Work on our 2234cc EMPI Engine Battle motor begins! Over the course of four days Sam completes the full assembly of the largest engine he's ever built.


JBugs Video Blog, VW Tech Tips

Watch as Sam gets the engine assembled for EMPI's 2024 Engine Battle.

Work on our 2234cc EMPI Engine Battle motor begins! April 30th the engine build starts and over the course of four days Sam completes the full assembly of the largest engine he's ever built. The best part is, by the end, it runs and most importantly it runs well! Will it make the most horsepower at the EMPI Engine Battle? Probably not, but that really isn't the goal. Our goal is to make a powerful but more importantly to us, a street drive-able engine. An engine that is only good for all out power is fine for a drag racing car, but as most of us spend time in our Vintage VWs on the roads, that is what we are aiming for. Keep in mind that all of this is done by an enthusiast, much like yourselves. Sam has no formal training and is just a self taught (by the school of hard knocks and mistakes mostly!) guy that does this for enjoyment. Heck, this is only the 4th COMPLETE engine that he has built. So, follow along and enjoy the process of taking a ton of parts and turning them into a running engine!

Video Transcript

Woo, well, she didn't blow. No, no, my look what you just did to the... I lost another set of freaking shorts here at work. Oh good Lord Almighty, that's warm.

Hi guys, Sam from It's currently Tuesday, April 30th, and I've got basically a week to get all that and all that assembled, and that's not even all the parts. I still have to get all the fan shroud and cylinder shrouds and a whole bunch of other stuff put together on this engine, but at this point, I just have to get something together to bring, hopefully, to be able to bring our 2234cc engine to EMPI for the engine battle coming up in June. I'm going to be gone from May 8th all the way through the end of the month. I'll be back to work on June 3rd, and I'll have a week in between the weekend of Prado, at which point this video is probably coming out. We'll see how it goes, and then I've got to be in a car driving out to EMPI, well, driving out to California to, uh, I'll be at Prado and I will be at EMPI, uh, the week of June 11th through the end of their open house. I've got to get to work, so I'll bring you along if anything interesting happens. Wish me luck.

So, I've got both of our engine case halves cleaned. One thing I like to do is I'll run extra long studs and put a nut on the inside to prevent these studs from backing out. It just seems to make sure that they stay in place for the duration. Uh, I'm about ready to install the back oil galley plug here with some Loctite. I'll get that in, and then crankshaft. I can go ahead and start heating up our oil so I can put on our timing gear, uh, and our distributor drive gear. I can go ahead and get our connecting rods cleaned up and get those guys installed. Just lots more cleaning and lots more assembly to do, but I'm going to keep at it. Nothing fancy has happened so far other than getting my sock and shoe all wet while I was rinsing out the engine case halves.

I do have our connecting rods on: number two, number four, number one, number three. This is the bottom of the crank. All of our stamped ends indicating the bottom of the crank on the rods are in properly. Once I get that, uh, distributor drive gear back in place, I'll be able to put on the snap bearing, our keyway here, and our slinger, which I'm not going to forget. Then this crank will be ready to drop into the case once I put some bearings in the case. We're getting there.

Well, that does it for the first day and essentially the first five hours of work. I've got an assembled short block. Everything worked as far as the internals. The Engle FK8 cam does not hit the crankshaft or the rods, so that's wonderful news. I don't have to have that camshaft turned down anymore. Everything with all the test fitting and everything else seemed to go relatively smoothly. The only questionable part I had was when I dropped the case on and went to tighten the two cam bolts on the back; the case wasn't completely square. So, as I tightened them, the crank locked up. So, I pulled the case off, double-checked everything, went through. I lightly snugged the two back cam bolts, and then I went to the opposite side of the engine case, torqued down one of those bolts, and then went back and spun the crank. Everything worked fine. So after that, it was just a torque sequence as normal. I've got all our head studs in place, and this thing is ready to start cycling, uh, our piston and cylinder, and we'll figure out what our compression ratio is going to be. Now that we've got the head fly cut, I could get upwards of 10.5 to 1, if not maybe a little bit more, but that's going to depend on our rocker geometry and, uh, whether or not our valves end up hitting our piston during certain portions. So I've got to go through and set up our push rod length, and I've got to clay a piston. Not a whole lot of time, but I should know by tomorrow whether or not these pistons need to be notched. Let's pray that's not the case, literally engine case, um, and that I don't have to clearance those pistons because that's going to set me back immensely, three days most likely, if not more. Um, and I just don't have that kind of time at this point. I want to have this engine completely together and possibly running before I leave on vacation. We'll see how it goes. It's going to be a lot of fun. This is definitely nerve-wracking, especially with my time constraints, getting this engine put together, making sure it gets put together correctly. Uh, this is a lot of money here. We're talking thousands of dollars just right here, uh, and I don't even have the heads or the carburetors or anything else on. This is high-stake stuff, but we'll see how it goes.

