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My father's first car, 1957 Roadmaster Convertible, makes it to my worshop finally!


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Finally obtained an engine stand today. Once the engine was firmly mounted, I began the processes of removing the heads. I was hoping to see just the damaged distributor drive gear, since I bought a new camshaft and lifters. I found slightly larger problems as soon as I removed the valve covers. One intake rocker on the right bank was broken. The related intake valve was frozen. I saw no problems under the left bank valve cover.

I removed the valley pan to find a bent pushrod to another intake valve on the right bank as well as a destroyed lifter with pieces everywhere.

Now I will need to get the heads redone and find a replacement rocker, which I hadn't been planning on $.

Inspections of the cylinders left me optimistic about the state of the bottom end. One cylinder had slight rust, but nothing deep, and I saw no scoring in any.

Here's my theory of what happened to this engine. The car sat long enough back in the 60s for the fuel to go bad. Dad,or someone, tried to start it with the bad fuel and coated the intake valves thoroughly with old fuel in the process. It didn't start, so he gave up for a few days, weeks, or months. During that time the old fuel froze two intake valves into the guides. The next time he tried to start the car, the pushrod bent and parts from a damaged lifter flew into the distributor drive teeth, breaking them. The pushrod on the other stuck valve didn't bend, but broke the rocker instead.

This would also explain why the carburetor was so frozen up even though it appeared pretty clean on the inside.

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Edited by High Desert (see edit history)
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It will be interesting to see if you find more evidence of that.   Hopefully you can salvage the guides since, as it has been widely reported, the original guides are already hardenend and it is not a good idea to replace them.

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Don,

Your theory about trying to start the car, leaving it for some time after soaking things down internally with gas (fresh or old) and not starting may indeed have been the start of the troubles. How do I know?

That is exactly what happened to my 58 Limited! I put the car in storage in running condition and the building owner where it was is a car guy. He liked my car and at times started it up thinking it would be better for the engine and keep the battery up. Guess the very last time he tried it she would not fire and he just left it and didn't bother to tell me.

Mind you this was over about a three year period by the time I was ready to get at the car. However, had he told me what had gone on, I would at the very least have gone out, pulled the plugs and poured oil into the cylinders and down the open carb to coat things!

I had to remove the motor and dismantle it in order to get things moving again. Fortunately, I do not have quite the damage you are finding but has put off driving what was only a 57,000 mile car......

Good luck on yours. LOVE THE LINES!

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... it has been widely reported, the original guides are already hardenend and it is not a good idea to replace them.

John, I have never heard of this before.  Can you explain further or references.  Maybe start a new thread to avoid hijacking this one.

Willie

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John, I have never heard of this before.  Can you explain further or references.  Maybe start a new thread to avoid hijacking this one.

Willie

I assumed he was talking about the valve seats, which I understood were already hard enough to run unleaded without replacement and replacement isn't recommended anyway due to the likelihood of cutting into adjacent coolant passages during the machining process. Aren't the guides made of iron?

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Technical discussion and knowledge is available from; http://nailheadbuick.com/

Also, a trip to Colorado may be in order.  I have a couple of assembled '57 engines and one dissembled.

The replacement valve guides should be cast iron.  Don, you are right about the valve seats.

 

Dan

 

'57-76C "Bertha"

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I was considering stopping teardown at this point. I was cleaning carbon from the tops of pistons and doing my best to keep cylinders clean and lubricated in the process. I noticed that two of the pistons weren't scraping the cylinder walls clean on the way down while rotating the crankshaft. In my mind this is an indication of stuck rings, so teardown continued. Sure enough, cylinders 3, 5, and 7 had stuck rings. 7 had 2 stuck rings.

The main bearings showed signs of contamination, with the 2nd from the rear being the worst. The rod bearings didn't look too bad.

The pistons are in good shape, so I'm thinking I'll check the cylinders for out-of-round, give it a good honing, and install new std rings.

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Edited by High Desert (see edit history)
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Are you sure you don't want to just replace the one piston? I have even seen NOS ones out there if that is easier.

