Down The Rabbit Hole

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Updated: February 25, 2019

I’m sure everyone who has ever undertaken a project has reached a point where they figure enough is enough.

Most everyday people, myself included will get to a stage where you got to start asking the question “Where do I stop? Am I spending too much money on this?” If you’re lucky, you arrive at this stage when you are pretty happy where you stand, and you have ticked most of the boxes. For the unlucky ones, you discover a problem that costs more to fix than the car itself.

I might not be at that stage exactly right now, but I can see it from where I am standing. Let me go back a little and explain.  As much as I was and wanted to be happy with the car when the cam was installed six months or so ago, I just didn’t get the power I was looking for. It wasn’t the fault of the manufacturer. It just wasn’t big enough. A stalling issue came into play which, after several stints in the Dyno, was reduced but not removed. The car went backward in terms of time on the ¼ mile by a second. There was an issue with the down low torque which the Dyno reading didn’t pick up. As much as I knew something wasn’t right, I couldn’t afford the car off the road for another week and I’d spent what cash I had on hand on with the last batch of work. So even though it wasn’t 100 per cent right, it was running without drama.

With the end of the year now insight I wanted to get the car properly sorted and finally giving the performance that all of this had been about in the first place. Especially after Guy and the team at Line-X Inner West Sydney has done such an excellent job on the Line-X spray coating over the entire car. So I jumped on the phone to my mate Nass from NAS Automotive. Nass is a straight shooter and a good guy who is happy to give you the time to explain what’s going on in your engine fully. His talent in bringing out the best out of LS motors is well renown nationally, and his abilities and that of his team are what his other business Thornleigh Cylinder Head & Engine Reconditioning is built off the back of.

So, I left the car with Nass and eagerly awaited his diagnosis, with plans of porting heads and installing a bigger cam, I enthusiastically awaited his call. When you answer the phone and hear the words “I’ve got bad news” it’s never a good thing, but hey, you would rather hear it from the mechanic than the doctor!

After a good chat Nass explained in detail his process that leads to the entire engine needing to be removed, he explained that when they broke the engine down, he found the cam bearings were significantly worn all the way down to the bronze, which prompted them to pull the heads off, which revealed the pistons had a lot of oil wash on top of them, and the cylinder bores were highly glazed.

After disassembling the engine, Nass found heavily gummed up oil rings, the engine bearings weren’t badly worn but were on the verge of fatiguing. So, all in all, it was a good call to pull the engine apart.

The piston and bore clearance was a little excessive side but the bores where straight. The crankshaft was in decent shape and can be linished and reinstalled with a fresh set of bearing – an outcome that Nass explains is to be expected with a car with close to 200,000km on the clock.

The result is a situation that will cost close to double what I was expecting to be spending on the car with this round of work. Errrrrk. When I think about my options, after sleeping on the initial shock, I see that I can go one of three ways.

  1. Have a look around for a second hand engine to drop in. I need to get the car back on the road so I don’t have this luxury.
  2. Commit to the expense and push forward knowing that the quality work has found and fixed significant issues which were causing the car to underperform and the car will, once complete, finally start to reach its full potential.
  3. Sell the car as is and move on.

So again, I find myself with a decision to make. But at least now I can make an informed decision knowing precisely what was going on with the car – which is a lot better than just knowing there was a bigger problem due to how the car felt.

What to do, push forward and spend an amount of money on the engine that would be getting close to the actual value of the car, and commit to the process and finally get the engine running the way I have always dreamed of it and not focus on the dollars. At the end of the day I do love my Cross8, and with all the work that has gone into it thus far, I can’t help but embrace this next stage and give Nass the green light. Nass is a great bloke and has given me some great pricing, and I know his attention to detail, which has already found these issues in the first place, will pay dividends when I pick the car up.

The next week will consist of a new Crow Cam being installed along with associated parts. Nass is going to select the perfect Crow Cam that is significantly bigger than what’s just come out but still enables good drivability. The guys a Precision Performance will be supplying a host of top-quality parts for this round of works, including a new high-pressure oil pump, bearings, along with the pistons, cam bearings and other problem parts Nass discovered that needed to be taken care of. Top quality parts are integral at this point. This process is about getting another 150,000km after this batch of work.

A stall converter from Slingshot Converters will be going in along with the ported heads which will be done by hand by Nass. Slingshot Converters have been in the game for 45 years and make the highest quality torque converters in Australia as well as supplying high stall converters used by top racing teams due to their performance, reliability and durability. They don’t do budget off-the-shelf solutions. They supply made-to-order performance converters at the top end of the market.

Getting into a project like this isn’t a cheap process, and as far as car projects go, mine has been relatively inexpensive compared to many. You have to decide how far down the rabbit hole you are prepared to go. For me, I have been chasing the feeling that is hard to describe. The closest way for me to explain it is, to lightly tap on the accelerator and there being a massive roar and push of power, and knowing that you haven’t even scratched the surface of what is available. The rest of its substantial power is just waiting there, lurking in the background in reserve for when you want to open it up.

I know I’m now closer than ever to that feeling and Nass from NAS Automotive and Thornleigh Cylinder Head & Engine Reconditioning and his team are going to get me there.

Jamie “The Colonel” Gray