Rebuilt engine with Bulletproof head gasket leaking water like crazy


May 18, 2009
I had a mechanic (a very good and experienced one, who's worked a lot on rally engines and similar, but of course not on the V6 Turbo, almost nobody in Norway has done that) rebuild my 1983 Turbo (an engine that had been standing in a shop since '83 and until I bought it), which I was going to use on an Oldsmobile Starfire. The build was finished between one and a half and two years ago, and then life happened. We moved to a place without a garage, and I had to give up the project. The car was sold, and I put the engine on the Norwegian equivalent of Craigslist. It took time, but I finally got it sold to a guy who was going to use it in a Riviera. He put it in, and two days ago I got a phone call that wasn't very uplifting.

The engine started, and the it began leaking water out of the exhaust. He tried to run it on the starter without plugs, and water came up of four of six plug holes! That must be the most catastrophic failure of a head gasket I've ever heard about! I mailed JCB Racing two days ago, but I haven't had an answer. Probably because he's on vacation, most normal people are these days...

So what can cause this bad a failure? The gasket was (as far as I could tell, I was there, but I'm no mechanic by far) mounted the way the instructions said, with the silicone and all, but I'm guessing it's not meant to stand waiting for more than one and a half year before being used. Can that be the reason, or does this have to be an error in mounting? And is there any way to come back from this if it's the time that's the problem? If not I do of course have to pay back parts of the money he paid for the engine, and that hurts. Especially since I'm already way over $1000 in the red on the engine alone (not to mention the car, which was sold very cheaply since it was difficult to get rid of). I sold the engine for around 2000 and that was the money I paid for only the engine and transport to Norway. In addition there was around 1000 to have it rebuilt and then the gasket kits and so on. So I'm probably close to 2000 in the red. The buyer has asked for around 800 of the 2000 back for replacing the head gaskets. (Remember this is Norway where labour costs are much higher than in the US).
Sorry to hear your misfortune. I have no experience with RJC head gaskets but if they were done right and the mating surfaces were done right I don't see how they could leak like that. Maybe the heads are cracked?
That makes me scared to hear... But they shouldn't be, they were inspected before mounting, and the engine has been stored without any water or anything in it.
Thinking through this . . .
Many of these engines will blow a head gasket but not leak coolant. It is possible the heads or block is cracked but hard to believe it is on all 6. I am no expert but the only thing that makes some sense to me is possibly the lack of sealer on the head bolts. And even than, it's hard to imagine water in all 6. It does sound like an assembly issue to me though.

Is there water in the oil as well?
Perhaps it's some sort of scam. He shows you his broke engine to squeeze you for money? Are you sure the one in question is yours? Maybe he ran a crap tune and broke it ?
He said he had to change the oil, so I'm assuming there's something in it.

He offered me to send somebody to look at it, so I doubt that it's a scam. But he also said that he had a video of the thing. I will ask to get that.
Yeah, that's of course possible. But this was not his first turbo engine, so I would think he knew what he was doing. This was at the start of the run-in. It would be no point in damaging a working engine when he was planning to use the car for a trip this weekend. And would an over boosting have such a result?
Oh, Jerryl. Didn't se that mistake before now: it's leaking on four of six, so all three on one side and one on the other side, not all six. That should really rule out cracking, I hope...
Was this assembled with studs? Iron head's? Ported? Water in oil and out of the exhaust 4/6 correct?
It almost sounds like it has a set of heads that are mismatched to the block, unless you are sure they are original to the block.
Jerryl and ek02, ARP studs, 123-4201. Original everything for the engine, so the heads have to be correct. It came fully assembled, was broken down and rebuilt. The only replaced major component is the carb, which was changed from one with electronic stuff to the pure mechanical one a few years earlier.
The studs could be too long causing the nuts to bottom out. ARP makes so many different length studs, but that part number appears to be correct. Just something to check.
Doesn't imply the "correct studs" have the correct clamping force on the application. Could be a simple fix.
Yeah, I dream about that. :) My mechanic used the torque in the manual from RJC racing, and he has as $1200 torque wrench with a bleeding compass! But still, if he had misunderstood the numbers, that could be it. I'll get the video of the engine spewing today, and then I'll post it.
The studs can be too long and need to double up the washers to make it possible to torque all the way. You can tell by how many threads are showing above the nut.
Would that be fixable when the thing has been standing for 1,5 to 2 years with the silicone sealant both on the studs and on the Bulletproof gasket?
For 300Hp, maybe. For 800 HP, maybe not. Need to try it.