Tying up Loose Ends on the 383 Small-Block Install in our 1969 Nova

By Taylor Kempkes   –   Images by the Author

Wouldn’t it be nice if, after building a brand-new engine for your muscle car, you could just drop it in, hook everything back up, and tear down the street? It feels like that should be the case. Especially when installing a carbureted small-block back into a ’69 Nova that was already equipped with a carbureted small-block. So what’s the hang-up?

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01 We started with mounting the fan shroud–rather figuring out how we wanted to mount the fan and shroud to our radiator
We started with mounting the fan shroud–rather, figuring out how we wanted to mount the fan and shroud to our radiator. After some deep contemplation, we decided to mount the fan and shroud flush with the top of the radiator and let the rest hang below

Read More: Old-School 327ci Small-Block Chevy Engine

Turns out, there are plenty of opportunities for hang-ups. Some come from the guilt associated with installing crusty, worn-out parts on a brand-new engine. Others come from mismatched components after making upgrades. In the case of installing the new 383ci small-block in our ’69 Nova we ran into a little bit of both.

For starters, when we switched from a traditional V-belt accessory drive to a serpentine system from Eddie Motorsports, we had the chance to also upgrade from a mechanical fan to something more modern. We reached out to our friends at Vintage Air because we heard through the grapevine they just came out with a line of brushless variable speed radiator fans. We wanted to know if they had something that would fit our setup. As it turned out, they didn’t have a plug-and-play kit for our aftermarket radiator-equipped ’69 Nova. They did have a 500-watt brushless fan and shroud that would be “close” but we’d have to get creative with a mounting solution. More on that later.

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02 To keep the fan from sucking the wrong air we made a lower mounting plate that doubled as a block off plate to seal the bottom of the shroud
To keep the fan from sucking the wrong air, we made a lower mounting plate that doubled as a block-off plate to seal the bottom of the shroud.

The Vintage Air brushless fans have some significant benefits over traditional brushed fans. For starters, the motors are much more powerful and have a longer lifespan compared to brushed fans. But the feature we’re most excited about is the variable speed fan control. Lower-end electric fans typically only have two speeds: on or off. Some higher-end fans offer a medium- and high-speed control dependent on engine cooling needs. That means the fan(s) are usually drawing more power and making more noise than is optimal. The last thing you want is to key on your classic car and listen to a noisy electric fan kick on at full speed.

03 To actually mount the Vintage Air fan shroud assembly and lower block off plate
To actually mount the Vintage Air fan shroud assembly and lower block-off plate, we installed rivet nuts in the top and bottom of the radiator core frame and then used standoffs to get the spacing right.

The Vintage Air brushless fans, in contrast, operate using a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) signal from a specific controller. Without going too into the weeds, this same control strategy is used on modern engines to control the rate of fuel supplied by the fuel injectors–and you can imagine the precision that takes. In the case of the Vintage Air brushless fans, this allows for a true “soft start” for a much quieter operation. Then, the fan can be modulated based on engine coolant temperature from 28 percent up to 100 percent speed.

04 We used adhesive backed foam weatherstripping around the outer edge of the shroud to create a tight seal
We used adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping around the outer edge of the shroud to create a tight seal. This would ensure the fan could create vacuum and pull cool air through the entire surface of the fan shroud.

So, in short, using this brushless fan will provide an overall quieter experience, draw only as much power as needed at any given time, and deliver plenty of cooling exactly when needed.

05 Next we mounted the steel fan bracket to the plastic shroud using the screws supplied by Vintage Air
Next we mounted the steel fan bracket to the plastic shroud using the screws supplied by Vintage Air. We used ¼-20 button head screws to secure the whole assembly to the rivet nuts in the radiator frame.

Read More: Johnson’s Radiator Works Builds an Efficient Copper and Brass Tri-Five Radiator

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Cooling fan aside, there were a handful of other parts we’d need to reuse or replace to get the new engine up and running. A lot of the “consumables” could have been reused. Technically. But, for the sake of reliability, we opted to order a bunch of new goodies from Duralast. Our order included everything from fuel and radiator hoses, a thermostat, battery cables, and, of course, a Duralast Gold Battery.

06 Then we were able to drop the whole radiator and 500 watt brushless fan assembly into the Nova as one piece
Then we were able to drop the whole radiator and 500-watt brushless fan assembly into the Nova as one piece.
07 The other important detail of the mounting system we came up with was the fact it all went right back into place
The other important detail of the mounting system we came up with was the fact it all went right back into place and is secured using the factory radiator support panel.
08 Next we moved onto wiring the fan
Next we moved onto wiring the fan. Vintage Air supplied one of their 500-watt brushless fan controller kits. The fan controller installs into a water port on the intake manifold like a traditional coolant temperature sensor. It just needs a 12V from a switched ignition source (red), a ground (black), and then the fan control (white), which goes to the harness on the fan. A blue wire is also available for use with a trinary switch in vehicles equipped with air conditioning.
09 For the fan power harness we ran the supplied six gauge positive cable and 100A Midi fuse to the power junction block behind the battery
For the fan power harness, we ran the supplied six-gauge positive cable and 100A Midi fuse to the power junction block behind the battery.
10 While we were on the subject of wiring we also dropped in our new Duralast Gold Battery
While we were on the subject of wiring, we also dropped in our new Duralast Gold Battery. Rated at 700 cranking amps at just 32 degrees F, this battery will be plenty powerful to turn over our 10.1:1 compression small-block Chevy.
11 We also installed our new Duralast battery cables
We also installed our new Duralast battery cables. The cables are universal for positive and negative since they come with both black and red battery terminal covers. We simply found the lengths that fit best for our engine bay, slipped on the correct cover, and bolted them on.
12 Next we ran fresh Duralast fuel lines in the few areas where we needed rubber lines
Next we ran fresh Duralast fuel lines in the few areas where we needed rubber lines.
13 we also had to install a new thermostat in our Speedway Motors intake manifold
Of course, we also had to install a new thermostat in our Speedway Motors intake manifold. We opted for a 160-degree Duralast thermostat. We know everyone has an opinion on what temperature is truly correct, so you are more than welcome to jump on our social pages to tell us if we chose right or wrong here.
14 After installing the thermostat housing we went ahead and fitted new upper and lower radiator hoses also from Duralast
After installing the thermostat housing we went ahead and fitted new upper and lower radiator hoses, also from Duralast.
15 Once we get the chance to break in the flat tappet cam in our newly rebuilt 383ci small block
Once we get the chance to break in the flat tappet cam in our newly rebuilt 383ci small-block, we’ll pull off the stock exhaust manifolds, reinstall our ceramic-coated Doug’s Headers long-tube headers, tidy up the wiring, and get this thing back on the road.

Sources:

Doug’s Headers
pertronixbrands.com

Duralast
duralastparts.com

Eddie Motorsports
(888) 813-1293
eddiemotorsports.com

Speedway Motors
(855) 313-9173
speedwaymotors.com

Vintage Air Inc.
(800) 733-5206
vintageair.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Tying up Loose Ends on the 383 Small-Block Install in our 1969 Nova.

acp may 2024

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