It is Wednesday, May 1st. Now the fun part begins. I've got to get our pistons and cylinders mocked up. I've got to start working on our compression calculations, our deck height. I had the cylinder heads fly cut. I'm going to double-check that those are all at 50cc. I trust the work at Don's, uh, bus box and Don's machine. It's one and the same place. I trust the work that they did, but I just want to confirm. Yeah, uh, one weird thing, and I'll show it here later. These pistons are advertised as 92mm pistons, but when I measured the piston, it came up at 91.35mm, and I measured a cylinder, and it's 91.7mm. So instead of a 2234, we're going to end up with like a 2221 or thereabouts. 14cc isn't a whole lot when you're over the 2.2L mark anyway, so we're building a 2.2L engine. We are running a deep sump, and with that, I had to trim off the bottom of the engine case here to make certain that it cleared. It's a lot of weight, um, and a lot of just extra assembly hanging out on the bottom of this engine, so I'm not going to install that until near the end. But while I'm here and the engine's upside down, I'll probably end up putting in our pressure relief valves and pistons, our oil pump, uh, our oil filler block off. I'm going to be running a temp sender in here. I'll go ahead and get our oil pump installed, uh, that way I can finish tightening up these couple bolts. Just a lot of assembly again. I'm time-lapsing all this. Uh, I figure that's a good combination of filming, showing you guys all the work that I've been doing on this, uh, and still being able to get this done hopefully in time. I'm actually on our phone lines. They've got me at the bottom of the phone lines for our tech side, so I don't get that many calls, and I'll stop as needed and go take care of the customers, you customers, as you guys call in. But yeah, I'm going to keep on working on this thing and hopefully be able to have an engine at the EMPI’s engine battle.

I just realized I did all my up close and personal and talking to a time lapse, so that's not going to work. Anyway, I've got our pistons and cylinders installed temporarily just for mockup so I can go ahead and set compression ratio. I can check deck height and get that all set up. Uh, most importantly, and hope I can grab some shots from the, uh, from the time lapse, got 91.8, 91.9, not quite 92mm cylinders. Uh, both. We got 4.5mm thick walls, so as long as I did this thing right, it should put out some good numbers as far as horsepower. Maybe it's not going to be a 180 horsepower engine, but 150 would be cool, and it should be drivable on the street relatively well. And that's just all in, you know, carburetor tuning and timing at that point. We'll see how it goes. I'm going to get back to work.

I'm kind of regretting going with these pistons and cylinders. They're not 92s. They're not 90.5 or 92 at the case, and they're not 94 at the heads. I wouldn't use these again. Here's the problem I'm running into now is this is a standard shim for a 90.5/92. It doesn't fit on, obviously, at our engine. Our cylinder sits up a pretty good amount, so I'm going to have to either stack a whole bunch of 94mm shims and hope that I actually have enough, or I'm going to have to sit here and open up every single one of these with a flap wheel so that they actually fit over the top of this cylinder base to set my deck height. The work from Don's on the heads, spot on, 50cc, good to go. To get to a 10:1 compression ratio, I'm going to have to get my deck height to, I want to say it was 7 thousandths. Let's pull out the JBugs compression calculator where I checked. So with a 91.9 bore, 84 crank, yeah, I think that's 7 thousandths. Right now I need to get, I have a negative deck height. My pistons are popping up 1.68 basically, so I need to get that back to zero, and then I need to add 0.071 to get to 10:1 compression. So I need 0.68 plus 0.071 worth of shims to set my 10:1 compression ratio. Almost a quarter of an inch worth of shims, 0.239 inches worth of shims. That's a lot of shims. Stay tuned, guys.