 

That's a good idea! I was planning on checking the weight of each before reassembly anyway. If I get another piston, I could adjust the weight of it or the others so they all still match.

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Some photos of my broken piston. This may have happened during removal since I didn't remove the cylinder ridge first. None were difficult to get out, but who knows.

I also have been working to free the severely stuck manifold valve. It finally budged tonight, and now moves freely. It was able to take a little more heat than the carburetor butterflies. Seems like stuck things are theme with this car.

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Thanks to Pete Phillips for selling me a correct 57 ac fan shroud and road draft tube.

Not much else happening with the car now. I found another broken piston while cleaning, this one with a crack going down around the wrist pin. The vacuum pump is either of a different design than I have seen pictures of, or the bake-lite blades are so worn as to appear much thinner. Nobody makes a rebuild kit for the vacuum pump either.

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Edited by High Desert (see edit history)
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There's a long thread somewhere on these forums, regarding the cursed '57 Buick vacuum pumps. Despite all the discussion, the result is that there's nothing to be done about a worn pump, except to find a better, low-mileage replacement. Or, do what countless owners have done and seal off the vacuum line and make do with engine vacuum alone to operate the windshield wipers.

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There's a long thread somewhere on these forums, regarding the cursed '57 Buick vacuum pumps. Despite all the discussion, the result is that there's nothing to be done about a worn pump, except to find a better, low-mileage replacement. Or, do what countless owners have done and seal off the vacuum line and make do with engine vacuum alone to operate the windshield wipers.

...or electric wiper motor or electric vacuum pump.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Left. I didn't know there were different versions.

I didn't think so either and don't think so, but wanted to make sure something crazy wasn't going on with my engine. I ordered a gasket from New Jersey and the one on the right is what I got. I was surprised as they specialize in Buick parts but don't realize they are selling the wrong part. Nobody has them and rather than make one I just reused the metal one that was in there with some gasket sealant. I like the metal one better anyway. So, you may want to hang onto yours! Edited by lancemb (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

I took the heads to the machine shop about a month ago. They are a pretty busy place, so they told me it would be several weeks. They called yesterday and said that they got the heads disassembled and inspected. I stopped by the shop and they showed me some pretty bad rust pitting on the valve seats and 4 of the valves. I told them to let me know if the seats were too bad to fix so I can order the larger valves and springs from a later nailhead.

He called this morning and said the seats cleaned up, and the valve guides are still good, so they just need to get some new valves.

I ordered an entire set of the stainless valves from Russ with www.nailheadbuick.com, and asked him a few questions. As soon as the new valves get here the machine shop said they would put them in.

 

Per the recommendation of my neighbor, who works at a classic car shop, I ordered some brush-on exhaust manifold coating. I was working to clean the rust off the manifolds using a large electrolysis tank. It worked great, except once the rust was gone I discovered a crack in one of the engine mounting flanges on the right-side manifold. I ordered a good used replacement, thankful that the left manifold is in great shape!

 

Things are going slowly, but I keep moving.

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Don:  As per your vacuum pump diagram depicted.  Cannot see how the vent pipe could of gotten into above plated area around the idler gear / pump shaft drive gear chamber as the plate shown in the diagram covers the entire bottom diaphragm pump from the gears and there is only .005 clearance between the plate and face of both gears. What most likely happens is something dropped down the shaft of the distributor at one time or another when the distributor was taken out for whatever reason such a  a keyway set key or the like or a small piece of metal.  At any rate it sure did chew up the gear teeth.  Might want to look into any remnants that crap of having caused any other potential damage down below in the crank and cam areas.  Just saying.

 

Regarding redoing your heads, please do not get suckered into replacing the seats with so called " hardened seats " as the alloy used in this vintage nail head block and heads had a  very high quality grade nickel compositions and is stronger then the china seats they would propose to install. So you don't need to install them.  Yes, if you have a Ford or Chevy of this vintage then you do.

