Test starting a rebuilt FE 390

I have purchased a donor car, a 65 Tbird with a rebuilt 390. The installation of the engine was not completed and the car sat for 10 years. Before removing the engine I wish to test start it. What are the considerations to avoid damage to the engine? What systems are required? I thought I could hook up the fuel pump to a container, no coolant for a 3-4 minute run time, work the trottle by hand at the carb, etc. I am a novice at his sort of thing, please advise.

Before you try to start the engine, you should make sure it turns freely. Remove the spark plugs and squirt a small amount of oil into each cylinder. Then turn the engine BY HAND with a large socket on the crankshaft pulley bolt. The oil will lubricate the cylinder walls, which have been dry for 10 years.

After you are sure the engine turns over smoothly you can hook up the other systems and try to start it.

3 to 4 minutes is longer than I’d run an engine with no coolant.

Squirt some oil in each cylinder first. Ideally, you should mark the distributor and remove it. Use an electric drill to rotate the oil pump drive shaft for a minute or so. This will put oil pressure throughout the entire engine.
(You will feel it pressure up through the drill).

It’s possible that after all of that time that a water pump could leak, a fuel pump diaphragm could be gone, or the carb may need work.

Not anywhere near Oklahoma and yellow in color is it? Just wonderin’. :slight_smile:

thank you mcparadise. your advise seems very sound. I’ll be sure I follow it

Thanks ok4450. I’m in NE PA, far from OK and the car is an ugly green. I’ll look for the oil pump to see if I can put a drill on the shaft.

Thank you

FORGET spinning the oil pump with a drill. It’s not worth the effort. Crank the engine in short spurts (5-8 seconds max) until the oil pressure light goes off. Don’t run it for more than 90 seconds with no coolant. The waterpump seal will not run dry for long. If the carb was put away “wet” you may need to clean it before it will operate properly…

What effort? Mark the distributor, pull it out, and spin the pump is not that difficult.

At least you know that all lubricated parts are oiled up rather than spinning them over dry.

[b]What I would do is fill the engine with as much oil as it can hold, and leave it in there for at least a week. This will ensure that every internal component is lubricated with oil.

Then I would drain all the oil out, crank the engine over to pump the oil out of the cylinders. Install the plugs, fill the engine with the right amount of oil, and see if it starts.


If this engine has been rebuilt with a new or reground cam and new lifters and with rebored cylinders, new pistons, and rings, it should be broken in correctly. There is usually assembly lube on the cam that helps the breakin. Therefore, the first time a rebuilt engine is started it should be run for about 1/2 to 1 hour; at no load; at approximately 1500 rpm although vary the speed; run at its thermostat temperature; with the oil recommended for breakin; and looking for leaks of coolant or oil. So it looks like you will have to get the installation completed before starting.

An idea