1962 Buick Special Build thread

Buickspec6231

Active Member
Alright, so I figured after reading a bunch of other peoples build threads and I would make one of my own. I am working on a 1962 Buick Special Station Wagon (Model 4035). I bought the car in the summer of 2001 and have never driven the car. I was 16 at the time of purchase. It was originally equipped with the 198ci iron block V6. When I bought the car it had a heavy rod knock in what was supposed to be a rebuilt engine. After checking the journals with a micrometer it was determined that the crank would need to be turned another .010" which would bring the journals to being machined a total of .020". After checking around and even go to a local machine shop, no one was able to track down .020" undersized bearings. So, me being the overly ambitious 16 year old that I was I decided I was going to do a later model 231ci V6 engine swap. I figured how hard could it really be? Its another Buick V6 I figured it should just about a drop in swap. Errrrrr......wrong I was. Being young I didn't do much research for the project before I decided to tear right into it. The ultimate goal was more HP, 5 lug wheels and disk brakes in all 4 corners.

Well, I went to the local Pick-N-Pull and brought home a 1982 Buick 3.8l 231V6 out of a Regal. Attached to the engine was a BOP pattern TH-350. I tore the engine down, brought it to the machine shop and waited for its return.... Big mistake number 1. I never should have rebuilt the engine until all the mock ups were done. I never even started a mock up of the engine fit. Well engine comes back after rebuild and I start the engine fit. This is when I realized how much it sucked growing up without a garage to work in. Being at the mercy of the weather in Central New York is just about the most incovenient thing ever. Well, the engine was stored inside a shed which was elevated about 1 foot off the dirt so that means I couldn't just roll the engine stand outside. I had to use my Dad's 1953 Dodge M-37 Military truck which has a plow frame on the front with an extended boom on the lift cylinder. I had to use this boom to lift the engine from the shed and drive the truck around to the back of the shed where the car was sitting on the grass lawn. Then I had to use the engine hoist to remove the swinging wrecking ball of an engine from the truck's boom. Now I had to manage to roll the engine hoist around trying to keep it on a few pieces of plywood which were layed out on the grass ahead of time.

Fitting the engine didn't go any easier, The original frame mounts would not bolt up to the 3.8l's engine mounts. So first thing I did was cut them out. That required about 150ft of extension cord and an angle grinder. Awesome. Well got that part handled. Slowly set the engine down into the engine bay. Exhaust manifolds interfered with the steering gear box, oil pan hit the crossmember and the centerlink. Well, I wasn't going to give up, I kept trying moving the engine around moving it foward, backwards, even tried shifting the entire engine to the passenger side to clear the steering gearbox on the driver side. Finally found a location I thought it would work.

Good news, I was now working for a company which installed well pumps and water treatment equipment. The building we worked out of had a whole lot of extra room so my boss let me move the car into the building. This is when I started to be really able to work hard. Had the engine layed out where I wanted it so all the manifolds would clear, the oil pan hit slightly but could have just dented it in at that location to make it clear. Fabricated up these rediculous frame mounts that could have supported a 12V92 Detroit Diesel engine. I used to steel I had on hand. After I had these mounts all set up and welded in place I lowered the engine down and bolted it in. This is where my lack of experience really showed. I spent so much time looking at the bottom of the engine and its clearances, I never realized that the top of the engine was a about 3 inches higher then the closed hood would allow. Not going to work. I decided the best way to lower the engine and clear the crossmember and the centerlink was to make drop sections in both to allow extra clearance. Cut a section of the crossmember out, welded in a drop to the center link. Thought everything was going to work alright. Still wouldn't clear the u-joint in the steering shaft. Back to the drawing board again.

In the midst of finding out the engine was going to be a problem to fit, The TH-350 has a significantly larger case then the old Dual Path did. So this transmission wouldn't clear the floor pan. So, chopped the floor pan a little, which wasn't a big deal because there were some small pinholes that would need repair anyway. (I'm about 20 years old by this time.)

I then decided that maybe it was time to use a sub-frame from another car which would put the steering gear box on the outside of the frame or even a rack and pinion setup. I went to the junk yard again and busted out the tape measure of some of the passenger cars to check widths of the subframe and also the wheel mating surface to wheel mating surface dimensions. I couldn't find anything that I felt would work.

