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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

'57 Bel Air Fuel Pump

2/12/2018

If you read the first ’57 Chevy article about the heater core, you already know that the fuel pump in that car needed attention too. As it happened, this was the perfect time to swap the pump. With the heater blower out of the way and the coolant drained, it allowed me nearly unfettered access to the fuel pump after I disconnected the lower radiator hose.

Back when Chevy first introduced the small block V8 in 1955, they did a few things differently than what later became the standard. The biggest difference is in how the engine is mounted. Factory 265 or 283 from 55-57 don’t have engine side mounts cast into the block like later casting do. They instead used a mid-mount at the bellhousing and mount feet at the front corners of the block. These are bolt bosses that remained on later SBC designs, but didn’t always serve as mount attachment.

This is important because one of the tricks to servicing a fuel pump is keeping the push rod up and out of your way while you re-install the lever in the block.

The top bolt boss on the passenger’s side, in most cases, is drilled and threaded through and gives you access to the fuel pump pushrod galley.

Sometimes the threads aren’t clean all the way through to the galley. This is why I keep a 1-1/4” long 3/8” bolt in my toolbox that has the last 3/8” of the threads at the end turned-down just under the minor diameter of the threads. This allows the end of the bolt to peek into the galley even if the hole tightens up at the end. It looks a lot like a quick-start thread on a wheel stud.

Okay, so here’s where things get interesting. I mentioned the engine mounts before because as it turns out, I forgot to check the tightness of the other three bolts before I removed the one that leads to the pushrod. I’ll bet you can guess what happened next? Yep, the engine sagged a little on that side after the bolt was out. Not right away, and not much, but enough to keep me from restarting a bolt. Another lesson learned, but I was able to put a 2x12 scrap on my jack and gently lift the engine back up the 1/8” that I needed. Doing so, I was able to get my specialty bolt in the hole to keep the pushrod from dropping when the pump was removed.

After the pump was off, I checked to see how far down in the stroke the pushrod was and rolled the engine over slightly to get on the low side of the cam lobe. Always be sure to loosen the bolt pinning the push rod before you attempt this. Before you loosen the bolt, be sure to hold the pushrod up with your finger so it doesn’t drop down against the cover plate. This is where an extra set of hands is useful.

I lucked out with this project as it already had a Carter fuel pump on it. I was able to find an exact replacement that allowed the fittings and fuel line to directly transfer. I used Speedway's Carter M4891 Small Block Chevy 120 GPH Fuel Pump, part #2604891. Something else I always do is apply a generous glob of moly paste to the wear surface on the actuator lever of the pump. This allows the pushrod and lever to “wear-in” together like a new cam and lifter. Excessive wear may occur otherwise.

Another little trick that aids in reassembly is coating the gasket in either spray sealant or a thin layer of silicone. This lets you stick the gasket to the pump and makes it much easier to align the bolts without damage to the gasket.

After the pump is bolted up tight, remove the long bolt holding the pushrod in place and replace it with the original bolt. Apply a small amount of sealant to prevent oil leaks.

Something else to consider is if your engine didn’t have a bolt here before, you should think about installing a very short one (½” or less) with a little silicone on the threads. After all, you don’t want the oil getting out or dirt getting in.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of hooking the fuel lines back up, but I did replace the rubber hoses and filter while I was in there. I’d always rather do it in the driveway than on the side of the road.

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