Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scouting Machine and Transmission Shops

Hey you people, thanks for stopping by!

Yesterday and today I went on a couple of field trips to places that specialize in some of the work I cannot do myself: Transmissions and Engine Machining shops.

One of the downsides about being around the Knoxville area is that it is not really MOPAR country.  The predominant hotrods around here are Ford and GM, so my trip ended up being a bit of a detective story mixed in with a fact-finding mission.

I started off prudently with a Google search for machine shops in Knoxville, and that was not as productive as you might think, especially since I drive around without any of that newfangled Global Position System stuff in the Jeep.  Over on Middlebrook Pike I decided to stop in at Machine Fabrication & Supply and see if they had a good machine shop to recommend.  We had a nice chat about all manner of other stuff too.

However, we had to run down the names and locations of several shops that were no longer in business, along with my specific needs.  Since I am not building a race car, a place called Eagle Racing Engines was probably not the place for me to waste anybody's time with. What I need is pretty basic: Line honing, boring, and cylinder clearancing.  the guys suggested B&R Automotive on Chapman Highway.

B&R has the right look for a machine shop anywhere: Open and lots of engine blocks with a busy staff.  I chatted with them and got a very good feeling that those fellows knew what they were doing.  They also filled me in that when I bring my engine to them, they want it taken down as close to just the block as I can get it, as well as bringing any parts I want them to install, like the crank.  They also do heads and other aspects of heavy duty engine work.  However, their main line is big engines, like industrial diesel engines and such.

B&R referred me to Performance Products on Callahan road for rotating assemblies and such.  Their resident MOPAR guy said PP had the best deals on rotating assemblies.

So, today after doing my duty and driving my mother-in-law to several of her appointments, I got back out and checked around some more.  First stop was Transmission World, which has the other "right look" for their type of business.  Lots of customer work parked outside, and the inside was pretty clean too.  They also had a 1972 Charger up on an indoor rack, which is just gravy really.

Spoke with the manager, Jim Ray, and he was familiar with what I want to do with my Torqueflite 904 transmission.  A very positive sign for my first transmission shop stop.

Next up, drive across the county to Performance Products.  We had a good long chat while the guy behind the counter tried to find the rotating assembly.  Bad news, he had them in the catalogue for every MOPAR V-8 except mine.  We chatted about various other stuff, like good head manufacturers vs. bad ones and the like.  Through the conversation he mentioned Hensley's and asked me if I knew of them.  I didn't by name, but by the location I think it is a place my late uncle Jim used to talk about all the time.  I almost didn't go there right away, but I said "what the hay" and set a course for Clinton Highway.

Paydirt!  When I arrived, I got to talk to Ken Hensley himself and he took a good 30 minutes out of his busy day to talk to me about this 318 Six Pack project.  Through decades of experience, his shop knows how to clearance a block for a stroker, he had immediate suggestions for the right heads, cam, and intake manifold, as well as a strong reasoned opinion on EFI vs. Carbs.

I was still deciding between MPFI and a Holley Six-Pack setup and now I've decided: Holley.  For heads and intake, one answer: Edelbrock.  I mentioned the negative things I'd heard about Edelbrock's recent history and he explained every concern to my satisfaction.  So when I get to the heads and intake, I will be going Edelbrock and Hensley's will be smoothing out the ports.

Now that I have that decision made, I have a fuel line to clean out or replace so I can get my engine running again.  Going to try the carb cleaner method first before going for a replacement.

Please, help me keep my Pirate Dinghy afloat and donate with the buttons on the right.

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