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425 Motor rebuild - Cost and recommendations


Scotsbass
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Hi,

 

I have an original '64 with the ever-popular 425 - it's time for a rebuild, but I'm not sure on costs, or where to go. I'm in Portland, Oregon and my usual guy, Mike Nielsen, retired and the other recommendation in Salem, seems very busy, so that might take him a year to get to.  SO, three questions:

 

1) What should I expect to pay, roughly, for a good quality, specialist rebuild?

2) I could get a local classic car place to pull the motor, ship it out and then drop it back in, once it's done - are there any potential pitfalls with this approach?

3) Any recommendations on Nailhead rebuilders?

 

Thanks in advance

 

Keith

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Yea being in Oregon a proven option is Russ Martin. You could probably even drive it the 10 hours down to Grass Valley. Regardless what you spend in transporting, it will be recouped in peace of mind and best chance for no problems. Inarguably Russ is among the best on west coast.

 

Most rebuild shops will tell you they can rebuild the nailhead. If they don't have a track record of doing many of them with success and references, chances are they are not the best qualified IMO. Certainly some shops would take the time to research the special needs of the nail before tearing into it but most won't because time in money and there is overwhelming evidence of that in failed nail rebuilds.

 

Cost is going to be determined by the condition of your engine and/or to what extent you want to go with it. $3000-$4000 I'd think would be ballpark. There are many cost adding options. A call to Centerville Auto will get you a ballpark number. http://nailheadbuick.com/

 

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IMHO, you might consider doing it yourself.  It ain't rocket science, and there isn't that much to an engine.  The key is that you want to make sure everything's to spec, so when you're starting with a worn engine there are a lot of measurements to be taken.  You might farm out any machine work (like turning shafts or boring cylinders or grinding heads), but the assembly is basically tightening bolts.  Almost everything you need to know is in the manual.  I rebuilt mine 35 years ago using nothing more than basic hand tools, a micrometer, a torque wrench, and a careful, steady approach.  It hasn't blown up yet. ;)

 

For a car that's worth what these are (i.e. not that much), $3-4000 plus the cost of transporting, etc. can put you upside down on the whole ownership calculation.  And besides, there's always a greater feeling of accomplishment in doing it yourself than in paying for it yourself.  What else do you have to do this winter? ;)

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1 hour ago, JZRIV said:

Yea being in Oregon a proven option is Russ Martin. You could probably even drive it the 10 hours down to Grass Valley. Regardless what you spend in transporting, it will be recouped in peace of mind and best chance for no problems. Inarguably Russ is among the best on west coast.

 

Most rebuild shops will tell you they can rebuild the nailhead. If they don't have a track record of doing many of them with success and references, chances are they are not the best qualified IMO. Certainly some shops would take the time to research the special needs of the nail before tearing into it but most won't because time in money and there is overwhelming evidence of that in failed nail rebuilds.

 

Cost is going to be determined by the condition of your engine and/or to what extent you want to go with it. $3000-$4000 I'd think would be ballpark. There are many cost adding options. A call to Centerville Auto will get you a ballpark number. http://nailheadbuick.com/

 

X2

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Russ Martin is definitely knowledgeable and a good source for the nailhead including new and used parts but he is a jerk. He had my daughter in tears and my wife so frustrated when they called to order parts from him for our 425 (we ended up doing research and finding the new parts we wanted directly from the suppliers). But that's behind us now... If you can get past his demeanor EVERYTHING he says is true and worth gold. If you build your own engine and follow his advice you will have a strong, long-living, engine.

 

The nailhead cam bearings have to be sized to fit the cam - NO new cam will fit without sizing the bearings. This is not something most machine shops are able to do anymore. And do not use FelPro gaskets. The head gaskets will leak oil - another point that Russ makes. BEST gaskets are, like the name implies, the best - and they are what Russ sells too.

 

I built my daughter's engine; the fifth nailhead I have ever built - They are a great looking and sounding engine, and they make HUGE torque at low RPM. I use TA Performance for parts here in the Phoenix area.

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After 55 years in the hobby, the only thing I would farm out would be the machining. I would do absolutely all the rest myself. If you carefully follow the factory manual you will be the guru. Guruship is not an appointment by a fairy Godmother or any being like that. It comes from keeping your eyes open and on the job at hand as well as the factory instructions. Keeping your ears shut and avoiding assumptions, here-say, and speculation is key. You can read and the factory manuals will tell how to do it. You will do an excellent job if you read every word and follow the written instruction.

