Jump to content

1955 Buick Engine rebuild questions


oldbuicks55
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have owned my 1955 Buick Special for a long time now and have finally decided I need to do something about the engine. The car runs strong but it does have a bit of a smoke problem. The smoke does not come out the tail pipe, however. The smoke mainly comes from around the valve covers and the vertical pipe in the engine compartment. The smoke is not tremendous but it doesnt look good and sometimes enters the passenger compartment through the steering linkage. The car does not use up antifreeze so I dont think it is a head gasket problem. Someone told me they think it is the valve seals. Anyway, the engine has about 130,000 miles on it so I think some type of rebuild is probably in order. Unfortunately, I dont have the equipment nor the skills to do it myself.

So my questions are the following:

1. What is the minimum I should have done and what would an approximate cost be?

2. If I want everything done right (not just the minimum) what should be done and what would a rough estimate?

3. Can anyone recommend any places to have the work done in the Northern Virginia/DC Metro area?

Thank you,

Lars

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like it could be blow-by, which is caused by worn out piston rings. Once you start pulling the heads and pan to pull the pistons and replace the rings, you'll probably find other worn out things on a 130K engine. That's when you get into the "might as wells" and start tacking on jobs little by little. It's probably best to bite the bullet and have the whole engine rebuilt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reply. I will admit I am a little ignorant when it comes to engine rebuilding. If I take the car to a shop and state "I want the engine rebuilt" does this mean the same thing to every shop? I imagine there is probably a wide range of what that term means to most people. What is done in a typical rebuild and what can I roughly expect it to cost?

Also, if anyone can recommend any place near Virginia to do a rebuild I would appreciate it.

Thank you,

Lars

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just guessing but at 130K miles here is the minimum I think you will be looking at.

block rebored over size with new pistons

new main and rod bearings

new cam bearings

new timing gears and chain

rebuilt water pump

rebushed or replaced valve guides

new lifters

valve seats replaced/reground

Things you will most likely need...........

New or rebuilt rocker arms and shafts

valves

things you might need.......

crankshaft reground/replaced

camshaft

I'm sure I forgot some stuff. Cost if you have a shop do everything will run about $3000 to $5000 depending on what you need and who does it. At least that's the prices in my area. If you are able to do the assembly yourself and just pay for the machine work you should be able to do it for maybe $1800-$2000.......Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lars,

To find a local rebuilder, you pretty much need to talk to locals. If you can ask at a local club meeting or car event, that might help you out. One engine that I got rebuilt, was by an advertiser of our local club...I found out afterward that they had lost their best builder...they are now out of business. The Wildcat's engine was done by a new advertiser, who came pretty highly recommended. It was pricier, but I also trust their work a lot more. On top of it, the previous generation of the family-run business still works in the back and does a lot of the builds of the older engines.

You may need to talk to people or check the yellow pages. If you have a trusted mechanic, start with them.

Good luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lars

If it runs good and is quiet it may not need rebuilding. Check for abnormal blowby and the crankcase ventilation.

Take the breather cap off the oil fill tube and observe any smoke while idling: a little is normal, but alot especially if puffing is not normal. Now rev the engine again and observe: a blast of smoke is not normal. Now plug the oil fill pipe with a rag and rev the engine and observe smoke from the draft tube...it should be the same; if less then the normal ventilation is impaired. If that is the same change oil, install a 180* thermostat and drive 200 miles at freeway speeds and check again.

Short trips will cause water to accumulate in the oil and it takes a long time to "cook it out". Hopefully that is all it takes. If the ventilation is inadequate maybe the tube is plugged with a mud dabber nest, but more likely the valley cover is plugged with sludge. This is impossible to clean unless you take it apart by cutting the spot welds on the underside. This thing has some aluminum mesh sandwiched between the upper and lower parts.

Any puffing during tests indicate broken rings or a hole in one or more pistons; no change in a blast of smoke means all compression rings are eithe stuck or broken.

I drove a 55 Special 365,000 miles, drove it hard and didnot take care of it, so yours may not need a rebuild.

Willie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm glad old-tank commented...I've never owned a Nailhead car, but with no PCV valves, a little smoke out the breather and draft tube seems fairly normal from what I've observed. It's worse on cold or damp mornings or when it's been sitting, like old-tank said. I'd do a compression test first. Warm the engine up, pull all the plugs out and check compression for at least 4 turns each cylinder. Then report back to us...No point rebuilding an engine that has life still in it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a similar problem which I solved or hid for under 20 dollars several years ago. I replaced the rear breater tube with a rubber grommet and put a pcv valve line to the manifold. I know this a backyard fix but it worked for me. I will look for the parts list if you are interested.

good luck

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everybody for your suggestions! Looks like there are a few more things I can try before I head to the machine shop. I have owned the Buick for about 20 years now (bought it while still in high school!) and have pretty much just lived with the smoke. It smokes about the same now as when I first drove it home all those years ago. Since I have owned it, the car has always been garaged kept and driven about 500-1000 miles a year. Because of the history I have with the car, I have decided it is time I do it some justice and try to get the engine right. I am not ready to do a full on restoration, however as the car is just a decent looking driver. The smoke is not a "wow, your car might be on fire" kind of smoke but it is definitely more than what could be considered normal. The main annoyance (and safety concern) is the smoke that comes into the passenger compartment. Sometimes at stoplights, smoke works its way through the steering linkage. Not a lot of smoke, about the same as a lit cigarette, but enough to usually concern my passengers. I guess I could try sealing around the steering linkage to keep the smoke out, but that probably is not my best long term solution. Even after long drives it still smokes somewhat, so I dont think it is a matter of cooking anything out. The car sometimes smokes worse than other times, so maybe there is still room for some adjustments. While I have done a lot of work to the car over the years, I've never really felt too comfortable tinkering too much with the engine. I haven't tried changing the thermostat so maybe that will help. I will try some more things and keep everyone posted!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Lars

Heres some info that you might use for comparison -

http://forums.aaca.org/f162/engine-assessment-322-a-222310.html

I went through a similar decision process with my 55 and many of the folks on the board passed on valuable advice.

I also patched up some of the firewall leaks with some gray duct-seal putty found at Lowes. I forget the exact name, but it stays fairly pliable and blends well with the existing color of the grommets. The other option is to replace the grommets.

Bob - how did you rig up that PCV system? Sounds interesting.

Edited by KAD36 (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Napa auto parts...3700x2 tee 2.74, 057068-102 hose end 2.03, 2-9210 pvc valve 3.77, 630-1075 grommet 5.88, and h-177 fuel line 1.19 for a total of 17.81...Remove rear beather and replace with grommet and hose end. Place tee on intake manifold and put pcv valve in line. My century would smoke at traffic light but not any more. I have been told to keep a close eye on your oil level because if you have a real problem it could eat your oil. I just haven't had any problems and don't have any embassment sitting in traffic.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We are just about to begin rebuilding a '55 Special engine for a convertible we are restoring. We are located about 100 miles Northeast of you in Southern Pa. If we can be of assistance please contact me. We have been doing show quality work at non-metropolitan prices since 1979. Currently rebuilding a '37 40 series as well as this '55. Previously did a '53 with good results. The $3500-$5000 estimate someone else gave is a good guess, depending on how pretty you want it and how many of the accessories also need refreshed. For example, a freshly rebuilt engine will have more compression than a tired one, possibly necessitating a starter rebuild. It's the collateral work and might-as-wells that raise the price. Best of luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...