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Thread: Having a 300 V8 rebuilt - advice, opinions?

  1. #1
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    Question Having a 300 V8 rebuilt - advice, opinions?

    Dear Buick enthusiasts,

    I working to restore a 1965 Buick Special Deluxe wagon that has been in the family since 1968. Among other troubles, the shop who have been doing the mechanical repairs (beyond my limited skills) have found that valves are wearing out on the 300 cu V8. This engine has been rebuilt twice in its 270,000+ mile lifetime. The second rebuild was only 9 years ago (about 50,000 miles). Neither rebuild was a stellar success. After the first rebuild we had to have the valves redone again after about a year. Given all these troubles, I've been given the advice to abandon the engine and capitulate to a modern replacement Chevy small block (oh the shame! ).

    Now the goal here isn't to recreate the 1965 factory condition, nor is the goal to create a racing crate. The car is really part of our family history - that's what I'm trying to preserve.

    That being said, I finally have crew of mechanics who seem genuinely prepared to dot every i and cross every t. So my question is should I be stubborn and try to save this engine has been such a recognizable sound and presence in the household for 42 years. Since I can't take on the rebuild myself, what are the sorts of "gotchas" I should be worried about? Do these engines have intrinsic weaknesses that might have contributed to the short life of rebuilds? On the flip-side, what are common mistakes and pitfalls that might cause a commercial team of rebuilders to screw up this engine - even if they are dedicated and familiar with restoring other engines of the period?

    Any thoughts, opinions, and advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Edouard in Orinda, CA

    P.S. Suggestions on modest performance improvements would be appreciated too.

  2. #2
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    this is a Buick small block, with oiling concerns similiar to most other Buicks ( such as the v6 and 455 ) and Land Rover v8s. clearances on the oil pump and bearings ( less than 2 thousandths of an inch ) are critical.
    The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.
    Vladimir Lenin

    Government schooling is about "the perfect organization of the hive."
    H.H. Goddard, Human Efficiency (1920)

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up Thanks for the comments and this resource

    Dear Bob and Team Buick members,

    Thanks for your recommendations concerning oiling equipment tolerances. I will definitely pass these on to the mechanics I'm working with. Let me take this moment to thank all of you for the wealth of information on this forum. It has been suggested that I consider upgrading our Buick Special with the 340 V8 and there is a lot of useful information concerning this engine on this forum. So even if my performance objectives are move humble, the information here has been helpful.

    Thanks to all for keeping classic Buicks not simply alive but roaring!

