Ferrari 550 Maranello V12 Rebuild - MyG37



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Ferrari 550 Maranello V12 Rebuild

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Old 09-03-2015, 11:39 AM   #1
cribbj
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Ferrari 550 Maranello V12 Rebuild

I’m new to the G37 community, but I received a warm welcome here from Blnewt & some other folks, and they suggested I start a thread over here on some of the stuff that I play with, as other motorheads may find it interesting.

A little background – I’m an older engineer and have been a hotrodder since well before I could legally drive . Along with the G37, I currently have a ’97 Supra and a ’99 Ferrari 550 Maranello in the stable, but those are “works in progress”, and I needed a reliable DD, so I purchased a 2012 G37 last week, and I’m really pleased with it.

The Ferrari is an interesting story – it’s a 1999 model and only had about 14,000 miles on it when I purchased it in 2010. I’m owner #3, and it seemed to have been well looked after by #1 & #2.

The engine is a 5.5 liter DOHC V12 that puts out 485 BHP @ 7000 RPM. It has twin throttle bodies, hydraulic lifters (yes hydraulic!), sequential injection, and a waste spark ignition system with a 6 tower coilpack and HT leads for each bank. It’s dry sumped, and has twin Bosch Motronic 5.2 ECU’s and twin everything else, except for common cooling and lubricating systems. This engine can run quite happily on either its left or right banks, so if there’s a problem with one, it’ll go into limp mode and run on the other. Here’s a pic of one of these engines that was on eBay recently – it’s easier to get a feel for the motor when it’s out of the car:

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For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a really cool video about how this engine is built, and it conveys very well some of the “mystique” of the the Ferrari legend and lore:
. This vid is about the 612 Scag motor, which is simply a bored/stroked, and more recent version of my engine.

After two years of owning/driving it, it was time to do what we call a “Major Service”, which is basically changing the cam belts, plus sorting out anything else that you find after the intake manifold is off. Ferrari recommend this every 3 or 5 years for their recent engines with belt driven driven cams.

Nearly all services on the top of the motor involve removal of the intake manifold and throttle bodies, so since I work by myself, I disassemble a piece at a time. Some guys who have help can dive right in and pull the manifold & TB’s off as a unit as pictured here (not my photo - credit to Bradan in NY who service a lot of these late model V12 Ferraris):

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After removing the throttle bodies and side covers of the intake manifold, I noticed an accumulation of oil that had pooled in the center of the manifold. This was due to blowby and although the engine has an air/oil separator as part of its dry sump system, it obviously wasn’t keeping up with the oil vapor, but more on that later.

Pulled plugs and ran compression and leakdown tests on the motor, and compression came up a bit low on several cylinders, and leakdown was > 25% on those. During leakdown, it “sounded” as though I had air coming out the tailpipe, crankcase and the intake ports, so in other words, everything was leaking. Hmm, there's where my blowby is coming from.....

Pulled the cams out so I could leak test the cylinders easier, and the results repeated. The V8 Ferraris of the 90’s were well known for having too soft valve guides, which would wear prematurely and eventually lead to the valves not seating correctly. This unfortunate phenomenon also affected the V12’s of that period, so that’s what I was suspecting with my engine. Off came the heads for rebuilding, and sure enough, my guides had 3x the allowable wear, so they were replaced, and a mild P&P was done by Houston’s finest head shop.

However……. I ran another leakdown of the bottom end of the motor and STILL had >20% leakage in two holes, so that was indicating stuck rings.

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To make a long story short, I put nearly every solvent known to mankind down those cylinders to try and unstick the rings to no avail, so the rest of the motor came out at that point.

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Pulled all the pistons/rods out, and sure enough 2 pistons had stuck top rings. Not just stuck but welded, so no amount of solvent would have helped, although I certainly had some clean pistons! Too, I noticed that significant bimetal corrosion had set in around certain areas of the piston ring grooves.

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In trying to diagnose what caused the sticking, I noticed that the outboard exhaust valve cutouts on the top squish band of the piston were directly above where the rings were stuck, and the corrosion/rust areas. I then realized that these cutouts had served as drain channels for the piston crowns, and that any accumulated condensation would drain from them directly into the gap between the crown and the top ring and this is what probably caused the rust/corrosion. After sharing pics and my diagnosis with Mahle, who made the pistons, they agreed this was the probable cause. Since the engine sits in the car with the front tilted slightly upward, this would have caused the condensation to drain to the outboard rear of the pistons, which is exactly where the corrosion/rusting occurred.

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At this point, the engine was “almost” completely torn down, but as my British friends like to say “in for a penny, in for a pound”, so I decided WTH, I’d go ahead and pull the liners and inspect them. This is a wet liner engine, and the liners are a slip fit design with o-ring seals at the top & bottom of the coolant jackets. They’re aluminum with a Nikasil coating, and are made by Mahle, along with the pistons. Ferrari have alternated between aluminum and steel (really ductile iron) liners for their engines, but I think the most recent ones have been DI.

