540 Big Block 81 Camaro build

Mike Busutil

Veteran Member
Oct 16, 2010
629
Yuma Arizona
Hello Nasty Z28,

I have a 1981 Berlinetta Camaro with T-Tops and a 267ci small block automatic that I bought in 04. When I got it, it had a new paint job, new interior and a rebuilt engine. It was a very clean looking Camaro and drove great. I drove this car for a while with the intentions of rebuilding her as a Pro Touring Camaro and too much power. About a month after I got it my oil pickup fell off in the pan while on the freeway... I found this out later on after I heard my engine making angry noises and losing power leaving me on the side of the road.

It did enough damage to my engine that I had to rebuild it. After the rebuild I drove her everywhere and enjoyed my Camaro again. About a year later she got a slight oil leak which made me mad because I just rebuilt that engine and hated the thought of getting back into the engine to replace a rear main seal. (Which I thought was the cause of my leak but did not confirm) Because it was light, I ignored it and just added oil here and there.

Then in 2006 I was deploying to Iraq so I parked my Camaro in a storage lot in Las Vegas. There she sat for 3 years... After I got back and settled in a new home I picked her up and found someone had removed my car cover. Her new paint and interior were badly faded, she started right up BUT ran like crap, my carb was dried up, fuel was old and she smoked like crazy from the floats being stuck. So I trailered her to my new house in Arizona. I decided to sell her but I could not find anyone that wanted her or the headache of fixing her up.

I then decided I was going to tow her to the desert a few miles from my home where there is a shooting range that needed a new target for us to shoot at. I got busy here and there and never got around to taking her on her last trip to the desert. After all this I was in my garage just looking at the sad state of my Camaro and thought of all the years she has been driving since 1981 and how much I liked driving her.

I thought about how she died on me, was brought back to life, sat in storage for three years, then still had enough in her to still run. I could not sell her or give her away, my attempts at taking her to the shooting range were always interrupted and still she sat in my garage. The time felt right to rebuild her the way I wanted to. I started two weeks ago with the tear down. I grew up working on cars and engines but never fully rebuilt one on my own so this is my 1st attempt at it but I am confident I can do it right and will have my dad's help along the way. I am sure I will have lots of questions for you guys along the way.

As of now I have the car completely stripped down to a bare shell. She has an extremely clean body with nearly no rust as all. I am ending her original life with just over 82,000 original miles on her. When she comes back to life, she will be completely new. I just had the sub frame sandblasted and powder coated.

As far as my plan for the car, I decided if I am going to do this I want to do it right. I want to install the best parts possible so I will be getting most of my parts from Detroit Speed Engineering (DSE) I plan to get the DSE Deep Tubs so I can fit a 335 rear tire, a DSE Quadra link, DSE 4 point roll cage, DSE frame connectors, Complete DSE front and rear suspension including a custom built 9" rear end. I don't want to do another LS build... I love a old school Big Block engine with a big carburetor and long tube headers so I am going with a 9.0L 540ci Big Block with rectangle port heads and big long headers. I am planning on a Tremec TKO 600 5 speed transmission to put behind it. She will have BAER Pro racing brakes with 6 piston calipers on 14" drilled, slotted and vented rotors for both the front and rear. I will be replacing everything brand new except the sub frame and body shell.

I want to have one of the most cleanest, nicest & most Bad Ass 1981 Camaro's around!

I know there is a lot of work ahead of me, but I will not give up...

My first question is can I expect to run into problems with the fit of the 540ci Big Block and my A/C near the firewall?

Thanks and great site!