 

A few years ago I made the mistake of thinking a car that was "modern" to me was better suited to those a couple of generations newer than me. I was wrong and it took ME over two years to correct the oversights. I had the two factory binders and a number of soft cover factory manuals, probably 1500 pages of instruction that I have now read quite thoroughly. But at the time "I thought" they would be more familiar.

 

During the whole process I did come to the realization that the two most dangerous words in the English language are "I thought." (Next time you hear them think about the context they are in.

 

You will gain a raised level of awareness for your own car and mechanics in general And a lot of satisfaction; with confidence to do more. There is a lot of stuff you have to trust others to do because there is no option. Accept those. If you can do it yourself, especially a hobby thing, you will be better for it. And I bet you can finagle yourself almost $1,999 of new tools in the process.

Bernie

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I just recently received a "Nail" from Oregon that was rebuilt by a "Nail" "Expert". I can't begin to tell you what I've found wrong. Worst part it needs a block because the WRONG head bolts were installed in the WRONG places & cracked the block. So much for the so called expert.

 

 

Tom T.

 

 

 

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My experience is that "expert" and "guru" are relative rather than absolute terms.  They usually mean nothing more than someone who knows (or says he knows) more than the person he's talking to. ;)

 

As for the question at hand, I'm with Bernie.  I know it can be a little daunting to start a trip into the unfamiliar, but you shouldn't be scared off.  This is very doable.

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Years ago I got in a freshly restored iconic Cadillac that had floated around for sale for a while with no takers because it ran rough and smoked because "the carburetor needed adjustment". The new owner got a good deal but it came to my place on a flatbed, not running. One of my routine checks on a first timer is to pressurize the cooling system. When I did I HEARD the coolant running into the left front cylinder. The engine was a quality rebuild delivered with the exhaust manifolds installed. I found that hardware store bolts held them on. Those bolts were about 1/8" too long, a standard size, and on the same plane as the headbolt. Tightened they pressed the center of the headbolt. At the assembly shop the stressed headbolt had been removed to mount the power steering pump and forced back in with an impact wrench, but it got past the bolt with squared threads that entered the block.

I had to go into a fully detailed engine compartment and HeliCoil the block without leaving a trail. I installed a stud that I torqued a little greater than the headbolt spec and torqued it with a nut. The car is still fine and it has been about 15 years.

 

For me, as a third party, it took some investigation and work that wasn't necessary if the attention to details was at the level of an owner taking his time and being fussy about every detail. Not to mention the added cost and risk of a block. And that wasn't the only oversight on that car.

 

That is the added value the owner rebuild provides and you can never come close to calculating the value of the avoided problems from the raised awareness that actually comes from a slight lack of confidence. Too much confidence will get you every time.

Bernie

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                   The best thing about a "guru" is that they generally know what brand of parts to use

to avoid problems. As far as the actual assembly of the engine, nobody is going to take the care and time

to put it back correctly like the owner of the car. If I were you I would do my research on  which parts are best, then

study the factory service manual and dive in. I rebuilt the 400 in my 69 GTO when I was 19 years old using the factory manual

as a guide, and it is still running fine to this day 45 years later in someone else's GTO with 100,000 miles on it. My Dad and I rebuilt the 401 in his 65 Riviera in our garage at home and it turned out great

with no problems.....just study the factory service manual carefully and use a good machinist.

Edited by Seafoam65 (see edit history)
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I remember my dad 50 years ago talking about how the two largest areas of consumer expense- the ' home and auto' and with those businesses being 'rife with those who seek advantage' and to be careful. He was also a guy who would say, 'if you want it done right, do it yourself'. I have found truth to both over the years.

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  • 3 years later...
On 11/17/2016 at 10:47 PM, KongaMan said:

My experience is that "expert" and "guru" are relative rather than absolute terms.  They usually mean nothing more than someone who knows (or says he knows) more than the person he's talking to. ;)

 

As for the question at hand, I'm with Bernie.  I know it can be a little daunting to start a trip into the unfamiliar, but you shouldn't be scared off.  This is very doable.

