rebuilt short blocks” they sell with whatever parts the last guy turned in for core, and rebuilt to barely adequate standards with cheap parts. I could probably make this motor run, but it’s best as a core to rebuild with proper rods/pistons.
Ouch.. Perhaps it was dropped while in storage. Otherwise this thing would have been hemorrhaging oil!
I couldn’t turn the intermediate shaft so I pulled the oil pump. Then I couldn’t turn the oil pump so I took it apart. It entered it’s long slumber with some of that oil coolant milkshake from the blown head gasket still up inside the pump. This pump is done. So was the oil pan and oil pickup.
Back on topic, I didn’t waste any time on the new truck. Spent 12 hours driving to get the truck and driving back with the truck on Saturday. Sunday morning I washed and vacuumed the thing. Sunday afternoon I had the old dead engine out. It had spent it’s 5 years in the desert with no valve cover or oil pan installed on it. And no air filter on the carb. Some small field rodent had made the oil galley in the head it’s home during that time. It stunk, bad.
I had a lot of trouble getting the trans onto the clutch. I used the clutch from the “race motor” which had sat around rusting for 8+ years, so perhaps the splines were a bit rusty. I got tired of almost knocking the engine over while trying to slide the input shaft into the clutch to mate the transmission. So finally I just stood the engine up on it’s face and lifted the trans up, lined up the bolt holes on the bell housing, and let the transmission’s own weigh do the work. Just took a little jiggle and thunk, it plunged home.
Before Sunday afternoon was over, I had the new engine installed in the engine bay, hanging from the motor mounts. This is the known good motor I got from my friend as seen above in the bed of my truck. I didn’t really cover any of the basic work I had done to prep this motor. Mostly just painted up some of the rusty parts of the block with POR15 to protect it, kill the rust, and make it look nicer. I also eliminated a ton of emissions crap. It still had the smog pump on the thing. Bleh!
While removing the carburetor from the engine that came with the truck, I noticed it had a roller camshaft under all that dirt and rodent nest. I went ahead and pulled it, not expecting to be able to salvage it. It’s amazing how well that desert air protects things. I simply wiped it with a rag and all of the grime went away. Still shiny and spotless underneath. No rust problems whatsoever. So I installed it in the good engine. As you can see, this “good engine” has had a very long and oil leaking life. It will definitely see some engine degreaser once it’s up and running.
A one piece gasket on a TBI valve cover does wonders for controlling the oil, keeping it inside the engine where it belongs. This was actually left over from my good Rampage’s first engine. I had upgraded that engine to this valve cover from the junkyard years back. But retired it when I swapped in the 2.5L turbo motor.
Next up it got a brand new timing belt. I LOVE that they’re like $9 brand new for this year motor. Crazy cheap. I also had a brand new water pump on my Rampage’s old motor, so I swapped that over to this one. I also had some nearly new spark plugs in my toolbox from eons ago. The plugs in this motor were completely fouled in carbon, and they were crappy platinums.
My Rampage’s old motor also still had it’s Nippendenso alternator that I’d upgraded it to, hanging from it. It took me a bit of digging to find the tensioner bracket for it, but I found it in the end. There was no way I was going to put that POS massive 60’s chrysler alternator back on this thing. The alt belt was just one I had laying around in the back of my garage, probably from my old motor as well.
I didn’t get any before pictures of the carburetor, unfortunately, but take my word for it, it was as black and grimy as the head pictured above. This is the carb that was open to the elements for 5 years and came with this truck. I took it to work and ran it though 3 different parts washer solvent tanks to get it clean. Completely tore it down and blew out all of the passages in it. Put it back together with a rebuild kit.
The carburetor that was on the “known good” motor that’s in the truck now was the computer controlled “feedback” carb, whereas this is the higher performance non computer controlled model. Still, these carbs are unreliable at best. It gets one chance to work right, and if it fails, I’ll just convert the truck to fuel injection.
So that’s where it sits right now. I’ve had the truck for 6 days at this point. I’d like to fire off the engine this weekend. I’ll definitely post some video of that, as well as any other updates I have along the way.