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Once we’d lifted our shop truck’s motor we knew we’d have to pay some serious attention to it to get it up to ‘workhorse’ status again.  Because we’d blown our wad on parts for the motor, we decided not to spring for an engine stand but build one ourselves from a few casters and some plywood.

We bought six 125lb-capacity casters at Harbor Freight for a few bucks a pop so we could support a total of 750 lbs — more of a load than our small block was going to put on them.  Next we made a 32”x20” frame with some 2×4’s, and we ran three casters down each side.

Before setting the engine on its new rolling stand we hosed the entire block down with de-gunk so it would stink less and not be as nasty to work on.  It may seem like an easy step to skip, but you’ll deal with it every time you touch the motor if you don’t take care of the dirt and grease before you put it on the stand.

Next we made supports for the motor to rest on.  Every motor is different and the contact points will be different as well — we started by adding a beam across the left side to catch the lip of the block.

We took measurements for the motor mounts and upright supports that would take the front half of the motor’s weight.  We also wanted the motor to tilt up a tiny bit at the front for easy access to the harmonic balancer, ’cause we knew we’d have to turn the crank later during the valve timing setup.

We found that the motor mounts needed to be 10″ high, so after a careful double-check we cut the supports and mounted them to the runners of the base to fit inside the pockets of the mounts on the block.

The right rear corner also needed support, so we mounted a small brace to catch the lip of the block back there, and the stand was complete.  We thought about adding another support in the front, but decided against it because it restricted access and we just would’ve ended up knocking it off later.

We spent less than $20 on our engine stand, including lumber — which isn’t bad considering the casters are completely recyclable into another project after the build is done.  The stand took about an hour and change to throw together, and a chunk of that was spent cleaning the motor.  Our homebrew rig is cheap and mobile — there might be better rigs out there, but we’re happy with the amount of time and cash we invested in the project.


17 Responses to Budget Shop Truck Build, Part 3: Building An Engine Stand

  1. Dave says:

    Yeah, but what happens when you want to pull the oil pan? A $50 engine stand would not only allow you to conveniently move the motor around, but also rebuild it while it’s still mounted to the stand. I think you’ll come to regret not having one. (Full disclosure: my last engine rebuild was done on a sheet of plastic on the garage floor, which is even worse than what you’ve got)

  2. tscheez says:

    I usually suffer from not having the right tool, so I applaud the ingenuity. However, I’d vote for a real engine stand too. Just so I could stand up / sit in a chair while working and not have to bend over. My back would be killing me after an hour of sitting on the floor rebuilding the thing.

  3. KMR says:

    As others have mentioned, get a real engine stand. What you guys built is an engine dolly.

    I don’t think I’ve ever bought a new engine stand in my life. First one was from a used tool store, someone used it for maybe an hour. The others we have in the shop all came from Craigslist over the years. Typically $25 for a good used one.

  4. Harry says:

    Dudes, you have a cherry picker with a tilting engine leveler in the pictures but, there’s no money for an engine stand? I’ll send you my harbor freight 20% off coupon if it will help you out. That’s a nice engine dolley you built and it will come in handy if all you’re going to do is to push the engine in the corner of the garage and let it sit.

  5. Jereme says:

    That is a great idea and you have to do what you have to do my father did the same thing as well ontime

  6. Bill says:

    Agree with these guys, life is too short to rebuild an engine without a real engine stand. Been there, done that in both ways and by all means don’t want to do it again the hard way. With HF around, you don’t need to suffer… go get you a stand!

    Actually you need both types, one to move the assembled engine around and for the final parts like the flex plate, and the engine stand for the major internal parts. So your dolly is fine for what it does. I made one about 30 years ago from plans in Car Craft, I think – still have it somewhere. It used carriage bolts and a different framing layout, but the concept was pretty similar.

  7. Chuck Cage says:

    Great comments! A few fun facts that Sean is probably too shy to share (or might share in future installments, but I’m gonna out him now) and a few of my opinions:

    1) Thankfully Sean’s not doing anything to the bottom end so there’s no need for access to it.

