Gonecat

'54 Ford Crestline - Engine options

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Hi All, my first post here so please excuse my newbieness...

 

I have had a '54 Ford Crestline 4-door since I bought it for $1,200 in 1995.  From what I recall, the mechanic who rebuilt the engine said they "re-bored the cylinders and there wouldn't be enough diameter left to do it again".   

 

Well, since then, the engine has frozen again (not long after an oil-change at a shop that left the oil cap screwed on improperly).

 

I have been told that I could put a Mustang 289 in it (the original is a 239).  

 

Seems parts are easy to find, core is not too expensive, and I'm not worried about resale value cuz I'll never ever sell it.  

 

What would you pros suggest?

 

Appreciate your input.  

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38 minutes ago, Gonecat said:

I have been told that I could put a Mustang 289 in it (the original is a 239). 

 

Sure you can. 

 

All you need is new motor mounts, new transmission, new exhaust, new accessory brackets, new radiator, new accelerator linkage, new 12V electrical system...

 

Need I go on?  Yes, people swap these engines all the time. It is NOT a bolt-in.  The small block Ford family (289, 302, etc) is a completely different engine family than the Y-block.  If you have the skills and tools (or checkbook) for an engine swap, go for it.  If not, then another Y-block will be a much more cost-effective solution. 

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One thing to consider: does the car have the original 6 volt system? If it does, that might be something that would also have to change if you go with a later model engine, because I'm not sure you'll find the brackets to convert a later engine to the existing 6 volt generator. Maybe they exist, or if you're good at fabricating, you could come up with something. Then there's the ignition coil. Since a lot of people convert old 6 volt cars to 12 volt, however, you'll find all the necessary hardware online.

 

If your existing car has overdrive, though, be prepared to spend a lot of money for a 12 volt conversion. Just a 12 volt OD relay and OD solenoid seem to be priced at about $600 together. Apparently there are issues with stepping down the voltage to use the existing relay and solenoid. Since it's a Crestline, I'm guessing it's an automatic w/o overdrive. Just in case, though.

 

Another option might be to find a 272 from '55 if you want to stay with 6 volt and keep things easy. Should bolt in. Wecome to the forum. I'm new, too.

Edited by JamesR (see edit history)

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What do you mean engine is frozen? Frozen from sitting  or frozen because you ran it dry of oil? 2 very different things. If it is frozen from sitting it may be possible to get it running again for the cost of some head gaskets and a fresh oil change.

 

The oil caps didn't seal anyway. They were part of the crankcase ventilation system. It shouldn't make any difference how it was put on.

 

I wouldn't do anything drastic like change engines until I investigated further. We are talking about many thousands of $$$$$ bucks versus a couple hundred.

 

If it is stuck from sitting suggest you put some kind of penetrating oil in the cylinders and let it soak in for a week. Auto trans fluid and kerosene 50/50 is a popular formula, maybe someone will chime in with something better. When it has soaked in take off valve covers and check if the valves are stuck. OIl up the valve stems and rockers, tap the valve end of the rocker arms lightly with a small hammer. If the hammer bounces off with a *boing* the valve is ok. If it goes thud the valve is stuck.

 

Then with the spark plugs out you can try and turn it over. With a manual trans the easy way is to put it in second and rock the car back and forth by pushing it.

 

This is not very difficult or expensive and could save a lot of work and money.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Fantastic array of input, everyone.  Thank you. 

 

I have done little more than replace the water pump and gas filter on it myself, the rest i left to garages around LA.  But, I am trying to educate myself so that I can do more of the work myself (or at least be better informed about it).

 

6 Volt.  (I sure had fun getting a modern radio to work on a 6v positive ground system - Don't let the radio chassis touch the car chassis!)

239, overhead V8. 

Automatic.

No overdrive.

 

The last garage left the oil cap half screwed on, my family member drove it for many miles before getting back and noticing the leak.  It didn't drive much after that I am told (I was out of the country).  No wonder they didn't tell me about it until i was back!

