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Old 11-05-2011, 07:08 PM   #1
Dr L-88
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Default Can Am aluminum blocks

Does anyone here know anything about those old Can Am aluminum big block engines? I'm referring to the ones that were 390 alloy and ran without liners..................aluminum piston against 390 alloy cylinders.
Thanks in advance,
Rex
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Old 11-05-2011, 07:39 PM   #2
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Do an advanced search under CanAm and several threads will come up. Here is a recent one.

http://forums.corvetteforum.com/c1-a...y-bad-boy.html
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Old 11-05-2011, 07:49 PM   #3
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What kind of information do you want to know? There is a lot out there and a lot in old books. These were not cheap but somewhat available long ago and more hard them than you would think.

I've seen a few. However there were several varieties, with extra webbings in the lifter galley, extra stub bosses and so on.

I'm not positive but I believe the liner-less ones ran a special piston like the Vega did - sprayed iron coating on the piston.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:29 PM   #4
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I have two of these blocks, same casting number (0-321270) and both cast on the same date (2-5-68). One is still linerless (my other one has iron liners installed by Smokey Yunick). I would consider running the linerless one as is..................IFFFFFFFFFFFF I had pistons for it. Actually, I DO have an NOS set of 12.5 to 1 original GM Can Am pistons, but they're not the ones for use in linerless blocks. So, with all that said, where can I get pistons with the proper coating that would work in the 390 alloy linerless block, or can I have my NOS pistons coated?

Thanks,
Rex
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Old 11-05-2011, 09:08 PM   #5
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Any plasma spray place can coat the pistons, IF, you know what they are supposed to be sprayed with.

Note that the piston OD may have to be turned down a few thousandths for the plasma spray. Talk to the plasma sprayer

You have found some interesting pieces.

About 15 years ago, i ran across deal on two Boss 429 hemi dry sump NASCAR motors cheap (long story, involved the secret service, counterfeit money, a bank and a repo place) I got them cheap after they were released from evidence.

Both built by Jack Bowsher.

Beautiful motors, crank case and lifter valleys were all mirror polished, as were the rods and underside of the pistons. These motors had more tricks than a french *****. The head work was unbelievable, I bet they cost $25K each to build in 1969 or 1970 Sold them off a few years later,as I wasn't really a Ford guy. If they would have been Chev motors, i would have sold one and kept the other.



Doug

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr L-88 View Post
I have two of these blocks, same casting number (0-321270) and both cast on the same date (2-5-68). One is still linerless (my other one has iron liners installed by Smokey Yunick). I would consider running the linerless one as is..................IFFFFFFFFFFFF I had pistons for it. Actually, I DO have an NOS set of 12.5 to 1 original GM Can Am pistons, but they're not the ones for use in linerless blocks. So, with all that said, where can I get pistons with the proper coating that would work in the 390 alloy linerless block, or can I have my NOS pistons coated?

Thanks,
Rex
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:34 AM   #6
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You might want to talk to Jim Jones at Total Racing Automotive Co., in Mooresville, NC. TRA-CO Racing Engines grew out of, or is the continuation of, the old Traco Engineering from California.

Traco worked very closely with Chevrolet in the 60's, and built Chevrolet racing engines for Roger Penske, Jim Hall and others. I'm pretty sure that Traco was heavily involved with the Reynolds aluminum block Can-Am engines.

Jones wasn't at Traco in the 60's, but he was the head engine builder for them later. I'm pretty sure he has experience with the old Can-Am aluminum blocks, as he builds engines for many of the old Can-An cars, now competing in vintage racing. Their web site is www.tra-coengines.com.

Lee Muir built all of McLaren's aluminum big blocks, in house at Mclaren's Michigan shop. I'm sure that Muir is long gone, but McLaren still has an engine shop in Livonia, MI (just outside of Detroit). They may still have someone there, with some knowledge of the old Can-Am engines, or may be able to direct you to someone who does?