Took a long break off from working on the car after I started working about 80hrs. a week during the summers, then college fulltime while working fulltime. Finally finished college (2 yr A.A.S in Criminal Justice) and off to The United States Coast Guard basic training in Cape May, NJ. (Was USCG reserves). Came back from Basic, and A-School just about X-mas time. When I came back I got a job at a local Frieghtliner Dealership in the fabrication department. Most of the work we did was mounting plow frames and dump bodies on Frieghtliner and Sterling Trucks for municipalities. Pretty fun work. It was doing this work that I got much better at welding, I started to understand the whole fabrication art a little bit more. It really opened my eyes. I also learned some basic electical wiring and hydraulic principles as they were all part of the installation of the plow and dump equipment. Also, nothing boosted my confidence in my work more than cutting holes and welding all sorts of things to trucks that probably cost about $130k. Much different than working on my car. Life got in the way further and I had now moved on from the truck dealership to pursue a career in law enforcement. More time off from the car. Now I rent a duplex with a buddy from High School. The duplex has a 3 car detached garage that we get access to half of. The land lord lives in the other half of the duplex. So I wasn't too worried about my tools and car. So over came the car and all my tools, which now after working in a truck shop has multiplied.

Back to the car and no more side bars...

I had been watching those crappy Spike TV car shows one Saturday morning and saw that there was a company which was selling a Mustang II front suspension that you welded up yourself and it could be adapted into any vehicle and was available in 3 different track widths to accomodate a very large variety of vehicles. I knew that the hotrod guys have been using the Mustang II suspension in everything because it works well with engine swaps and has rack and pinion steering which would help eliminate one of my problems from the get go, steering component interference.

( The company selling the Mustang II crossmember referenced above is Paul Horton's Welder Series. http://www.welderseries.com/blog/ .... Pretty awesome stuff this guy makes and sells, definently worth checking out.)

Well at this point, I still hadn't mounted an engine in the car. I had developed a small case of the nailhead bug and wasn't sure if I wanted to continue the boring V6 swap or go with a 401/425 nailhead. I opted to stick with the V6. Now that I was cured of the nailhead bug, and I have a recent case of Turbo fever. So I have been collecting all the engine components needed to build a 3.8l turbo powered 1962 Buick Special Station Wagon. I would be combining the fantastic visual appeal of the 60's era Buicks with the legendary power from the 86-87 T-Types and Grand Nationals. (Sweet! The cost just increased exponentially and I still only have a basic understanding of vehicle electronics. I thought I was in over my head long before this crazy revelation.)

Well I ordered one of the 56" track width kits from Paul Horton along with disk brake caliper brackets to mount front rotors from a chevy camaro. (Bam!!! There is my 5x4.75" bolt pattern up front.) I had a plan on how I was going to mount the crossmember in the car. The problem with the Buick Specials and Skylarks from '61-63 is that they are a uni-body vehicle, so it doesn't have a traditional frame to it. Well I came up with plan. I was going to make narrowed subframe rails out of rectangular tubing to weld the mustang II crossmember to. This is the phase of the build I am at now..... so far so good, but I won't know until I get a little bit further along and actually set the engine in proximity to the car. But at this stage of the build I measure 30 times and cut once, I draw everything out on paper (I am not an artist, and only I can figure out what I mean in the drawings.) Any bracket I make I do in cardboard first, then transfer that to poster board. Then the poster board templetes get saved in a nice collection of information I have been collecting and stowed away. I even mocked up the narrowed rails using some lumber I cut to the same size as the rectangular tubing and added two pivot points to it allowing me to figure out exactly how I wanted the narrowed rails to be. I keep a (for lack of better terms) "journal" of what I have been doing with the car and document all the measurements and cross-reference the dated journal entries if I make any changes to a previous days work. I have been utilizing the connections I have made at my time at the truck dealership in ordering steel for the brackets and rails. (Saves A LOT of money compared to buying steel as a customer walking in to a steel suppliers warehouse). I now attack the project with a plan instead of an ego. It's been 10 years since I bought the car, and I have never even driven it. I love working on it. Its like therapy for me. At this point, I think I would be content if I never even finished the car and only worked on it, but ofcourse I am going to finish the car, I want to drive it!! So thats a rather abbreviated story of what I have been doing with the car. I will keep updating this thread on a regular basis, because my favorite threads are those which someone has used there own blood, sweat, tears, and ingenuity to do something which they and only they can say "I built that." Thanks for given my rambling a chance.
 