 

If getting another era Y-block is a better choice (money, time, retrofitting) I am all for it.    I do understand a 289 is not a 'bolt-in' and was expecting that a lot of other things would have to be upgraded.  Really just hoping to find out the pros and cons.

 

Thanks again for all the feedback

 

 

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So now it seems it was run dry of oil. That is a different matter. Suggest you take the heads off and inspect the cylinders for scoring. By the way engines of that age had very thick cylinders. It was expected that they would be rebuilt once or twice during their working life and the factory made allowance in the cylinder thickness. It should be possible to bore the cylinders up to 1/8 oversize or .125. That is if you wanted to rebuild it again.

 

Auto trans makes it harder to turn the engine over. If the starter won't do the job. You may be able to put a wrench on a big nut on the end of the crankshaft and turn it.

 

How much oil is in the crankcase now, according to the dipstick? I wouldn't take anyone's word for anything or spend money until I investigated further or had it checked out by an old time mechanic.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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The oil filter is a cartridge - canister type that could leak if not installed properly.  The oil cap pushes on and is for filling and crankcase ventilation.

If it is stuck the cylinder walls and pistons are most likely toast. A replacement engine (239) should not be hard to find, used or rebuilt. 

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I see that the engine offered up a few posts back is set up for a manual transmission.

Not being a Ford guy I don't know if that will make a difference. But a straight out swap can easily be done in a day if one knows what he is doing.

What does the shop that screwed up the oil change have to say about it?

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You may not care about resale value with a different engine in it because you will never sell it, but when you are gone, someone is going to have to deal with selling it.  

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239 motors are out there and cheap when they come up. Hot rodders often replace them with more modern motors, and of the Y blocks, it's the odd one out in many ways. But they are fine motors too. I picked up a spare, carb to pan, for $100. Gasket sets are still available and you can still get the fuel pumps rebuilt. There is an entire facebook page dedicated to 1954 fords and it's pretty active with a mix of restorers and hot rodders, so the parts are out there and you'll find someone close by. Good luck and we're all happy to help to the best of our ability.... welcome to the internet age of the car hobby!

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@Frantz Your profile photo looks darn close to mine - it was stolen from me and found in downtown LA with 'Gangster Love' spray painted on the side.  I got it back and spray painted the (originally white) body blue and left the top white - just like your photo!  (Is your's a '53?).  Glad to hear the great news because I'm more than cool with putting another era 239 in it if that's the best bet.  Just want reliable, don't care about speed or anything!

@28 Chrysler Indeed, it was the oil filter that was not replaced correctly, not the oil cap.  

 

@Rusty_OToole I will definitely have it opened up for a look before making any moves and really appreciate the info.  Imagine - back when they built motors with enough foresight to account for eventual re-builds!  I'm out of the states until spring but I do have a spot (Modern Engine in LA) who I will consult with to see if it can be straightened out with the current block.

@JACK M  That bad oil change was a long time ago but their response was "we'll refund the cost of the oil".  

@61polara  "You may not care about resale value with a different engine in it because you will never sell it, but when you are gone, someone is going to have to deal with selling it."    - Man, with all due respect, that gave me a full-on belly laugh.  I can't be bothered with someone I'll never meet, after I'm dead, having a problem selling the car.  I'd prefer to keep it on the road and enjoy it to the fullest while I'm alive.  I mean, how should I feel about putting seat belts in it? If it was a '53 Vette or something, I'd definitely feel differently.  Anyway, truth be told, it will probably go to my niece who will probably be better at fixing it than I ever will be! But, my heart is in going as original as possible, so I think we ultimately concur 😉

All of you guys rock for shooting me your feedback on it.   Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. 
 

Funny enough, the guy who suggested the Mustang engine was the owner of one of LA's main 'classic car repair shops'.  

 
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Mine is a '54 as well, but it's just a Customline so not as fancy as yours. Hoping to get farther along this year than I did last year but we'll see how that works out! Not only can you make the 239 reliable, but you'll have a rolling piece of history with the proper motor in there!

