Welcome back to our coverage of Project Power Laggin’! Follow along as we take a tired 1979 Dodge W150 Power Wagon we found in Central Maine and transform it from a derelict roadside attraction to a dependable, powerful weekend workhorse that lives up to it’s given name! In this installment, we try salvaging our hurt LA 318ci V8 before sending it off for scrap. Can we save it? Read on and find out!
Last we left ol’ Power Laggin, the original 318 V8 decided to throw us a curve ball when the OEM timing chain hopped off the cam gear, causing FIVE pushrods to bend and a valve to make contact with a piston. Somehow, beyond all comprehension, valves didn’t bend, so we concocted a hair-brained idea to attempt to make it run again. Most people toss out engines for less, but since we are idiots, we’re going to try and make this thing run again! At best, we’ll have a running engine with minimal work. At worst, we can use the parts we grabbed to resurrect another engine. Let’s jump right into it!
Well, we can’t believe it. We saved the engine. One of the reasons we love old stuff like Project Power Laggin’ is the fact that everything is so simple, and even though we added modern EFI and ignition tech to the mix, that LA 318 is still an old push rod V8 that can be repaired with a simple set of hand tools and a few blunt objects. You have to love that!
While we did achieve our shocking goal of revival (we seriously cannot believe it runs, in case we haven’t mentioned that yet), the whole ordeal did get us thinking about future power plant plans. We were moments away from yanking the engine and seeking a replacement, which led us down the road of researching other engines that bolt in. After considering finding another LA-series small block, and fantasizing about 440ci big block power, the easy button is a Magnum swap. Magnum-series V8’s are still widely available in salvage yards, not to mention they offer roller internals paired with good flowing modern heads and can easily make double the power the current 318 makes with ease.
Eventually, we’ll pick up a new mill for Power Laggin’, but for now, we’re going to take a few victory laps with the now-running 318. Stay tuned for future installments, where we keep wrenching on the rig, tuning the MSD Atomic 2 EFI system, and making various improvements along the way. We still have a lot to do!