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Buickspec6231

Active Member
more pics....

Here are a few more pictures.
 

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Buickspec6231

Active Member
Ok, so here is a quick update. The narrowed subframe rails which I fabricated where bolted into place. The Welder Series Mustang II kit pieces were marked for cuts and cuts were made. The crossmember and coil-over mounts were tack welded into place and the subframe was removed. In the new pictures posted with today's update you can see some of the pieces that were marked and cut. The crossmember was first set into place for a visual, and then set into its final location where it was tacked into place. In the last photo the Upper control arm tower is just set into place and is not welded in yet. Next steps will be to finish welding and make a some fish plates for some structural overkill. I do have to make a few notches due to clearence issues between the coilover mounts hitting the uni-body and also a notch has to be cut into the narrowed subframe rails to make clearance for the Rack and Pinion boots. Tomorrow is another day.
 

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Buickspec6231

Active Member
Ok, so the notches I cut to clear the rack boot were cut and 1/8" filler plates welded in. These notches were re-enforced internally with angle iron. The interference problems between the coil-over mounts and the uni-body were corrected by cutting small notches in the uni-body. These notches still need to be filled. The top side of the crossmember and back side of the upper tower mount were closed in with 3/16" steel plate.

The bottom side of the crossmember has not had the filler plates welded on at this time.

The first attempt to locate the engine was met with results that I was very pleased with. Again, the main reason that I am going through all of this work to fit the engine is because with the Special's original crossmember installed I was unable to get the engine to clear the steering center link, crossmember, and steering gearbox. When I finally had the engine in place with the original crossmember, the only way to get it to clear was to mount the engine up fairly high. This lead to the problem of engine height in relation to hood height.

So last night, the engine and tranny combo was lowered in to place. I could not lower the engine all the way with the oil pan bolted in place. I removed the oil pan and pick up tube and the engine easily slid into place. I noticed a potential interference problem between the cross-over and the subframe. From above it looked like the cross-over might hit the subframe near the header. I attached the cross-over and believe that when the engine is situated in it's proper location it will clear without further modification to the subframe. Driver side of the engine compartment has plenty of space around the header and the steering components.

First step for today (after I watch a little football) is to get back out to the garage. Slightly more floor board needs to be cut out to allow clearance for the transmission. Then I will be able to determine 100% if the cross over is going to clear all components on the passenger side. Energy Suspension bushings were order today for the motor mount brackets that I will need to fabricate. Again, I have attached some pictures.
 

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Buickspec6231

Active Member
Well, rear passenger side of the sub-frame needed to be trimmed to clear the cross-over. This section was first gusseted appropriately to re-enforce it. The notch was then trimmed from the sub-frame. Engine mount brackets were fabricated from 3/16" steel. The frame brackets to mount the engine were made fabricated from the left over 2"x3"x1/8" rectangular tubing I had. Welded to this rectangular tubing was 2" OD x 1.5" ID x .25" wall DOM tubing. The DOM tubing houses the poly bushings.

While checking fit of the engine it was obvious the engine would not fit in place with the current oil pan installed. The oil pan will need to be modified to clear the crossmember. This altered oil pan will not compromise the oil capacity of the engine significantly as I plan of installing a separate oil cooler which will increase the overall capacity.

Next steps............. select final location of engine. Right now the frame mounts for the engine are not welded in place. I really need to find a radiator I like the fit of, and choose which intercooler I will be installing to check how much room I need forward of the engine. Half an inch one way or another could mean the difference between everything fitting in place or not.
 