It seems to me that there was someone here on the Forum, that built engines for the old Shadow Can-Am team. About 5-6 years back there was a post about the Can-Am engines and someone said they had built them. It might have been in the Racing section, I don't recall. A Forum search, might turn up something.
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:38 PM   #7
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Here's the plating material and sequence for pistons used in the 390 alloy bore engines.
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Old 11-07-2011, 01:45 AM   #8
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I am curious if the newer pistons with the Moly coating technology that was not available in 1968 would run in these blocks? I have zero experience with these but I think Mercedes engines in the 90's were running Aluminum blocks with Aluminum cylinders, no liner. I had shops rebuilding these and they were using the old Vega technology for boring and honing. Unfortunately I do not remember what pistons they used or if they had any special coating like the Iron coating mentioned above. I know Mercedes was one of the first to used Moly coated aluminum pistons but I don't know if it was on Aluminum cylinders. This is no help but food for thought. If the Mercedes pistons were moly coated aluminum they would also work in your big blocks.
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Old 11-07-2011, 04:49 AM   #9
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Fritz Kayl, owner of Katech, was a former engineer at Mclaren and worked on the Cosworths and the Can Am engine projects. I suspect Katech and Mr Kayle can shed a lot of light on this front.
http://www.hotrod.com/thehistoryof/h...05_fritz_kayl/
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Old 11-07-2011, 09:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westlotorn View Post
I am curious if the newer pistons with the Moly coating technology that was not available in 1968 would run in these blocks? I have zero experience with these but I think Mercedes engines in the 90's were running Aluminum blocks with Aluminum cylinders, no liner. I had shops rebuilding these and they were using the old Vega technology for boring and honing. Unfortunately I do not remember what pistons they used or if they had any special coating like the Iron coating mentioned above. I know Mercedes was one of the first to used Moly coated aluminum pistons but I don't know if it was on Aluminum cylinders. This is no help but food for thought. If the Mercedes pistons were moly coated aluminum they would also work in your big blocks.
The same piston and bore technology used in the Reynolds 390 alloy blocks (and in the Vega and Cosworth-Vega engines) was used later in some Mercedes and Porsche engines, under the "Nikasil" patent license, and is still in use today. The current moly piston coatings are for reduced internal friction with iron bores, and are not compatible with the 390 alloy technology.
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Old 11-07-2011, 09:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnZ View Post
...was used later in some Mercedes and Porsche engines, under the "Nikasil" patent license, and is still in use today.
Ahh Nikasil, the scourge of the Jaguar aluminum V8.
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Old 11-17-2011, 12:55 AM   #12
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I'm "The Old Shadow Guy". I missed that this thread had resurfaced...
Here are a few comments.

You must remember that it is not just the iron plated pistons that made the Reynolds 390 block possible. It's a system wherein the very high silicon content in the block is exposed as the running surface in the bore by using a special acid etching compound when honing the bore. You have to to prep the block with this specific honing process. You could get the pistons plated but then you'd have to find all the right stuff to hone the block.
The plating on the pistons, as shown in John's graphic, is very specific. It is the iron (dissimilar from the aluminum) that keeps the piston from galling on the block. Moly or some other low-friction coating is not the same.
Nikasil is not the same either. Nikasil (nickle-silicon)is a very hard plating process performed on an aluminum block and works with standard aluminum pistons. The Japanese, especially Honda brought that to a fine art and used it extensively. In the Early 90's Kawasaki developed what they called "Electrofusion" bores which were aluminum bores plated with chrome and nickle with an "exploding wire" process.
I'll go out on a limb here, subject to JohnZ's correction by saying that the Vega's bad rap had nothing to do with the Reynolds alloy block/plated pistons but rather was due to the open deck design which allowed the free standing bores to wiggle all over and go out of round leading to massive oil burning.
GBVette62- If you knew Lee Muir, you might be pleased to know that he is well and lives in Germany (as he has for maybe the last 20 years). He moved there and set up a very successful engine building business working on restored Can Am /Interserie cars and many other projects. Lee was my boss after he left McClaren and joined Shadow. I "studied under" Lee, who was by then a Master Engine builder and he taught me an incalculable amount. I owe him for my break into the profession. He and I both moved to California in 1978 to work together for for six years designing and building a Reynolds 390 V8 Aircraft engine for an aviation developer. This engine, (Turbo 750-1000 hp) is now being marketed as the Trace Engine in the aviation field.

Here's a picture (taken in late 1972 probably) for Y'all. This is a development engine (495 inch Reynolds, 1200 hp) for the 1973 Shadow Turbo car on the dyno. Keep in mind this was all mechanical, no electronics, modified Hilborn injsction, Bendix aircraft air metering units, Switzer pneumatic wastegates. What a nightmare to work on. I'll bet I changed 50 head gaskets on this beast.