In 2018 you can keep anything original. The old idea of putting a modern motor in it always feels like a very lazy answer when coming from someone claiming to be an expert. Then folks who trust their input figure that must be the case. I've always liked oddball stuff and telling people that it's really not that hard to keep thing original is part of the fun for me. Plus I can talk about why it's oddball which gives a more interesting conversation IMO.

For '54 my story generally goes "well it's the first year for the Ford OHV V8 and while it has the same displacement as the old flathead it made 20 more HP. When Ford saw what Chevy was doing for '55 with the introduction of the SBC Ford stepped up their displacement making the 239 a one year motor. This was the start of the CUI wars between Ford and Chevy and the Y block reached it's max size quicker than Ford expected."

So rather than just being a small low power V 8 it's part of the story, and relatable in history with the performance motors right around the corner. To me that's much more interested than "yeah, oil filters were hard to find so I put a mustang motor in it".

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How old is the classic car repair shop guy? The Ford 289 is 50 years old. Your 239 is 60 years old. Not that much difference really. In 10 years the 289 will be as old as the motor you have now, and it will still be the wrong motor.

 

Now if he suggested a 4.6 or some motor made in the last 10 years it would make a little bit of sense. A little bit, not much. But why would you spend thousands of $$$$ bucks putting in another obsolete motor when it will depreciate the value of the car by even more thousands?

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Best thing you could do is join the '54 Ford Club of America where there is a wealth of information available for a mere $25 a year, which includes 4 quarterly newsletters and the '54 Ford Club Facebook page and forum.  Note:  you can go directly to each one without paying dues, but we would appreciate the support. You can also go to the HAMB site and gain a great deal of knowledge.

Next, this was the first year of the overhead valve engine in the '54 Ford ('53 was a flathead) and it is somewhat of an orphan.  The oiling system presented problems if not cared for, and yes, a leaky oil canister was a frequent problem. Many of our members switch them out to either 272, 292 or 312s. There is also a 256 that was the "Police Interceptor" in the '54, and standard in the '54 Mercury.  A common move for many of our members is to install the Ford 302.  However, if you were to find a good 239, there's nothing wrong with going in that direction.  

I wouldn't worry a bit about resale value on the engine swap as unless you are going for an AACA, it is not critical on a 4 door.  Additionally, there is a push towards customizing on many of these '50s cars which includes swaps of transmissions, rear ends, intakes, etc.  

Take your time and do your research.  Post your questions on the above sites and watch the information roll in.

 

 

 

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Get your car a log book.  List everything you do and the part numbers of every piece you use. If you don't have the part number of a substitute part list the make and model it was from or would originally have fit.  Keep this book with the car.  You may not need to refer to it for years but it will prove it's worth.  It is 100% better than your memory, guaranteed.

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The 54 239 is half flat head and half OHV and generally not considered the best of the Y-blocks. I'd move up to a 55 272 which is a much better engine and still 6v.

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4 hours ago, mcdarrunt said:

The 54 239 is half flat head and half OHV and generally not considered the best of the Y-blocks. I'd move up to a 55 272 which is a much better engine and still 6v.


Forgive my earlier short post... I just woke up and was surprised by this comment.

The 239 Y block shares it's oil water and fuel with the Flathead but that's about it. Yes it's the same displacement, but it's a whole different set of numbers to get there. Wider bore and shorter stroke. The Y block gets it's name from it's deep skirt design, something not shared with the Flatty. In fact I think it's worth noting that Ford choose to call the family by it's block shape rather than OHV design, showing it was entirely new. Nothing much to gain with a 272 other than cubic inches. If you're going to go with a different Y block than a 292 or 312 would be the way to go. 292 could be had with a 6v system if you're trying to make it as cookie cutter as possible. Still, nothing beats the charm of a car with the right motor IMO.

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2 hours ago, Frantz said:

How the heck is a 54 half flathead?

 

3 hours ago, mcdarrunt said:

The 54 239 is half flat head and half OHV and generally not considered the best of the Y-blocks. I'd move up to a 55 272 which is a much better engine and still 6v.

