Restoring the Cordoba - Part 1: Pulling the Engine

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Since acquiring my 1978 Chrysler Cordoba back in 2004, it has steadily been wearing itself out.  While I did my best to keep it maintained and in good running condition, the combination of age, poor maintenance prior to my ownership, and me driving the snot out of it finally took its toll.  During an auto shop lab in September of 2007, where the engine was hooked up to 140PSI of air pressure for a leak-down test, the crankshaft rotated backwards, allowing an already slack timing chain to jump a tooth.  In turn, this caused the engine to permanently run with retarded valve timing, which led to poorer fuel economy, a very noticeable shake at idle speeds, and overall poor performance.  Luckily, I had just purchased a truck for use as my daily driver, and had planned to rebuild the Cordoba's engine the following school semester.  In preparation for this, I evacuated the R12 refrigerant out of the air conditioning system at school, and brought the car home.

The first part of rebuilding an engine is actually getting it out of the car.  I had never done this before, so I enlisted the help of my buddy Raymond Geach, who I had shared an engine building class with the previous year.  He was much more experienced than I in terms of actually performing major surgery on a car, and had swapped out a number of V8 engines in his 1967 Plymouth Valiant.  After three weeks of delay, we were finally able to work on the car on January 12, 2008, doing all of it in my grandmother's driveway in Santa Ana.

We started early Thursday afternoon and worked until dark.  Friday was spent doing other things, as neither one of us had time to go over and continue.  We picked up early Saturday morning.  I went over around nine-thirty, and Geach showed up at around ten to find me under the car and fighting with the starter motor.  We got the engine to the point where we had only one bolt to loosen and it would come straight up, then we took a small break by heading over to F&B Rentals to rent a hoist.  Upon returning, we pulled the engine and had the engine on the stand by one in the afternoon.  Since Geach had to leave to shower before his shift as a barback down in Dana Point, I continued working on the engine alone, tearing it down to just the pan, block, and heads, and only snapping one drain plug.


The Cordoba, as it was.
The Geach pulls off the spark plug wires.
The belts and battery have been removed.
The alternator and air conditioning lines have been removed.
The radiator has been removed.
After loosening the transmission bell housing bolts, removing the hood and exhaust collector pipe, disconnecting all electrical components, draining the oil and coolant, and making sure we have a place to attach the chain, the engine hoist is moved into position.
Another view.
Yours truly, getting the chain set up.
The engine, after pulling.  Note the years of oil, grease, dirt, and road grime that have been built up.
Smog pump bracket.
How the smog pump bracket attaches to the timing cover.
How the A/C bracket attaches to the top of the motor, plus the first air diverter valve.
How the A/C bracket attaches to the timing cover.
Myself, after a very long and enjoyable day of crawling on my back, diving head first into a greasy engine compartment, getting grease and oil everywhere, and just generally having the time of my life.

Over the next couple of days, I will be tearing the engine completely apart.  The pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft, camshaft, valve train, oil pan, and oil pump will be removed, and the block will be taken to Burlington Engineering for an acid dip.  The heads will be disassembled as far as possible at home, then taken to school for machining, porting, and rebuilding.  After the block is dipped it will be brought to school for machining and reassembly as a smog legal stroker motor.

While this is going on, the Cordoba body will be cleaned, further disassembled, and prepped for bodywork, painting, and reupholstering.  I managed to find a better optioned Cordoba in a junkyard a few months ago, and will be transplanting the wiring harness, power seats, and trim on to my car after it's all prepped.

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