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Can I replace nailhead engine with 350cu with transmission?


Selim
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Have a friend who owns Buick century 1955 with v8 nailhead and dynaflow transmission

for some practical reasons he needs to replace engine and was wondering if he could swap in engine 350 cu v8 from a Chevrolet Caprice 1980 model with its transmission into his Buick century 1955?

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Anything is possible with enough time and money. 
 

The torque tube is structural. If you put an open drive line in, the axle won’t stay in place on the coil springs. 
 

There are 4-link kits available, but you still have to do some cutting/welding. 
 

1st gen Riviera axles happen to be the exact same width as the factory small body axle, by the way...

 

By the time you hunt down the parts, do the mods, devalue the car, etc... the economy of a cheap bowtie isn’t all that cheap. 
 

The problem with economizing is that sometimes it’s very expensive. 

Edited by SpecialEducation (see edit history)
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17 hours ago, demon452 said:

Any problems with the nailhead?  Or is he just a chevy guy with a buick?

 

he doesn't know yet. didn't start the engine yet and was afraid it may need a lot of work and thought a new reliable engine would save $$$$ and effort. obviously this is not the case.

best 

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That's always the assumption, isn't it? Old stuff just isn't reliable, so I need to put in a 350 Chevy to make it work right. Nobody puts even 30 seconds into the thought process, failing to recognize that people drove these cars every day for decades and that its mere existence is proof of its durability and reliability. No, they just go right to, "Welp, it doesn't run, better get a Chevy crate motor."

 

Perhaps explain to him that a "new reliable" engine is only as reliable as the guy who installed it. I'd much rather have a car--and engine--that were designed, engineered, and installed by an army of well-paid OEM engineers working for the biggest company in the world rather than some home-made cobbled-together Frankenstein creation.

 

Any engine is reliable, including the Nailhead in a Buick. The stuff around it is usually the problem, and the problem is that most mechanics are clueless about repairs. So they install parts they DO know how to fix, like an aftermarket Edelbrock carburetor and an electronic ignition from Summit Racing. That old stuff isn't unreliable, but it does take a skill set other than "I just wanna bolt it on and go" to make it work correctly.

 

If he thinks he can do a better job than GM engineers at making a Buick run, well, good luck to him...

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In fairness, a 350 IS cheaper than rebuilding a nailhead. A Turbo Hydramatic IS cheaper and easier than rebuilding a Dynaflow. 
If you stop there, it makes sense to do the swap.
However, if you think further, you have to re-engineer the entire car, which is far more time consuming and expensive even if you do the work yourself. 
 

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Even ignoring the rest of the driveline, using a small block Chevy and TH350 still means you still have to figure out wiring and exhaust and cooling system and motor mounts and transmission linkage and throttle linkage and oil pan and speedometer and gauges and accessory drive, and, well, it stops looking like "just throw it in there and go" pretty fast. I bet the break even point on rebuilding the original hardware is not significantly more expensive than what it might cost for an amateur to throw a small block Chevy in there and make it run and drive safely. Rebuilding the original stuff costs a fraction of what it would cost to have a pro do an engine swap. And you're still left with a cobbled-up car that nobody wants and which is probably less reliable because of all the home-made stuff you had to use to get it in there in the first place. If reliability is the goal, using the OEM stuff is always smarter than trying to outsmart the engineers who built it. Small block Chevys were available in 1955. If they were truly better/faster/easier then Buick would have used them.

 

 

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IF your friend had a Chevrolet of the '55 vintage, it would be an easy swap.  Or at least the motor mounts and such could be had, in a kit.  Might need a new driveshaft, though.  

 

Back then, EACH division of GM was unique and "not all the same" as they tend to be now.  Some Chevy and Pontiac stuff would interchange, as the frames were very similar.  But when you got to the "upper carlines", very little interchanged.  Unique engines, unique transmissions, unique frames, and unique rear axles, was the general rule.  EACH designed by a different Head Engineer.  Lots of ways to do the same thing, depending upon how much the car would cost.

 

Similarly, by about 1969, EACH division of GM had an engine that displaced 350 cubic inches.  ALL totally different from each other.  The "guts" of the Turbo350 automatics that were attached to them were pretty universal, but the cases had different bolt patterns where they were held to the back of the engine block.  Chevy pattern and Buick-Olds-Pontiac pattern.

 

In other words, things which seemed to be similar or "the same" were really quite different.

 

As 5563 discovered, with Old-Tank's help, finding a machine shop that knows, really knows, how to rebuild a Buick Nailhead engine can be "a trick", too.  Just a few quirks that weren't in the more common Chevy engines, but enough to make the knowledge of them important.

 

Where is the particular '55 Buick located?  Just curious.

'

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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On 4/27/2020 at 12:20 PM, Matt Harwood said:

That's always the assumption, isn't it? Old stuff just isn't reliable, so I need to put in a 350 Chevy to make it work right. Nobody puts even 30 seconds into the thought process, failing to recognize that people drove these cars every day for decades and that its mere existence is proof of its durability and reliability. No, they just go right to, "Welp, it doesn't run, better get a Chevy crate motor."

 

Perhaps explain to him that a "new reliable" engine is only as reliable as the guy who installed it. I'd much rather have a car--and engine--that were designed, engineered, and installed by an army of well-paid OEM engineers working for the biggest company in the world rather than some home-made cobbled-together Frankenstein creation.

