After the pistons and piston rings were installed the oil pan went back on. Without taking the engine out of the car installing the timing chain was difficult. The static chain guide has a bolt that is only accessible by a port in the side of the head that can only be accessed when the head is not on the engine. The engine block mount restricts access to the port which takes 50 ft/lbs of torque to get off. After some quick thinking the static guide was installed in the head through the port and then the head was lowered onto the engine block. Care was taken while lowering the head because the static guide only fits in a certain way. We also had to guide the timing chain during the head install because once the static guide was in place there was not enough room to get the chain into the guide.
After the timing chain was installed and head bolted down the reconstruction began. Valve and timing chain cover, intake manifold, fuel injectors, spark plugs, plug assembly, serpentine belt, motor mounts, battery, the list went on and on!
The engine managed to start on the first try after cranking a few times! I was quite pleased with that result. After letting it run for a few minutes while monitoring the coolant levels (the coolant lines still had some air in them) I took it for a quick spin. I got out of the neighborhood successfully but couldn’t get out of first gear! Automatic transmissions shift on their own depending on current speed and throttle position etc, but I got the revs up into 5k range without shifting. I tried revving the engine up a few times to see if I could get it to shift but nothing would work. Some quick googling couldn’t find the solution either, most of the fixes were geared toward the actual shifting cable that runs from inside car car to the transmission.
After looking under the engine some more, one pair of wires running around the transmission had a cut in it! It looks like an animal or malicious user had cut the line? After some soldering and insulation of the wire the transmission started shifting correctly. Quite relieved with that result. It seems something as important as the engine telling the transmission to shift would be more secure than just dangling from the bottom of the car.
Either way, time to get it listed on Craigslist and get it out of the driveway!