Custom brackets for a '69 350 Chev (or the truth about Theo's fan belts)

Background / Alternator / Steering pump / Crankshaft pulley / Cooling fan / So far / Compressor / Conclusion / Acknowledgements

engine bay, right side There are lots of FJ40s with 350 conversions out there. I did mine after seeing just how many people had already done it and how much they were willing to share their experience.

But I had no idea I was going to have so much "fun" mounting the pulley-driven parts and getting the pulleys to line up! So, after going through a lot of gymnastics, here's the hell I went through. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to have a few issues, but damn, I hit a snag around every corner.

Of course, I covered it up by making out like it was no big deal. "Hey, put a shivvy in her. You won't regret it." But the sad truth is that I had to customize the whole shebang just to get the pump to pump and the alternator to alternate. I don't regret putting a small block in; there's nothing liike a V8 with dual exhaust. But you'll be ahead if you read about my mistakes and misteps and think of better ways.

They say the first thing to do when you're in a hole is stop digging. The following is a testament to what can happen if you just can't put the shovel down!

Background ( top )
new old small block I bought the 350 from a friend who upgraded to the new 502. It was a strong runner and completely stock out of a '69 C30 flatbed. It came with headers, no power steering, no crankshaft pulley, and the alternator was mounted high on the driver's side.

I had already decided I wanted Saginaw power steering, ram's horn exhuast, and a York compressor. I found ram's horns and a Saginaw gear box and steering pump in the bone yard. I rebuilt the pump, rebuilt the alternator that came with the engine, and figured I was off and running. Yeah, right.

Alternator ( top )
newer stock alternator brackets I scrounged alternator brackets from a mid '70s GM car in the wrecking yard. I brought these home and realized my '69 water pump wasn't cast to accept them. So I bought a later model water pump. Then I had to go "shopping" for a water pump pulley since the old one wasn't deep enough to align with the new alternator pulley position.

The two main brackets are stock, but the crosspiece that supports the rear side of the upper bracket is custom. This was about the easiest piece I made throughout the project and it still took an evening.

Steering pump ( top )
york lower bracket This photo shows the custom bracket I made to hold the outboard end of the power steering pump as well as serve as a platform to hold the York compressor. (The water pump is not installed in this picture.) There are 3 anchor points for the steering pump: one is the slotted lower part of the bracket in the photo. I cut up part of a stock pump bracket to get just the slotted part, then welded it on. Another anchor point is the threaded cylinder in the head, which I made from mild steel round stock. The third anchor is on the water pump (not shown). The bracket itself is bolted to existing holes in the head and in the exhaust manifold.
york lower bracket Here's another look at my abomination of a bracket. It's part GM, part Volvo (brought it home from the bone yard with the York), and part Theo.
pump dents Here's a bird's eye view of the back side of my steering pump after about a year. It came off a '70s GM car, bracket included, dent-free! Seems my custom setup is resistant to belt adjustment and I have to pry pretty hard to get enough tension. That's a direct result of just fabbing the stuff because I don't have time to design it correctly. (I always have time to do it again, though.)

Anyway, after realizing I was going to skewer the fluid reservoir I've been using "alternate methods" to get the steering belt tight. (I realize I should have welded in a "pry plate" the last time I had it off. 20/20 hindsight's my middle name.)

spacer And wouldn't you know it, after hours of booty fab I had to use a spacer between the stationary slotted bracket and the sliding pump bracket? The spacer is lying on top of the bracket. Probably could have said to heck with it and just let the brackets be pinched together but I was in deep already, so what's another hour to turn out a custom washer?
Crankshaft Pulley ( top )
crank pulley spacers I looked at quite a few pulleys in the wrecking yard before I found one that was about the right diameter. Of course, when I bolted it on it didn't line up with the alternator and water pump pulleys. So I turned some custom spacers on the lathe.

