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Douglas Willinger
Tribal Scout

1 Posts

Posted - 15 Apr 2018 :  10:34:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
1970 WS 400 Ram Air 3/4 434 Build

3" journal, 4" stroke

Am having a rebuild of my 1970 Trans Am's original WS/9799915 400 block, dated January 6, 1970. (Ram Air III code up front, with the Ram Air IV modified casting number, of which a few were built.) Factory equipped lucerne blue with deluxe blue interior, with M-21 close ratio Muncie and 3.73:1 ratio Chevrolet 12 bolt, produced in February 1970 in Lordstown, Ohio. I purchased the car in December 1979 from self identified 3rd owner who had found in Waco, Texas, and soon afterwards had the engine rebuilt with stock specs, and a 0.30 overbore in 1977. At the time I purchased it, the car had a decal "City Motors, Fairborn, Ohio".

I drove it from 1980 to November 1982 when I spun a rod bearing and subsequently took the engine and car apart.

Started a resto-modification during the mid 1980s, with the idea of stock appearance with subtle and internal improvements.

R&R the sub-frame-suspension with better bushings, and big car spindles with ILE discs, and the 12 bolt, upgraded with c clip eliminator kit and 1979-1981 rear discs, with the main parts powder-coated, and replacing all brake and fuel lines with SSB stainless replacement parts.

Being aware of vin numbers but not of date codes, I sold the #12 cylinder heads to a friend of a friend who installed them on his 1977 or 1978 TA, and purchased a set of #614 service replacement heads, as part of a plan including two main parts: (1) upgrade to Ram Air IV, and (2) provide a greater punch with a longer stroke crankshaft, most economically then provided by a 3.25 main journal factory crankshaft re-machined to fit the 3" journals fof the 400. But not with a 4.21 stroke of a 455 but rather the 4" stroke of a 428, thus providing in the range of 433-435 cubic inches, to give some extra torque while retaining a greater degree of rev ability.

Stored indoors from late 1980s until Spring 2002 as I got distracted by a 1972 455HO GTO, and subsequently stored outdoors covered in plywood and plastic until February 2017, where the powder coat failed and needs redoing, though the SSB parts appear to not have aged a day. (Am seeking a shop to restore body before taking to a friend's "Firebird Farm" for assembly).

Engine parts stored indoors continuously, with the WS block which was stored continuously indoors, and is now in machine shop where it checked out ok for an overbore to 0.40. As we now have a multitude of aftermarket internal engine parts, rebuilding with stronger parts is considerably less money than during the 1900s. The best bang for the buck appears to be a SCAT 4" stroke forged standard weight crankshaft with BBC Callies rods, the latter being only about $250 costlier than Eagle or SCAT 4340s, but with apparently better strength qualities for greater sustained higher rpm operation.

I desire keeping this car with a manual transmission, but want greater flexibility, as the original M-21 close ratio with 3.73 differential gives nice torque multiplication (2.20 first gear), but alas 4000 rpm at 80 mph in top (4th) gear.

Ideally I want to switch to a 5 or 6 speed manual transmission. The most prevalent today appears to be the Tremacs, but I am more intrigued by the Richmond, for two main reasons: (1) its far wider selection of gearing options, and (2) what I read years ago when it was known as the Doug Nash, about the greater efficiency of placing the gear multiplication more within the transmission than in the differential, with steeper transmission gearing coupled with a 2 series rear rather than a high 4 series or 4 series differential coupled with an overdrive. But as I would like to reduce expenses where I already have something which could more easily be swapped later, I plan on switching to an M-20 wide ratio for now, (and with the rear having to come part to re-do the powder-coat) with the 3.73 gears replaced with either 3.31 or 3.07s. See and compare the following comparison between these transmissions:

2.20 1.64 1.24 1.0

with 3.73
8.206 6.1172 4.6252 3.73

2.52 1.88 1.46 1.00

with 3.31
8.34 6.22 4.8326 3.31

with 3.07
7.73 5.7716 4.48 3.07

Note, that the M-20/3.07 combo gives not all that much less overall multiplication than the M-21/3.73 combo, and that the M-20/3.31 combo gives a bit more. With regards to the greater torque of the longer stroke and more modern camshafts, never-mind that Pontiacs were generally more torquey than the Chevrolet engines that led the close ratio trend, this appears to give a great bang for the buck, especially with the 3.31.

