Zip Drive During
Computer Support Group and the Davis family
The general guidelines for the engine swap in California state that the engine cannot be older than the vehicle itself and that the state's computer at the referee station must see the physical and electronic image of the engine exactly the same as the production version you are claiming to have used. We intended to use a carb version of the classic V8 350 from an 86 Chevy Suburban truck that came with a Quadrajet. It looked good, ran good, and was fairly easy to keep up. We built it up and the dyno was showing about 320 horsepower without really trying (360 with a little work). It was smooth, idled well, and had good power, even with the much needed air conditioning here in the desert. Keeping the engine cool proved to be a formidable task...
During the fitting of the engine into the frame with the shoehorn and elbow grease, we used the mount adapters that we bought from JTR and moved the engine back and toward the driver's side of the car to accommodate the larger engine and yet, still have room for all of the required (by us) goodies, including a (very) BIG radiator. We used a 1988 Corvette radiator and increased the tanks on it by 2 gallons. We chose to relocate it slightly forward of the standard radiator location, just enough to provide reasonable clearance for all of the single belt driven devices with a single serpentine belt; there was NO ROOM for a multiple belt installation. We made brackets for mounting the AC condenser in front of the radiator. The changes worked fine even for the desert in the heat of the summer. We strongly suggest that cooling is the greatest of the mechanical problems that need to be solved.
The steering shaft and gear is Ford of early vintage. It is much "thinner" than the stock Chevy and gives the needed clearance on that side of the block. We also had to "drop" the engine as much as possible (ours was almost an inch but if I had to do it again, I would drop it another half inch) to allow adequate hood clearance in order to maintain the completely stock appearance of the outside of the vehicle. That meant some anticipated but still not easy modifications to the oil pan. I strongly suggest that one of the future mods for this is to put in a 6 or 7 quart oil pan for additional cooling of the engine components. The dip stick is on the passenger side of the engine and fits nicely. The distributor just squeezes in and the carefully hammered out clearance to the firewall is needed and critical. Do not overlook this! Obviously, since the engine is moved back, the transmission and driveshaft must have modifications as well. We made a very sturdy cross mount for the tail of the transmission and shortened the driveshaft about 1.5 inches. Balancing it perfectly is extremely important since it is not centered.
I took the truck in to the state referee's shop in April of 2004, confident that this was a slam dunk. The smog pre-test showed the engine extremely clean. However, as I soon came to face the fact, California does not necessarily want "only" a clean running engine. It must report in as to what it is, run clean and look like whatever it is reporting. They failed the truck, even though it was "cleaner" in smog reporting than 99% of the new cars. The referee gave me several suggestions to "modify" in order to pass the engine change inspection. None of them had to do with the smog tests; they were all "details" of what the engine identified itself to be. That happened 6 times and finally I decided that it was time to take some other approach. I could just go register it in Arizona at our office there. It was truly a clean running and very potent work truck and would not be a problem in Arizona. However, I wanted to drive it and still live in Palm Springs. I also wanted to "do things the right way" and not sidestep the laws of California. Realistically, wanting and doing can often be two very different things... (That usually equates to dollars. The old computer on the S-10 just didn't want to cooperate.
I decided to take a look at fuel injection as an alternative. The parts were also cheap and there were many qualifying models and according to the referee; it was a much easier swap from a passing point of view. I looked at 86, 87 and 88 throttle body injectors (TBI). They were relatively cheap, as fuel injection goes, and parts were plentiful. We secured one, pulled the manifold, distributor and computer and installed them on the engine. All parts were still original Chevy and the result was a few more horses, but the same rejection at the referee's station. What he saw physically, though schematically correct, was not the same as what the computer said was there. I tried swapping computers but the harnesses was not friendly. At this point, I truly wished I had gotten ALL of the parts from one vehicle, including the wiring harness. If you decide to go through this, don't make this mistake. Get the engine, transmission and harness together.
The next step was at Howell Engineering. They make an aftermarket kit that they imply is California legal for engine swap. It has not been certified but if the original parts are used with the computer they supply, it does allow some latitude in what the computer describes to the engine swap computer and the smog station computers. From a point of view of being a company that stands behind the product with support, don't look to Howell for help. I finally found a couple of guys that truly know automotive computers in Indio, California, at Palmer Automotive and Electric (760-342-4815). They were able to clean things up enough to finally get the certification on the truck on March 3rd, 2006. Yes, it took a while; no, it is not perfect yet. The S-10 did not come with dual exhausts (none of them); that is a problem if you plan to keep the truck legal. That is a huge bottle neck. The small differential is also a problem if you plan to push it hard in acceleration; ours is an 8 bolt positraction (limited slip) 3.31; good shocks and brakes are also critical.
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