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1955 Special with a Hemi


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I am the third owner of this 1955 Buick. It was originally purchased in Saskatchewan by a family friend who drove it until the mid 70’s and then parked it in a garage. My father purchased it in 2005 with intentions on rebuilding it. When he passed suddenly in 2015 I inherited it and started planning what to do with it. I have built a 1929 Willys Whippet with a turbo 4 cylinder mounted in the trunk. It is almost finished but since I have been working on it I have grown a family of 4 kids with the oldest being 9 now. The Whippet having two seats isn’t quite what we need to take all of us to car shows and camping like I remember as a kid so that is why I have started on the Buick now. This will not be a restoration or any kind of period correct build. It will be built to be dependable and mechanically sound and can pull our camper trailer with ease and be easy for my wife to drive. My plan is to remove the drivetrain and replace it with a new Gen 3 Hemi, a 4l60 transmission, a new rear differential and disc brakes all around. Body wise it is very solid and I have only found one spot of rust through in the passenger fender. I will be stripping it down and repainting it this winter. The aggressive goal for it is to be driving next fall before the winter. 

 

I am am fortunate enough to have a new 50x60 shop I just finished to work on it inside. Not heated yet so it will be a challenge in the winter but I will persevere. 

 

 

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First step was pulling the old battery. For fun I hooked up my battery charger to the terminals and checked out what was working. All exterior lights worked flawlessly, the fan motors under dash and under seat worked, and the interior lights worked as well. 

 

I should mention that if anybody wants any specific parts or trim pieces I am willing to help. 

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Next I removed the hood ( those springs were a pain) and put it off to the side. I removed upper and lower rad hoses and pulled the rad and shroud. I make a habit of reinstalling all fasteners back in their holes to try not to lose them. 

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Edited by Kberjian
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Engine put up a little bit of a fight coming out due to the transmission mount bolts not coming out. I ended up taking it out with the crossmember still attached. I used my home made gantry to lift it out and it worked great. I had two chain falls hooked up , one to the front and one to the back of the engine and it made it easy to change the angle and pull it out without worrying about the grill. The extra height of the 15’ gantry made it not an issue to clear the car even up on jack stands. 

 

Next step, pull out the seats and interior and I will take it for a good wash. 

 

Engine, transmission and rear end are available if anyone wants them. 

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11 hours ago, Kberjian said:

I am from North of the wall. Alberta, Canada. Near Calgary. 

 

Sounds like you might be a Game of Thrones fan? LOL

 

Interesting, my '58 Special came from Calgary, Alberta. 

The body was quite solid unlike like the cars around here exposed to road salt...

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I am a Game if Thrones fan. Looking forward to the last book that will have better writing than the last season of the show. 

 

I am pulling up the carpet in the cabin this morning and am hoping and praying for the no rust spree to continue. This is by far the best I have ever had for a project. 

 

The design of of this car seems to have not had as many pockets around inside the fenders that collected the road dust and then held the water there to rust.  

Edited by Kberjian (see edit history)
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Pulled out the interior this morning. Found the usual collection of mouse nests but the only spot with rust was the drivers floor board which isn’t too bad because I had planned on surgery there anyway for updated master cylinder for the brakes. 

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Had a special delivery at noon of a complete 5.7 Hemi with 545RFE trans and full wiring and plumbing. It should save me a ton of money and time tracking down the little items like the drive by wire throttle and the transmission control module.

 

He he was a great guy and also threw in a second 545RFE. 

 

I have them both a clean up and plugged all open intake/exhaust ends. 

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I was quite worried when I did a side by side comparison of the engine/trans compared to the stock one. The transmission is probably 3x the size. Engine overall height from bottom of pan to top of carb/intake is about the same. 

 

I couldn’t resist so I dropped it in for the first of about two hundred test fits. I had to turn it at a pretty steep angle to get it in and proceeded to dump some trans fluid on the ground. At least it is a detergent and will clean easy. 

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Clearance wise it is better than I thought. The front of the engine needs to go down about 3” to get to where I want it. The issue is the oil pan hitting the steering arm and control arm ends. I am looking at shallow pans to make it work. 

 

Firewall, steering column, exhaust , motor mounts and trans tunnel all look great for clearance. 

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Passenger side is the same deal, lots of room for everything to work. The motor mounts more or less line up with the stock ones somehow so I think I will reuse the frame mount and modify the engine side to meet up with it. Last picture shows the rest of the oil pan to the crossmember, lots of room everywhere but the very back. 

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This combo is way lighter than the stock one I think because even with all the weight down on the suspension the car is still nose high a bit. I will need to work on that so I can plan the angle of the engine for the final ride height/attitude. 

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The engine is in the car again with the shallow pan and it is in the right place side to side and front and back. The transmission needs to go up a bit as the engine and transmission are at about 7 degrees. I may end up adjusting the trans tunnel to make it fit and have plenty of clearance. Lots of room for rad and fan up front. 