But what about the things that should and must be set now?

My basic engine recipe consists of (1) factory 1970 1970 WS 4 bolt main 400 block; (2) aftermarket rotating assembly of a SCAT 4340 forged steel 3" journal, 4" stroke crank swinging BBC Callies rods holding either forged or billet pistons with full floating pins; (3) rebuilt 1970 7040270 (1974 service replacement) Quadrajet; (4) 1971 455HO factory aluminum intake; (5) 2.5 outlet coated RARE Ram Air style exhaust manifolds; (6) 1970 614 heads (1973 service replacements) previously milled thus reducing the combustion chambers from 70-72cc to 65-67cc, with the cross-over ports filled with aluminum), with a moderate degree of porting added, perhaps to 270cfm rater than 330 cfm to minimize adversely affecting lower lift flow.

The basic idea is an externally stock appearing engine with significant internal improvements for far greater power while retaining street-road drive ability and longevity.

But what about?

- Pistons? I know they will be flat top design with added D dish somewhat reflecting the combustion chamber shape for better flame propagation to lower the compression ration from the 12 :1 or so that I would have with my already milled 614 heads, or the II+ that I would have with if they were at their factory 70-72cc sizing. But which brand id most preferable? Ross? Icon? CP/Carrillo? Diamond? Or? Benefits and drawbacks of each type, including forged and billet? My machinist dislike Icon, citing inferior sizing tolerance, while a thread I have seen shows a preference for CP and Diamond over Icon or Ross as the choice of serious racers.

- Rod length- 6.7 or 6.8? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each? I have seen a reference to the 6.8 rod in a 4" stroke Pontiac as ideal. Does it have any drawbacks with providing less space for the rings?

- Compression? I would ideally like to run straight 93 octane pump premium, or at least limit the amount of fuel spiking - E85, Race or Octane Boaster - to retain flexibility for lengthier trips. Some considerations: As my machinist recommends a square cutting of the heads, this shall reduce the now at 65-67cc chambers to say 62-64cc. Thus, I want to minimize any decking of the block for the sake of retaining more of a heat sink, and also minimize the size of the piston dish so as to retain flexibility for swapping heads without having to likewise mill any such replacement heads. For instance, setting the compression at 9.5 with 63 cc heads would mean probably high 8s with 72 cc heads. As I intend to always run this engine with iron Ram Air heads that came with 70-72cc from the factory, together with a more aggressive cam, I would like to set the compression of this engine build for 72cc heads to at least 10 to 1, and thus about 10.75 with 63cc heads.

Indeed, I note a comment

"Rick Holladay is adamant about using the 4" stroke in his engines. His 3,700 lb. '65 GTO ragtop has been 10.73 on 93 octane, 4-speed and all. " 455 or 428 ?


- Camshaft. My initial idea was a hydraulic roller for the potential for more area under the curve and the reduced rotational friction. But I am told of problems such as of use above 6000 rpm (I would like the capacity for sustained 6500-7000 capability), e.g. pump up, or worse a catastrophic lifter failure. Also, would not much of the friction reduction benefits from the roller be negated by the required greater valve spring pressure. I have had suggested to me the option of a solid roller. Asides from the added maintenance, what is the deal with its friction issues- e.g. are its friction reduction negated by the value springs? What's the issue of the distributes gear with either a hydraulic or solid roller setup? And given how flat tappet camshaft technology evolved by the mid 1980s with lobes considerably more aggressive than those of the 1960s, how much of a bang for the buck would either a hydraulic or solid roller give over the more proven technology of the hydraulic flat tappet cams from the mid 1980s and later, which open and close the valves significantly quicker then the 1960s era cams?