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WildKitty

Active Member
Boy, it's a good thing you can weld:bana: your welds look good.

too bad you didn't make a mock up V6 outta styrofoam way back when, you could have gotten all the "fittin" done before you got the engine back.

if you're going to do a disc brake (power), don't forget you need room for the booster and the extra room for the master cylinder to stick out.

you would probably be smart to go with a floor conversion shifter, that will get the linkage out of your way on the firewall. you might want to mount the proportioning valve mounted before you mount the engine for good. I welded a bracket onto the frame when I did the disc conversion on my 64 LeSabre. otherwise it would have been impossible to mount the valve on the inside of the frame.

wishing you the best of luck, that's quite a project:shield:
 

Buickspec6231

Active Member
Boy, it's a good thing you can weld:bana: your welds look good.

too bad you didn't make a mock up V6 outta styrofoam way back when, you could have gotten all the "fittin" done before you got the engine back.

if you're going to do a disc brake (power), don't forget you need room for the booster and the extra room for the master cylinder to stick out.

you would probably be smart to go with a floor conversion shifter, that will get the linkage out of your way on the firewall. you might want to mount the proportioning valve mounted before you mount the engine for good. I welded a bracket onto the frame when I did the disc conversion on my 64 LeSabre. otherwise it would have been impossible to mount the valve on the inside of the frame.

wishing you the best of luck, that's quite a project:shield:

Thanks for checking the project out. It's been a ton of work but I enjoy it. It is amazing what you can do with an angle grinder with a cut off wheel and a welder. The engine hasn't been to the machine shop yet. That can wait. No sense in getting the engine rebuilt prior to knowing I can make it work in the engine compartment. I am no master fabricator so doing a complicated engine swap like this is keeping me on the threshold of being over my skill level. Keeps it interesting. I will be using a factory power brake booster the is specific to the '61-'63 Special and Skylarks. It uses a bellow shaped vacuum booster using a bell crank style pushrod. It mounts the booster and master above the inner fender well. I will have to post a picture so you can see it, it's not like any other boosters I have seen. As far as the floor shifter, that is a definite. I will be using a 200-4R (4-speed) automatic, so it's far easier to use an aftermarket shifter to accommodate. I am laying everything out before it gets finished welded as far as engine mounts, radiator and intercooler location, exhaust piping, as well as all the extra piping needed for the turbo and intake. Progress is slow because I end up staring at the engine compartment trying to envision what I am going to do 10 steps in advance. A solution to one problem has the potential to open up a whole can of worms for another problem. Trying to prevent that is most of the battle.

~Dan
 

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Buickspec6231

Active Member
A long overdue update

Well, I didn't get much work done on the vehicle last year due to other issues going on. This year I got back at it some. I have the engine set it is final place, I tracked down a CZF code
200-4R transmission and have that mounted in place with a crossmember I fabricated out of some 3"x1"x3/16" channel. I have the front suspension components loosely fit just to check for possible interference problems. The Wheel and tire combo are '84-'85 15x7 T-type wheels with 195/55R15 tires I bought from a local junk yard for $15/ea for mock up. I will probably end up going to a 205/55R15 when it comes to putting good rubber down. I purchased a rear end from a 2001 Blazer to put out back, but they were clearance issues with the T-Type wheels being much wider than the original 13" wheels. I have an Ford 8.8 Axle from a 2001 Explorer which is an offset pinion. Allegedly you can put the long axle tube and lop off about 3" and use two short side axles to get a centered pinion and a WMS-WMS at about 56.75" Which is right where I need it to be. The 8.8 rear end is much stronger than the Blazer rear. I will just have to bring it to a qualified machine shop to reweld the axle tube in and redrill the axles to accept a 5x4.75 bolt pattern. The rotors can easily be drilled to accommodate. I fabricated some upper link brackets for the triangulated 4-link rear suspension. These are just tacked together for now. The original lower link brackets are able to be used still, which saves me some work. Hopefully tonight after the gym I can spend some time trying to pull out that long axle tube on the Ford rear end. And don't be hating on me because I am using a Ford product in this car. It is far cheaper and just as strong as a 12 bolt and already has a limited slip differential installed.
trans crossmember.jpgP7130315.jpgP7130316.jpgP7130318.jpgP7130319.jpgP6290306.jpg
 

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B.D

New Member
Did you get any more work done on your wagon? I have a 62 Buick 2 door special and I was thinking about doing a front end like that, I'd like to see more pictures
 
hey, as long as you're having fun. you couldn't pay to have fun like this.

i'm going to be interested to see how your front end turns out as well.
 

