Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Jeff Huneycutt's latest book, How to Build Chevy Small-Block Circle-Track Racing Engines. Huneycutt is a veteran motorsports writer and a regular contributor to Stock Car Racing. The book can be purchased by calling CarTech at 1-800-551-4754 or by going online at www.cartechbooks.com.

When planning your engine build, one of the first items to address must be the location where the work will be performed. For most non-professional engine builders, a corner of the garage or workshop winds up as the engine assembly area. This is fine, but if you are going to experience any measure of success, there are a few requirements for you to keep in mind.

The most important thing is that the area is absolutely clean. You cannot be too meticulous in making sure all your engine parts are clean during the assembly process, and this is impossible in a dirty work area. Your assembly area must be separated from dirty work areas to keep contaminants off of your parts. This may sound obvious, but it's a bad idea to try to assemble a race engine in the main area of your racecar shop. There's just too much dust and trash that gets blown around during the day-to-day process of maintaining a racecar. Find an area that you can clean to your standards and keep it that way.

Be sure your shop area has enough room for you to work comfortably. We're not talking about an aircraft hangar here, but a clear floor space of at least 6x10 feet is the minimum required for an engine assembly stand and for you to comfortably work around it. You will also need a workbench or countertop to work from as well as a place to store your tools and engine components. A solid, smooth floor is nice, as well as a large entrance door for rolling your engines in and out.

Finally, don't forget that you need plenty of good lighting. This may sound more like a luxury than a necessity, but building a quality engine means being able to take accurate measurements and carefully inspect the quality of fit between components. This is difficult to do in poor lighting, and struggling to see is tiring and often leads to mistakes.

It doesn't have to be in your assembly area, but you will need easy access to a cleaning area and an air compressor. Most engine builders prefer to use a solvent tank for component cleaning, and this is definitely the best option. You can also get away with a workbench, a bucket of solvent, and a few brushes in a pinch. It is important that you do not combine cleaning and assembly on the same workbench.

Access to a compressed air supply will come in handy for everything from blowing water or solvent off of freshly washed components, to operating air tools. Most shops already have an air compressor. If you do, be sure you can reach your assembly area with an air hose. If you don't already own an air compressor, consider purchasing a small 110-volt unit. These are available from many home improvement stores for just a few hundred dollars. They can plug into a standard wall outlet and come in handy for a multitude of jobs-not just engine building. Look for a compressor capable of maintaining five or six scfm at 90 psi.

If you are like me, then the tools you already own are probably worth more than your entire wardrobe. If so, you probably already have almost everything you need to build your own Chevy race engines. If not, don't worry. Very few specialized tools are actually required, and standard hand tools available from any hardware store will work fine.

You will need a complete set of wrenches and sockets in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) sizes. This means the wrenches and sockets are sized in fractions of an inch. Unless you are talking about some odd accessories like the alternator pulley nut, there are no metric nuts or bolts on a small-block Chevy 350.

A long-handle set of combination wrenches is invaluable. A combination wrench has a box end on one side and an open end on the other. Make sure your primary wrenches have nice, long handles, which will allow you to generate plenty of torque.

One or two complete sets of SAE sockets should also be considered mandatory. You can get away with only one set, but having a few different styles will really come in handy. Six-point sockets are hexagonal shaped with six angles. These can put the most force on the head of a bolt without damaging it, and so should be used on hex-head nuts and bolts whenever possible.

But some high-end bolts, which are commonly used in race engines, utilize a 12-point head and are not compatible with six-point sockets. For these you must obviously use a set of 12-point sockets. Also, as a general rule, you want to use shorter sockets whenever possible to reduce the chances of a socket slipping off of a bolt and rounding the edges. Naturally, there are several areas on most motors where a set of deep-well sockets is the only option that will work.