I'm in the clear as far as piston to valve clearance. I'm not going to say I'm in the clear with the engine because we're not done yet. I've got all of our push rods cut to length after going through and, uh, remembering how to set up my dial indicator and check at half lift and get the valves and everything else set open, and again just figuring out all the rocker geometry stuff. I don't actually know if I do it right, but it worked. The valves open. I'm getting 530, I want to say 538 of lift on my cheap Harbor Freight dial indicator, uh, with 1.4 to 1 rockers, uh, advertised is I want to say 536. I want to say looking at the cam card. So right in line. At this point, I might start assembling the 34 side. I got to send a couple text messages, see if I have anything to do as far as, uh, after work this evening. It's currently 3:40. I've been at this for, you know, solid since 12:00. Um, and then a little bit before that while I was still on the phones. Uh, so basically I've been back here all day, fortunately short of maybe two hours in my office cumulative. Yeah, yeah. I think I'm ready to start putting our piston rings in and installing the wrist pins and getting everything else set up. Uh, ended up having to run with these pistons and cylinders, uh, 94, 94, uh, mm, uh, shims at the case. It's kind of odd that this is supposed to be slip fit to 90.5, 92 case, machine fit for 94 at the heads. It's almost like it's 94 at the case, but it's not quite, and it's way too loose at the heads, or it's not way too loose. It's a little loose. It's clear, but it's not a perfect fit. It is what it is. I can't get any more heads at this point, so we're just going to run what you brung, so to speak, and this is what I brung, so this is what I'm going to run. I think I'm going to stay on this side and at least get this side buttoned up before I call it a night, and then tomorrow is going to be Wednesday. No, today's Wednesday. Tomorrow will be Thursday. I'll be able to get the other side together, uh, and then I can start, uh, clearancing our intake manifolds, uh, get the oil sump installed, and start working on all the, uh, the accessories in pieces.

It's 5:05 Wednesday night. I got to go home and do some welding for a friend of mine. I got halfway there just like Bon Jovi said. Uh, at this point, definitely living on a prayer that we actually make it to, uh, EMPI with this engine running, but it's looking good so far. More of the same tomorrow. I'll get what's done here done on this side. A couple things I noticed immediately tonight is I'm going to have to come in and cut these head studs down to clear our intake manifold here. These are longer studs for our stroker pistons. That's just the nature of the beast, apparently. This is my first time building an engine this big, so I'm just guessing here. I've just got to do everything here over here tomorrow, and then I can work on all the rest of the stuff that completes this engine and makes it a turnkey. On that note, thanks for watching. We'll be back tomorrow for more. This should be a good little running engine. I can't wait to hear it. Later, guys.

Yesterday, uh, true to form, as I was assembling the top end, kind of like, oh, you know what, I've got a little bit of time, I'll assemble this top end. True to form, I forgot to install the heater tin. So fortunately, these are spring-loaded push rod tubes, so I pulled them out with the assistance of a pair of pliers and a piece of cardboard to protect the anodized coating. I can now put in our deflect tin. I got these in place. I'm going to safety wire this set in, recut my tubes, put them back in, and we'll, uh, do everything that we did on this side over there, but we'll put these in first before we put the push rod tubes next time. So back to the time lapse and back to work. Still on the phones. I'll be back here working with a headphone in, listening for your phone calls, and helping you out as much as I can while still trying to build this engine. So good morning, and, uh, I've got basically today, tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday to get this thing completed and running. We'll see how it goes.

This is a JC 92mm tapered ring compressor. It just starts out big and then tapers down small, and this makes installing pistons with rings installed way, way nice. You drop it in. This is, of course, lightly oiled already, just like so. Take that and the wood side, and just like that, piston's installed. Let me push that all the way down to the bottom and just push it clear of our wrist pins. Up too far. There we go. Now I can put on my cylinder shims, get that all ready to seal in, and when I drop it into the engine, wrist pin's ready to go. I really, really, really like these. Anyway, back to what we are doing.

The long block is done. I fought this distributor for a little bit, so much to the point where I test-fit the distributor to another timing gear. I pulled the distributor drive gear out to make certain that something was out of place, made sure I had my shims, actually ended up putting in two more shims to try and get the distributor drive gear up higher to meet up with the distributor. It just didn't seem to want to go in. I took a Pertronix distributor, dropped it right in, even with the four shims, still fit perfectly. Just took a little bit of a tap, and this distributor finally got seated. I fought this for a while, but anyway, I've got our two center studs for our heads cut back, hopefully to allow me to put in our much larger intake manifolds. Let's find out right now. Yes, much more room. However, that's the holes for this head, and that's the amount of material I have to remove from these guys to make them flow smoothly to these heads. Now, I do have another option, but it's not an exact match. So these are stage three ported manifolds, and the castings don't quite line up, but that is an option. I don't know. I'm going to see how quickly I can take material out of that manifold with my die grinder to try and match this guy, and that's going to be our better option. So I'm going to get to work on that.