And when a bullfrog jumps he would not bump his rear end had he flapped his wings. For the experienced mechanic with mechanical aptitude to rebuild an engine would not be so hard. For others that are not so mechanical I Would be reluctant to say to them all you have to do is read the book. To minimize skills required to rebuild engines I think is myopic. 

It’s like saying reinstalling the evaporator box, plenum rubber, and hoses Under the dash of a 63 zRiviera requires reading the manual. The manual shows how it goes together, but not how to reinstall the rascal. 
In some cases you have great insights in other cases you have blinders blocking your view. It’s hard to have it right all the time.

Turbinator

 


 

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I dunno.  I guess that depends on the aptitude of the rebuilder.  I rebuilt mine when I was 21 years old.  It's run like a top ever since.  I didn't think it was especially challenging.  Common sense, mechanical acumen, and patience go a long way.  YMMV.

 

And remember: a lot of the folks who tell you how hard it is to do something are the same folks who are angling to get you to pay them to do it. ;) 

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2 hours ago, RivNut said:

But you'd also be giving up the opportunity to be on national television and tell others about your experience of how with a little patience and accumen, anyone can do anything.

 

Not to mention potential sponsorships. Remember,  at one time, with deep pockets Buick did sponsor Tiger, and I don't think he owned a Riv'...

 

EDIT: Oh, don't forget that Tiger also had access to the finest "tools of the trade" money could buy, that always comes in handy too...

 

Later,

 

Mike Swick

Edmonton, AB

----

Edited by MikeJS (see edit history)
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On 11/18/2016 at 12:54 PM, Seafoam65 said:

                   The best thing about a "guru" is that they generally know what brand of parts to use

to avoid problems. As far as the actual assembly of the engine, nobody is going to take the care and time

to put it back correctly like the owner of the car. If I were you I would do my research on  which parts are best, then

study the factory service manual and dive in. I rebuilt the 400 in my 69 GTO when I was 19 years old using the factory manual

as a guide, and it is still running fine to this day 45 years later in someone else's GTO with 100,000 miles on it. My Dad and I rebuilt the 401 in his 65 Riviera in our garage at home and it turned out great

with no problems.....just study the factory service manual carefully and use a good machinist.

Rebuilt mine in 1987 45k miles ago. Had it out once since then for a reseal. 

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On 11/17/2016 at 3:42 PM, 66Lincoupe said:

Russ Martin is definitely knowledgeable and a good source for the nailhead including new and used parts but he is a jerk. He had my daughter in tears and my wife so frustrated when they called to order parts from him for our 425 (we ended up doing research and finding the new parts we wanted directly from the suppliers). But that's behind us now... If you can get past his demeanor EVERYTHING he says is true and worth gold. If you build your own engine and follow his advice you will have a strong, long-living, engine.

 

The nailhead cam bearings have to be sized to fit the cam - NO new cam will fit without sizing the bearings. This is not something most machine shops are able to do anymore. And do not use FelPro gaskets. The head gaskets will leak oil - another point that Russ makes. BEST gaskets are, like the name implies, the best - and they are what Russ sells too.

 

I built my daughter's engine; the fifth nailhead I have ever built - They are a great looking and sounding engine, and they make HUGE torque at low RPM. I use TA Performance for parts here in the Phoenix area.

Sir, I’ve purchased engine parts from Russ Martin and it was the right gear. No doubt Mr. Martin is a man who knows his business. To add, Mr. Martin is even a better salesman than engine builder. My vote as the best Nailhead and performance  mechanic I’ve ever met is Tom Telesco in Norwalk, CT. Tom still drives the 64 Riv he purchased as the original owner. Tom’s Riv has over 300,000 on the car. My vote goes to Tom Telesco because of first hand experience. Mr. Telesco is soft spoken individual who has demonstrated to me his outstanding skills. I was referred to Mr. Telesco by an expert who is a member and Tech advisor for the Riviera Owners Association.

Thank you for posting.