    2) I’m a huge HF advocate and fan, but in my experience their rotating engine stands aren’t worth $50. I actually had two I inherited from my father (who never got around to using ’em), and neither would hold a 350 without bending dangerously. Hell, I couldn’t even get one to hold a 1.6l from a CRX. So I cut ’em up for steel.

    2) The engine lift and load balancer in the pics are mine. I loaned ’em to Sean for the job, so his outlay for these (other than the PITA of retrieving ’em from and returning ’em to my storage unit) was $0.

    3) He mentions $20 in the post, but I know for a fact that he found all the parts laying around his shop and mine, so his total outlay for the rig was $0.

    4) You’ll see later why Sean is pinching his pennies. $50 will just about buy the sweet black valve covers he scored for this rebuild — totally worth the $$, btw, just to not have to clean up the old ones, though they look incredible — and actually *would* buy the $450 replacement intake manifold — when he cleaned the first one up he found a crack. I hope he tells his manifold story in its entirety because it’s a masterpiece of Craigslist, junkyard, and general parts-hunting genius.

    Anyway, thought I’d share. 🙂

  8. Excellent article! I appreciate the simple, to point way that you explained how to make a simple engine stand without breaking the bank. It is interesting how the best things can be built for any budget. Thank you for the helpful article.

    Jonathon Pugsley

  9. Sean says:

    How about an update on the progress… the project is advertised every other ad, but there has not been a recent article on the progression of the project since early December.

  10. Adam says:

    Was there any more progress on this or was it all just forgotten about???? It’s been quite some time since the last update… 🙁

  11. MattC says:

    I do not want to jump on the bandwagon, but dayummm it has been almost 7 months since the last update. Is this project just forgotten, aborted, or are there other projects that are taking up your time. Kind of a buzzkill when the last major work is an impromptu engine stand.

  12. fred says:

    Not real bright letting all the Gunk and old grease [hydrocarbons and volatile organic chemicals] run out into the street, into the storm drains, into a stream or river, and then into YOUR water supply.

    In case you flunked or ignored chemistry, hydrocarbons and volatile organic chemicals are carcinogenic and mutagenic; that is: You and your neighbors could die from having your organs eaten up by your own cells, and your and your neighbors children could be born with three eyes and and a disposition to other odd ailments and adverse psychological phenomenon.

    Then there are the groundwater civil laws [Federal and State; even in Texas] that make you liable [the Feds and State clean it up and then make you pay] for the cleanup of what you illegally introduced into the public domain; ie, the ground water.

    Then there are the criminal penalties for INTENTIONALLY introduction a hazardous substance into the public domain; ie, the ground water.

    And any of you can belittle me if you want, but remember, it was us Congress and the various State Legislatures that passed these laws in the 1960’s.

    Too many of the younger generation take clean safe potable drinking for granted. Like the lot of you.

  13. fred says:

    You losers might want to peruse the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality web site:


    As Texas is having a drought, I bet the TCEQ will be real unhappy with the lot of you.

  14. Doug says:

    When I read the title, I thought; man did engine stands gets so expensive it pays to build your own again? I see you built an engine dolly. Useful, but not really practical when it come to working on the lower end of an engine.

  15. David says:

    I love how everyone bashes this guy for building a dolly that he cant tear down the motor on. He doesn’t plan on tearing it down, he simply wants something to hold it while he cleans and paints it!

    I myself used one once for the same reason. Mine had the tranny still attached. I didn’t need to remove the tranny to put it on a traditional stand. The traditional stand always made me nervous when the kids got around too. The little wooden dolly is perfect for what it’s intended use is for.

  16. jeff says:

    message for David, can you shed some light on the stand for both your trans and engine?

  17. Alex says:

    Love the engine stand! Great idea!! If you could send me the engine, and transmission stand idea, I would want to build it ASAP!


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