 

Any engine is reliable, including the Nailhead in a Buick. The stuff around it is usually the problem, and the problem is that most mechanics are clueless about repairs. So they install parts they DO know how to fix, like an aftermarket Edelbrock carburetor and an electronic ignition from Summit Racing. That old stuff isn't unreliable, but it does take a skill set other than "I just wanna bolt it on and go" to make it work correctly.

 

If he thinks he can do a better job than GM engineers at making a Buick run, well, good luck to him...

I think this is a byproduct of all these shows on TV today. They all have master crews that can modify anything in short order, and with sponsorships from major advertisers like Jegs, Summit, Snap-On, etc, they probably get those components cheap, if not free. All I needed to see was Chip Foose fix up a girl's '65 Skylark convertible that she has had since she was 16. Husband had it done for her as a surprise. Disgusted when I saw him dump the old 300-2bbl in a trailer and drop a crate 350 in it. EVERYBODY seems to think it's that easy.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/30/2020 at 8:58 AM, cooterbfd said:

Disgusted when I saw him dump the old 300-2bbl in a trailer and drop a crate 350 in it. EVERYBODY seems to think it's that easy.

 

Well, I have seen them overhaul original drivetrains on that show too.  In the case you cited, it literally was easier (and cheaper) to simply drop-in a 350 Chevy because they could bolt it in using Chevelle hardware...

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On 4/26/2020 at 12:24 PM, demon452 said:

Or is he just a chevy guy with a buick?

 

Hey! You mean something like a Buick guy with a Ford?

 

A shot around 1982 when I was painting the rear frame of my 350 Buick powered '60 Ford pick up.

016.thumb.JPG.33757e64dde28ce7c940c2be2394c40f.JPG

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A buddy of mine who has been sniffing cars asked me about the "appropriateness" of cross brand engine swaps.    Unless it is a 392 Hemi in to a Willys Coupe,  I can't think of another one that is cool.

 

And throw all the tomatoes you want,  I have complete disdain for any crate motor installation.

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I have noted that I grew up young. But I did enough playful things so's I wouldn't have a completely jaundice mind when I got old.

 

I had just turned 30 when I did that swap. You couldn't really tell it from stock, original key  worked in the original switch, the alternator used the original generator harness, and the Ford shifter selected the gear.

Except one day when I dumped a load of brush out back in a friend's gully. I was driving back on the lane through his small junkyard and one of those giant good ole boys was walking along the lane. He held up his hand and glared at me saying "That ain't no Ford engine in there. Open the hood."

 

I did learn the difference between someone telling me their tastes or trying to impose their values on me. Some never thought of it that way.

 

Bernie

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2 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

I have noted that I grew up young. But I did enough playful things so's I wouldn't have a completely jaundice mind when I got old.

 

I had just turned 30 when I did that swap. You couldn't really tell it from stock, original key  worked in the original switch, the alternator used the original generator harness, and the Ford shifter selected the gear.

Except one day when I dumped a load of brush out back in a friend's gully. I was driving back on the lane through his small junkyard and one of those giant good ole boys was walking along the lane. He held up his hand and glared at me saying "That ain't no Ford engine in there. Open the hood."

 

I did learn the difference between someone telling me their tastes or trying to impose their values on me. Some never thought of it that way.

 

Bernie

 

  Did he?

 

  Ben

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Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

 

On 4/30/2020 at 5:58 AM, cooterbfd said:

I think this is a byproduct of all these shows on TV today. They all have master crews that can modify anything in short order, and with sponsorships from major advertisers like Jegs, Summit, Snap-On, etc, they probably get those components cheap, if not free. All I needed to see was Chip Foose fix up a girl's '65 Skylark convertible that she has had since she was 16. Husband had it done for her as a surprise. Disgusted when I saw him dump the old 300-2bbl in a trailer and drop a crate 350 in it. 

 

Heard the name, don't know the guy -- but based on that he (like most of the cable TV wrenchers) seems like a hack.  I don't watch these shows as a matter of course (and sanity), but I have yet to see one of these guys that I'd allow to work on one of my cars. I don't give a rat's a$$ how many t-shirts he sells or how many sponsor-bought tools he has, if he doesn't know what it is or how it's supposed to work, he's got no business saying he knows how to fix it.

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I didn't notice "monstrosity" was a link. Nailhead, I used a '70 350-4 that was sitting in my '39 Buick out in back. You know how it is. You need an engine or something and just look around in your stuff. Put whatever you have in. I don't think the TV guys are at that level. Most appear to be picked by a casting department obsessed with Disney characters. I have even tried watching them with the sound turned off and it doesn't work.

My thoughts on modifications is sure, when you start with a low end car that wasn't much to start with. A Ford or Chevy can always be improved easily. Once you buy a Buick or better there are no gains. Just fix what you have.

 

For two years now I have been tempted by a rough T-Bird convert.

1959-ford-thunderbird-convertible-parts-car-fomoco-custom-rod-other-58-60.thumb.jpg.a9559d61ca779cc01b2a0ebc193ad896.jpg

 

I think about quartering it and reassembling the body on a Lincoln Mark VIII platform, same WB. But I made up my mind not to do it until I get my Riviera painted. That has worked out fine on the delay part.

 

Oh, Danny, the good ole boy, I opened the hood and he didn't know what the engine was. Just that it sounded a whole lot better than an oil starved Y-block.

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