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Chevelle 283 to a 496 BluePrint Crate Engine

2/20/2018
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There’s a saying that I like to use, “If you’re going to go overboard, you may as well grab the anchor on your way down.”

A sneak preview. Note the coffin in the upper left.

I have to bite my lip when I think about saying this Chevelle “repaint” project has spiraled out of control. I’m hoping that this year will see the completion of what’s turned into a complete restoration/restomod build on this timid 283 Malibu. If not, there’s always next year.

Part of the problem with keeping a project like this in check, is working around car goodies all day. I find things that I never even thought about wanting. That’s sort of how this became a big block project car and I can’t think of a better heavy hunk of iron to be my overboard anchor.

Speedway Motors has sold Blueprint Crate Engines for some time now. They provide power and value that can only be achieved with the economy of scale they have built in out of Kearney, NE. It’s truly an impressive company.

As part of our relationship with them, we use engines as display models from time to time. Essentially, we uncrate them and install them in a car, or chassis, and they travel to shows to be displayed. Some are made to run, like the 383 in our purple and white tribute T, then some are static and stay sealed up.

This big block was one of the latter. It used to live in a ’40 Ford chassis that we toured about five years ago. It was removed and replaced with a dressed 302 to show the versatility of our chassis system.

After the engine came out, cast iron heads became a scarce commodity for BPE to find cores to rebuild and Speedway Motors had to discontinue the proprietary budget 496 package. So, there it sat in the staging area of Speedway’s “Garage Sale” department.

Left Photo: 503HP @ 5500 / 578LBFT @ 3800 - - Right Photo: He followed me home, can I keep him?

Meanwhile, at home, the dumpster fire that was the Chevelle project raged on. It kept falling farther apart and more issues continued to appear. So hey, what the heck? Let’s create one more!

Shows how much you know! I like sleeping on the couch! (note coffin storage)

Yep. I did. I love the ‘Garage Sale’ stuff! I brought the 496 home on Earth Day 2015. Seemed fitting for an engine that will likely get 8-10 mpg. Of course, this opened up a whole can of worms regarding the rest of the drive train, etc. It also allowed me to address the grungy engine bay and re-home a pretty decent little 283.

Flash forward to this past year. Things had really been rolling on the Chevelle and then they sort of ended up on the back burner. With winter quickly approaching, I made a resolution to not touch any Chevelle related stuff without making some sort of progress on the part I touched.

This brings me to the coffin. Yes, we have a coffin. Don’t ask how it’s more about the “Why?” We go further than most when we decorate for Halloween including; concrete tombstones, skeletons, a coffin, and even a seven-foot scary clown. Yeah, we're “those people”.

Anyway, this all generally happens the last weekend of September. I have a storage lift that consists of a platform, attached to a cable system and a winch. For the eleven months out of the year when we’re not using the coffin, it’s high up on the lift. Things have a way of accumulating in the space below. One of those things this year was the 496. I touched it to move it out of the way for decorating day. So, it got painted.

Like any paint project, preparation is 90% of success. Engines are no exception. Since this one was more complete than most that I paint, the masking was a little more intensive. I like to use aluminum foil to cover large areas. It forms to any shape and you can scrunch it into tight spots and tape it down.

I started by thoroughly flushing the surfaces to be painted with lacquer thinner to remove any oil, dirt and poorly applied paint. This step includes the chrome parts and other places to be masked. It helps the tape adhere well so you don’t get any surprises while you’re spraying.

Next, I applied all the edges with ¾” 3M painters tape. Then I form the foil and hit those edges with 2” 3M tape. For the exhaust ports, I used an inexpensive Engine Blockoff Kit from Speedway Motors. Normally, I have some sacrificial spark plugs laying around. This time I left the new ones in and stuck sacrificial boots on them.

When it comes to spraying the paint on an engine, I like to start with a very light dust coat to see if there are any areas that want to fish-eye. If there are, you can re-clean the area without too much fuss, or excess wet paint. In this instance, everything went down smoothly. 2-3 good coats with Dupli-Color Chevy orange did the job well.

Don’t forget to get down low and shoot paint upward too. It’ll make you mad the first time you change the oil if you don’t.

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