With the 331ci Chrysler Hemi receiving the green flag from Speed-O-Motive, it was back in my hands to start assembling the rotating assembly, heads, and valvetrain. Being a greenhorn to a full-on engine rebuild, I was slightly hesitant to jump right into the assembly as I thought it would be quite a shame to ruin all the hard work that the machine shop had done. Suffice it to say, I learned a lot along the way, with many thanks to those who had to suffer with my constant pestering. I can't say enough kind things about those involved, namely the crew at Speed-O-Motive, Egge, Hot Heads, and Mooneyes for dealing with my "newby" questions. If there were ever any reluctance in getting your hands dirty building a vintage engine, sleep easy knowing that there's a number of people in our industry who are not only knowledgeable enough to provide you with the know-how to tackle such a project, but that they're more than willing to explain things and walk you through some of those head scratching problems that you may come across.

Building a vintage engine can be shrouded by old time voodoo secrets, ancient magic, and must-do speed tips, but be forewarned that a knowledgeable machine shop coupled with a competent parts supplier can take that ancient relic of Detroit's past and dumb it down to a tractor motor. The internal combustion engine is going on 100-plus years and while a great many innovations have been made, it all boils down to a simple few points. Get the gas in the cylinder, make it explode, expel the burn, and create power to get you down the road. There have been leaps and bounds in technology, but the general idea has been the same since Henry Ford first took the Model T coast to coast.

That said, I was able to convince myself to act as the guinea pig for those who wanted to build a vintage engine and do it in the confines of their home shop. I've worked on the Mooneyes dragster and even moonlighted on a Bonneville race car that made it into the 200 mph Club in 2004 (Todd Haas' So Cal Speed Shop-sponsored '34 roadster), but that hardly means I knew what I was doing. I was simply a bystander at the feet of bigger and better tuners, fabricators, and racers. But I had the itch and that's all that matters.

With this 331ci Chrysler build however, I was convinced that I could bring a down-home, do-it-yourself perspective to show that you don't need 40 years experience to assemble a reliable, vintage powerplant. Armed with fellow staffer Ron Ceridono's priceless Chrysler Hemi Engine Manual and the support of the named aftermarket companies, assembling the early Hemi has been both a labor of love and a fruitful provider of frustration. But as it came together, I've been exceptionally pleased with not only the fact that I did it, but that it will work and provide me with years of satisfaction as I'm driving the F-1 that it will eventually see life in. Sure a crate motor may have been the easy way out, but do you think that Michelangelo would have ordered up templates to paint the Sistine Chapel over the internet had he been given the opportunity 500 hundred years ago? I think not!

While building a vintage engine can have its ups and downs, today's vast aftermarket industry makes it easier than ever to build a bulletproof vintage engine that is as reliable as any crate motor out there. Just remember that if you can't find something that applies to your particular project, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but sometimes it is necessary to think outside the box.