The spacers are just visible on the far right in the photo. (The front diff blends in with the front of the pulley; kind of hard to distinguish). The spacers are 1" diameter discs with threaded extensions off the back to thread into the harmonic balancer. They have threaded extensions sticking forward to hold the pulley. The first 1/4" or so is a snug fit with the mounting holes in the pulley. I did that to index the center of the pulley with the center of the crankshaft. It worked but not very well; I have a slight amount of wobble in this pulley.

Fan ( top )
balance fan I found an 18" 4 blade rigid steel fan in near perject shape just lying there all shiny and clean saying "Theo, take me home." So I did. But since I thought low center of gravity was important, I mounted the 350 kind of low in the well. That meant my nice fan was going to sever the lower radiator hose unless I cut it down. So I did.

I don't recommend this; it takes care to get the balance back. In fact the first chance I get I'll find a fan that fits. But this one has worked for a year and a half (but with not much run time). I didn't get a photo of my "jig" for cutting it down. Basically I fastened the fan by the center hole to a steel bar, clamped the bar to the saw table, and rotated the fan blades into a metal cutting wheel. This put me pretty close. I finished up with this lawn mower blade balancing trick, grinding a little here, a little there until it sat level.

water pump pulley spacer Of course, I haven't had a straightforward solution yet, so why should the fan pulley be any different? Turns out I had to shim it using this little marvel. It's what's left of a real fan pulley spacer I found in my wanderings. I removed as much metal as possible to reduce balance problems.
So far ( top )
all pulleys So, after quite a few evenings and a whole heap of head scratching, I have a basic setup. The alignment is good all round. I say that because one of the symptoms of poor alignment is rounded edges on your belts after a few months. I had it so bad on my compressor belt that it would flip over and run inverted, but the main belts haven't shown excessive wear yet. (See below for more on the York alignment.) The whole process reminds me of Johnny Cash singing "I built it one piece at a time, and it didn't cost me a dime . . ."
York compressor ( top )
York compressor The bracket that holds the compressor is from a stock Volvo (came with the compressor). It is U-shaped and is bolted down to the "base" bracket I had already made to anchor the steering pump. (see Steering pump section above). I filed the mounting holes into vertical slots so the compressor could slide up and down. That gave me a way to install and adjust the belt. At first I used a flat plate between the u-bracket and the base bracket in an attempt to make it easier to tension the belt. The base bracket had a bolt threaded down into its center and the flat plate sat on top of that. All I had to do was "unscrew" the bolt to raise the plate and the compressor and put tension on the belt. But I used a large bolt with a big head and the clearance I needed to fit the right wrench between the plate and base consumed half my travel. So I eliminated the adjusting bolt and plate and now use a screwdriver to pry the compressor upward and hold tension while I tighten one or two of the 6 bolts that hold the compressor in. Works a charm and is simple. I just hope I don't have to come back next month and show pictures of a York with a hole in the crankcase from my prying and a hole in the top where the piston left town.

I thought I had the pulley alignment pretty well sussed, but after awhile the belt developed rounded edges and eventually started flipping inside out every time I started the engine. So I went back and elongated some bolt holes so I could move the compressor fore and aft. So far so good.

Conclusion ( top )
I wrote these pages because I wanted to admit in public what a pain in the rear it was for me to get my accesories mounted on the front of my engine. When I was thinking about doing the small block conversion, I wasn't hearing about these pulley issues from anybody. Nobody was talking about how much trouble it was to add a York, for example, or a power steering pump. I keep telling myself it's because most people just don't like to admit they had a hard time of it when nobody else did.

That's what I tell myself. That's what I'll keep telling myself, even though I'm pretty sure I'm just not that good at thinking things through. And maybe nobody was making a big deal of it because it isn't a big deal! Well, I have a way of making things more complicated than they need to be.

Still, maybe you can get some insight from what I've written. Good luck to you!


I hesitate to advertise the existence of this web site purely out of selfishness. If you go there you may be stealing bandwidth from me, because I spend WAY too much time there. I developed my current fixation with Land Cruisers based on what I found at ih8mud.
If you want to see how conversions like this can look when they're done with real skill, take a look at these pages. Awesome custom work on all cruisers. (Jack's son made the cool background that I stole to use on my photo pages.)