Of course, sockets are useless without ratchets. Ratchets are sorted by the size of the drive stub, which connects to the socket. The most common sizes are 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch drives. The most commonly used are 3/8-inch drives, but it is also nice to have a half-inch drive ratchet and companion sockets because the bigger stub size also means the ratchet will have a longer handle. A longer handle makes it easier to put the torque to the bigger nuts and bolts. You don't necessarily have to replicate each socket style in each drive size. If you are just getting started and money is tight, it is better to invest in a few quality sets of 31/48-inch sockets and use a drive adapter to attach those sockets to your 11/42-inch drive ratchet when you need a little more leverage.

One luxury item that is really nice to have when building engines is a speed handle. Over the course of building a complete engine, you will be installing and removing many, many nuts and bolts. Some, like the rod bolts, you will install and remove several times just during the pre-fitting process. Because of this, a speed handle can significantly reduce your build time.

Other tools you will need include screwdrivers (both standard and Phillips head), a dead-blow hammer, pliers, thread taps, a drill, punches, a scribe, and other various tools, depending upon your specific needs. Every engine build is different, so there is no way to tell you every specific tool you will need, but these will cover the majority of your requirements.

A race motor capable of good power and durability is not only a product of the components you put into it, but also of how well it is put together. Without the correct tools, it is impossible to quantify such things as how tightly the bolts hold the rod and main caps together; how much clearance there is between the rod, main, and cam journals and the bearings; and even the engine's compression ratio. For these tasks and more you must have and be able to appropriately use the correct measurement tools. Many of these are fairly common in general automotive applications, but a few are quite specific to building race engines.

The one measurement tool that is absolutely necessary is a torque wrench. A torque wrench lets you specify exactly how much twisting force is applied to a fastener. Too little torque on a bolt does not provide enough clamping force, while too much torque can cause it to fail. Nearly every bolt inside the engine should be tightened with a torque wrench because every component in a race engine walks that thin line between ultimate performance and failure.

There are several different styles of torque wrenches, but no matter which style you choose, make sure you purchase a quality unit. Your engine's health depends upon the wrench's ability to measure torque accurately.

Other measurement tools that you should consider "must-haves" include a feeler gauge and a pair of dial calipers. A feeler gauge is useful for determining such things as ring gap, valve lash, and even crankshaft endplay. Dial calipers, either analog or digital, are much more accurate than trying to read a ruler or a tape measure. In general, all measurements must be accurate to within less than 0.001 of an inch, and this is only possible with quality measuring instruments.

The next step in engine-building accuracy is to purchase a dial bore gauge and a set of micrometers. The micrometer is extremely useful for measuring the diameter of a round surface. A dial bore gauge is useful for determining the diameter of a cylinder. A dial bore gauge can help you determine the quality of the honing job your machinist did on your cylinders or whether the connecting rods you wish to reuse after a rebuild have been damaged by detonation. Together, the micrometer and dial bore gauge are used to determine bearing clearances for your rod and main journals.

A dial indicator mounted on an adjustable stand, preferably with a magnetic base, also comes in very handy. The magnetic base allows you to position it just about anywhere on a cast-iron block, and you can use it to check such things as crankshaft and camshaft endplay, piston TDC, and even rocker arm movement, among other things. A dial indicator accurate to within 0.001 of an inch can be had relatively inexpensively from most tool distributors. You can also easily measure rod bolt stretch with a dial indicator mounted on a special fixture. You can begin by doing without these tools or borrowing from a friend. By the time you begin the build for your second engine, however, you will be ready for a set of your own.

Finally, there are other measurement tools that are necessary only to race-engine builders. A perfect example is when the rulebook mandates a minimum combustion chamber size for the cylinder heads or a maximum compression ratio. To produce as much power as possible, you will need to make sure your engine pushes these limits without exceeding them. If you are just getting started you can trust your cylinder head manufacturer's chamber volume specification to calculate compression ratio, but eventually you will want to measure this yourself.

A CC test kit uses a graduated burette that measures how much liquid an area, such as a combustion chamber, will hold. This allows you to measure your combustion chamber volume so accurately that you can even account for how deeply the spark plug intrudes into the chamber. Armed with this knowledge, you can calculate your compression ratio accurately to the tenth. You can then be sure all your hard work won't get thrown out after failing inspection in the tech shed.

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