Turbinator

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  • 9 months later...
On 11/18/2016 at 3:54 PM, Seafoam65 said:

                   The best thing about a "guru" is that they generally know what brand of parts to use

to avoid problems. As far as the actual assembly of the engine, nobody is going to take the care and time

to put it back correctly like the owner of the car. If I were you I would do my research on  which parts are best, then

study the factory service manual and dive in. I rebuilt the 400 in my 69 GTO when I was 19 years old using the factory manual

as a guide, and it is still running fine to this day 45 years later in someone else's GTO with 100,000 miles on it. My Dad and I rebuilt the 401 in his 65 Riviera in our garage at home and it turned out great

with no problems.....just study the factory service manual carefully and use a good machinist.

Winston, just had my engine rebuilt ( 401 Nailhead )by JB engines in Rosedale MD. I'm happy with the job they did. When you talk about rebuilding you mean reassemble the engine after it has been finished at the machine shop? The reason I ask is those that have been doing this kind of work since they were children or teenagers minimize the level of difficulty involved in auto mechanics. Reading the book then following instructions for the first time ever and getting it right is not quite right. It's like me saying you can teach yourself how to play guitar by getting a chord book. Sure you can do Cowboy camp fire songs in no time, but your intro's, solos, trading licks, and outro take a lifetime to master. Don't forget learning dynamics, metre, rhythm, and other elements that make up music is not learned from a manual.

To expect a new guy to file fit ring end cap V8 .017 and .019 the first time out may be a little much. How about identifying appropriate "plumbing fittings" to install gauges? It's really no big deal once you learn NPT and various other nomenclature for brass tube fittings but getting the adapters names correct and sizing correct in not intuitive. There may be some who have a high mechanical aptitude and experience in mechanical endeavors earlier life that give them experience in knowing simple things like the kind of tools you need to do an engine reassemble. I believe some of the experienced mechanics that have been doing this kind of work most of their lives minimize the level of difficulty in figuring some of this stuff out. For instance if your carb starves for fuel when you are aggressively accelerating how many or going to know to check the rubber fuel lines from the tank to the metal fuel lines for cracks in the rubber? It is simple to look there because your carb could be sucking air instead of gasoline.

It's not impossible to do SOME or even most of the mechanical repair tasks, but tools, some experience and an environment where you can work on the car is essential. 

I would say auto mechanics can be performed by most, but you have to learn first. Reading a book and following a repair manual is a start, but sure as shooting' doesn't mean you are going to get it right in a reasonable amount of time or ever. At this point in the game I don't have much time left as when I was a teenager.

Turbinator

 

 

 

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I went to High School with "John" who, for his whole life, wanted to be a surgeon.  He studied day and night and his senior year was the Valedictorian of our class.  But his senior year in school brought reality to him.  We were in an advanced biology class together and in that class we did a lot of dissecting of different species.  It was evident early on that "John" was never going to be the surgeon he wanted to be.  So he changed his field.  He's now a Doctor but the PhD kind (Harvard.)  He does research.  I think there are a lot of "wanna be" mechanics out there with good intentions, but just don't have the knack for what it takes to be successful at it. Let your light shine in some other field.

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On 11/17/2016 at 2:42 PM, 66Lincoupe said:

Russ Martin is definitely knowledgeable and a good source for the nailhead including new and used parts but he is a jerk. He had my daughter in tears and my wife so frustrated when they called to order parts from him for our 425 (we ended up doing research and finding the new parts we wanted directly from the suppliers). But that's behind us now... If you can get past his demeanor EVERYTHING he says is true and worth gold. If you build your own engine and follow his advice you will have a strong, long-living, engine.

 

The nailhead cam bearings have to be sized to fit the cam - NO new cam will fit without sizing the bearings. This is not something most machine shops are able to do anymore. And do not use FelPro gaskets. The head gaskets will leak oil - another point that Russ makes. BEST gaskets are, like the name implies, the best - and they are what Russ sells too.

 

I built my daughter's engine; the fifth nailhead I have ever built - They are a great looking and sounding engine, and they make HUGE torque at low RPM. I use TA Performance for parts here in the Phoenix area.

 

 

I've spoken to a couple of Nailhead "experts" on the phone recently as well as some other "experts" regarding other things car related. Without exception, they have what you might call "Strong" personalities. It's tough having people speak to you that way. It's made worse because you probably wouldn't be calling to ask questions if you knew what you were talking about. In their defense, they probably get a bazillion dumb calls a day from people who for the most part don't end up spending money. But it is tough to want to do business with them a second time or recommend them. 

