We Can Rebuild It!


An inspection of the parts revealed minor carbon build up. The cylinders received a very light honing, the pistons from the spare engine were used and they were cleaned up on top and the ring grooves cleaned out. Using one of the old rings that we reshaped into a tool proved the most efficient method of cleaning the grooves. Initially I was going to use ARP rod bolts, however, that would have required sending them out and everything that I have read and heard has told me that the bottom end of the GTi-R motor can easily hold 150 HP more than I intend to see. So we set aside the ARP rod bolts and continued with our stock build. The ACL crank bearings were absolutely used. The tear down revealed that I needed to increase the viscosity of my oil, so I'll be using Amsoil 20w50 in this coming season (for the break-in I'm using 5w30). Ring spreaders, Ring compressors – there's a reason why mechanics deserve so much more than they are paid and that's because they have every tool in the book to make a job go smoothly and to ensure that parts are not damaged during the rebuild. Even down to putting heat shrink electrical wrap on the rod bolts to ensure the crank was not scratched while putting the pieces of this puzzle back together.

GTi-R cylinder head
The original block received a light honing of the cylinders. With only 40 to 50 000 original kilometers, it was in great shape.

The detail and the strength of the engineering that go into the 54C SR20 engine are magnificent. With the engine torn down to this extent, we could observe how the bolts that are in the back of the block to hold the passenger side axle in place go right into the block mains. There's no question of the strength of those bolt housings. Then the oil squirters and design to ensure that lubrication is everywhere, from the crank through to the camshafts, truly make me wonder why this engine was pulled from production. With the crank back in place, pistons with new rings installed, everything torqued into place, it was now time to start on the timing chain.

GTiR Pistons
The pistons from the spare engine went into the new block. They needed to be cleaned up and have new OEM rings installed.

I have noticed that in my build projects I am usually well behind the swell of other similar projects, resulting in some difficulty finding aftermarket parts. While G-Spec had the water pump pulley I was looking for, the crank pulley for the GTi-R was no longer available. I went back to the forums and found a great guy who had put his GTi-R project on hold. This was my lucky day and in no time we had agreed on a price and the pulley was on its way to Canada. My water pump was brand new in 2011 so I am very confident it's in great shape, but I was weary about the oil pump as I was hearing that they simply were not available. There are other options available, but we inspected both pumps very carefully, selected the best parts and I am confident that we are on solid ground with our oil pressure. We also did some fine grinding as there were some casting flaws in the OEM block that would have restricted flow or caused turbulence. Even though these flaws had been there for twenty years, this was the perfect time to remove them. A great shop may have done these things for me, but as this was Dave and myself we had every opportunity to ensure that we were happy with every part.

GTi-R rods and crank
Dave was very protective of the crank so heat shrink was fitted over the rod bolts as the pistons were inserted into the block.

Setting the ARP head studs in place it looked like stilts, then we realized that the head would not fit on with the studs in place. We backed them out, installed the head, reinstalled the head studs and continued with our timing chain installation. That was almost flawless. We almost missed the gasket on the chain tensioner. That would have been easy enough to replace after installation, but it is so much easier when it is on the engine stand. With everything in place, including the camshafts, we poured in some oil and then turned the engine over by hand. We made sure oil was coming out of every orifice as it was supposed to be before we moved on to the next challenge.

GTi-R timing chain
The timing chain, new guides and new chain tensioner now in progress. The build is truly gaining momentum.

Setting the valve clearances. I have heard that it is a challenge and it certainly was time consuming. Made me glad that I had my basic math skills down pat as we would record the clearances with each valve and then figure out which shim we required. We started off with the same shims on each valve (remember, at the beginning I said every part came off and went into a baggy that was marked. That included rocker, springs, shims for cylinder 1 intake in one bag and so on throughout the head). Some of them were right on factory specifications, others were not so lucky and the math work continued.

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