My driving question for my March Madness project was, at least loosely, “What can I learn about, and the do to, an internal combustion engine?” I was always unsure of what I was going to do for the project, even though as a student of Grace middle school I had plenty of time and previous symposiums to consider it. I knew that I wanted to do something physical, but it couldn’t be sneakers (one of my greatest passions). Fortunately, I became reacquainted with one of my childhood interests during quarantine, cars. I was watching videos about cars, about the physics of aerodynamics and engine science, I wanted to get into it as much as possible, but working on a car always eluded me. That’s when I got the idea to use my March Madness as an excuse. My original idea was to buy a cheap 4-cylinder engine off eBay or from a junkyard, tear it down and rebuild it. However, my dad had a 1967 Mopar 273 CI small block, which had had its block professionally redone, but still needed to be assembled and have all externals replaced. My dad convinced me that this would be easier and more fun, as well as helpful, and I just wanted to work on an engine, so I said yes.
When I started, I had no experience, except for those YouTube videos about engineering, which doesn’t count for much. Luckily, my dads friend, Ricky Maldonado, an experienced mechanic, was willing to lend a hand. Mr. Maldonado has taught me everything that I know now, and has helped me along the way. I started rebuilding valve assemblies, before moving to old engine blocks and, finally, onto the engine I would use for my project. My goal was to get the motor to run, outside the car, or at least crank for a short period of time. Over these last months I have work slowly and meticulously to reach that goal. Last Tuesday, the 6 of April, all that work came to fruition. It was very loud. If I gained one thing from this project, and I certainly gained more, its that feeling of accomplishment when something you’ve worked so hard for finally presents itself.
Now, although this is as far as I go with my March Madness, there is still plenty of work to do. My next steps will be to paint the engine bay before dropping the car onto the powertrain, which has been accommodated by working outside the engine. Then the car, a Plymouth Barracuda, will just need wheels, tires, paint, and interior before its completed. Aside from that you can believe that this is only the beginning for me, I plan to continue to work on cars as much as I can.
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