Completed Progress: (Will be updated throughout the build)

Tear down completed
Removed all original paint & primer
Body work completed
New Detroit Speed Deep tubs installed
Underbody stripped, primer sealed and undercoated.
Sub Frame sandblasted & Powder coated, installed with new Detroit Speed's solid body mounts
New Detroit Speed Subframe connectors installed
Body shell etch primed
New Detroit Speed firewall fill plate installed (Firewall smoothed out and painted)
New Detroit Speed 4-point roll cage fitted, Powder coated & installed
New Detroit Speed upper and lower tubular control arms installed
New Detroit Speed 2" Big Block drop springs and Koni adjustable front shocks installed
New Detroit Speed inner & outer tie rods installed with adjusters.
New Detroit Speed Idler arm installed
New Detroit Speed front anti roll bar installed
New Detroit Speed 600 steering gear installed
New Detroit Speed Aluminum Power Steering Remote Reservoir installed w/ new Detroit Speed steel braided power steering hoses
New Detroit Speed quadralink installed (4-link)
New Custom 9" rear end built by Detroit Speed installed with 3:70 gears & JRi 'Detroit Tuned' valving Coilover Springs
New Detroit Speed adjustable rear anti roll bar installed
New Baer Pro 14" brake system with 6 piston calipers installed on front and rear suspension
New Tremec TKO 600 5-Speed transmission installed w/ Hurst shifter
New QuickTime bellhousing installed
New Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch installed
New Moroso solid engine mounts installed
New 9.0L 540ci Big Block full roller engine with rectangle port heads installed.
New Moroso Gold 8qt oil pan installed.
New March polished serpentine system installed
New MSD ignition installed
New MSD Pro Billet distributor installed
New Holley Ultra HP 950 cfm aluminum race carb installed
New Doug's full length ceramic coated headers installed (2 1/8" tubes w3.5" collector)
New clutch & brake pedal assembly installed
New clutch "Z-bar", spring and linkage installed
New 20 gallon fuel tank installed
New 130 GPH fuel pump installed
New stainless fuel filter installed
New fuel pressure regulator installed
New Stainless steel braided fuel lines installed
New fuel pressure gauge installed
New MSD DynaForce ultra torque starter installed
New Stainless Steel brake lines installed
New Entropy dual fan aluminum radiator rated at 1,000 HP installed
First engine start up completed
New Dynotech engineering 3.5" 6061-T6 Aluminum racing driveshaft installed.
New Pypes 3.5" X-pipe exhaust installed
New trunk lid installed with rear spoiler
New rear window to trunk panel installed
New inner fenders installed
New fenders installed
New door hinges,pins & springs installed
New chrome door strikers installed
New Eddie Motorsports Billet Door Jamb Vents installed (Black Fusioncoat)
Doors mounted with new custom billet door handles
New door locks installed
New custom three piece forged KWC wheels installed with BFG Rival tires (245x40x18 front w4.875 BS / 335x30x18 rear w5.5BS)
New Vintage Air climate control system installed
New hood hinges installed
New hood hinge springs installed (Low tension springs for fiberglass hood)
New Harwood fiberglass 3"cowl induction Hood installed
New L.E.D tail lights & running lights installed
New fuel cap door installed
New Stinger fiberglass rear bumper cover installed
New intermediate steering shaft installed
New Optima high performance battery installed
New American Autowire wiring harness installed
New turn signal switch installed
New door locks installed
New ignition installed
New ignition switch installed
New upper and lower steering column bearings installed
New B&B Classics billet aluminum steering wheel adapter installed
New lightweight DSE/Driven steering wheel installed
New Stinger fiberglass front bumper cover installed
New Paint (High gloss Vivid black)
New 6061-T6 Aluminum Billet grill installed
New weatherstripping installed
New glass installed including all new rubber stops and new window felts.
New Dynamat installed
New carpet installed
New "Body by Fisher" Scuff Plate / Door Sills installed
New headliner installed
New rear package tray install
New Sail Pillar trim panels installed
New Quarter Trim Lower Plastic panels installed. (Cut and stretched to fit the new Tubbs)
New complete upper dash installed
New complete lower dash installed
New AC ducting & vents installed
New Classic Dash Panel w/ Autometer Phantom Gauges installed
New door panels installed
New door panel armrest installed
New T-top clips installed
New rear window trim molding installed
New Speedometer cable installed
New trunk divider installed
New trunk Divider Board Insulation
New rear seats installed
New front seats installed
New kick panels installed
New rear seat Chevy logo lap belts installed
New 5-point Schroth Latch-link II Harnesses installed
New center console installed
New sun visors installed
New "Camaro" emblem installed on fuel door
New Billet brushed aluminum rear view mirror installed
New side mirrors installed
New Spectre Profab 4" dual cold air intake installed
New Anvil Black powdercoated locking hood pins installed
New Spectre chrome radiator overflow tank installed
New headlight bezels installed
New headlights installed
New parking light bezels & lenses installed
New windshield trim installed
New Dual Thrush Glasspack mufflers installed
New dome light installed
New Detroit Speed Billet aluminum Horn Button installed
New AEM Digital Wideband Air/Fuel Ratio kit installed
Washed, buffed, polished and waxed.
First drive complete!