A quick comparison:

1969-1970 Ram Air III automatic
9779068 288/302 212/225 LSA 116.0
1969-1970 Ram Air III manual
9785744 301/313 224/236 LSA 115.5
1969-1970 Ram Air IV
9794041 308/320 231/240 LSA 113.5

Butler recommended hydraulic roller with 9.5cr
CCA-3315 / 3316 282/288 230/236 .340/.347 .510/ .521 .544/.555

Jim Lehert recommended SR
CCA-3315/3316 282/288 230/236 0.510"/0.521"@1.5 0.544/0.555@1.6 110 LSA,
CCA-3316/3317 288/294 236/242 0 .521"/0.540"@1.5 0.555/0.576@1.6

Butler recommended hydraulic flat tappet with 10.5 cr
XE284H 284/296, 240/246, .507/.510, 110 Hyd. (112 lsa optional)

Other HYDRAULIC FLAT Tappet Cams

Competition Cams
CCA-51-224-4 274/286 230/236 .488 I - .491 110 1800-6000
CCA-51-225-4 284 /296 240/ 246 .507 I - .510 110 2300-6500
CCA-51-226-4 294/306 250/256 .519 I - .524 110 2800-6500

Lunati Voodoo
10510703 268/276 227/233 .489/.504 LSA/ICL: 110/106 1600-5800
10510704LK 276/284 233/241 504/.527 LSA/ICL 110/106 2000-6000
10510705LK 284/292 241/249 .527/.548 LSA/ICL 110/106 2400-6200

I had to review these figures myself to see that somewhat surprisingly, that the more recent roller cams offer not so much more in opening tand closing he valves then I expected. Sure they do so way more so than the 1960s cams, but not so much with the 1980s+ hydraulic cams. For instance a 1960s 230@0.50 cam being well over 300advertsied duration (a spread of 70-80degrees), yet both the rollers and the later flat tappets such cams being high 270s/low280s advertised duration (a spread of 40-50 degrees). As I was already aware of this with my circa 1984 Comp Cams 280 flat tappet, I was hoping to see this spread between advertised and 0.50 duration reduced a bit further, perhaps at least down to 30 degrees.

Give that the roller cams are apparently not much more aggressive then the more recent flat tappet cams, I still see a potential benefit in a roller for reduced friction. But again, what is the consensus regarding how much any such friction reduction is negated by the increased valve spring pressure, as well as the reliability issues?
Perhaps a solid roller is better than a hydraulic roller due to it having greater simplicity.

But given the relative spreads between advertised and 0.50 duration lift, is the benefit worth the significantly greater cost of the parts?

And as well, what about the surrender of the added benefits of the long proven technology of having lifters that are variable duration? AKA Rhodes lifters?

Jim Hand apparently got good results with Rhodes lifters, allowing a larger cam allowing greater upper rpm power with the Rhoads variable lifter reducing the duration at lower rpms thus improving power there and thus providing greater power over a broader rpm range.

In now reviewing the Rhoads lifter line, I see that in addition to their "Original Rhoads Lifters" that they now offer two extra lines, "V-Pro Street" and "V-Max Race", each of which is adjustable. The V-Pro Street lifters can be adjusted to vary the bleed-down to reduce the lower rpm lift .010" to .025", and the likewise duration between 5 and 15 degrees at .050" cam lift, with full lift and duration coming on by about 3500 rpm. The V-Max Race are likewise adjustable to reduce lower rpm lift by as much as 0.40, and duration between 5 and 20 degrees @0.50, with full lift and duration coming on by about 4000rpm. Each of these newer adjustable lines of lifters offer greater flexibility than the original Rhodes lifters which are non adjustable and which reduce lower speed lift by about 0.10" to .020" and duration about 10-15 degrees, with full lift and duration arriving at about 3500rpm. Since the bleed-down is going to likely increase the engine's dynamic compression at lower rpms, this added adjustable feature could be quite useful in tailoring the duration and lift curves to work better with the higher static compression permitted by the cam's intrinsic duration profile, as well as further fine tuning with the flow of the cylinder head's porting.

Interestingly, Rhoads offers an additional sub variant of these adjustable variable duration lifters- rollers, yet alas not for Pontiac. Ideally I would like to see such developed for Pontiac engines and refined to ensure greater reliability, but alas that has not happened, at least not yet.


Edited by - Douglas Willinger on 15 Apr 2018 10:45:12 PM

Steve C.
Crazy Horse

1739 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  12:42:10 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
10.75 compression with iron heads in conjunction with a cam that has short seat timing can be an issue.

