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How to Tune Up a Small-Block Chevy, Part Two

Cleaning up the cooling system with the help of Duralast & AutoZone.

Jun 8, 2020
More on This 1964 "GMC"
How to Tune Up a Small-Block Chevy, Part One
Installing Cragars and Skinny Whitewalls on our 1964 "GMC"
Installing a Custom Glory Grille in Our 1964 "GMC"

Way back in the day, we took our '64 "GMC" out to an open house at Edelbrock headquarters and parked it with all the other vehicles on display, most of which were high-dollar muscle cars. While we rarely pop the hood to show it off, primarily because there is nothing much to show off, we raised the hood on this day since we were running an Edelbrock intake manifold. We were glad we did. At one point, Vic Edelbrock Jr., himself walked by, said "This yours?" and then said, "That's an old manifold. Someone probably put that and the Holley on it when it was just a few years old."

And that, friends, is why we've left the engine basically untouched all these years. Vic was right. These C3BX Edelbrock intake manifolds came out in about 1970, and as far as we can tell this engine has never been rebuilt and never even been out of the truck. It's a minor period piece that we intend to keep around a while, either for this truck or for something else from the era. But like we said last month, all of the recent outings in the truck made us realize we were long overdue for some maintenance. And then we proceeded to replace most of the ignition components and actually put a dwell meter and a timing light on the engine for the first time in the almost 20 years of owning the truck.

Photo 2/19   |   As you can see, we have done a few upgrades around the engine, like the aluminum radiator, electric fan, and chrome flex radiator hoses. The hoses never really fit with the look of the truck, though. And when we noticed coolant pooling up on our vintage Edelbrock intake manifold, we decided some maintenance was in order.

Today, we're continuing on with cleaning up the cooling system. Many years ago, we installed a set of metal flex hoses and accompanying thermostat housing as a tech story. They worked fine for probably 15 years, but all of the sitting around this truck has done caused enough corrosion to finally make the unit start to leak. We decided to bring the cooling system back to basics and once again made a list to bring to our friends at the Hawthorne, California, AutoZone. We ordered up a thermostat housing, thermostat, and gasket, as well as upper and lower hoses, clamps, sealant, and coolant. We got all the parts installed in just a couple hours, and soon we were back on the road and ready for the next cruise. But check back because we also performed a basic transmission service on our 700R4 that we installed over 15 years ago!

Photo 3/19   |   In earlier installments, we showed cleaning up the SSBC brakes before bolting up the 17-inch Cragars and Diamondback Classic skinny whites. Then we installed the custom tube grille insert from Glory Grilles. But on the cruise, we noticed several issues with our OG 327 SBC and decided it was high time for some maintenance.
Photo 4/19   |   When we got home and popped the hood, this is what we found. We ordered up a handful of replacement parts from Duralast and AutoZone immediately.
Photo 5/19   |   Included in our cooling system makeover were hoses, clamps, a new thermostat and housing, clamps, coolant, and a few other items. Also shown in this photo is a distributor shaft gasket. We haven't had a chance to install that yet but probably should.
Photo 6/19   |   The first thing we did was put a large drain pan under the front of the engine and open the drain cock at the bottom of the radiator. Then we began to remove the radiator hose clamps, beginning at the top.
Photo 7/19   |   Since these connections have not been touched since the parts were installed over 15 years ago, there was some corrosion to deal with.
Photo 8/19   |   Since we were ditching both the thermostat housing and the hose, we went straight to the housing, removing both of the mounting bolts.
Photo 9/19   |   We broke what was left of the seal and removed the parts as a unit.
Photo 10/19   |   The lower hose was removed next. It did not give us too much of a fight.
Photo 11/19   |   At this point, we thoroughly cleaned up all of the connections, especially the 50-year-old mounting surface of our intake manifold, which actually looked great.
Photo 12/19   |   Every thermostat housing that was available on short notice had a groove in the bottom of it for an O-ring-type seal. We don't like 'em, so we also got a standard gasket for our new chrome housing. We used 3M weatherstrip adhesive to first fill the groove and then to glue on the standard gasket.
Photo 13/19   |   Then we added some more 3M to the underside of the gasket to seal it against the manifold.
Photo 14/19   |   Next, we dropped the new 180-degree thermostat into place and bolted down the new thermostat housing with the provided hardware.
Photo 15/19   |   We cleaned up the entire area around the lower hose, especially the water pump outlet, before installing the new lower hose and snugging it up with new clamps.
Photo 16/19   |   The new upper hose was attached to the thermostat housing and clamped down.
Photo 17/19   |   At this point, we dumped a gallon of coolant into the radiator, followed by a gallon of water. A small amount of additional water was added later after the engine warmed up to 180 degrees and the thermostat opened.
Photo 18/19   |   At this point, our cooling system maintenance was complete, and this old project truck was almost back on the road.
Photo 19/19   |   We're not going to win any show & shine awards with this engine compartment, but we did clean up and fix a lot of little items along the way. We changed the fuel filter, fixed a few possible vacuum leaks, and added a small breather to the factory vent tube. We're just going to give the 700R4 transmission a quick service, and we'll be ready for the next cruise!

Source Box:

Duralast Parts



Auto Zone
Memphis, TN
Memphis, TN