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Need info on 1964 Buick Wildcat 401cid engine


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Does anyone have semi-current experience with road gas mileage on a 1964 Buick Wildcat with a 401 cid engine, no A/C?  Can it be de-tuned successfully to run on regular ethanol?  That's all I can get here.  Please help before I buy this car!!!

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"Detuning"? Not a good option. Unless you wanted to put "export" (i.e., very low compression ratio) pistons in, thicker head gaskets, or retard the spark advance . . . all of which are not good options.

Key thing is not the ethanol per se, but the posted octane of the available fuel. I'd aim more for mid-grade rather than the "base" regular. This would be close to the old 95 Research Octane fuels from back when the car was new. IF the heads have never been "surfaced" when a valve job was done, this might be your best bet without going all the way to "Premium" octane fuels. It might take the least amount of spark setting retarding.

The "old way" of optimizing ignition advance settings was to throttle into the engine at lower speeds, but not enough to get a kickdown from the transmission (automatic). A "trace rattle" is generally acceptable, but it it's heavier than that, not enough octane in the fuel. Retarding more than a couple of degrees from the base timing setting might not be good for overall economy and such. I'm not sure about modern fuels, but some brands tended to run better in some engines than other brands did.

In general, it's best to let the engine have its optimum amount of spark advance/initial timing combination. Knocking the timing back a few degrees might be all it needs, if it's clattering under load. Otherwise, check the www.fuelkits.com website for the list of octane boosters which do and do not have "alcohol" in them.

NTX5467

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Thank you NTX5467.  The '64 has a TH400 or version thereof and should do better than the '63 since they had Dynaflow.  I did go off the deep end and buy the car.  It doesn't have A/C but I plan to install Vintage Air.  I was looking for a good Buick with a 350 V8 but just couldn't find one.  I knew it was crazy to buy this car, but my wife and I fell in love with it.  We wanted a 4dr 350 Buick and ended up with a 2dr hotrod Buick.  I don't know how long the love affair will last if there are too many gas stops.  We have a 455 Riviera with Air and it is thirsty.  Love is blind.

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Thanks for that reply. 455s, typically, especially the lower compression versions, CAN tend to be thirsty. BUT the earlier versions from 1970 (with higher compression and more "normal" tuning) CAN be very economical on the highway. If the 401 is running correctly, I see no reason that 5563's comments on gas mileage would not apply. One of our chapter members had a '62 LeSabre that he had converted from a DynaFlow to a Turbo400. He was surprised at how much power it seemed to have compared to what it had been. Certainly, the fact it had three gears did not hurt with off-line performance.

Take care and enjoy that Buick!

NTX5467

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my wife and I fell in love with it.  ...... ended up with a 2dr hotrod Buick.  I don't know how long the love affair will last if there are too many gas stops.  We have a 455 Riviera with Air and it is thirsty.  Love is blind.

If it's truly going to be a Hot Rod, you might want to consider a transmission swap to a non-computerized four speed automatic with overdrive, e.g TH200-4R or TH700-R4.  Bendstends (sp?) makes adapters for both the 57 - 63 dynaflow models, and the 64 - 66 ST400 models*.  In 2005 one of the attendees to the ROA event in Eureka Springs, AR averaged around 22 mpg in his 700-R4 equipped '63 RIviera.

 

Ed

 

*The 63 401/425 has a different crank flange where it bolts to the flex plate, and the flex plates are different.  In '63 the starter ring is on the torque converter, in '64 and later years, the starter ring is on the flex plate.  With the 57 - 63 kit, you get a new flex plate as well as the adapter.  Probably worth looking into.  I'd go with the TH200-4R for three reasons. 1) the transmission body is smaller and you don't need to cram it in the space you have available, and 2) it has a lower overdrive ration when compared to the 700-4R - .67 compared to .70.  3) the first gear in the 200-4R is close to the first gear in an ST400, about 2.78 where as the first gear in the 700 is something like 3.06.  That 3.06 gear is meant for a high winding small block, not a torque producing motor like the nailhead.

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Ethanol blended fuels are much more forgiving regarding spark knock/detonation than low octane, non-blended straight gasoline so you shouldnt need to deviate from factory tune up specs. However, fuel mileage will suffer when using ethanol blended fuel. With pure gasoline the `64 Wildcat (assuming a standard rear gear ratio) might give 13 - 15 miles per gallon depending upon the driver`s habits and cruising speed (certainly under 65 MPH). Your mileage will drop 2-3 MPG when using blended fuel. How `bout some pics?

  Tom Mooney

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I almost always use 87 in my '59 and '65, and in Ohio, we have almost exclusively 10% ethanol. I have never noticed a knock or ping or had any fuel related issues that I can trace to the gas. My '59 sat most of last year, so I started off this year with about 2 year old fuel with no problems. It was treated with sta-bil when parked.

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Guest my3buicks

It's funny, I have had a 322, 364, 430, 455's and traveling I always get 15-16 mpg on my Buicks(the 430 would sometimes squeak out 17) - the 300, 340, and 350's have done a little better, the 215 still better, and of course the Reatta's do exceptional.

