Okay, that's resolved.
Went out and grabbed a spare starter I had laying about, swapped end plates
with the brushes (it was in the junk pile because it had developed a
serious short in the end plate) with the suspect starter and tried it
out. It spun much faster. It's definately a stronger unit. Looks like
I'll have to clean up that starter as well and paint it before installation.
Still the engine was exceedingly hard to turn even with a pipe
wrench. That shouldn't be, especially with the spark plugs pulled. I kept
at it, hitting the starter once in a while and seeing it spin a bit
faster. I wonder.... the engine had been turned upside down a few times
on the engine stand for cleaning and painting. I wonder if the oil in the
bearing journals drained out and hasn't been refilled yet since I haven't
been able to build enough oil pressure to feed those galleries yet.
I kept hand turning the crank with a pipe wrench and hitting the
starter. After a few minutes of this and thinking that I'm looking at a
bottom end rebuild for sure, the thing spun free. Huh. Obviously only in
one part of the rotation. Kept at it and hit the next hard spot. Gave it
a bump and it spun free. Hmm. Are we getting oil to those journals now,
perhaps? Let's hit the starter.
Very good! Now it's spinning much faster and I can feel air being pushed
out the spark plug holes. Grab the fan belt and sure enough, the engine is
now very free turning. No trouble. Hit the starter and it spins very nice
and fast like it should.
Had me very worried I was going to be rebuilding the engine sooner than
Of course now I have to redo all that I undid- put the tranny back in,
drive shaft, radiator, etc. I don't mind that task at all now. I think
I'll keep testing that starter several times during the reassembly to make
sure this dream bubble doesn't burst!
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