Vintage Air Install

Installing a Vintage Air Front Runner system

Story and Photos Courtesy of Fesler Built

Every custom classic ride needs the basic elements to be classified custom. There is the paint - a definite must - you wonít find too many run down rides on the pages of this site. Stance is another big factor- the way a car rides and sits has a huge impact on the overall theme and look of the vehicle. And then there is the engine.

There are some instances; I do mean some that a builder can get away with an original factory power plant still stuffed under the hood. But we are talking all original, matching number scenarios. It just doesnít say much to see a decked out ride, that tapped itís owner out when the time came to install an upgraded engine. Most custom muscle cars today include an upgraded engine. Whether the classic 350 or the sought after 572, the bigger the better when it comes to horsepower.

One such project under way was a 1970 Chevelle SS convertible being built by Fesler Built in Phoenix, AZ. Already in the midst of a new paint scheme, lowered suspension and powder coated frame, this classic ride was due for a heart transplant. The planned equipment - a GM, fuel injected ZZ 454 crate engine.

Known for being one of the kings of big block crate engines, the GM ZZ 454 packs a whopping 440 horsepower and 500 ft. lbs of torque. The ZZ 454 unit makes exclusive use of aluminum, specifically to keep the weight down, making the aluminum heads, intake, water pump and valve covers part of a total package that is known for making awesome horsepower.

As great as any 454 crate engine is, it still lacked the serpentine drive system necessary to connect the power steering, engine, water pump, air conditioner and alternator to one another, thus allowing the engine to run. Most options included purchasing an aftermarket system to bolt up to our new engine. Wanting to incorporate some ďblingĒ into our new project, we turned to Vintage Air and their new Front Runner Serpentine Drive System to take care of our needs.

For those of you behind in the times, a serpentine drive system is just what the name implies. It is a continuous belt loop that winds its way through and around your engine to drive various engine parts. The serpentine system is more efficient than older systems because it utilizes one wide belt instead of several thinner belts, allowing the one belt to be put under increased tension without stretching. The best known plus to the serpentine belt system is that if the belt does break, the driver immediately knows there is a problem unlike the old belt systems where if one belt broke, the driver may not become aware that there is a problem until the engine stops running.

So because Fesler wanted the best of both worlds - bling and superior performance - they elected to chose the Vintage Air system because it is known for its reliability and quality craftsmanship. It just goes to show you that for every upgrade - suspension, paint or stereo - there is one more thing that can be done to make it that much better.

The Vintage Air Big Block Front Runner System comes complete with all 18 necessary parts to complete the installation.

Basically what we started with was a simple as it sounds. . .a big block. This Vintage Air Front Runner system is compatible with either a Chevy 454 or 502. For this installation we used a fuel injected ZZ 454.

The beginning of this installation is all about bolts, or studs for the water pump. Silicone plays a big role in an installation such as this one because it prevents leaking. Just a dab is all we needed on all four of the water pump studs before threading them into the block.

Next, silicone was again used to secure the water pump gaskets to the block.

With the water pump gaskets in place we used a liberal amount of silicone on the pump where it would meet up with our newly placed gaskets before installing the water pump on the mounting studs.

The power steering bracket was next to be installed. We first installed the supplied spacers to the mounting studs then installed the steering bracket on the lower driver side mounting stud making sure we placed the (2) stand offs between the engine block and power steering bracket. We secured the new bracket using the supplied bolts and washers.

The water pump pulley can be installed one of two ways. Vintage Airís instructions suggest you install this piece before installing the water pump. We found it easier to install the pulley after we had already secured the water pump. Because the pulley is asymmetrical, we made sure to install it with the stamped side towards the water pump.

The Vintage Air system now comes with the necessary straight heater hose fitting for the water pump so we did not need to worry about salvaging our original one or hunting down a new one from a local parts store. This new addition from Vintage Air is a timesaver for sure.

Next, on its own, we installed the compressor block fitting to the supplied Sanden SD-7 compressor utilizing the supplied cap screws and washers.

Next, we installed compressor on the front runner main bracket using two spacers, one between the main bracket and the compressorís upper rear mounting tab and one between the main bracket and the compressorís lower rear mounting tab. The compressor and bracket were secured using the supplied hardware making sure we threaded the bolts from the back side of the compressor through the main bracket.

Installing the alternator was as simple as lining up the holes to the main bracket and securing with the bolts and washers.

With the main front runner bracket assembled, we installed it to the block by sliding it over the water pump mounting studs. We used the supplied washers and nuts to secure the driver side of the assembly while using a separate set of bolts, washers and nuts to secure the alternator to the power steering bracket.

Next on the list was the belt tensioner and bracket. We carefully installed the dowel pin in the locating hole of the tensioner bracket. This dowel pin is a press fit so we used a hammer to lightly tap the dowel pin into the locating holes. Next, we installed the tensioner spacer on the backside of the belt tensioner.

Finally we installed the belt tensioner with spacer and tensioner bracket to the passenger side mounting studs. We used the tensioner stand off between the block and bracket and then secured the top of the bracket to the water pump mounting studs.

Before installing the crankshaft pulley on the harmonic balancer, we had to remove the stock bolt/washer combo that came with the engine from the factory.

With the stock bolt/washer combo removed we installed the crankshaft pulley on the harmonic balancer using the new SS bolts and washers. We then secured the crankshaft pulley to the crankshaft snout with the supplied hat washer and hex bolt using lock tight to ensure a tight fit.

To finish off the look of our compressor we installed the polished end cover.

The line for the steering pump will not be accessible after we install the pump so it was necessary to connect the line before installing the pump. To do so, we first installed a set of copper crush washers on a piece of polished line before attaching it to the steering pump.

Using anti-seize (a substance that permits the bolt from seizing inside its metal destination) on all bolts, we installed the power steering pump to the ready and waiting bracket and tightened into place.

Using a power steering pump pulley installer we installed the power steering pulley on the power steering pump. Note that the use of the power steering pump pulley installer is necessary. The pulley cannot be installed by hammering or pressing onto the pump without damaging the unit.

With every component in place, the main part of the set comes into play, the belt. Using a ĹĒ drive ratchet or breaker bar to operate the tensioner we routed the belt around the crankshaft pulley, power steering pulley, alternator and over the compressor before ending with a slide under the water pump pulley.

The last and final step was to install the belt tensioner cover, a polished piece that cleans up the front of the system.

The finished product is something of a masterpiece. Vintage Airís Front Runner System is a must have for any big block installation.



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