Buickspec6231

Active Member
Thanks guys. I haven't been out in the garage lately to work on it. I am waiting for the axles to come back from the machine shop. I am having them redrill the Ford axle shafts to the 5x4.75 bolt pattern to fit the common later model GM bolt pattern. I narrowed the Ford 8.8 axle housing 3" and should come out with a total width (wheel mating surface to wheel mating surface to right about 56.75" Should tuck in there nicely. The 3" was cut from the driver's side axle tube. I drilled out the plug welds and used some clever redneck engineering and a bottle jack to push out the axle tube. I then cut the 3" off and used a large press at the truck shop my Dad works at to press the axle tube back in.

I also bought an old Backhoe that has been taking up a bunch of my free time and money doing repairs and just messing around with it. I always knew yellow equipment was fun, but is so much better when it is your own. I never had much experience with it before. I did learn that everything for construction equipment is much more expensive than you plan on. I will hopefully get out to work on the Buick soon. I was having great progress before summer started, but lately the wind is out of the sails. Thanks for looking on.
 
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Buickspec6231

Active Member
Quick update- I have been working on the rear of the car recently, trying to get an axle assembly back under it. I built a cradle for the axle housing. I used back iron pipe for most of it. I used some rebar and bent it around the axle tubes to hold them in place and used some threaded rod to act as the adjusters. I did this at each end of the housing and also up front towards the pinion. This lets me make tiny adjustments to height, since all the fabrication needs to be measured and unfortunately performed while the vehicle is at ride height. With a screw type adjuster at the pinion, it also lets me set pinion angle with ease. Well, after hundreds of measurements I finally got the axle housing situated where it needs to be. The lower 4-link brackets were easy to install with just some simple measurements. The upper brackets are more complicated since they are angled due to the triangulated 4-link setup. I ended up making a tool to help me with the upper brackets. Again I used some black iron pipe (in 1" and 3/4") and some scrap pieces of plate steel to make an adjustable length link for setup purposes. Using the link tool I was able to get the upper brackets tack welded in to place. Now I just need the axle shafts to come back from the guy doing the machine work on them so I can check fitment of everything before I take it off to welding shop who has the ability to tig weld the tube in place and finish weld the 4-link brackets. I will probably move back towards the front again now. P7210337.jpgP7210338.jpgLINK TOOL LABLED.jpgPC110350.jpg
 

raycow

Active Member
This is the first time I have ever seen an axle swap done on one of these cars. That is a truly impressive piece of work you are doing there. :thumbsup:

Ray
 

rt338b

New Member
61-62 wagon

Quick update- I have been working on the rear of the car recently, trying to get an axle assembly back under it. I built a cradle for the axle housing. I used back iron pipe for most of it. I used some rebar and bent it around the axle tubes to hold them in place and used some threaded rod to act as the adjusters. I did this at each end of the housing and also up front towards the pinion. This lets me make tiny adjustments to height, since all the fabrication needs to be measured and unfortunately performed while the vehicle is at ride height. With a screw type adjuster at the pinion, it also lets me set pinion angle with ease. Well, after hundreds of measurements I finally got the axle housing situated where it needs to be. The lower 4-link brackets were easy to install with just some simple measurements. The upper brackets are more complicated since they are angled due to the triangulated 4-link setup. I ended up making a tool to help me with the upper brackets. Again I used some black iron pipe (in 1" and 3/4") and some scrap pieces of plate steel to make an adjustable length link for setup purposes. Using the link tool I was able to get the upper brackets tack welded in to place. Now I just need the axle shafts to come back from the guy doing the machine work on them so I can check fitment of everything before I take it off to welding shop who has the ability to tig weld the tube in place and finish weld the 4-link brackets. I will probably move back towards the front again now.

I would like to talk to you about parts for a wagon such as the rear bumper as I cant find one and I am nearing the end of doing the car. You will find this car to be cool as it has a 5.3 turbo motor and I have turned it into a real two door wagon using two door sedan doors moving b pillars and totally different suspension. Let me know you can reach me at rt338b@yahoo.com. Thanks again
 

eleli

New Member
Hey bro - any more work on the 62?
I have a 62 special with and iron V6 and an extra 401 and trans off a 64 Buick Wildcat.
Thinking about doing a swap. Love your work and dedication, any help you have would greatly be appreciated.
hit me me up fmelio563@gmail.com
 
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