Now that I'm rested and semi-lucid, here are the final stages of the refit. Once the head was torqued in and the timing set correctly, she flew back together.
Head, cams, timing sprockets and chain laid in:
Manifolds bolted on:
This left only a little wiring and re-rigging to be done. The EGR valve and its line, those bastard AIR lines into the exhaust manifolds, the new oxygen sensor, valve covers, distributor, plugs and plug wires. Before the plugs went in, I did a compression test. This was a chance to turn the engine over and prime the oil pump as well:
Compression pressure is supposed to be 165 psi with a tolerance of plus or minus 10 psi. Piston ring and cylinder wall wear can reduce it over the years. It was gratifying to pull 160 psi across all cylinders on the check. With this test completed, I put in the plugs, wired them up, and turned the engine over. It started on the first try; I had thought that it might take a couple of days of troubleshooting to get her to crank. The first start and run were done without the exhaust bolted in (at least not the flange between the collector pipe and the catalysts.) This was at 1am, and only for a few minutes while I allowed the oil to circulate, filled the cooling system, and checked for visible leaks of exhaust or coolant. After shutdown, I put the car up on jackstands and re-connected the exhaust, ending a 14-hour maintenance marathon.
After a pitiful few hours of sleep and a job interview Monday morning, I took a test-drive. A couple of minor problems surfaced; neither was engine-related. There's a power-steering leak, looks like the seam on the fluid reservoir opened up. If the J-B weld I used to seal it up doesn't work I'll order a new one. There was also a bit of transmission slip, but with a few hours' driving that seems to have let up. I just need to change its fluid and filter. Otherwise, she runs like a Swiss watch, with excellent throttle response and a smooth idle at the proper RPM for the first time since I've been driving her. All in all, a successful refit.