No, First of all, I don't know how that would be possible. It is as OHV as you can get. The only similarity is that they are both 239 CI engines. The problem with the '54 OHV was that it was the 1st year design for that engine and like most new products, there were bugs, fitting problems, rear seal leakage, and design issues.  Things like pulling the fuel pump, changing the oil canister, etc. was and is a real pain.  The upper oiling system was fine if you changed the oil regularly . If not, it could get gummed up and the problems begin.

I will agree however that the 272 would be a better choice if the two engines were both available and all things being equal. It produced 162 hp vs. the 130 hp. of the 239 and had improvements over the 239 as discussed above.  I believe either will bolt right up, but am not sure.  That's where the other site gear heads would be of better assistance.

One thing not discussed yet is the transmission.  The unknown with your car is the transmission.  It should be a consideration before you make a move to change it out.  Perhaps you can find a working package that will drop right in - one that doesn't leak and has a proven track record.  I can tell you that there are many out there due to guys dropping in a 302.  Once you do your research, you can look into '54s through '57 that might have been modified and grab their older components.  Not sure where you are located, but it would be a big help to know.

FYI - Canadian 1954 Fords used the 1953 Ford flathead in their cars.

Nice article:  https://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hcc/2007/01/1954-Ford-Mainline--Customline-and-Crestline/1394817.html

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To each his own but if 54 has an 8BA design distributor and a 3 bolt carburetor it looks to me like Ford wanted to use up some left over flat head parts. I am a tiny bit familiar with engines since we make them from scratch; not just rebuild or overhaul them. Pic of a block just out of the HAAS 5 axis mill and a twin plug hemi head for a BB Chevy. Also where these engines end up. Finally, I DO make mistakes (the twin plug head is in the scrap bin) and any time I I think I'm perfect I go over to the pond across the road and try to walk across it___sank every time so far. Keep it light.

dan's 49 034.jpg

dan's 49 035.jpg

dan's 49 036.jpg

Model A and pull truck 014.jpg

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@AJFord54  Thank you so much for the great input and links.  When I get back to the states next year and get my hands back on the wheel I will definitely join and support the club.  Great to know about it.  That Hemmings article was killer; learned so much from it.

 

@Frantz  I totally agree - original is always the coolest 😉
So it looks like I will:   1) See if I can keep this original motor rolling; of course  2) Replace it with another original motor  3)  Look into options for upgrading it.

 

I admit that no investment in this car will be to increase its re-sale value - I lean towards original (which I drove and loved for over 10 years in Los Angeles as my only car!) but I'm smart enough to openly invite feedback from you pros on what the best options are - and to be honest, for me it's first and foremost about ease of implementation, reliability and parts availability.  That Hemmings article AJFord54 suggested seamed to indicate most everything is still available for the original which is a huge game-changer for my understanding of how doable it is to keep stuff original(esque).

 

@mcdarrunt  Amazing looking stuff!  Like works in a museum!  

 

@Tinindian  That is excellent advice; I will do that for sure.  I build various electronics projects for audio work and my note system for them has saved my tookus many times!

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So nice to have a person who poses a question respond back to all of us.  Thank you as well for your reinforcement.  Manners have not gone completely out the window. :)

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@AJFord54 has it gotten that bad?!  heh..  man i am so glad that you fellas have taken the time to share your wisdom with me, its the least i can do to respond back to everyone.

i've learned so much from this post; thanks to every last one of you. 

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I would also look at a site named 52 -59 ford  social groupit is found on the HAMB under social groups it is a mix of original and resto mods lots of good help and info.and yes the y blocks up to 62 will bolt up to your transmission.if you decide to upgrade be sure to get complete motor meaning carb distributor etc as 54 bring one year only the carb water pump and timing chain cover and distributor are unique to that enrgine.you can keep your 6 volt parts as well and use them.this is mine with grand kids a couple of years ago

IMG_3990.jpg

Edited by 54vicky (see edit history)

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