Common Misconception:

Many people mistakenly think that using higher seat pressures causes a reduction in the horsepower delivered to the flywheel because higher seat pressures (and also higher spring rates required for high performance) require horsepower to compress the springs. This thinking is simply incomplete! For every valve that is opening and its valve spring being compressed, another valve is closing and its valve spring is expanding. This expansion returns the energy to the valve train and the engine. This results in a net power loss of "0" hp. Many engineering texts refer to this as the "regenerative characteristic" of the valve train. Recent tests at Crane have shown no horsepower loss on a hydraulic roller equipped engine when changing the seat pressure from 135# to 165#. Power actually improved significantly at top end, probably due to better control of the relatively heavy valves in the engine.

In Summary:

Always run enough seat pressure to control the valve action as it returns to the seat. Heavier valves require more seat pressure. Strong, lightweight valves require less seat pressure. When in doubt, run slightly more seat pressure . . . not less.

Source: http://www.cranecams.com/faqview.php?s_id=33


Edited by - Steve C. on 16 Apr 2018 12:48:47 AM
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452 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  09:19:07 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
There is no HP to be found in the longer than stock rods.Only advantage might be in a cheaper rod and a little less side loading.Tom
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Sitting Bull

165 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  09:51:21 AM  Show Profile  Visit Lee's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by tjs44

There is no HP to be found in the longer than stock rods.Only advantage might be in a cheaper rod and a little less side loading.Tom

Building upon that, the "rule" I've picked up over the years is:

If the octane is more than sufficient for the compression ratio - then use a longer rod. But if you are pushing the limit of the octane, then use a shorter rod.

If you look at the "Engine Masters" engines over the last decade, in the contests where they had to use a certain octane but were allowed higher compression ratios, the rod lengths have tended to be short.

Also, look into RaceTec pistons.

CURRENT: '73 T/A clone, starting to get less boring!...
67 Firebird (sold) 11.27 @ 119.6 Feb. '05 issue HPP
69 Falcon wagon, 10.51 @ 130mph Feb. '10 issue PHR (sold)
72 Cutlass Convertible, first car, owned since '82, now with a 6.0 LS, mild, putting just under 400 hp/tq to the wheels.
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452 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  10:19:39 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Lee,in a street engine I really found no advantage in it also.The EMC was REALLY pushing the limits because they were required to start the pulls so low.I talked to Joe Sherman about it a couple times and he did not think it meant squat even in a race engine.Tom
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Blued and Painted

3481 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  11:57:53 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Rod length effects piston dwell time at top and bottom dead center and changes piston speed at a given rpm at 90 crankshaft degrees from TDC.

Which way I can't remember.

Bull Nose Formula/ 461/ Q-Jet/
TH400/ 3.08 8.5 / R44TS.
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452 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  12:19:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Which means virtually NOTHING!Tom
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Steve C.
Crazy Horse

1739 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  12:54:52 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Stated- " - Camshaft. My initial idea was a hydraulic roller for the potential for more area under the curve and the reduced rotational friction. But I am told of problems such as of use above 6000 rpm (I would like the capacity for sustained 6500-7000 capability "

"Friction reduction and profile shaping are the roller tappet's distinct advantages over flat tappets. Rolling contact surfaces enjoy a lower coefficient of friction than sliding surfaces; which is an important factor in a factory production engine that needs to balance power, fuel economy and durability. But the overall friction reduction is not as great as expected, because the similar-style lifter bodies generate the same drag within their individual bores. From a performance engine builder's perspective, the primary advantage of a roller tappet is its ability to follow a more aggressive cam lobe without valvetrain distress. This allows much faster valve opening rates and provides more area under the lift curve. More lift can be achieved without the added duration required to "ramp up" to the desired lift, hence the area curve can be expanded without an increase in duration."


If your intention is a combination in conjunction with hydraulic roller lifters for 6000 rpm it can be done with a Pontiac valvetrain mass involved with the proper lifters and valve spring pressure. Tom here (tjs44) has done it with no issues. Another gentleman I'd highly suggest on this specific subject would be Paul Carter. He has extensive experience in doing so. That said said these fellows are not going to be using the typical Comp 995 valve spring !

Paul Carter
Carter Cryogenics
Koerner Racing Engines

6500 to 7000 rpm...... now you better be talking about a solid roller set up ! Those rpm's very unlikely though unless your considering a bigger cam. Let me provide a dyno proven example....

