The 528 Crate Hemi

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I first ordered a 528 Crate Hemi on Feb. 10th, 2000 from my local Chrysler Dealer, when months and months went by without them being able to tell me anything about an estimated time of delivery, I gave up and ordered one again from Koller Dodge on May 26th and it arrived June 6th. The trick was Koller had ordered this engine from Mopar in 1999 sometime and had it sitting in stock along with 2 others at the time. If you're looking for a 528 start with Koller Dodge.

Before I even received the engine, I began to gather information about Hemi's and the crate engines in particular. I learned some interesting things along the way.....The crate Hemi's came into being when Ray Barton approached Chrysler with the idea of building a Crate Hemi after Chrysler had begun to reproduce all the Hemi's major parts. According to the person I spoke with at Ray Barton Racing Engines they were instrumental in developing the engine packages Chrysler sells today. They were also going to produce a Chassis guide to running a 11.90, 10.90 and 9.90 (quarter-mile ET) with your 528! Apparently somewhere along the way there was a falling out between Ray Barton and Chrysler, and Arrow Enterprises was chosen to build the first crate Hemi's. There is an article in the August 1999 High Performance Mopar on Arrows very anal process of building these engines. Arrow was fired for not being able to increase production numbers to meet demand. Cummins now builds the engines. When Cummins started building the 528's there were several parts changes made to the engines. Apparently the Arrow 528's were built with all stock internal parts but for the stroker crank and the 4.5" pistons. This combos biggest weak link was the stock rods and the compromises they required. The big ends of these rods are so large that with the stroker crank rod #1 hits the oil pickup tube. They solved this problem by bashing the tube to reduce its diameter by about half, this created engine oiling problems. Cummins reduced this problem by using Eagle rods, a steel H-beam racing rod made in China, that has a smaller big end. This rod only requires a small 1/8" dent to the oil pickup tube.

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The problem with the Eagle rod is being a racing rod meant to endure 8000+ rpm it is manufactured thinner than a stock rod on the bigend to make sure it has adequate side clearance.(I've since learned that they are this way because they are the same width as BB Chevy rods and Eagle made them this way to save money.) This resulted in my 528 having .035 side clearance on a pair of connecting rods. The Hemi engine manual says this figure should be between .007 and .017. I knew that the less side clearance the better as an engine will maintain oil pressure better and have less oil flying around inside it with a smaller side clearance. (Less is better because of lower windage and less oil for the rings to have to deal with.) Since my engine was a street engine that wont see more than 6500 rpm I was not a happy camper when I discovered this. I called Cummins and they agreed to let me replace the rods and rebalance the crank on their tab. I bought a set of Manley H-beam steel rods ($701 delivered to my door) from Ray Barton Racing Engines that in all ways were very similar to the Eagles except they were better in that the big ends were wider (I have .024 side clearance with them, still more than I'd like, but livable) and the big ends are smaller with regard to the oil pickup problem and now the pickup only has to be smashed a very small amount that should hardly effect its flow. Plus the Manley rods are slightly lighter and they're stronger as there is more metal where the beam intersects the bigend. Plus the Manleys are made in the USA. Overall they have better a finish and are IMHO superior to the Eagles. I took the Crank to Crankshaft Specialists here in Memphis and they rebalanced it for $150. Somewhere in the process my crank bolt and washer was lost and the first 2 threads in crank were smashed. When I called them on 7/17, Doug (the Owner) was there, he gladly offered to give me a hollow 1 peice crank bolt/washer and allowed me to borrow the tap I needed to fix the crank.

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The 2 pictures above show the clearance with the Manley rods and the oil pickup tube. I was able to make enough clearance by just grinding and denting the NEW pickup tube a much smaller amount than with the Eagle rods. The reason for a new pickup tube was the change in oil pans. Everyone I talked to about the 528 highly recommended installing a  higher capacity oil pan than the stock one, I got a Milodon 7 qt. see the The Parts page.

The other problems (In addition to the side clearance) that I found in my engine were these:

(1)The head gasket was rubbing on the Exhaust pushrods.PushrodRub.jpg (166898 bytes)PushrodRub2.jpg (160571 bytes)PushrodHoleClose.JPG (156537 bytes) To cure this problem requires removal of the heads and new head gaskets, before installing new gaskets make sure the holes in the gaskets match the holes in the block and head, fix by removing gasket as required. The gaskets are not cheap! The invoice with mine showed $58.26 each! All though I was not charged, Cummins supplied them for free under waranty.

(2)There were aluminum shavings in the intake ports and on the back side of the intake valves from where the head studs were screwed into the heads. This could be cured by just removing the intake manifold and cleaning out the ports. In my engine 98% of the shavings were on the floor of the port right behind the head of the stud. You can see some of the shavings on these intake valves.

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(3)Overall the engine could have been cleaner. Here's a few pictures of the fuzz and stuff on the tops of the pistons.

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(4) The piston walls were finished too rough for the rings and the rings did not and never will seal properly. Ray Barton fixed this when he went thru the engine.


Other improvements I made while it was apart.

Besides replacing the rods and rebalancing, I polished the exhaust ports.

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I removed the stock windage tray and replaced it with a VO Components Crank Scraper. This is a dyno proven HP adder, the scraper is much better at controlling the oil than the Mopar windage tray. (A very strange design, seems as if it's made to keep the oil from getting into the pan!) Cummins seems to have acknowledged this point once you see the holes they put in the stock tray!

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Here's a picture of the installed scraper after it was custom fit to my block.


The engine ran for the first time Sat Aug 12th and promptly ate it's camshaft within the first 30 minutes of running despite taking all the proper precautions to break it in properly. This is an opportunity to improve the engine that last little bit with a modern design cam. I do not plan on getting a huge cam, just an eqivalent of the stock one in a modern design. The stock cam was designed 30 yrs ago and it was a good cam then but in the 30 yrs since man has learned a lot about cams. I ended up getting a custom grind hydraulic cam from Ray Barton. It has not arrived as of Sept. 1st.

Update as of October 20th. On Sept. 10th, I installed the new Ray Barton cam and lifters after changing the oil & filter twice. I ran the engine to break in the cam and it sounded good. I drove the car 5 miles total back and forth to the alignment shop. I then ran the engine about a hour to max rpm of 3500. The engine started making a mild rod knock so I decided to drop the oil pan and investigate. It also wouldn't make over 40 PSI oil pressure when hot with Valvoline 10w40. The oil pump is trashed from digesting 2 cams worth of metal. The new Ray Barton cam has 8 lobes trashed. The 8 other lobes look perfect. The rod bearings are not worn badly but are are impacted with many metal shavings.... and are trash. This is getting old. I'm feeling like I could work on a Top Fuel team....

Update as of Nov. 21st, 2000. Today I finally got hold of my warranty contact man at Cummins and he said that my request to send the engine to Ray Barton had been approved. Assuming Ray finds a problem Mopar has agreed to pay for the repairs. I'm going to have Ray dyno run the engine and break in the cam and check the carb mixture as well even if it costs extra! Hopefully When I get it back I can just stuff it back in car and enjoy it! So the Friday after Thanksgiving I'm gonna pull the engine and put it back in it's big blue crate and send it to Penn. to see Ray.

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  This page last updated Jan 20th, 2001.

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