    Sincerely,

    Edouard in Orinda, CA

  4. #4
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    Why isn't the goal to recreate the factory new condition? That's exactly what I would try to do. And if the shop I was using said it couldn't be done I'd find a better shop. There is absolutely no reason that this can't be done. Unless your finances are standing in the way. Doing a proper re-manufacture on this engine won't be as cheap as doing a Chevy, but the only real difference should be the price of the parts. All the machining procedures should be the same. D and D Fabrications would be a very valuable source for parts and advice with these engines. I see absolutely no reason to change to a Chevy. By the time you switch all the mounts, pulleys, brackets, mounts, fan shroud, and tranny, you ain't gonna save a dime, and you ain't gonna gain any reliability over what you already have. These engines do not have intrinsic weaknesses, but a lot of people who work on them do.
    I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "the valves are wearing out". I assume that you mean that the valves have lost their ability to seal and you are losing compression. If this is the case I would investigate as to why this is happening. Are you getting seat recession from the use of unleaded gasoline? Are the guides getting loose and not letting the valve seat squarely? Were the valves or seats machined improperly during the last valve job? A combination of all of the above? They all have the same fix. Have the heads re manufactured by a competent shop. Although at this point, it sounds like the heads have had several valve jobs. You may not have enough material left in the seat area of the head to do another valve job and still be able to maintain the correct installed height on the valves. Your choices would be to install new seats in the heads or replace the castings with better ones. It is generally not an encouraged practice to install seats in the big block Nailheads, I don't know if this engine shares that same problem. If it does, then different castings will be the way to go. Do not underestimate the need for proper installed height. Valves at the wrong height can cause aggressive valve guide wear due to improper valve train geometry. Which can ruin a good valve job in short order. This information is the same for all engines and should be well known by any shop worth taking your engine to. Core heads should be available if you need them. D and D lists remaned ones on their website. Also in this day and age I would search out a machine shop that has a Serdi or Serdi type guide and seat machine that can cut the valve seats with a single point cutter. The Serdi can cut a very accurate seat that should be better than the factory was capable of in 1965. The day of grinding seats with stones is over if you want a top notch job. I did valve jobs for 20 years with stones and I'm damn good at it, but I will be the first to admit defeat to these machines.
    You mention all the "trouble" you've had with this engine. You still have 270,000 miles on it! If you had a '65 Chevy with a 283 in it, I'd say it wouldn't be too far behind in the number of rebuilds! It cracks me up to hear you say a more "modern" Chevy. The Chevy design is about 8 years older and is no longer still in production. While to my knowledge Rover is still building their version of this Buick engine. Which one is more modern?
    If by more modern you mean that the Chevy you might buy was made much more recently, I can assure you that Chevrolet castings are not what they used to be. I'd take castings made in 1965 over ones made in '85 or '95 or '05 any day of the week. Pressure to install a Chevy engine comes from people who are unable (mental weakness) or unwilling (lazy) to do the work required to properly fix your car. That is assuming that you are not afraid (too cheap) to let them do it.
    On another note, you mentioned performance. If you really want to do an engine swap and you want performance forget the **** that is the small block Chevy and put a 401 Nailhead in it! The factory did all the work for you as this engine was available in the GS Skylarks and I believe will bolt to your existing transmission. If you could buy a used running 401 engine with all the pulleys and brackets all you would need is a set of motor mounts and some exhaust headers available from TA Performance to put it in. You'd possibly need a bigger radiator and a different fan shroud but you'd get just as good fuel mileage and twice the power of most small block Chevy's. You'd probably need to install big block springs in the front suspension also. Then you would be the guy with that kick *** wagon at the car show instead of the guy who degraded a nice car and turned it into something that will be ignored by most of the people that would have otherwise been really interested in it. I realize that that is probably not something that concerns you if your only interest is to keep driving a family heirloom. But this is a hard core Buick website so you might get a little jab here and there when the dreaded "Chevy swap" is brought up.
    The 300 is a decent engine. I'd like to see you keep it if you can and put a 401/425 in it if you can't. The swap to the 401 is probably a little more involved than I stated but still less work than putting in a Chevy in my opinion. If you can find the right people to do it. If your people get in trouble have them call TA or D and D for advice. They should have the parts like modern crank seals and good used front covers that you will need and won't be available from traditional supply sources. Both of these companies have an internet presence so finding them shouldn't be too tough. I'm not trying to be a ringing endorsement for these companies and do not have a vested interest in their success. I have just noticed that they appear to have the necessary things that Buick engine builders often need and can't get anywhere else.
    All a good engine shop needs is a true understanding of how engines work, some common sense, and the factory specs. With that they should be able to put out a product that you can expect to get a factory service life, or better, out of. If you do your part with the care and maintenance of course.
    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  5. #5
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    Smile Thank BigRivy, that's the advise I needed!

    Dear BigRivy,

    Thanks so much for your "counterpoint" to the suggestion of "punting" on the original equipment and taking the chicken way out by purchasing a new engine simply because it has a warranty and more horsepower.

    I'm afraid I did record the exact details on how the valves where determined to be problematic. My understanding is that they used some sort of tool that could compare the valve motion to the overall engine rotation and determined that the valves are not operating within tolerance. Admittedly I've been sloppy on this, but this particular problem was discovered after the car was struck by another motorist and there have been a lot details to take care of trying to bring this poor car back from the blow. Nonetheless, I'm confident that this was simply a poor rebuild and there are other indications that the engine needs to be rebuilt. The performance is way below par and the gasoline mileage is dropped by over 20%.

    Right now the car seems seriously underpowered, but what would you expect? My own experiences with the car aren't has helpful as they could be. We bought the car when I was 8 years old, and the engine got its first rebuild the year I got my drivers license, so I never drove the car as it came out of factory.

