photos by: the author
Taking the road less traveled with a .060 overbore Oldsmobile 403
For those of you who have been following along with our 1979 Pontiac Trans Am project, Billy Madison, you know that it’s been a long process in the making. From acquisition, to teardown, to the current rebuilding phase, it’s been an uphill battle maneuvering through parts shortages and a pandemic. However, in this installment, we make some headway.
Pulling out the rusted, crusty, oddly painted-black, derelict, original 403 was mentioned before, but we’re going to dig a little bit deeper now, and show you some of the rebuilding process. You may be wondering why we didn’t just ditch the original engine altogether, and go with an Olds 455, Pontiac 455, or really tick off the “purists,” and drop in a modern LS or LT engine.
If the situation were any different, your author wouldn’t have hesitated building a 455 cubic-inch LSX and squeezing it in between the flank of this Trans Am. But be it that it’s a numbers-matching 10th-Anniversary Edition example, I elected to at least try to save the OG Olds block before completely writing it off.
So I pulled it out of the engine bay, grabbed a few shots of it on the shop floor, and then loaded it up in The Mule to take it to Classic Engine Works in nearby Cortland, Ohio. Classic Engine Works is owned and operated by Neil Clayton, a previous contender of the coveted Engine Master Challenge, as well as the engine builder for Nick Kistler’s previously featured ’69 Chevelle. We’ve also enlisted his help with rebuilding the LS1 for the GMEFI Magazine 2002 Trans Am project, Project Phoenix.
After he pulled the heads off, he sent me a shot of what the cylinder bores looked like underneath — and it wasn’t good, frankly. In fact, most people would have just written it off then and there. But I don’t let let things like rust build-up stop us. In fact, after it was all pulled apart, the pistons, rods, and crank were all deemed too far gone to reuse — shocker. We also learned that there was an aftermarket COMP cam in the block, and that the cylinders were already bored .030 over from a previous rebuild. Considering the staggered wheels and tires that used to be on the car, and the drag strip stickers on the rear window, it was apparent that this car had seen some bracket racing in a previous life.
However, after full disassembly and a cleanup, it appeared that the block could be saved, maybe, with the help of Shawn at Minor’s Performance Machine. Shawn Minor has been keeping himself extremely busy for the last 30+ years, but he’s worked with your author, and with other publications in the past, as one of the top machinists in the country; porting blocks and cylinder heads, and building engines. In fact, he manages to keep himself so busy, that he doesn’t even have a website or social media page because his workload is so substantial as it is.