 

Tonight I hope to decide the fate of the trans tunnel and maybe make some mounts. 

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I have been fortunate to be on a week off work this week so that is why the progress has been so good. I go back to work Monday so it will definitely slow down. I could use help for a lot of this stuff as it is a lot of up and check clearance, then under the car on a creeper and check stuff, then back up, it is hard on the body.

 

i did get my youngest son who is two to come help me clean up this afternoon so we swept the whole shop out and got rid of all the mouse contaminated interior stuff. 

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Re: oil pan modification. Looks like your capacity will be 2 quarts less (maybe a bit more?). Any plans for an external reservoir or will you be okay running less oil? Like Ben - admire how quickly you are getting to things and looking forward to additional postings.

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I am not really concerned about the difference in oil volume. The car will be a cruiser and not be pushed hard in cornering or drag racing. If I end up with high oil temps or inconsistent oil pressure I will look at adding in a oil cooler which will add more volume. 

 

Appreciate the feedback. 

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  • 1 month later...

Finally made it back in the shop after two straight weekends of in-laws family reunions.... made the drivers side engine mount. Started by verifying the engine and transmission are perfectly where I wanted them and clearances were good. Mounted the plate to the block and measured the angle. Mounted the plate in my vice at the same angle so I could dummy up the mount in comfort. About ten more measurements and trims and I had it where I want it. The rubber part was cut out with a hole saw from a old solid rubber pad I had. It’s rebound and strength seemed in the right ball park. Will be adding a gusset to the tab that goes to the frame after I pull the engine out. The bolt is a 3/4” A325 one with a heavy hex nut. The nut will be captured in the upper part of the mount so I plan on a bunch of red loctite on the threads. Hope to get the passenger mount and the trans mount this coming weekend. 

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The fan is for a second heater core. There were rubber hoses connecting the core that’s ran up to the usual heater core on the firewall. Definitely a interesting design. I found it interesting that the power wire running to the fan was run alongside the drivers door in the trough then ran right under the guard above it to the fan. The wire was rubbed right through the insulator pretty much but it still worked great even after 64 years. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Made the trans crossmember and got it all bolted in. It fits in the place of the stock one but dropped about 5” and has a piece of rectangular tubing going across. Also did the second engine mount. Engine/trans is now fully supported by the mounts.  

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Also pulled the stock rear suspension and differential out. Quite a setup with the torque tube and how it all worked. Replacement is a 8.8” Ford from a new F150 with a four link and disc brakes. Plan on replacing the coil springs with air bags. Also doing bags on the front. Won’t be going crazy to lay frame but want it to be low when I can and also level when pulling a trailer. Will try and retain the stock panhard bar as it seems pretty solid. 

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41 minutes ago, WhipperSnapper said:

Wow! Nice Buick and lots of progress!

 

How much power are you expecting from this new drivetrain? What's your plan for the interior? 

 

Also, I'm jealous of that MEGAshop! 😛

 

 

Engine is around 350hp stock and I will keep it that way. Plenty of power for what we will use it for. The interior will get a new headliner, carpets and seat covers but I hope to reuse the stock door panels. 

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12 hours ago, Kberjian said:

Engine is around 350hp stock and I will keep it that way. Plenty of power for what we will use it for. The interior will get a new headliner, carpets and seat covers but I hope to reuse the stock door panels. 

 

That drivetrain should move the Buick quite well.  I have the same drivetrain in my truck and I have no complaints.

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Fit up the new rear end. It is the perfect width and the triangulated four link will work awesome and not need any big changes to the stock frame. I will retain the full four link with the sway bar. I need some 3/8” plate to make the mounting plates and some new grade 8 bolts for the connections to the frame. My fancy jack with the adjustment screws was a life saver as it could rotate it on both axis and also go up and down very finitely. The connection for the driveshaft is perfect too! I have all morning tomorrow to hit it so I am expecting big things!

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 This morning I ran to town and bought the steel and bolts and got straight to work. Fabbed up the lower mounts on both sides from 3/8” plate and used grade 8 bolts for the connection. The frame Ys at the spot I was tying in so I plated it across to ensure it has enough strength. The frame is kinda weird as the X crossmember actually goes inside the perimeter frame rail so my platting ended up level. I triple checked the squareness and the alignment in the fenders and tacked it all in. This afternoon I will tackle the upper mounts. I will finish weld everything after I make sure it goes through the motions without binding. 

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Started the upper mounts and then ran the diff up and down through its paces and it worked great. Next step is to gusset and brace these mounts and weld it all up. I will take the assemblies out so I can weld all sides well then reinstall and weld to the frame. I ran out of MIG gas so my tacks started to suffer.

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Finished welding in the suspension. Two pictures show the normal ride height and the full slammed height, about 9” of difference. The differential came with a Panhard bar mount so I think I will add one just to be sure. Still debating how to do the sway bar setup for it. Fab up a small plate to the upper four link mount I think. 

 

Next step is the air bags for it the back and then I get to stack front suspension. 

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