12.99/$1,299 Update – You’re cracking me up…


When and where does persistence and determination loose the battle to broken parts?


That’s about where I am right now…see we knew it was a water problem and we knew – or better hoped that it was the head gaskets and after being fired up by the onslaught of internet warriors and “why didn’t you do this or that” crowd I again put my head down and tore the top end off the 350 sitting inside our attempt at the 12.99 Challenge.

Before I get to the “good news or bad news” part of this entry I would like first address a couple things…like say engineering of a new car.

Now I have stated in so many articles both in Cars Illustrated and other magazines I’ve written for that I do not know it all, but once I have the chance to do it, I normally pick it up pretty quickly and can remember it for the next time I run into the same repair or situation – example was the past 12.99 entry where I talk about how though I’m no expert, I would now feel comfortable helping you if you need to trouble shoot a TPI system.  No this is a bigger picture type of issue…one where even though I have held Chevrolet and their F-body platform on a pedestal for so many years have honestly never really dug into one other than on the basis of body and paint or a series of interior restoration videos I’ve helped host and shoot. Now yes, trim, headliners and dash pads all have their little tricks and tweaks you need to know to either remove of reinstall, but these items do not need six different wrenches or ratchets to pull one part.

Enter the passenger side of the L98 residing inside the engine compartment of my Z28….

What the f@%k…seriously what the f&*k (in the way that silly parrot says it on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoSr6ZG2UcU FYI – NSFW language) was the team at crack2Chevrolet thinking when they decided to put this thing together. Now surely there is a tidal-wave of mechanics and enthusiasts that are saying “been there – done that” a million time over, but sorry for me…it’s a first. I’ve pulled a motor out of a car before but never a third-gen and it was for lack of ways to say it – it’s a little son of a b@&%h.

Torx bolts going this way, studs with nuts going that way, ridiculous brackets posts assuredly for support going from here to there and the whole time flip-flopping worse than a politician talking gun reform – back and forth from metric to SAE like a teeter-totter…and then there was that passenger side exhaust manifold. No wonder there is a high chance that your IROC is not running right or hampered by a exhaust leak because that little son-of-a-b@#$h had my number for at least an hour and several attempts to remove before I called in one of my “life lines” to Mike and of course what does he do…walks over to his Snap-On box that is about the size of a dually crew-cab, grabs a couple specialty tools and bam, that sucker is out.

crack3 crack4NOTE: I have been trying to stick to the essence of the 12.99 that anyone can do this and everyone should try. I’m in there at ProTek and yes I have access to the lift and yes what I would considered normal everyday tools, but I’m not just relying of “Mr. Mechanical Genius” to do this all for me and I take the glory. In fact we have a rolling joke that we keep track of how many times I need to pull Mike aside from his normal workload inside HIS shop to mess around with my junk during the work day – it was twice by the way while I removed the top-end of the L98 and only because I need him to climb into his “magic tool box” and walk over and remove two blots and laugh at me while he walked away and proceeded to a job that would make him money and not just help me with our quest for 12.99. Yes, this is where you all start typing an email up on why you know all of this and how did I get this job if you never have…but that is an old rant so let’s move on.

Now this was the moment of truth, once all the bolts and brackets were removed I took the time to pull the rockers and push rods out before pulling the heads only because I wanted to lift them off with Mike at my side so we could learn the fate of the little small block and the same time…and it gave me something to do while he was eating lunch and I don’t mind doing the janitor stuff like cleaning parts. But now there was nowhere left to go but – as they say “lift with your legs” and it was not the news we wanted….

I pulled off the driver’s side first and nothing seemed wrong, other than some milkshake residue and build up of being ran hard and crack5put away wet for 170,000 miles all seemed fine…then I pulled the passenger side and that’s where it all started to sink in…things are not fine. Like a flower in the sun blooming with all its glory the skirting between cylinder six and four was obviously cracked horrifically and as I lifted the head the block did the same thing as the pressure of being bolted down was the only thing keeping it together…and with nothing more than a little tug two huge chunks came off in my hand.

Can we revisit the parrot video again…

Is it the end? Again I say no….in fact hell no.

After putting all the tools away, cleaning up my work area and placing a cloth over the engine like a dead body on a crime show I just walked away and started to think…WWTDD – What Would Tony Defeo Do.

crack6Well I called Tony and as always – after telling me what I did wrong and what I should have done for a few minutes that part of the conversation was over he started to toss out the same solutions I was already pondering…all solutions but one – weld it.

Weld up a cast iron block?

After hearing Tony’s input and doing a little research on the internet – out of the blue Mike calls me and what does he say…”maybe we could weld it up?” – Great minds do think alike. At this point I say why not try…see there is a couple directions to go at this point and quitting is not one of them.

One direction would be find a short block and use our heads/TPI parts – but this could push the last $374 over the top and fail. Another is to find a bare block, but this could be a whole list of problems with piston/bore and finding an old block that has not been over bored for cheap is again a question of remaining budget.

Why not weld it…it would be the “Cars Illustrated way” and it only has to stay together for a 12.99 pass – okay it will hopefully make a 12.99 on the first run, but let’s be serious it could take some work once it gets on the road…but I can only go up from its current time slip – a blank one.

So with that I’ve been the guru of investigation on welding up a cast iron small block and have ran into some interesting data floating around on the internet – it can and has been done. I know, I know there is already several of you out there either saying one of two things…done it, why haven’t you already done it and duh…would have done this or that to prevent it OR you are saying I’m nuts to try it and hope it does not oil down the track as you try to spray a welded 80’s small block in my quest for 12.99…

One thing is for sure…I’m not out of the game and with a little help from some locals figuring how to approach this hurdle, Mike and I are still on the path to victory…or the nut house.



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