241 Hemi Long Block Rebuild Part Two
After taking my time in tearing down the long block, I knew it was time to have a qualified machine shop take a look at the parts to make sure I wasn’t fighting a losing battle. When choosing a machine shop I would advise you to work from word of mouth. I talked to all of my hot rod friends to see who they would recommend. Take your time and find a shop that suits you, your budget, and the type of engine you are building. Luckily two talented guys were recommended to me who worked right next door to Speedway Motors at Car Quest Machine. Larry and Joe met me at the door when I brought my old Hemi down to drop it off. I had a lot of questions and they answered every one while not making me feel like a rookie. They were honest about the risk, and price, but most importantly seemed genuinely interested in my project. Be sure when selecting a machine shop you also have a good feeling about the people you decide to work with. It is ok to have questions because a vintage engine rebuild is a complicated ordeal that takes time and requires parts from many sources. With a good team in place the next order of business was to clean the block and heads and have them magnufluxed. I was worried about the damaged frost plugs, but Larry got back to me with good news that the block and heads looked good with no damage from freezing.
Next the shop looked over the bores and took some measurements so pistons, rings, and bearings could be ordered. Larry recommended we go .040 over on the pistons and .010 under on rod and main bearings. I knew who to call! Egge Machine has been a go-to place for vintage engine builders for years. They are a family owned business in Santa Fe Springs, California and manufacture pistons for a wide variety of applications. Along with pistons they also supplied other parts I would need for the engine.
I gave them a call and a week later a box arrived with new pistons, cam bearings, rod bearings, new pin bushings, valves, valve guides, timing chain, sprockets, lifters, and a complete gasket set. At the time they were out of .010 under main bearings so I considered taking what they had (the next step under). Old hot rodders have talked about the weak spot of these old Hemis being the crank shaft, so I decided against taking too much material away and waited for the .010 mains. The wait wasn’t long at all and a couple of weeks later I had exactly what I needed! I was really impressed with how the Egge replacement Hemi pistons looked when I pulled them out of the box! Great work!
I brought all of my new parts down to the machine shop so they Larry and Joe could keep moving forward with boring the block, and turning the crank. Along with the typical work, Joe noticed some wear in the distributor drive bushing, so he replaced it with a new one.
While the guys were busy with the bare block, I turned my attention to finding a cam. No one currently makes a new cam for a 241 Hemi. I emailed Hotheads Research in Lowgap NC and Bob Walker wrote back. Bob was a tremendous help and I would advise anyone looking to buy goodies for their early Hemi to contact the good folks at Hotheads. Bob explained he was all out of NOS cams, but had an option for a billet roller. That wasn’t appropriate for my little engine, so he went on to explain how I could have my stock cam reground. He turned me on to Racer Brown Cams who had been well known for having the best grind around for a little street driven 241 like mine. He was right and after a call to Racer Brown I boxed up my extremely worn cam to have it welded and reground. Instead of waiting for the work to be done, Racer Brown had a 241 cam ready for me on an exchange basis and I had a like new piece in my hands in just a few days.
I took the cam to the machine shop to add it to the growing pile of parts. When doing so I noticed another customer's early Hemi heads sitting by the door. Larry mentioned he was doing some porting work on them and offered to do mine too. Given the ports on the 241 are small and have some rough spots; I gave Larry the go-ahead to smooth them out for me. I am glad I did, and was really astonished with the difference when he was done. The heads were looking good after being cleaned and ported. They had their new hardened seats installed, new valves, springs, and retainers; rockers assemblies were next on the list. My old engine was not going to be a ¼-mile screamer, just an old road-going hot rod so fancy billet stands with roller tipped rockers were not needed. I opted to have the original shaft rockers cleaned and checked for any issues. This is where Hotheads Hemi Research came to the rescue again! For a small fee they did a complete rebuild of my rocker assemblies. It took about a week and a half, but before I knew it they were back on my door step looking good as new.
Hotheads was also an invaluable resource for finding some other tough pieces. They came to the rescue by selling me a new stock style oil pump, oil pump pickup, oil pan stud kit, ARP rod bolts, oil pump priming rod, PCV valve conversion kit for my stock valley cover, and most importantly, a set of adjustable push tubes. While adjustable rocker arms were available in some industrial variations of the 241, they are extremely rare. The alternative for dialing in your valve adjustments is to obtain a set of these adjustable push tubes. You will read much about what great attention to detail Chrysler, Dodge, and Desoto put into the machine work and casting of their engines. Fit and finish in addition to overall quality of workmanship really stands out when you spend some time working on one of these early Hemis. It was amazing how symmetrical the casting on my old block was when checked. It did not require any corrections at the machine shop to be right. Just recently all of the machine work was completed on my engine and we were ready to begin assembly. I cannot stress enough the importance of cleaning everything extremely well before beginning the process. We used a pressure washer, and then lacquer thinner until the rags came out perfectly clean after wiping the cylinder bores.
Everything went together perfectly. The key is to take your time, use a good assembly lube, and check all clearances. A year had passed since I first began tearing this old engine apart, and now it is on the brink of its new life in my 29 Roadster. It was a good feeling loading the assembled long block into the back of my truck to bring it home, but there is much more to be done. I hope you will tune in again and come along for the next steps of making this old Dodge come back to life!