First thing to do is pull the grille, period. Its a safety thing to protect the grille from being accidentally damaged. It has to come out anyway and at over $2000 a whack, its best to get it out first.
The engine and trans are pulled out as a unit after the radiator and condenser are removed. The car is lifted and the front suspension, torsion bars, brakes and K frame are removed. After that, the temporary caster wheels are installed for transporting. Then the rest of the engine compartment is stripped of all hoses, wiring and anything else that can be removed, leaving it bare and ready for blasting.
Engine is a stock low compression 76 440 with a thermoquad carb that came out of a Newport that was a driver. Steamed it off, changed the valvecover gaskets and mount it on a stationary run stand. We already know it runs, we just want to get the running, painted engine fitted with all the correct accessories it will need for the 69 Charger body. Its much easier to find and fit all the correct pulleys and brackets while its sitting there in the open. Also gives us a chance to do a compression check, adjust timing and carb to run on the first start. Everything including the manifolds, transmission wires and distributor will be rigged up and assembled to the K frame after its blasted and painted. Do it all outside of the car instead of trying to wrestle it over freshly painted fenders.
Id like to skip ahead here for just a minute to explain the slide show on the right. We got the original 76 running engine on the test stand, did a compression check and all the cylinders were between 120 and 110 PSI which is quite acceptable for a used engine. Ran and started very easily, just a good typical late model stock 440. As we were about to unhook the engine from the test stand, the customer elected to upgrade to a 284/484 purple stripe cam kit, double roller timing chain & gears, aluminum intake and new Edelbrock 650 electric choke carb. Also thought it would be great to have the coated polished TTI headers with 3" X pipe exhaust. So we pull the front of the engine apart, install the cam and pieces, get it running again and do a cam break in with the manifolds (to save the finish on the headers). Everything is adjusted, ready to install at this point and we mount the transmission and everything to the assembled detailed K frame and front suspension. After everything is said and done, we start the process of test driving the car and after 14 miles start seeing excessive blow-by coming from the valvecover vent and dipstick tube. Did another compression test and the back 4 cylinders were between 40 and 70 PSI.
Its 18 days till the customer is going to pick up the car and drive it 1600 miles home and the engine is in the process of heading for the grand death rattle. So, we dig around and find in inventory a 69 440 that has just been bored .040 and has new fitted forged pistons and new cam bearings. Rounded up a fresh set of 906 heads, and take the cam and everything off the original engine and transfer it to the 69 motor. Got rid of the cast crank oriented stock big car torque converter and installed a 10" unit that will allow the lumpy cam to perform better at low speeds. Did the entire switch in 4 days from start to finish. The performance gain was substantial. Moral of the story: you never know when a used piece will go bad.