 

 

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On 11/11/2020 at 3:06 PM, drhach said:

 

 

 

 

I've spoken to a couple of Nailhead "experts" on the phone recently as well as some other "experts" regarding other things car related. Without exception, they have what you might call "Strong" personalities. It's tough having people speak to you that way. It's made worse because you probably wouldn't be calling to ask questions if you knew what you were talking about. In their defense, they probably get a bazillion dumb calls a day from people who for the most part don't end up spending money. But it is tough to want to do business with them a second time or recommend them. 

 

 

Sir, you are so correct you get a 200% accuracy rating. I’m a believer in it is not what you say it is how you say it.

Communication requires a good sender and receiver. The best communication takes place when sender and receiver invest as much in listening as they invest in talking. I do business with a soft spoken expert in CT., Tom Telesco does his best to give you his best knowledge of automobile mechanics. Tom is a patient man who is happy to share his knowledge about automobile repair. The parts Tom supplies always more than satisfy. If you don’t need what you think you need he will be the first to tell you. He spends your money like it were his.

I am fortunate to know Tom Telesco to get my car rebuilt AND Tom is a first class individual who serves as an example for us.

Turbinator

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On 11/11/2020 at 12:00 PM, arnulfo de l.a. said:

I my opinion mechanical inclinations and musical inclinations are something that you are born with as is athletic ability. You either got it or you don’t . Those who got it will always be better at what ever their inclination is than those that don’t simply because it comes naturally to them.

Sir, I have respect for your insights regarding natural ability. I believe there are people with God gifted talents that when used positively they can achieve great things. Also, I’ve known people who were not so naturally gifted, but had the burning desire  to achieve their persistence and resilience was what helped them achieve their goals. “ You have it or you don’t” to a large degree it is correct. There are some who become competent in their endeavors because of their very fine work ethic. How a person defines success for themselves is a contributing factor.

Thank you,

Turbinator

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18 hours ago, arnulfo de l.a. said:

Agree 100%

Sir, decided to get Custom coil springs from Custom Coil Specialty in KS. CSS seems to know their business. I’m lowering the front an inch and back 3/4” of inch. Hardly noticeable but I believe the change will give me what I want.

if I could hide the compressor I would give bagging a thought. If one of the younger ones “hop on me” I’ll just have to smile.Turbinator

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On 11/15/2020 at 3:40 PM, telriv said:

After a few months of driving have the front end alignment checked as lowing will affect it.

Tommy, will certainly check. If I get any negative reaction to steering or ride I’ll see if it can be fixed. If it can’t be fixed I’ll put the original coil springs back. I’m very accustomed to doing jobs over again.

Bob

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So it looks like I have to pull the motor out of my 65 (401) Riv. The front two freeze plug are leaking (actually all were) and I cant see a way around not fully pulling the motor to replace them. I did get the correct ones from Russ BTW. Since I am probably pulling the motor I am engaging in "while we are at it" syndrome. I will definitely be doing the heater core from the bay side and detailing the engine compartment. However, I'm considering having the motor rebuilt to stock specs since it is out anyway-- though it doesn't seem to have any real issues. This would be well outside of my mechanical abilities and time resources and ,therefore, I would have someone else do it. I'm in MN. Are there any recommendations of a local shop that is capable? Or Should I resign myself to Tom Telesco or Russ Martin, and ship the engine. Has anyone done this recently, and if so what was the cost and time-frame? Thanks in advance

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Personally I would stick with either TOM or RUSS whomever is closest.being you said there were no issues I would not do a rebuild. A rebuild usually involves going at least .010” over on the cylinders . Right there you will not be at stock specs and you just removed precious metal without a need to. Save the rebuild for when you need it. 

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The engine DOES NOT need to be removed to replace the six freeze plugs on both sides of the block. Three on each side.

Have you checked the health of the engine by doing compression & leakdown tests both cold & hot???

 

Just to let you all know this thread is now 4 years old. What IF ANYTHING has been done???

 

Tom T.

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6 hours ago, elanmike said:

I am probably pulling the motor I am engaging in "while we are at it" syndrome.

 

I came home from a local car show and put a little lacquer thinner on a rag to clean up the under hood wiring. And there was a bracket in the way.

004.thumb.png.4172fbdb9c13d0fa2cb7e2b52bcc836c.png

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