400 block
4-inch stroke
6.8 rods
310 cfm aluminium d-port cylinder heads
Single-plane intake / 830 cfm 4150 Holley carb / no carb spacer
Comp solid roller cam part number 4875 / 4877 R 113.0
248 / 260 @ .050
.3850" / .3930" lobe lift w/ 1.6 rocker ratio .015" lash
113 lobe separation
1-3/4" headers

On the engine dyno the combination made peak power at 6100 rpm

Edited by - Steve C. on 16 Apr 2018 2:35:19 PM
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Steve C.
Crazy Horse

1739 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  1:21:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Area under the curve example with 'modern' lobes that might be used on a lower rpm application...

A popular Comp hydraulic flat tappet XE lobe rated with 230 degrees at .050" tappet lift and .3200" lobe lift. Knowing that you need to run additional duration with the use of a solid cam because of the lash, for the example here the popular Comp XE sold roller lobe 4873 with 236 at .050" and .3760" lobe lift. This solid roller lobe has an additional 15 percent area over the hyd flat tappet cam. Tested on a Spintron machine under running conditions with a 1.5 rocker ratio (and .016" lash on the solid) these two lobes will deliver the same 241 degrees duration 'at the lalve'. But the solid will have the additional area under the curve and will make a bit more power.

Edited by - Steve C. on 16 Apr 2018 1:24:02 PM
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Steve C.
Crazy Horse

1739 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  2:34:48 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
State- "Rod length effects piston dwell time at top and bottom dead center and changes piston speed at a given rpm at 90 crankshaft degrees from TDC. Which way I can't remember."


"Another factor that influences DCR is rod length. It's length determines the piston location at intake closing, different rod lengths change the DCR. Longer rods position the piston slightly higher in the cylinder at intake closing. This decreases the DCR, possibility necessitating a different cam profile than a shorter rod would require. However, the effect is slight and might only be a major factor if the rod is substantially different than stock. Still it needs to be taken into account when calculating the DCR."
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Steve C.
Crazy Horse

1739 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  3:12:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
509 hp 4-inch stroke combo
#16 iron heads / 240 cfm / 11.5 compression
Single-plane intake / 850 Holley
1-3/4" headers

250 degree solid roller cam...... peak power 5900/6000 rpm


According to the original published article. The big drawback is the high 11.5:1 compression which required 108 octane fuel. Dial it back to a reasonable street 9.5:1 compression, and a slightly different cam, which will produce 25 less horsepower but retain the same torque figures and run pump gas.

Edited by - Steve C. on 16 Apr 2018 3:13:02 PM
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Two Feathers

55 Posts

Posted - 16 Apr 2018 :  8:28:58 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great project. I have a friend doing something very simular on 70 judge, heads are unported 614 and a automatic, he has xp coded block and matching intake and exhaust manifolds. He is wanting to go with a 4.25 or 4.5 stroke. The 4 inch is an interesting choice for the street, the 4.25 is the same cost and would probably out run the 4, plus it would keep the rpms down a little and a hyd roller cam would be perfect for the 6000 rpm range. Just like what Steve c suggests. But I can see the 4 inch crank if you plan to run a m20 or m21. High rpm with less torque might help the trans survive. I like the m20 and the 3.36 you listed.

None of the cams you listed would make it to the 6500 with the 4 inch crank imo. You will need a little wider lobe separation to blead off cylinder pressure. With 10.7 compression you might want to go with a big hyd 240+ at .050 in a less modern hydrualic grind with lots of seat timing with the vmax lifters.

The comp xe grinds shut the intake valve too fast on the valve seat. They struggle with valve control on Pontiacs 30 degree intake seat at high rpm. Lunati would be better, a lot gentler closing the valves.

I have a 4.25 stroke engine with 10.5 cr and cast iron heads running a crane solid lifter cam that runs outstanding. Crane rates the cam at 290/300 and 248/258 with 112 separation. It will pull to 6500 and not flinch. Peak power is 6200. If you look up the lobe specs it actually has 310/320 at .015 lash. I run it at .018. I run it on 91 octane I have never had detonation. Sometimes the old profiles have their place.


Edited by - Corncob2061 on 16 Apr 2018 9:38:06 PM
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