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Up here, premium is ethanol-free, so the old cars get that...when traveling I try not to worry about it and just make sure I run enough real gasoline through for the winter parking season.

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Only if it's ethanol blended. 91 non-ethanol will be a good safeguard against future problems especially with 2-stroke equipment. I haven't had near the engine and starting troubles with the yard equipment since I started using non-ethanol in it exclusively.

 

Earl, this hotrod Burick sounds intriguing. Not sure what Wildcat rear gearing is (Starfires were 3.42 and GP were 3.23, so I'll guess Buick used something similar in their big performance car) but a 200-4R might be a good tradeoff if you're after better gas mileage. Don't know how long it would take to recoup the investment, or how you'd rig up the TV cable as those seem to be made to work with QuadraJets. Would require fabricating a carb end bracket.

 

Am I right that 1964 Buick ST400 shift sequence is PRNDL? without the 65-later S or L2 position? You might have to do some finagling with the floor shifter too to make it work but I'd lay money something from a later Buick floorshift  would adapt.

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use the lowest octane that doesnt ping. using 91 in lawn equipment is wasting money

I concur, generally, BUT then why is the pre-mix 2-stroke "gasoline in a can" 93 octane? It does make it about $20.00/gallon, though, but then you don't have to do the pre-mixing, just "pour and play". I never could get the pre-mix just right for my weedeater, when I was trying to do that 15 years ago. Much easier with the pre-packaged stuff, for no more than I use. I did discover that my new Homelite weedeater didn't like Husqvarna-brand pre-mix gas, though.

Somehow or another, Greg (Phoenix Trans) adapted '65 Wildcat linkage to a '62 LeSabre for one of our chapter members' Buick, which Greg upgraded to a THM400 from the orig Dynaflow. As for the THM200-4R, I'm sure there is something in Lokar for that trans and an Edlebrock AFB. Seems that '65 was the first year for a THM400 and a Nailhead combination. There are many threads about putting THM200-4Rs inRivieras in the Riviera Forum. Probably something in them about the kickdown linkage for the THM200-family trans?

The orig Buick THM400SP did have the PRNDL quadrant, with the appropriate valve body to match. The next year, it was PRND21 (or similar).

NTX5467

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Since the AKI of ethanol is 116.5:

If a station offers non-ethanol fuel, it is far likely to be the lowest octane available. Adding ethanol is a cheap way to increase the octane rating.

And just because there is no sign of a pump that states "contains 10 percent ethanol" DOESN'T MEAN IT DOESN'T!!!

There have been numerous threads on this and other forums suggesting how one can test for the presence of alcohol; either by using a "kit" or by products one can easily obtain.

Jon.

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Am I right that 1964 Buick ST400 shift sequence is PRNDL? without the 65-later S or L2 position? 

 

 

Correct.  No "2nd" gear position on the shift indicator, just the Powerglide-esque PRNDL.  From experience, if you were above 20 mph and pulled the lever into "L" from "D", the transmission would go into 2nd gear.  Leave the shift in "L" and at 20 mph, the transmission would automatically go into 1st gear all by itself.  Now, upon acceleration and the shift lever in "L" and accelerating at full throttle, when the engine would no longer "pull" (RPM?  Who knew!) pop the shift lever quickly from "L" to "D" and back to "L".  This would reward the 16 year old driver with a "chirp" when the transmission hit 2nd gear :) .  This, on more than one occasion, caused the auto in the other lane to wonder just what they were up against and confused the heck out of them. No gigantic, green, '64 Electra 4 door should be able to do such things.  Many races were won using this tactic.  Don't ask how I know....

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It always amazes me when the mpg discussions come up with collector vehicles! When home improvements for energy savings come up prudent folks do payback calculation to find out if the modification makes sense. Adapter fabbers make huge dollars of profit, becuz, just like the sales people know, "people will pay anything for mpg" what would be the payback for an overdrive mod from Bob B. Figuring on about 200-1000 miles a year on average, other considerations aside? You can buy a lot of fuel before breaking even on just dollars. I would do it for lower rpms being easier on engine wear, quiet running,ETC, but think it would be a challenge to justify on mpg alone. 1-2 cents worth I could afford, as always, advice is usually worth what you pay for it! Just another "know-it-all" LOL! OH yeah,uncontrolled combustion, "pinging", my 65 sky gransport would rattle when hot, turn out the bottom of radiator was partly plugged. My humble opinion, try it, if it rattles, you could put in a cooler thermostat or add an electric fan, the cooler they run, the more the tolerate low octane without combustion issues. One of the reasons manufacturers are going to direct injection, spray the cooling fuel right into the chamber's instead of running it through the intake which keeps metal of intake from transfering all that engine heat to the fuel vapor. Buick Nailheads run light valve spring pressures and high nickel content in the cast iron, no hardened seats please could machine into water passages and ruin Cyl heads. Makes parts sales for me, but not happy nailhead owners.

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