Connect a Trailblazer straight-6 to a ZR-1 6-speed, in one hundred-fiftieth not-so-easy steps!

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 9:49 AM

The map is for it to be set up as a road-race car, valid for Pikes Peak and possibly other events, and to be street-driven as well. I've pillaged a Lexus SC400 for its suspension subframe assemblies and grabbed a wrecked state-auction two thousand nine Chevrolet Trailblazer as an engine donor… but the Vortec four thousand two hundred DOHC straight-six engine never came with a manual transmission from the factory.

Connect a Trailblazer straight-6 to a ZR-1 6-speed, in one hundred-fiftieth not-so-easy steps!

My 'forty-one Plymouth needs a GM Vortec four thousand two hundred engine with a manual transmission, a combo not found in nature

I've this one thousand nine hundred forty-one Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan, which rolled off the Lynch Road gathering line on November eighteen, one thousand nine hundred forty, was sold in Nebraska, and sat in a High Plains field from around one thousand nine hundred sixty-seven until I bought it a couple of years back. The map is for it to be set up as a road-race car, valid for Pikes Peak and possibly other events, and to be street-driven as well. I've pillaged a Lexus SC400 for its suspension subframe assemblies and grabbed a wrecked state-auction two thousand nine Chevrolet Trailblazer as an engine donor… but the Vortec four thousand two hundred DOHC straight-six engine never came with a manual transmission from the factory.

What to do?

According to some (possibly dubious) online sources, the Aisin 5-speed manual transmission out of the Pontiac Solstice and Chevy Colorado— which came with four- and five-cylinder cousins of the Vortec four thousand two hundred, respectively— can be bolted to the Trailblazer engine, but its innards would be annihilated love pretzel sticks in a rubbish disposal by the large motor'south torque (particularly when I add turbocharging, which I map to do). So, the ol' adapter-and-custom-flywheel approach would be needed; this involves lots of fabrication but opens up a whole universe of transmission options. Wanting something not too rare/expensive, I considered using a Borg-Warner T-56 or a Tremec TKO, but then a ZF "Black Tag" 6-speed from a C4 Corvette ZR-1 appeared on Craigslist not distant from me and for a reasonable price, and I went ahead and bought it.

Because a project of this size requires the skills of someone who can do things I'm not so excellent at— say, do math or work a lathe— I've commissioned Rocket Surgery Racing mastermind and Checker Marathon racer Wealthy von Sneidern to construct this car. Wealthy is that scarce combination of genuine engineer and old-timey hot-rodder, who can hear to this sort of terrible idea— hey, how about an ancient Mopar sedan with GM truck engine and Toyota Soarer suspension?— and discover a way to create it happen with not-insanely-expensive hardware. So, the first thing he did after he'd the ZF transmission on hand was to choose up a much-abused small-block-Chevy Lakewood steel bellhousing at a circle-track swap meet.

Of course, wrestling a complete truck engine around the garage when you're trying to test-fit a modified bellhousing is a nightmare, so Wealthy found this cheap Vortec four thousand two hundred bare block. Mockups of engine mounting have also been a lot easier, thanks to this obstruct being on hand. A couple of the locating dowels on the Vortec four thousand two hundred engine obstruct are in the same locations as those on the small-block Chevy engine, so that provided a bit of a starting point for the modifications to the Lakewood bellhousing. But there'south number point in having a transmission that bolts to the engine if you don't have the stuff that goes between them, so we'd to resolve the flywheel and clutch dilemmas.

There'south not a tremendous quantity of interest in high-performance applications of the Vortec four thousand two hundred, but sufficient numbers of wild-eyed engine swappers are interested to spawn the existence of a sort of underground Vortec four thousand two hundred cult. Wealthy scoured every online source he could discover and eventually discovered Inliners International, which led him to veteran Inliner and land-speed racer Jerry Weigt. Jerry has made some custom flywheels for the Vortec four thousand two hundred, and he agreed to sell me one for a very excellent price. We met up at Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats and did the deal.

For the remainder of my time at Speed Week, my new custom flywheel knocked around in the truck bed, along with our camping gear and pit bikes. What other motorsports event offers that?

The new flywheel didn't arrive with a starter ring gear, so Wealthy bought a used Chevy CO flywheel and removed the gear from it.

Not precisely off-the-shelf, but this mutated Vortec four thousand two hundred flywheel/CO ring gear combination will work. But what about the clutch assembly?

Wealthy spent many hours searching online sources to discover a clutch disc/pressure-plate combination that'd mesh with all the variables already in place, and the frustration level kept building and building. He dug through heaps of elderly parts, asked around, and couldn't obtain an answer. Finally, he dropped in on an old-fashioned transmission shop in Denver, Clutch Exchange, where they've an honest-to-god parts man behind the counter, and this guy came up with the exact solution in about five minutes. one thousand nine hundred sixty GM eleven" clutch disc, one thousand nine hundred seventy fine-spline Chrysler eleven" pressure plate (the Chrysler pressure plate has a more compact design that fits the custom flywheel). Add a swap-meet hydraulic throwout bearing, a GM LS1 pilot bearing, ARP pressure-plate bolts, and Ford 4.6 Modular flywheel bolts, and all the required bits and pieces are accounted for.

Then it was just a matter of modifying the Lakewood bellhousing to fit everything. This was much, much easier said than done; Wealthy says if he'd to do it over again he'd just create a wood form and have some bellhousings sand-cast. This portion of the work took weeks and was maddeningly frustrating. I'll let Wealthy characterize the whole transmission-engine mating sequence in his own words:

• Stare at the the LL8 bell, determine that a three" thick flywheel isn't a good idea.

• Stare at stock GM SBC bells of various configurations, determine that hacking and welding an unknown aluminum alloy is a bad idea.

• Adapter plate gets back to the thick custom flywheel.

• Think about building a wood form and have a couple sand cast.

• DIY sand cast bells won't arrive near to pleasing a race inspector expecting an SFI tag

• Contact Lakewood, they don't create one, won't sell an unmachined blank.

• Call Fidanza and a couple others, they'll create a flywheel for a zillion dollars

• Bonneville guy comes through. Source a CO 5cyl flywheel for the ring gear, transfer. Design around this flywheel.

• Spend lots of time surfing Rock Auto, Andy'south parts piles, etc. trying to source the right combo of parts. Walk into an elderly school shop (Clutch Exchange) and have a solution in about five minutes.

• Determine to hack up a used Lakewood bell, add flanges and ears, hope to minimize the warping.

• Do so, maximize the warping.

• Spend a bunch of time on the milling machine, spend a bunch of time measuring on the engine, resist urge to toss it away.

• Drill out the indexes, machine new ones, weld in space in situ.

• Create an adapter ring for the ZF index (it'south unique).

• Slop some ruddy paint on it.

After numerous warp/repair/warp/repair cycles, Wealthy finally got the bellhousing just about perfect. Following up: rolling chassis with full drivetrain installed!

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