If you stumble across this site, you always need to consider the fact that I am a self-taught VW air-cooled mechanic with no formal training in anything auto-related either classic or modern. Everything I do related to my cars is because of personal choice, and often, when it comes to documentation and methodology, something that comes from my project management and business analyst approach to learning.
That said, when it comes to engine blueprinting, there’s a time and place for it. And for me, by doing certain aspects of blueprinting during the planning and execution helps me to understand exactly what and how something I may have done comes into play with what I’ve put together.
I only truly learn something by grokking it. Oh sure, I can read a book, follow an operational flowchart, map out this or that, etc. but I don’t feel comfortable with anything until I experience this, for lack of a better word, transcendent moment, in which the minutiae of whatever I’m studying floods into a moment of crystal clear understanding and awareness. I guarantee a lot of people, probably most, do not experience the world like this. But there are many of us that do and getting to that transcendent moment on something is our goal.
For me, that came when I was overcoming my ignorance and fears of building the 2019 New Build engine, my first full engine build.
It probably took me 200… perhaps 300 hours of my evenings reading, watching videos, looking at diagrams, holding parts in may hands, tearing apart multiple engines, etc. and then, during the assembly of the 2019 Long Block, there was this moment that hit me while I was torqueing down the heads, looking down at what I’d done, when time seemed to stop all around me and there I stood… feeling as if I was outside time and space… and the moment hit me. I could see every part of the engine moving in my mind’s eye. I could see the oil pumping along every path and channel that I’d delicately drilled and cleaned… the crank spun and in my head I saw the oil flowing to the bearings and around them and the cam move and the lobes push the rods and lifters move and they were connected to the arms and the valves moved and the pistons and… I just grokked it then and there.
Every single minute I had spent over the course of hundreds of hours between 2017 and 2019 all brought me to a state of perfect synchrony with what I was finally doing.
I just grokked it!
Now you may ask, what the hell does any of that have to do with engine blueprinting?
For you? Most likely nothing.
For a engine building professional selling his skills and reputation? Probably a lot since they charge a f’n arm and leg for the service.
For me? Learning about and how to blueprint an engine, and then apply all of that to a classic Type 1 air-cooled motor, was one of the key little bits of minutiae over those many many many hours that helped me reach my moment of confidence.
Blueprinting is about a lot of detail. About tolerances. About optimizing everything when building something… in this case a combustion engine.
It is about many many hours of minute work, careful adjustments, tossing away brand new parts if they don’t meet your requirements or tolerances, and generally something that serves absolutely no benefit for a basic stock engine in a car driven daily or for pleasure.
All engines have tolerances here and there that must be maintained for engine longevity. And all mass produced vehicles have been designed by engineers with a tolerance range that is acceptable for overall longevity for basic daily driving cars which are the bulk of vehicles sold.
Blueprinting is all about squeezing the last optimal configuration of parts, synched together with the most optimal tolerances, allow the system as a complete whole to produce the most horsepower and torque those chosen parts can produce. Overkill for most.
But for me, always keeping blueprinting principles and methodologies in my mind while I’m sourcing parts, and then when building, documenting this or that in relation to something else, helps me understand at a fundamental level what I’m doing.
Now mind you. I’m still approaching this from a completely amateur garage mechanic perspective. I do not have the means, the tools, the machines, etc. to actually blueprint an engine like a true engine building professional would have on hand. I can’t throw away a perfectly fine new set of $200 pistons and cylinders or order 2 or more full sets in the hope of ideally matching pieces all within the same spec. Why would I?
But I can use all of that thinking about the methodology, and the measurements, to understand the pieces and parts I’m assembling to the best of what an amateur self-taught fat old Polish garage mechanic thinks he can understand.
I’ve got to decide how much effort I’ll put into blueprinting the AJ engine rebuild.
I think I’ll focus mostly from a documentation perspective about the key parts, the tolerances of those parts, etc.
Not that I think I’ll ever sell Murbella. Her future is likely with a cousinling or grandchild-yet-to-exist.
But imagine if you went to look at a classic car to buy, whatever make and model it is, and you actually were given a document by the owner that tells you everything possible you would ever want to know about that engine in that car?
Oh sure. It starts up and runs. Pretty much all used/for sale cars do that. Even shitboxes run.
I’m talking about you knowing the parts used in that engine, the variations chosen from stock, some logic of why those parts were chosen. When you married that engine info up to the similar info about other maintenance and repairs, and then all of that gets wrapped up in your inspections and test drive… you have the true picture of something. No guess work. You have the basis to ask valuable questions in your decision-making on the car purchase. And you have a seller who took the care to document it all for whatever purpose they chose to do so. Me? It is to grok everything I work on and maybe… just maybe… fell like I’m just a slightly better amateur garage mechanic because of it.
Meh. I’ll probably just do the basics.