 

Another consideration to keep in mind is that the water jacket is dangerously close in the exhaust ports and many a head has been ruined by gung ho chevy / ford machine shops. There is a special process that if one insists on correctly and safely installing hardened seats that is available and must be followed which involves freezing the port areas with a special process and equipment before any mill cutting is done.  Most everyday machine shops do not have the equipment nor the experience in railheads or the process in which to accomplish this.  There is a guy however I believe in South Dakota, near Spear Fish that does this and is experienced and setup to do this on the nailhead head.  But then again why chance it since your nailhead, technically does not require it.

 

…. our 2 cents. 

Edited by buick man (see edit history)
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Don:  As per your vacuum pump diagram depicted.  Cannot see how the vent pipe could of gotten into above plated area around the idler gear / pump shaft drive gear chamber as the plate shown in the diagram covers the entire bottom diaphragm pump from the gears and there is only .005 clearance between the plate and face of both gears. What most likely happens is something dropped down the shaft of the distributor at one time or another when the distributor was taken out for whatever reason such a  a keyway set key or the like or a small piece of metal.  At any rate it sure did chew up the gear teeth.  Might want to look into any remnants that crap of having caused any other potential damage down below in the crank and cam areas.  Just saying.

 

Regarding redoing your heads, please do not get suckered into replacing the seats with so called " hardened seats " as the alloy used in this vintage nail head block and heads had a  very high quality grade nickel compositions and is stronger then the china seats they would propose to install. So you don't need to install them.  Yes, if you have a Ford or Chevy of this vintage then you do.

 

Another consideration to keep in mind is that the water jacket is dangerously close in the exhaust ports and many a head has been ruined by gung ho chevy / ford machine shops. There is a special process that if one insists on correctly and safely installing hardened seats that is available and must be followed which involves freezing the port areas with a special process and equipment before any mill cutting is done.  Most everyday machine shops do not have the equipment nor the experience in railheads or the process in which to accomplish this.  There is a guy however I believe in South Dakota, near Spear Fish that does this and is experienced and setup to do this on the nailhead head.  But then again why chance it since your nailhead, technically does not require it.

 

…. our 2 cents. 

Thanks David,

 

I want to be sure to clarify what happened with the oil pump in case someone else has this problem. The pipe/tube I referenced is press-fit into the vacuum pump housing. It protrudes through the hole in the seperator plate, which is not a tight fit. At some point in the life of the engine, the pipe/tube dislodged from the housing and was able to rattle around in the oil pump intake gallery next to the idler gear. I don't know if this had any effect on oil pressure/production, but the tube is pretty chewed-up as well as the gear.

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The machine shop has instructions that the seats are not to be replaced for the reasons you mentioned. I was concerned that the rust pitting in the existing seat was too deep to be cut out, but they said the pitting wasn't as deep as originally thought. If the seats were too damaged to re-use, I had the option of using the valves from a 1959 nailhead, which are slightly larger in diameter. This would allow the machine shop to cut the existing seats slightly larger to match. These are things I learned in motorcycle vo-tech in the 1990s, that I had all but forgotten, but Russ with Centerville reminded me.

 

I ordered new valves on Monday, and they arrived yesterday. I'm taking them to the machine shop this morning!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was having significant concerns about the oil passages in the engine block. I was able to get most of the engine cleaned up, but decided to take the block to the machine shop for them to check everything and "vat" it. After many discussions with the shop over the last few weeks, I had them move forward with boring the cylinders, fitting new cam bearings, and hanging new pistons on my rods.

 

They said that some of the oil passages were almost blocked.

 

I don't love to be the guy that ignores everyone's advice about doing as little as possible, but I had just found too many concerning things during teardown that I couldn't ignore. The engine had obviously ran hot, which helps to explain why it was so full of sludge. I wasn't sure I had found all of the broken gear teeth, and the oil pump had been steadily destroying a metal tube and pumping the results throughout the engine.

 

The machine shop guys did give me some grief over the fact that I keep showing up to their shop in my 2009 civic with a trailer full of nailhead parts. I told them I just couldn't justify owning a truck for as little as I would use it. 

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