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So I get the liners pulled, and what do I see? Pitting on their outer surfaces (exposed to the coolant), but after a detailed, magnified inspection, the pitting isn’t from corrosion, but cavitation, and what’s really interesting is that it’s confined to the inboard side of the liners (the side that is exposed to the “coolest” coolant coming in from the water pump), not the outboard side. Additionally, the pitting seems to be most concentrated on the liners for the middle cylinders (3&4 on the right bank, and 9&10 for the left). (FYI, Ferrari numbers their cylinders in a horseshoe pattern, starting with the front cylinder on the right bank, so this V12 has #1 at the front right, #6 at the rear right, #7 on rear left, and #12 on the front left.)

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Liner #4 had some really nasty looking pits, so I get my borescope into the coolant “plenum” in the Vee, and what do I see in there? A big chunk of casting slag, just opposite cylinder #4, which no doubt, caused a lot of turbulence in the coolant flow, and contributed to the cavitation.

Out comes the die grinder on a 12” extension and I get it in there and grind off all the slag I can find and “feel”, and the coolant plenum area now looks a lot cleaner. The pity is that this slag has been in the block since it was cast at Maranello, and evidently made it past all the QA/QC checks that Ferrari pride themselves on. Sorry, no pics of this before, but here’s what it looks like afterward (#4 is about halfway down on the left side (this is looking into the coolant plenum from the front of the engine):

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This is a pretty long post , so I’ll stop here for now, and will update with more pics & info soon if there's interest.
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Old 09-03-2015, 01:54 PM   #2
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Thanks John for putting this together, short on time now but definitely want to give this a good read.
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Old 09-03-2015, 03:02 PM   #3
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Interesting novel. I will check back when it's done to see how it all ends up for our protagonist.
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Old 09-03-2015, 03:14 PM   #4
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I dig the fact that you are doing this and not paying ferrari to fix it. Awesome.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blnewt View Post
Thanks John for putting this together, short on time now but definitely want to give this a good read.
You're welcome Brad, and thanks for suggesting it.

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Interesting novel. I will check back when it's done to see how it all ends up for our protagonist.
Thanks, it's about to get a lot longer, but I'm still hoping to have the motor back together by the end of the year, and hopefully on the engine dyno early next. Can't wait to hear this puppy sing through 12 ITB's

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I dig the fact that you are doing this and not paying ferrari to fix it. Awesome.
It's 1) out of financial necessity, and 2) pure enjoyment

One misconception about owning Ferraris is that they're expensive to buy. However, for all the technology you're getting, and to be able to own a piece of the Ferrari legacy & mystique, these cars are actually uber-cheap because they have a depreciation curve that resembles a rock falling off a cliff. So you can get into the older ones for not much more than a G37 costs. That's not bad for a car that might have left the showroom 10 years earlier with another zero before the decimal.

HOWEVER, the fun begins when you have to maintain it Most "cheap" Ferraris quickly turn into money pits, and the cost of parts alone will leave you breathless with heart palpitations. Then if you have to pay someone to work on it, get ready to ante up $125 to $200 per hour. Plus with some models, the engine has to come out to do mundane things like change the water pump or cam belts....... So a simple cam belt service can easily hit $5,000 or more on the mid-engine V8's and flat 12's.

One of the most common things you hear from ex-owners is "I could afford to buy it, but I couldn't afford to keep it running!"

I'm fortunate that my model is a conventional front engine, rear wheel drive, and "most" everything can be done with the engine in the car. It's also considered the last "analog" Ferrari, as all my gauges are connected directly to the sensors, and it has a standard six speed with a standard clutch, etc.

Many of us have done a lot of research on where Ferrari parts come from and what do you know, they're the same parts that are on Alfas, Fiats, and even BMW's. So a fuel pump that Ferrari charges $500 for can sometimes be sourced from BMW for $100. And the only difference is the yellow box it comes in with a black horsey on it. Once you throw away the box, you can't tell one from the other - same Bosch P/N. The big difference is that Ferrari will back up their parts, IF installed by their dealer or a "known" technician. So, for example, if a Ferrari oil filter collapses and starves the engine of oil, and you now have the beginning of a $30,000 coffee table, if that filter was installed by a dealer, Ferrari will "probably" pony up for a new engine.

So you either have to have really deep pockets to keep one of these money pits running, or you have to know where to buy parts and do a lot of the work yourself, and that's what I do. For me, more than half the pleasure of owning the car is working on it.

Last edited by cribbj; 09-03-2015 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 09-04-2015, 10:38 PM   #6
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Continuing the novel.....

So now I’m into this for new liners, new pistons & rings, and a complete rebuild of the heads… And keep in mind this is for a car with less than 15,000 miles….. Kinda makes you wonder about that video of how carefully these engines get built doesn’t it?

