It's alive again!! Actually, it's been alive, but I just forgot to tell everyone about it... Got it put back together w/ new OEM rings, Clevite77 bearings and a LOT of help from "RA24Man" MarkS. It fired right up, stopped smoking quick enough to surprise both of us, and ran like a bat outta hell. A fresh O2 sensor solved some quirky behavior and retuning started. 4 days after it came back to life, it passed a dyno emissions test!!
Then the vacuum leaks started. Long story short, there were a few spots in the head/intake mating surface that weren't supporting the gasket properly. Some JB Weld & careful sanding eventually fixed the leaks, after a few months of hunting & cursing. The most recent change was to go back to my heated, collector-mounted O2 sensor. It's really smoothed the engine out. I think reading all 4 cyl's worth of exhaust really does make a difference. Enough that I'm strongly considering going BACK to a stock exhaust manifold! I'll see if someone can port/polish the inside a bit, and I'll have the dual downpipes redone w/ larger tubing, but the O2 sensor placement is great on that manifold.
The port-matched 22RE head died from a coolant leak in the #4 exhaust port. It was one of those "standing at a fork in the road" situations. I (of course) chose to go forward with my mods rather than take a step backwards just to get the car back on the road. I was told the 20R head (EFI-modded or not) could've caused too much compression for the original 20yr old bottom-end. So a quick rings & bearings rebuild was the plan ("quick", yeah, sure!!). Well, gotta do the balance, well, might as well have ALL the porting done, well... As it turns out, the compression of a hybrid isn't that much above the 22R/RE (~9.25 compared to 9.0 stock for the early 22R/RE)