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IGO200 View Post
I'll go out on a limb here, subject to JohnZ's correction by saying that the Vega's bad rap had nothing to do with the Reynolds alloy block/plated pistons but rather was due to the open deck design which allowed the free standing bores to wiggle all over and go out of round leading to massive oil burning.
The way I remember it, overheating resulted in the damage that caused the massive oil burning? The Vega was the first car to use a coolant recovery system?
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Old 11-17-2011, 12:28 PM   #14
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Well, you know, you're right about that, sorta. That was another separate problem, but the root cause wasn't the lack of the recovery tank or the alloy of the block, it was the ceramic seal in the water pump. The seal would crack, the coolant would go away and, without the recovery tank, the first indication was the overheating because of low coolant level. Then the cylinders would go out of round and the failure manifested itself to the owner as oil burning and or a blown head gasket.
John Z will probably also know about a lot of incorrectly plated pistons where the iron was too thin and the skirts would scuff.
But, my point here is that it wasn't a failure of the Reynolds 390 alloy "system" but other design problems with the Vega engine.
At Shadow, we had a Vega GT, Silver with black stripes, as a parts chaser car. I think it was a loaner from GM. I'll leave it to you to imagine how a bunch of 25 year old race mechanics drove that thing. We were able to uncover a lot of weaknesses.
I remember once, after two all-nighters in a row, driving that Vega to an auto parts store in Des Plaines and falling asleep waiting for a train. I slept until somebody banged on the window to wake me up.....
Gosh, those were fun times.
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Old 11-17-2011, 12:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
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The way I remember it, overheating resulted in the damage that caused the massive oil burning?
As ashamed to admit this as I am, I will: I owned a Vega. Massive oil burning began around 39K miles and the cure was new valve stem seals.
Quote:
The Vega was the first car to use a coolant recovery system?
Nope. First car and the one for which GM held a patent on the idea of coolant recovery was the '60 Corvette equipped with the top-tank radiator.

Unlike the expansion tanks on later Corvettes, the '60 top tank and a special aluminum radiator cap was a true coolant recovery system.

Jim
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:17 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IGO200 View Post
Well, you know, you're right about that, sorta. That was another separate problem, but the root cause wasn't the lack of the recovery tank or the alloy of the block, it was the ceramic seal in the water pump. The seal would crack, the coolant would go away and, without the recovery tank, the first indication was the overheating because of low coolant level. Then the cylinders would go out of round and the failure manifested itself to the owner as oil burning and or a blown head gasket.
I figured that the overheating was melting the aluminum block and "unetching" the bores.
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:35 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim lockwood View Post
Nope. First car and the one for which GM held a patent on the idea of coolant recovery was the '60 Corvette equipped with the top-tank radiator.

Unlike the expansion tanks on later Corvettes, the '60 top tank and a special aluminum radiator cap was a true coolant recovery system.

Jim
I never noticed that the cap was on the '60 aluminum radiator with the tank beyond the cap. Cool.

They sure could have used the coolant recovery system on the '68 427/400 automatic with air. A friend had use of one for a week. Every time he shut the car off, it puked coolant on the ground. Uncool.
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Old 11-17-2011, 05:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I figured that the overheating was melting the aluminum block and "unetching" the bores.
The root cause of most of the Vega engine problems was overheating (thanks to the world's smallest 12" x 12" radiator core); the first time it occurred, it usually sheared the surface seal of the head gasket (due to different expansion coefficients between the iron head and the open-deck aluminum block); subsequent continuous loss of coolant made overheat events more frequent, with more loss of gasket seal and coolant in the combustion chamber.

The coolant recovery system (and more radiator) was added for 1973, in violation of an existing patent, accompanied shortly thereafter by a patent infringement suit, which was ultimately settled out of court (and made the patent holder a very wealthy man).
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:21 PM   #19
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Quote:
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As ashamed to admit this as I am, I will: I owned a Vega. Jim
i owned a 73 GT 4spd wagon, loved that little car but it turned into a rust bucket (and it never lived up in the rust belt...)
Bill
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:23 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnZ View Post

The coolant recovery system (and more radiator) was added for 1973, in violation of an existing patent, accompanied shortly thereafter by a patent infringement suit, which was ultimately settled out of court (and made the patent holder a very wealthy man).
Hmmmmm..... my telling of history may have been wrong then.

Is this patent suit the reason Corvette News published a plea for owners of '60s with top tank radiators to get in touch with GM?

Jim
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Old 11-17-2011, 06:23 PM
 
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