Wrench Scramble 2015: Playing Musical Engine Stands

ford straight six engines
I have three engines, three transmissions and a spare head in my garage right now, none of which are bolted up in the right combination.

We’ve got a kinda/sorta “built” 200ci six, the original 170ci that came with the car and a donor 170ci I bought only for the transmission attached to it. Our original 170ci ran, but both the exhaust manifold and stripped oil drain plug leaked badly. By the time you price out replacements for both, a whole engine’s cheaper, so we picked up a 200ci motor in pieces at an estate sale along with a C4 automatic to re-sell on craigslist.

2.77 three speed transmissionthree speed 3.03 toploader transmission

Behind the original 170ci was what’s known as the “2.77” three speed, a notoriously weak three speed with a non-synchromesh first gear. Three speeds isn’t a problem, but the high likelihood of catastrophic weekend-ending failure was. Luckily, there’s a three-speed “Toploader” or “3.03” tranny that’s damn-near indestructible, but frequently swapped out for more-geared manuals or automatics. Despite all this talk of Falcon/Mustang/Maverick/Granada/etc parts continuity and interchangeability, Ford once again screwed me by unnecessarily changing bolt patterns around. Turns out the early (pre-67ish) straight sixes have a smaller bellhousing pattern and an 8.5″ clutch, while the “later” ones have a slightly larger clutch. Guess which one our “good motor” 200ci has? Guess which one nearly all the toploaders bolt to?

Aside from spendy aftermarket adapters, there’s an ultra-rare small pattern-to-toploader bellhousing used only in early Econoline vans. Turns out I found one on Craigslist for super cheap. Unfortunately, it was attached to another sketchy 170ci with what looks like JB weld all over the side of the block.
Anyway, the to-do list was as follows:

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  • Separate the toploader from its engine. Check.
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  • Drop the sketchy 170ci in a tire (they make great ghetto engine holders). Check.
  • Pull the 200ci off the engine stand onto another tire. Check.
  • Hoist the sketchy 170ci onto the engine stand vacated by the 200ci. Check.
  • Strip the sketchy 170ci of all good spare/sellable parts: distributor, carburetor, coil, fuel pump, oil pan (for original 170ci). Mostly Done.
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  • Pull automatic flex plate off 200ci, install better of the two flywheels available, install new clutch assembly, bolt on toploader trans. Going to bed instead.
  • uick check that spline count of toploader still works with original driveshaft. Crrrraaaaaap.
  • Text parts donor guy from last weekend looking for driveshaft that’ll work; he’s got it, of course. Swwwweeeeet.
  • Swap oil pan from sketchy 170ci best of leftover parts onto original 170ci to have near-complete spare motor for race. Will get to it…eventually.
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  • (Somewhat unrelated) double-check that I actually ordered brake drums for the new 8″ rear we’re putting in. Turns out I ordered brake drums + shoes + hardware + seals twice in the last couple months without realizing it.


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7 responses to “Wrench Scramble 2015: Playing Musical Engine Stands”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Damn, how big is your garage, Tim? It’s like it’s a tardis.

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Ha! It’s about a 1.5 car garage. Not very big at all. Particularly for these posts I shuffle stuff around to get clear shots.
      May I should do a “make the most of your not-that-big garage” post?

      1. salguod Avatar

        I could help there. I’ve got a 2 car, but it’s an entry level house 2 car, which means 2 cars and pretty much nothing else.
        In it sits my ’60 T’bird, which takes up 99% of one side. Also, I’ve got my roll around tool chest, a bathroom vanity for storage, recycling bin, floor jack, various milk crates of tools & stuff and a few dozen boxes my daughter packed up to move out someday.
        In the remaining space I do all my wrenching. Last weekend that was control arms on the BMW, this weekend it’s the oil filter housing gasket on said BMW.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          Mine is two-car (20′ x 20′) attached, too much non-car stuff in it. It’s about a 1-1/3 car size now, big enough for my wife’s Sienna with room to walk along the sides.

  2. jeepjeff Avatar


  3. nanoop Avatar

    What a logistic nightmare…
    “Drop the sketchy 170ci in a tire (they make great ghetto engine holders)” Cool hint, never saw that!
    “Turns out I ordered […] twice without realizing it” Been there, in a period of stress and bad weather, when it was more attractive to sit down and see what nice parts there are available instead of going out and touch metal tools that have only a few degrees F..

  4. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    I enjoy having engine hardparts all over my garage, It’s a good look. Huge pools of leaked fluids add a nice smell too.