    Thanks to this forum and other sources, I have a much better idea of what can be expected of these engines and more importantly good reason to suspect that this car is much more a victim of incompetent engine rebuilds than being underpowered by design.

    Having battled insurers and finally gotten the body repairs underway, I'm can now give the engine situation proper attention. At the moment, having this engine rebuilt properly (attending as noted to the Buick specific tolerances) seems like the best choice.

    Thanks again and additional perspective is greatly appreciated. Alas, Buick lovers are something of a rare breed.

    Sincerely,

    Edouard in Orinda, CA

    P.S. This afternoon I finally was able to talk with the mechanics who diagnosed the valve trouble and get the proper diagnosis. To quote: "Vehicle has had a history of misfire at wide open throttle possibly due to weak valve springs. Scoped engine ignition system and vacuum waveform of engine. Ignition scopes fine. Vacuum waveform indicates that cylinders number 6, 7, 1, and 4 aren't producing power as the others. Waveform indicates valve issue (worn engine.)"
    Last edited by elagache; 12-08-2010 at 04:41 PM. Reason: Added precise diagnosis of valve issues.

  6. #6
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    I hope to be able to post the results of my 300 rebuild by this weekend -
    I have had several other priorities to handle and got taken away from my garage.
    I think the distributor got dropped in a degree or two off - I thought we kept her at TDC on #1, now gotta pull the plugs so I can make sure.
    I want to be able to turn it using a breaker bar - not the starter.

    I did have new valves seated, but did not replace the springs or seats

    I have aluminum heads (64 LeSabre)

  7. #7
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    Please do say more! (Re: Rebuild 300 V8 advice)

    Dear WildKitty,

    I certainly do hope you'll find the time to expand on your recent Buick 300 V8 rebuild. Given that I'm clearly new to this business, if you could explain what your objectives were in the rebuild (improve performance, etc.) that would help me understand how to fit your experiences into the particular task I face in getting my venerable Buick wagon back to health!

    Cheers, Edouard

  8. #8
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    Dear elagache

    BigRivy couldnt have said it any better.....keep that buick all buick......and dont put a chevy in it......if more people did this then more aftermarket suppliers would start producing more buick parts......i spent two years rebuilding a 64 300 factory 4 barrel with 11 to 1 compression......cost me a little more but was worth every penny......its in my 64 skylark now and runs like a dream.......call mark at D&D fabrication....he did my aluminum heads for me.....and TA Perf is great to if you need anything.....take your time and do it right.........and keep it all buick......

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    Certainly what I hope to do!

    Dear shoe2r and Buick Fans,

    Quote Originally Posted by shoe2r View Post
    BigRivy couldnt have said it any better.....keep that buick all buick......
    . . . .
    .....take your time and do it right.........and keep it all buick......
    Thanks for your encouraging words and for all the good resources here. I was feeling very isolated and uncertain about how to keep the car all Buick. I spoke with the folks at TA Performance this morning and thanks to everyone's help, it certainly looks like keeping my classic Special wagon all Buick is within reach.

    Alas, I have another ugly hurdle to get past first: getting the car repaired after it got banged up by one of those "late model german sports sedans." I've found it increasingly miserable to try to "share the road" with folks who clearly have no respect for what they are driving (never mind other drivers.) I put down a few thoughts on this accident in my Team Buick blog: http://www.teambuick.com/forums/blog.php?b=131. I certainly would be interested to know how other Buick enthusiasts feel about this.

    Cheers, Edouard

  10. #10
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    got the "little" 300 fired up the other day - I had been not seeing a prong on the connection on the capacitor touching the outter plate of the points. the points that came out of it had the capacitor attached... damn those points were hard to get to.

    I musta got the carb exactly right - and the dist pointed in the right direction, one hit on the start button and she took off and purrs like a kitten, well, sorta large kitten.

    sitting onna trailer in the garage is a tad noisy.

    will rpelace the cracked cast exhaust manifolds with a set of headers. they came black so I will hit them with some high temp silver before I put them on.

    Butch

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