Introducing Amelia, my 2002 Chevrolet S10 now powered by a Time Vortec. She’s one of a kind, and a long term work in progress, moving along a path toward excellence. My goal is to have a reliable and powerful ride that’s fun to drive around town, as well as capable of going to play at the track. I’d love to run some 1/4 mile times when everything is in top shape.
The Long Road to an Excellent Truck
In 2010 my dad found a light pickup truck in Texas that caught his eye. It was an extended cab, factory lowered 2002 S10 with the original owner and fairly low mileage.
This truck became my daily driven vehicle for years, and ran great. A small (and highly common) problem on the engine required me to have the intake gasket redone. At the time I didn’t have the tools or skills to do this level of work, and took it to a shop. The shop did a great job, except for one problem. Starting with the drive away from the shop, I began to hear a light tap whenever the engine was running. That sound was the #1 rod bearing going out. Not a good thing!!!
Believe it or not, this engine continued running for another year, before finally making a screeching sound so horrid, you don’t ever want to have one of yours make that sound! That was the last time I drove it before replacing the engine.
A Friendly Donation
My friend Rich (my rich friend?) had offered me an engine one time, sitting on a palette in a garage. He told me it would be great in my little truck. Well, guess what? Now I needed an engine!
Meet the ‘little’ small block to go with my little truck: (come back later for image)
This is a rebuilt, low mileage 350 Chevy small block, good for anywhere between 2-400 horses depending on how it was setup. After tearing it down I would rate what was on there at a mild 255hp at the crank. It had a decent cam but terrible heads, and a specialized Edelbrock intake called the SP2P. Some research on it showed it was made for low-end power. Good for a truck or any kind of city driving, but severely lacking above 4,000 RPM or so.
In any event, I had an engine. And with a little work making it pair well with the existing truck, I could be back on the road.
The Time Vortec
I had now in my possession a canvass for building a somewhat custom ride. I had a lot of options, each with their own challenges. Even running the existing setup without touching a thing would have required changes to make it work. The result was what I have named Project Time Vortec
Vortec is the name of a motor series GM produced in a V6 and V8 arrangement, from the mid to late 90s on through the first decade of the 2000’s. My original (bad) engine was the 4.3 V6 Vortec. My new block was a 5.7L V8 (actually 5.8L, more on that in a minute), but not a Vortec. It was too old. But even Vortecs are considered Gen I blocks, and most parts are interchangeable.
Vortecs came with a particular cylinder head design, and are what makes a Vortec a Vortec. Otherwise you’ve just got “trick flow” or “swirl port” heads. Similar, but not a Vortec.
Then you’ve got Vortex. That is, a spinning dynamic flow of air with certain nearly alchemic properties, resulting in increased airflow. And you’ve got time. I’m a bigtime Doctor Who fan, ever since I caught a glimpse of one of the seasons, around the same year as my truck came to me. The Doctor, if you haven’t heard of this show, travels using a box known as the TARDIS, which flies through space using a collapsing star, suspended in time, in the heart of the TARDIS, to navigate the time vortex. Whew, that was a bit of a mouthful! The tl;dr is: time (in the Doctor Who show) is like a spinning vortex, through which we all travel.
So put it all together, my old raggedy engine on my newer bodied truck — which happens to blend in with its surroundings wherever it goes, because it’s an S10 in America — dressed up and made to run as a Vortec, and my friends and neighbors you’ve got yourself a TIME VORTEC. Trademark, copyright, etc., all the things. And this is what I set out to design.
Until I put in the details, which I hope to do with pictures and resources to help others with their projects, here is what I wound up running with:
The numbers you’re looking at are the high end of where I think compression could be. You also see the displacement, sitting at 356 cu in or 5.8 Liters. The original specs on a 350 are 4.000″ bores. This one is overbored to .040″. Kind of high, my preference would be an .030″ with what I know now. That would be a decent bore, but still leaves ample wall thickness just in case you want to do it again, SOMEDAY down the line. Er, I mean vortex.
My actual compression might be somewhat lower, but probably not any lower than 9.2:1. This is because I don’t know the exact volume of the piston dishes, and when I built the engine I had a lot of things on my mind besides measuring out a piston dish. The other factor is deck height. Good news is this block appears to not be decked (maybe planed for leveling but not significantly) and if I absolutely had to, I could tear it down again and send it off to make the piston fire rings flush with the deck. Instead, I’m running a metal shim gasket.
I also switched cams. And if I’m going through the trouble to do that I might as well get a cam I like. I did some research, got some advice, and landed at the Comp XE 262h, non roller cam. More timey wimey stuff. This is almost the biggest cam I could install without requiring machining on the heads. I bought some cool tools to measure and precisely determine the measurements. If you’re not an engine builder or automotive enthusiast, you might not realize how much math goes into this. Sure, you can get a “kit” with everything pre-determined for you, but I was not building any such thing here! This was more like snagging an unnoticed, but powerful craft stowed away on Gallifrey and making off with it, running like the wind… Well, sort of. I did have to fix a lot of parts at least.
I treated this project as half engine swap, half restoration, third half brilliance. I want this truck to place in shows, potentially. More than that I want this truck to be safe, enjoyable and versatile. So that means I took care with every step. I replaced worn bushings, steering linkage, rear suspension work, and more. The whole engine and transmission came out. The whole front end came off. I swapped hoods and core support, and have a bumper still to go. And on the new engine install, I wanted it to look clean. With the way the computer runs everything, I essentially have an OEM factory look, only with a motor GM never designed and that didn’t belong in this model in any vintage.
There’s still some more to do here, and my next phase of the project will focus more on this area. In my youth I was taught a lesson on the streets: Go before Show. In a world of raspy unturboed Honda 4-bangers and shattered-glasspack Broncos, I want to be a little more stealth. Once I get the powerhouse making reliable power, then and only then is it time to start showing off. Then I can come up with some lighting to highlight my TARDIS blue painted engine, dress up the bay, and add some accessories.
One more aspect I would like to address will be the functionality. I already upgraded to a bluetooth receiver years ago, which is capable of having a backup camera. Fog lights will be nice, if I can find what I want. This one might require more axle work but a towing hitch is on the list. Finally, some interior styling and resto will be in order, but to be honest (tbh) it’s in relatively great condition. I just need to get the a/c hooked up before summer….