One side done, another side still to go. It's a lot of work, and I'm going to be here until probably 6, 7, 8:00 tonight, maybe. Ideally, I want to get this thing as put together as possible so hopefully I can start this thing tomorrow. We'll see how it goes, but right now I'm going to go get some lunch. Be back in a bit. Uh, it's 2:20, and I'm going to keep on going. Doing these intake manifolds is really, really messy, so I am going to stop these... well, I'm going to stop working on that one. That one's done. I've got a little bit more I can take off of there, but actually matching them up to the heads and the gaskets, they look pretty good, but you can see what a difference it is between those two holes and those two holes. So hopefully it'll make a difference. I don't know. I'm not an engine builder or I don't port and polish heads, and I think I got maybe overzealous on this one. Uh, I was getting tired and hungry. I wasn't getting hangry. I was getting hungry. I'll double-check these with the gaskets, and we'll go from there. Adjust as necessary. Um, looking at them, I could do a little bit more here. Anyway, I want to get the oil cooler on, cylinder shrouds, alternator stand, fan shroud, you know, basically everything except for the carburetors. Probably throw the exhaust on as well. Uh, I need to plumb in our oil filter. Uh, I need to figure out what fittings I need for my full flow. Just a bunch of stuff. I want to get as much stuff as I can done today in the hopes of running this tomorrow. So again, it's going to be a late day. I'm going to get back to it.

This is our EMPI, unassembled, but now assembled 1600cc engine, and I'm stealing the fan shroud off of it because we're out of stock. I don't have any doghouse fan shrouds, none of the type four concept one fan shrouds, no chrome shrouds, no black shrouds without ducts. They're on backward, so guess what I'm doing? I'm stealing this one off of this engine, and I'm going to put it on this engine. So we got to do what we got to do. Time's ticking.

One last parts list, kind of, maybe, hopefully. 4:36. I still have to finish porting the intake manifolds, and then I have to get both carburetors put together and installed. I ordered up some jets. I don't know that they are in yet. Hopefully, they're in before I get ready to fire this thing. I'll fire it up on the stock jetting that they come with and just get this thing broken in, but it's definitely not going to be the proper jetting for this engine. Along those lines, it's been a whole bunch of work to get to this point, and I've got some more work to go. So I'm going to go grab these parts, and I will be back.

Well, short of carburetion and venting the valve covers for this breather box, this used to hang out better. Short of hooking up the breather vents and installing the carburetors, well, intake manifolds, etc., etc., etc., this is it. Pretty mild-looking, but we'll see what she does. Um, inch and 3/4 stainless steel exhaust, EMPI HEI ignition, 2234 engine. I need to get a 90° fitting from home. I'm pretty sure I have one of these. Uh, when I bought them for my sand rail that I full flowed, uh, the two pack I have, I still have the other one at home, I'm pretty sure. So I'll be able to hook up this line here to our return line. This is straight from the oil pump into our filter, from our filter back into the engine case and oil galley, etc. We're almost there. I'm going to get to work on porting out these manifolds, and then by the end of the night, I want to have both manifolds on and both carburetors set in place at least. I won't worry about the linkage tonight. It's currently 6:51, and based on how long it took me to do the other ones, I've got about another hour's worth of work on porting those manifolds. So I'm going to get to that, and we'll say goodbye in a little bit.

It's 8:25. My back's killing me. My hands are shredded. The shop is a disaster, but this engine is almost ready to fire up for the first time. I'm tired. I've been here since I pulled into the parking lot at 5:25, so I've been here a long time today. I'm going to go home, take a shower, go to bed, and I'll be back here tomorrow.

All right, good morning, all. It is Friday, May 3rd. I left the building at 9:00 last night and back here again at 5:25 this morning. Spent some time cleaning up the shop a little bit. I say a little bit because my workbench is still kind of messy, and so is my cart. Anyway, I grabbed some pieces and parts from home. I actually went through and read the instructions about that, so I'm going to rerun these vent lines here. I'm going to run them off the bottom side and over to the valve covers. Look a little bit cleaner, and hopefully there won't be too many sharp bends on the valve cover vents. So hopefully I can drill these valve covers. I have a 3/8 NPT tap, which takes a 37/64 drill bit. I hope those bosses are large enough for a 3/8 NPT. That might be bigger than 3/8 NPT. I'll have to look at the instructions, in which case I'll just put standard vents on the, uh, the valve covers. I don't know what to do with these. I cannot get these things to sit any further down in these carburetors to allow these guys to sit over that lip like I believe they are supposed to go. Uh, I might wait to go to EMPI and see what happens there. Although I do prefer to run air cleaners, so I might see if we have any IDA air cleaners in stock just to... I don't care about winning this dyno competition. I care about having a stout engine, and along those lines, I want it to be streetable and drivable, and you don't have to worry about sucking a small child into the intake manifold. So yeah, velocity stacks look cool, but I like something that's actually drivable. So hopefully I've got some air cleaner assemblies to put on those. I've got just a whole bunch of little cleanup, small stuff to do this morning before I can dump some oil in this thing, hook up some fuel, hook up some electric, and start it. So let's get to it.

