Engine teardown and assembly is something you can do if you have the right background, but
One of the greatest things about stock car racing is there is no magic involved. Some may say there is, but it's usually just the winners not wanting to divulge their secrets. No, when you get right down to it, the only magic in racing is the ability of the driver to feel what his car is doing a split-second faster than anyone else on the track. The rest of it-the car-is just good ol' mechanical engineering, thermodynamics, and adhesion. There is nothing anyone else can do with a car that you and I, given the time, education, and inclination, cannot do just as well ourselves.
Many racers take this truth to heart when they attempt their own engine teardown and assembly. The equipment necessary for block and head machining is cost prohibitive and should be left to the engine shops, but there is no rule that says you can't do much of the rest yourself. If this describes your situation, then here's a breakdown of some of the most valuable tools any engine assembler can use.
Dial Bore Gauge and Crank Journal Micrometer
When you get right to the crux of the matter, the difference between a race engine and an OEM street engine is in the blueprinting. A qualified engine builder can yank the engine out of your Sunday driver, tear it apart, put it back together using the same parts, and find horsepower. He can do this because he's a stickler for making every piece fit perfectly. A good engine builder spends more time making sure all his clearances are right-not too big and not too small-than he does turning bolts. That's why his measurement tools are more important than his wrenches.
Two of the most important measurement tools you can own are a dial bore gauge and a crank micrometer. Used correctly, a dial bore gauge is one of the best instruments for checking size, straightness and taper of the cylinder, cam and crank bores, as well as measuring the big end of the rod. Used in conjunction with the dial bore gauge, the crank micrometer reads the size of the crank, cam, and rod journals. These measurements are all critical because they help maintain proper clearances on all your bearing surfaces-the heart of an engine when it comes to proper oiling and reduction of parasitic losses.
Cam Bearing InstallerThe cam bearing installer is one of the most expensive tools on this list. But like the dial bore gauge, another expensive tool, it is absolutely necessary. Without this tool, there is no way to correctly install the cam bearings in all five journals without damaging them. Getting them out without this tool also isn't fun. The tool pictured from Goodson is a universal set that will work with just about any pushrod engine you can find, but both Goodson and Powerhouse Products sell installers for specific bore sizes that cost less. Another option is to have your engine builder install the bearings after he completes the machine work on your block. Still, if you plan to spend a lot of time working with your engines, this is a tool you will want to have.