Time to have a heart to heart chat with myself, and I say “OK self, so do we rebuild with the same POS parts that Ferrari used, or shall we try to “improve” it a little?” The answer was obvious, since Ferrari’s parts cost 10x what they should, and they’re certainly no better, and in a lot of cases are proven to be worse quality than the aftermarket.

So for the critical fasteners I had new main & head studs made by a European company who are a provider for several F1 teams, and the same company fabricated some new bihex head nuts and the special rod bolts required for the Ferrari’s Ti rods.

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The heads were rebuilt with high quality SiBr guides and Viton stem seals and I’d decided to reuse the valves and springs, although I upgraded to Ferrea Ti retainers.

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For the new liners, to avoid the problems with the thin, aluminum liners, and to gain some displacement, and enhance the block strength, I decided to go with a modified Darton MID setup, installed by the guy who co-holds the patent for the Darton MID design, Steve Demirjian of Race Engine Development: R.E.D. - Race Engine Development | COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT OF RACE ENGINES AND COMPONENTS

Steve has done many Ferrari V8 block “big bore” conversions with his system, but mine was the first Ferrari V12 (although he’s done Jag V12’s). I was a bit nervous about it, as the V12 is a much longer block than a V8, and hence is more prone to bending, twisting, etc. Too, the interface between the heads and block is more prone to leakage, so extra care must be taken when selecting head gaskets, torqueing of studs, etc. After several weeks of discussion and planning, we decided to go forward with the system and I shipped him my block. After inspecting the webbing and various wall thicknesses, Steve recommended we go with modified ductile iron liners, siamesed in and finish bored/honed to 92mm. This is 4mm over the stock bore of 88mm, and will give me a new displacement of 5.98 liters from 5.50.

Here are some pics of my block on his CNC, and with the liners installed.

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This last pic was taken just last night 9/3/2015 when he finished the final cut on the decks to ensure the liners and decks were flush.

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Now the block will go to another shop for finish honing, and I’ll need to get some new pistons designed and made.

I’m a big believer in ceramic and polymer coatings, and Carl Benton of PolyDyn here in Houston is an old friend, so this engine will get one of his “full meal deals” on the bearings, piston skirts & crowns, heads, block, sump & manifolds.

I hope to have it together for dyno testing by the end of the year.
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Old 09-05-2015, 12:26 AM   #7
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Awesome thread man and I have to say I'm a bit jealous. I see you are located in Houston. Hope to see that 550 cruising around someday soon.
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Old 09-05-2015, 06:08 AM   #8
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Awesome thread man and I have to say I'm a bit jealous. I see you are located in Houston. Hope to see that 550 cruising around someday soon.
Thanks - this was a "bucket list" car for me, and being able to do all this work on the heart of the beast has been quite an experience.

I'm really looking forward to the next phases of putting it back together and getting it on the engine dyno.
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Old 09-05-2015, 10:31 AM   #9
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Great thread! And as someone already mentioned, props for DIY'ing this.
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Old 09-05-2015, 10:38 AM   #10
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In for a great read.
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Old 09-05-2015, 11:35 AM   #11
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Thanks guys; as you probably know, projects usually go for long periods with little or no progress, then all of a sudden, a lot of things happen. So the updates probably won't be coming on a daily basis, but when there's something worthy to talk about, I will and will include pics.
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Old 09-05-2015, 12:11 PM   #12
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I'm in the Houston area as well. If you get to the part where you're doing things with it yourself and need another pair of hands on a weekend, I'd be glad to assist just to see this project first hand.
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Old 09-05-2015, 12:18 PM   #13
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I'm in the Houston area as well. If you get to the part where you're doing things with it yourself and need another pair of hands on a weekend, I'd be glad to assist just to see this project first hand.
He only charges one quick test drive at the end of the build
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Old 09-05-2015, 01:56 PM   #14
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Thanks BB, I might take you up on that when it comes time to put the motor back in.

As the motor goes in, the drive shaft needs to be stabbed, and the transaxle moved forward, all sort of simultaneously.
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Old 09-05-2015, 08:30 PM   #15
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This truly is an inspiring read, really tough luck finding all these issues on a motor that's only about 5 oil changes in. Sounds like you did plenty of research so you knew what you were getting into.
Interesting that you really gave so much thought into the reasons behind the condensation/rust/corrosion issues that you found a common theme. Is this something that can be eliminated w/ your future piston parts?

Pretty crazy finding out that those outrageous Ferrari parts can be replaced w/ cheaper alternatives that would be an improvement. Sure hope these new parts and all the machining involved gets you into a more reliable machine.

Sounds like you've got some very knowledgeable guys on board, and thanks for detailing this rather intimate look into this precision instrument.

This is surely a case of no pain no gain, sounds like the gains are just around the corner Look forward to more pics of the rest of your 550 Maranello. Thanks for the education.
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