Alright, just put oil in. We got to crank it to build oil pressure and fill up the oil filter and make sure that we have oil pressure. Once that happens, then I can go through and put all the push rods in and set the valves. I have everything but fuel hooked up. Uh, I still need to go out and get some 91 octane at least. We're going to be running like 110 for the competition, which means I could have built this thing at like 12:1 and built more horsepower, but it really wouldn't be streetable with that. So 10:1 is a good tradeoff between performance and still drivability with premium fuel. Anyway, I need fuel, but right now we're going to build oil pressure cranking this thing over in anger for the first time. And that probably just blew out the paper out of the spark plugs. Yep, yep, did it on this side too. I got to make sure to get that out. That's that one. No more paper plugging our spark plugs. But compression, that's good, but we ain't got oil pressure yet.

There we go, took it a minute. But while that's settling, we'll come back and check our oil level. I've got to put our push rods in and whatnot and so forth and set the valves, and then we can crank it over again, make sure we get oil pressure. Then we can hook up power to our distributor, set in our initial timing, and all that sort of jazz.

Alright, I'm back. I've got some fuel. I am just going to prime the fuel pump and the carburetors, make certain that we're getting fuel, and then we're one step closer to firing this bad puppy up. I got fuel squirting there. I got fuel squirting there. Any leaks? It appears to be no, so fuel is good. I'm going to go through and put all the push rods and all that stuff in and get our valve set up so that I can crank this over without spark plugs but the rockers hooked up, fill oil pressure one more time. Then I'll throw the spark plugs in, set our firing order, and go from there.

Alright, moment of truth. Uh, I can't get this thing to tell me if it's firing or not. Start break on the distributor. Um, yeah, let's do that. Hold, please. Until I have the timing set and this thing broken in, I've never used one of these distributors. We're going to swap it out to something that I know how to work on so that I actually have safe timing. So hold on a moment.

Okay, in the interest of keeping the cameras from overheating and because we have a nice breeze coming through here to hopefully not asphyxiate us all, we swapped out to a 009 with points just to get this thing broken in. Go with what you know, especially when you're starting with something like this. Let's turn on our fuel. I got squirts. Lord help us all, especially this thing. Alright, alright, that was promising.

Woo, alright, good Lord, that thing's got some power and some oil in it.

Did you shut it down?

I just let it idle, and obviously it's not going to idle at this point. Your carbs aren't even tuned, but they actually did a lot better than I thought they would out of the box. Yeah, out of the box they did well. That was intense.

Yeah, that back push rod leaking a little bit, yeah, or push rod tube I should say. Yeah, um, oh good Lord, we got a whole bunch coming out of that guy, don't we? Yeah, my sump's not leaking one drop.

Sounds like it'd be pretty mean if it was gotten on.

Oh good Lord, yeah, I can't imagine this thing in a freaking car. Oh, it just sounds absolutely monstrous.

Just the torque on that thing, oh dude, insane.

I didn't have it tight, apparently, and the thing was like freaking walking on me, dude. Yeah, I couldn't even hear you, so like, what?

Yeah, I was too close to the end and I couldn't hear what you were saying.

Yeah, no, I'm not hungry. I'm good. Alright, thanks. Woo, well, she didn't blow your mind. No, my look what you just did to the... I lost another set of freaking shorts here at work. Oh good Lord Almighty, that's warm. That muffler is hot, and uh, that'll polish off these not so much. That's toasty. Don't touch that.

So I built an engine, and it melted my shorts. Yeah, I've got to let this thing cool down quite a bit. Uh, I anticipated a leak from this guy. This isn't sealed. I meant to put an oil pressure switch in here, and I did not. We do have some leaking push rod tubes. Yeah, it's a Volkswagen. It's leaking oil, but it's also making a ton of power. How much? We'll find out when we dyno it. In the meantime, I've got to tune these carburetors because they are not set at all for this engine, so I'll definitely have to make some adjustments there. I've got some jets on order, and we'll see what happens with those and see if I can actually tune them once I get the appropriate size jets for this thing. Then I'll go through and get the carburetors synced, get these carbs tuned, and I'll probably come back while I'm tuning the carbs and film all that. But in the meantime, it's been a wild adventure to this point. It's been fun, but that's a whole heck of a lot of stress, especially during this part. But we're through the most stressful part. Now it's just kind of cleaning things up, polishing things out, and tuning these carbs is going to be the next big step. Oh, and I've got to put that EMPI distributor on there and get that figured out. Also more fun stuff that I've never done before. Let's see what happens.

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