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Length of your 1937/1938 engine


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I'm trying very hard to identify a 1937 Buick series. Thanks to all of the comments and advice thus far.

Could someone please measure the length of your valve cover, end to end, and let me know what you find?

I have the length of the valve cover of the car in question: 33-1/2 inches. Now, is that the Special engine or the Century engine?

If you could just take a minute and measure your engine, I would really appreciate knowing what you find. Then, my mystery should be solved.

Thanks very much --- Scott

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Guest ZondaC12

There's a few of us but not a lot of em are on all the time. Hang in there, another few hours I'll be home and I'll grab it and post it up ASAP!

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Thanks to all for their help. The car in question is indeed a Century. Or I should say, does indeed have a Century engine.

I'm still bothered by the 122 inch wheelbase. Is it at all possible that a 320 engine could be put into a Special chassis?

It's great that it's got the 320 engine, but it would be a shame if it had the 4.40 rear end. I mean, that's really what the Century was all about, wasn't it?

It is possible that the owner measured the wheelbase incorrectly, but 4 inches is hard to misplace.

Thanks again --- Scott

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Guest ZondaC12

Yeah that's the thing the Century will be much more adept to higher speeds. Definitely check up on that again. It isn't local is it? I'd be glad to bring the 38 and compare em side by side! haha

On a side note, I would think some serious work in relocating the motor mounts, etc would have to be done, and ya know there's a reason they lengthened the body. The thing fits very tightly against my firewall....and theres little room up front between the waterpump/fan/etc and the radiator and of course as is evident by the nose of the body, there's little room to relocate the radiator.

I'd think if somehow the 320 was stuffed in you'd know it. Not saying someone couldnt do it cleanly, might be possible, but I'd figure on it looking rather botched. Perhaps this isn't a local vehicle, maybe you haven't seen it in person, but I figure it's worth mentioning.

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I agree with Zonda. No way can I see the large engine dropping into the small chassis. You really need the +4" (all located ahead of the firewall) to fit the larger engine. My 248 fits tightly - probably less than 1" from valve cover to firewall, also, you skin your knouckles on the radiator fins when you remove the fan.


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Where is the engine number stamped on the block? If it's a big engine, the stamping pad will be back by the starter on the passenger's side. If it's a little engine, it'll be closer to the distributor. I don't know if '37 was the same as '41, but if so, the first digit of the engine number should also reflect the series (4=Special, 6=Century). Dave Corbin will know for sure.

It's highly unlikely that someone put a big motor in a little car--a substantial task, not like swapping a small block Chevy for a big block.

What about the hood latches? I think they have "Special" or "Century" cast into them, correct? Which ones does this car have (though this isn't definitive because they often break and are replaced with whatever's available).

Mis-measuring the wheelbase, hmmm. Maybe he's not measuring from the center of the wheels? If it's a big engine, he's measuring wrong. But if he's measuring wrong, how do we know he got the engine length measurement correct? My trust in the seller would be eroding quickly at this point.

If there's this much consternation over what it actually is, can you go look at it for yourself? I wouldn't pull the trigger without knowing for certain what I'm getting, and the seller doesn't sound like he's making it easy on you. As I said, I've had sellers tell me all kinds of things when I was trying to determine the exact same thing you are. Fortunately, the '41s are much easier to identify visually than the earlier cars just from external sheetmetal dimensions and the aforementioned engine numbers.

Get the numbers: engine number (Dave Corbin can also tell you all about the engine at that point, including when it was built), the body tag info and the serial number if possible. The body tag will say which series it is, and it's unlikely that it was altered or forged.

But absent a personal inspection--or one by someone who knows what they're looking at--I might consider passing on the car if you can't get definitive proof of what it is.

Good luck.

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Guest DaveCorbin

Dear Scott:

I once put a 302 GMC bored out to 322 in my 1951 Chevy. The engines are about 2 1/2 inches different and fairly major firewall surgery was required. At 4 inches it would really get rough and major driveline surgery would be necessary, too.(It was necessary on the 51 Chevy too.)

I've also done a 58 Caddy into a 1940 Ford coupe, lots of mounting issues, same with a Chrysler Hemi into a 1940 Ford 2 door. Talk about a full space, you had to take the front fenders off to change the front sparkplugs!!

Your seller doesn't seem to know what he's talking about, so a word of caution: BE CAREFUL !!!!

Regards, Dave Corbin

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Thanks for all of the advice. I agree that the seller clearly doesn't know his car or what he is talking about. It's been a real struggle to get information from him and frankly I'm worn out.

He quoted the engine number for me but it began with a "1" and not a "4" as a Century engine should. However, the length of the valve cover was given as 33-1/2 inches. (The Special is 31 inches), so I'm reasonably sure it's a Century engine.

The dash ID tag fairly clearly says that it's a Model 67.

But the wheelbase was quoted as 122 inches. Even when I questioned this and said that it was a major sticking point for me, he did not offer to re-measure and give me a new figure. And again, how could he loose 4 inches? 123, 124 OK, but 122???

The car is in southern VA whereas I'm near Vermont. It has been on eBay twice. The first time it didn't meet reserve. Now it is a no reserve auction with one bid, so it's sold. OK by me. If I could have looked it over before bidding/buying I would have taken the trip, but it's a full day's drive away. I've seen other 1937 Centurys so I don't think it's as rare as an honest politician.

I'll let this one go and keep looking. Shopping is fun and it's free.

Thanks again for all of the help. It's been very educational.


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