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Engine of the Week

Small Block 363 Ford Engine

Just three short years ago, Aaron Yaghoubian was a kid with a hot rod hobby. He didn’t know much about engine and machine work, but after buying Arlington Machine, he got a mentor and put forth his full effort to make himself and his shop a success. Today, he’s rebuilding engines like this small block 363 Ford engine.

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Just three short years ago, Aaron Yaghoubian was a kid with a hot rod hobby. Along with his brother, Aaron would frequent a local machine shop to get any machine work done for their hot rod projects. That shop was Arlington Machine in Riverside, CA. In 2014, the owner of Arlington passed away, leaving the shop and its contents up for sale.

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At the time, Aaron and his girlfriend had two little boys and had recently purchased their first home. It wasn’t exactly in their plans to purchase a machine shop. But when Aaron received a phone call asking if he’d be interested in any of the machines, he decided to buy the whole business and save it from vanishing forever. However, aside from adding yet another big life change, Aaron had one major snag to overcome.

“When I bought Arlington Macine I didn’t know anything about machine work,” Yaghoubian says. “The first engine I built was a month before I bought the shop. I mean I didn’t know how to use a mic or anything. However, I’m the type of person that when I get into something I go balls to the wall. I go all out and do the best I can do or it’s not worth doing at all.”

Fortunately for Aaron and Arlington Machine, Karl, a fellow business owner, decided he would mentor Aaron and teach him what he needed to know to make Arlington Machine a success under virgin ownership.

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“This business venture wouldn’t have gone far without Karl’s help,” Yaghoubian says. “I’m 29 years old now, and we just celebrated the three year anniversary since my first engine job.”

Now in full swing and continuing to master his craft, Aaron’s Arlington Machine does plenty of engine work with a focus on domestic engines, LS work and Mitsubishi EVOs.

“What I tell my customers is if it fits on my machine I’ll do it,” he says. “I like a challenge and oddball stuff. It’s fun for me to figure out how to do it and how to machine it. Especially something I’ve never done before.”

The shop will also take in stock jobs since there are no surprises like there are with some of the high performance custom builds.

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“It’s just me and an apprentice who helps out,” he says. “He does tear downs and cleans the shop. I’m teaching him how to set stuff up onto the equipment to get it ready for me to machine. It definitely saves a lot of time for me because up until a few months ago I was all by myself.”

Despite being a one-man shop, Arlington Machine is a full engine machine shop that will also turn drums, rotors, do press work, flywheels, and take walk-in jobs.

“I post a lot of stuff on social media to get walk-in jobs,” Yaghoubian says. “I’ll post that if you bring stuff in before 3:30pm I’ll have it back that same day for guys who need me to change their head gasket or bearings or rotors. I try to accommodate a lot of different types of customers, and it’s working out pretty good. Probably 70 percent of our business comes from Instagram.”

One of his customers recently brought in a stock Ford 302 block he wanted to do for a pre-runner truck for Mexico. He wanted to stroke it out, but Aaron had other suggestions.

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“I told him it’s not worth dumping all this money into a stock 302 block,” he says. “They’re a weak platform and for all the money you’re going to dump into it you’re guaranteed on your first race to crack the block in half.”

Aaron worked with the customer’s budget and ended up putting a package together with an aftermarket World block and a Scat 363 Stroker kit that came with the main bearings, rod bearings, crank, connecting rods, harmonic balancer, and flex plate.

“We had all forged internals, JE pistons, Scat crank and rods, Clevite high-performance 77 bearings for the main rods, Dura-Bond coated cam bearings, ARP main bolts, and we did a lot of different details,” he says. “We did a realign hone. We squared the deck. I punched it out 125 over, and then we torque plate honed it.”

One of the big things on the cam bearings Aaron discovered is that the oiling hole was going from the mains straight down, which is one of the worst places to oil.

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“We ended up cutting a groove in the OD of the cam bearing, so then you could lock the cam bearing whichever direction to your desired location to get the most efficient oiling system to the camshaft,” he says. “I’m always trying to learn new things, read up and try new things and always doing little details that other shops around me do not do. That makes me stand out from others. That’s how I’ve always been in everything I’ve done. I don’t want to be run of the mill.”

The camshaft is a Ford Racing camshaft. Aaron also went with a COMP Cams hydraulic roller lifters retrofit style, a COMP Cams double roller billet timing chain set, an Edelbrock air gap intake manifold, Edelbrock cylinder heads that he redid, Total Seal piston rings, Cometic MLS gaskets, a Melling high-volume oil pump, a Canton oil pan, and ARP hardware.

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“The customer started out on a budget, but before you know it we ended up going a little bit over,” Yaghoubian says. “Compression ratio is right at 10.5:1. The horsepower should be around 475-500 hp.”

The Engine of the Week eNewsletter is sponsored by Cometic Gasket. 

If you have an engine you would like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder magazine’s managing editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]

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