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41 K3 woodie- restore engine or crate engine?


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Just purchased a 41 K3 Woodie as a project. Overall, it is in very restorable condition. The issue is the drivetrain; my understanding is that the K3 had an 86 HP engine and that the rear end ratio was rather short such that these could only travel at 40-45 mph with the stock engine. Is that correct?

 

Obviously, such speeds would preclude driving the car any distance and certainly not on a four lane road. 

 

I would like to preserve the original drivetrain, but am leaning toward a crate engine and modern suspension and tranny such that it could actually be driven on highways. Any thoughts?

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That is typically the way most guys go when they feel the need to "make it driveable in today's world."


However, in my experience as a dealer who has had more than 7000 cars pass through his hands in the last 10 years, buying, trading, selling, and marketing cars on behalf of sellers, that the most frequently sold cars are those that are modified like you suggest. And they are often low mileage builds with astronomical amounts of unrecoverable money spent on them. The reason most often cited for the sale of such a vehicle after all that time, money, and effort?

 

It's boring.

 

A client had this lovely Corvette built at a cost of a quarter-million dollars (yes, no joke). Modern everything, LS3 power, A/C, stereo, leather, power steering, the works. It would start instantly, idle perfectly in traffic, and go 185 MPH while getting 25 miles per gallon. It looked like art and had Z06 Corvette brakes so it could stop hard enough to detach your retinas. Happy on pump gas, immune to overheating in traffic, reasonably comfortable ride, plenty of parts availability, any Chevy dealer could service it, all that. Essentially, it was everything everyone always claims to want--an old car that looks old but doesn't have any of the "hassles" that go with it.

 

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He drove it 400 miles and decided he didn't like it. Not even a little. "It's just so unexciting for such a fast car," he kept saying.

 

Then he drove this Corvette, a stock 1967 427/390. It had all the things he claimed he didn't want: it was noisy, it had a rougher ride, it got terrible fuel economy, it had A/C but it wasn't terribly effective and a vintage transistorized radio is not great for entertainment these days. It was sitting on skinny tires that were terrible for cornering and mediocre for braking. It was rude, crude, primitive, and not nearly as sophisticated as the resto-mod up there. If he got stuck in the rain, the top would probably leak. Sometimes you'd have to pump the carbs a few times to get it to start and it was sometimes grumpy until it warmed up. I never had it in traffic, but I bet it would get nervously warm on a 90-degree day with the A/C running. On the highway at 75 MPH, it's spinning at 3200 RPM through those side pipes, so it's pretty busy-sounding and not relaxed because there's no overdrive gear.

 

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And he knew it was EXACTLY what he wanted before we'd even gone 100 feet on the test drive. He didn't really want another modern car--he already had a bunch of those. He wanted a vintage Corvette. But he was flat-out terrified that a vintage car would be unreliable or hard to drive in traffic or difficult to service, and he was totally hung up on the idea that he would use his old car just like he uses his modern cars (highway commutes, rain, sitting in traffic, etc.), therefore it had to be just like his modern cars. That's not how it usually works, but that's what he believed, just like a great many other people.

 

Now he drives that stock convertible on quiet country roads where he can really enjoy it to its fullest. It's no match for even a 4-cylinder Mustang in the cut-and-thrust of modern traffic, but it's just joyous to drive in its proper environment. It's involving in a way the resto-mod never could be. It speaks a different language and dances to a different song. The resto-mod has no soul. Competent, beautiful, and fast, yes. Fun to drive? Meh.

 

My point? If you want an old car that looks old and drives like a late-model, well, go ahead and put that crate motor in there. Now it'll go 75 MPH and keep up with traffic and do all the things you think you'll want to do with it. On the other hand, maybe it'll be boring but you won't quite understand why. It certainly won't be what you expected, I can guarantee that much. But since you didn't give it a chance to win you over in stock configuration, you'll never know what you're missing. The way a vehicle looks is only part of its charm. The way it drives is a significant factor, and removing that part of it changes its personality and often not for the better.

 

If your goal is simply go get from point A to point B as fast and conveniently as possible, well, there's your answer.

 

But if the journey is the purpose of your drive and the reason for owning such a vehicle, then making your International into yet another 1974 Chevy Nova might just end up being a soulless, boring experience that's ultimately unsatisfying.

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Great writing, Matt.....and you’ve hit on why stock old cars are so much fun...they make life interesting, and even the troubles with them give us good stories....although I realize one of your stories is not as much fun...

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I can see your points.

 

I have stock cars and resto-mods. I like both and have never tried to reproduce a modern car from a vintage car, but just make something that won't overheat when at altitude and won't be a road hazard on the way to a destination.

 

I guess I will restore the drivetrain but simply change the rear gear ratio so I am not hitting high rpms at 45 mph.

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Posted (edited)

Does anyone know if they make a stroker kit for a 214 6 cylinder flathead? That would preserve the old engine while providing enough hp for highway driving. I am not looking to put that vehicle on an interstate; however, going only 45mph on two lane highways can be a traffic hazard. I have seen where some have taken Plymouths and fords of roughly the same engine size (3.5L) which they have stroked with success. 

 

The non synchromesh tranny is not such a big issue. They are somewhat of a pain to drive, but I have a 42 White halftrack with nearly the same tranny that can be mastered. The halftrack has nearly the same engine and is great to drive around on the farm, but not so much on anything but less traveled gravel roads. It comes in pretty handy if a tractor gets stuck or we need to pull something. It is awesome to be able to run over small trees without too much difficulty. 

Edited by blind pew (see edit history)
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Overdrive will give you what you want without altering the fundamentals of the truck. It isn't a power thing, it's a gear thing. Overdrive neatly solves a lot of old car problems.

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Thanks!

 

That will make things a lot easier. That old flat head 6 is "charming" and I would like to do what I can to keep that in the engine bay. 

 

Thanks very much!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

K3 is a one ton chassis with hefty springs The K and KB series Internationals are narrow so modern front suspension will be wider.

I drove a 1949 KB2 it could do 55 but took a 1/4 mile to stop. I also drove a KB5 dump truck with 20" tires that could do over 65 MPH unloaded.

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  • 1 month later...

The Green Diamond engine is a sweet runner and tough as nails.  Simple to work on, but parts availability is becoming an issue.  As you note, it is not big on power which is probably good, given the primitive nature of the suspension and steering in that truck.  Making it go fast without upgrading everything else is a good way to have a very scary ride.  

 

I had a KB2 project truck for years, which I ultimately decided not to do because it would be a hazard on the road in the area I live in.  They top out about 52 MPH.  Overdrive might help as might putting a different rear in it.   I decided that the hours and $$ were not going to get me where I wanted to be with an old truck project.   My truck is now scattered across the country helping others put theirs on the road.  

 

Good luck with it.  They really are neat old trucks.  

 

 

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