Plastic oil pressure line replaced with Copper line
First 1,000 miles complete.
New Weiand 8-71 Supercharger with twin 950 blower carbs installed
(Including new Hardened "Hellfire" piston rings from JE Pistons & SCE ICS Titan HD Copper head gaskets)
New AutoMeter Boost/Vacuum gauge installed
MSD Boost Timing Master installed



Video updates.











 
Last edited:

GOLF72

Veteran Member
Jan 11, 2010
2,186
CORONA, CA
Welcome to the site.

I do not have an answer for you but I know you will find it here. These guys are all pretty knowledgeable.

Post some pics
 

71RS/SS396

Veteran Member
Aug 26, 2008
2,640
Wake Forest NC
This pic will give you an idea of how much clearance you will have. This is a factory big block a/c car, but keep in mind the factory BB cars used a shorter motor mount.

P8100275.jpg
 

JONESYFXR

Veteran Member
Oct 10, 2009
2,177
BUFFALO, NY
Is this engine a ZZ502 crate motor or a locally built unit? The ZZ502 comes with the shorter valve covers and should be able to clear your factory A/C. If it was built by a race shop and they used the BBC tall valve covers you might have some issues.

Otherwise post some pics and have a blast building that rocket!!!!!
 

Mike Busutil

Veteran Member
Oct 16, 2010
629
Yuma Arizona
Perfect picture, Thanks for posting. I read somewere that there is a difference between the small block motor mounts and big block motor mounts that shifts the engine forward or backwards a few inches. Good point on the shorter mounts. I will look into this. Thanks again.





71RS/SS396 said:
This pic will give you an idea of how much clearance you will have. This is a factory big block a/c car, but keep in mind the factory BB cars used a shorter motor mount.

P8100275.jpg
 

Mike Busutil

Veteran Member
Oct 16, 2010
629
Yuma Arizona
I can post some pictures in a few but keep in mind it does not look like much right now.... Just a completley stripped Camaro in the begining of a full rebuild :bowtie:





JONESYFXR said:
Is this engine a ZZ502 crate motor or a locally built unit? The ZZ502 comes with the shorter valve covers and should be able to clear your factory A/C. If it was built by a race shop and they used the BBC tall valve covers you might have some issues.

Otherwise post some pics and have a blast building that rocket!!!!!
 
Last edited:

Twisted_Metal

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Gold Member
Feb 26, 2004
31,904
Bloomington, MN
You will need different accessory brackets for the big block.
If you're keeping the A/C system intact, you'll need different brackets for the compressor too.

Beyond the accessory issue, header fitment will be the other challenge.
I've seen the A/C "case" on the firewall modified (cut and patched) to clear BBC headers.
It's much easier to do BEFORE the engine is installed.
 

JONESYFXR

Veteran Member
Oct 10, 2009
2,177
BUFFALO, NY
Mike Busutil said:
This is a New crate motor. Here is a link to the engine and specs

http://enginefactory.com/502600hp.htm

I can post some pictures in a few but keep in mind it does not look like much right now.... Just a completley stipped Camaro in the begining of a full restore :bowtie:


I think with those valve covers you'll be fine. I can't wait to see it!! Sounds like a perfect street/ strip machine!!!!
 




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