After buying a 1.7L type IV engine with intentions of converting it to upright cooling, then finding some Okrasa heads and buying those with the intentions of building a VW/Porsche hybrid engine, I stumbled across a 356 engine for sale. The Okrasa heads were sold, the Type IV put on the shelf, and the 356 engine was purchased. I already had Pellow's book "Secrets of the Inner Circle" so I was somewhat aware of what I was getting into, but there's no substitute for experience, so here we go.
3/11/01 Bought 1958 Porsche 356A engine. The seller threw in a few spares due to the unknown condition of engine, (Thanks again, Jim!) including one head (the driver's side head was known to be damaged, click on picture at left), a set of rods, set of carbs/manifolds, misc cooling tin, and a few other pieces I've forgotten about.
3/15/01 Removed air filters and tried to turn the engine over (it was thought to be locked up). It turned a little, then stopped... It felt like it might be hydro-locked? I removed the spark plugs. The first two looked almost like new. A good sign. But the third was wet. The fourth was dry, but corroded. Hmm... I tried to turn the engine over again and sprayed the wall with muddy water. I slowly turned the engine back and forth and was surprised to see GREEN water running out. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was antifreeze! That can't be good.. Luckily this was the side of the engine with the crash-damaged head, so any additional damage really wasn't a big deal. After pumping out most of the water, the engine would turn over most of the way, but now seemed to hit something solid in the #3 cylinder.
3/19/01 I couldn't wait any longer and started to tear down the engine, and soon discovered some interesting things... Some parts of the engine looked good (oil cooler) while other parts are TRASHED.
The distributor cap looks almost new on the inside, except for the hole punched in it! The throttle plates in the carbs are corroded in place, The manifolds are also corroded. The inlet port of one head is filled with what almost looks like rock salt? Large grains of white sand? I pulled the heads and found the head for #3&4 cylinder to be NASTY. Click on the picture at left for a close up, along with a link for other pics. What IS all this stuff? I really wish I knew what happened to this engine. All the cylinders look to be trashed (no big surprise). The other head appears to be useable, so the spare head should save the day. It seems whoever rebuilt it the last time wasn't the most detail oriented though. Out of eight washers that should have been installed with the exhaust valve rockers, only ONE was actually in place. I wonder how many other shortcuts I'll find?
The timeline gets kind of hazy at this point, I caught the worst cold I've had in years and most projects fell behind. Sometime along the way I discovered that when this engine was last rebuilt, a "big bore" kit was installed.
4/19/01 Work has resumed. The case is now split and I've discovered; The case pieces are matching. The cam, assuming it's not a regrind, is the stock 1600N part. The rods, on the other hand, are from a 356C, SC, or 912. (But what's up with the small notch about a third of the way down between the big and small end? You can barely see it in the picture, each of the rods has one!) Seven of the eight cam followers are the stock 356A parts, one is the later style. (Oh oh...)
Other signs that the previous rebuild was less than optimum: one oil seal was installed a bit cocked, and surely impeded flow. And the number one boneheaded move I've found so far: the acorn nuts on the case studs have washers with a bevel on them. This bevel is for the o-rings which are installed to seal against leaks. Of course, some of the washers were installed upside down. But that wasn't really a problem, because the o-rings were missing too. Or so I thought.
In fact, they weren't missing after all. When I split the case halves they were on the studs, between the case halves.
On the "good news" front, one of the main bearings was marked as "STD" so there's a good chance the crank and case are untouched. The bearings don't look very worn, but they are littered with debris! All in all, it's probably a good thing this car was put out of it's misery before the engine had a chance to run very long...
But even that is something of a mystery. Earlier I had noticed a strange looking washer/threaded spacer on one of the studs that mount the engine to the transaxle. Then last weekend I realized the threaded piece was the end of a pipe that had been cut off... and the spacer was just like the one that would be needed to mount the engine on a stand? So... was this engine EVER in a car after it was rebuilt? Or was it put on a stand after it was pulled?