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Thread: 401 Nailhead engine transplant for a 1965 Buick Special - opinions?

  1. #1
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    Question 401 (or other Buick) engine transplant for 65 Buick Special - opinions?

    Dear Buick Enthusiasts,

    I have a 1965 Buick Special Deluxe wagon with a 300 cu V8 engine that is getting weary. I joined Team Buick in order to get some advice on rebuilding the engine and truly discovered how little really I understood about the whole project!

    In that thread (http://www.teambuick.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19792), BigRivy suggested if I consider any alternative engine, I should try to stick to period Buick engines: specifically the 401 Nailhead. Having learned plenty in the interim, I have to confess some interest in the 401 upgrade. Aside from the obvious - more - appeal , the Nailhead has a much larger following and many more enhancement parts. Perhaps not so obvious is that with its stock compression ratio of 10.25:1, it should run nicely on today's anemic premium gas (the original 11:1 high-compression 300 won't). My surfing the web uncovered one more unexpected benefit: the Nailhead equipped 1965 Skylark GS got 12.2 mpg at the time. My car was rated 12.7 (and indeed that was accurate). 100 more hp and almost the same gas mileage - where do I sign!

    So enough daydreaming. Obviously it must be possible to put a 401 Nailhead in a 65 A-body since Buick did it. My question is: can you make a Nailhead transplant into a car originally equipped with something else? Is it "reasonably straightforward" or a pain in the whatever expletive you prefer to delete. Reading around the forum, it seems like the engine mounting points should be the same and that it should be possible to bolt the Nailhead to my transmission without adapters - true? The car already has the heavy duty radiator, would additional cooling upgrades be desirable? Looking at photos of the 65 Skylark GS engine compartment, the only difference I could see was that the battery has been moved to the driver's side. Are there other gotchas in making such a transplant that aren't obvious?

    Has anybody else performed this transplant? Why or why not? What do the 1965 Skylark GS folks think about their cars and engines?

    Obviously this is still more daydreaming than not and my wallet may veto the horsepower upgrade. Still, I would be interested in what folks think about the idea.

    Thanks for any and all pearls of wisdom!

    Sincerely,

    Edouard in Orinda

    P.S. Discussion later expands to consider other late 60s Buick V8 engines like the 350 and 455 - see below:
    Last edited by elagache; 01-03-2011 at 12:53 PM. Reason: Revised title to better refiect evolving discussion thread

  2. #2
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    Much easier to install a Buick 350 than a "Nail". Although I'm a "Nail" guy there are MANY things that have to be changed in order to install a "Nail". Engine mounting plates to the frame. Engine mounts. Then the plates on the engine. A "NailHead specific trans. weather a ST300 or ST400. GS only exhaust manifolds or headers. Rear sump GS pan & GS specific oil pick-up. Crossflow radiator instead of downflow. Engine compartment wiring. And others I may have & surely forgotten about. Not just a bolt-in swap especially for someone without the nec. experience or fabrication skills. Not saying it can't be & hasn't been done by countless others. Just time consuming & $$$$$.
    Just my thoughts.

    Tom T.
    Tom Telesco
    Classic and Muscle Automotive
    12 Cook St.
    Norwalk, CT 06853-1601
    Day Phone 203-324-6045 ET
    NailHead Mini-Starters '53-'66
    Adjustable Roller Tip Rocker Arms - All NailHeads
    Custom forged pistons
    Front & rear neoprene seals
    Many other "Nail" parts
    "If I can't get it, you don't need it!"

  3. #3
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    Okay, how about a Buick 350 transplant then?

    Dear Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by telriv View Post
    Although I'm a "Nail" guy there are MANY things that have to be changed in order to install a "Nail"
    Thanks for your feedback. My inexperience is showing, as I had hoped it wasn't that drastic an operation. Golly, you are making up my mind in a hurry!

    Quote Originally Posted by telriv View Post
    Much easier to install a Buick 350 than a "Nail".
    I may be just as sorry to ask this, but is truly "easy enough" to make aiming for a Buick 350 worth considering? The stock performance of the Buick 350 wasn't that much better than the existing 300 cu V8, but it is far more popular engine, so it offers many more possibilities.

    Thanks again for your feedback,

    Sincerely, Edouard

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    Everything that Telriv said of the 401 swap will be the same for any engine swap. There will be lots of time and money involved. Fixing your existing engine or replacing it with another 300 is in my opinion the best option for the easiest and least expensive way to get your car back on the road. The best way to put the 401 in your car would be to find a GS donor car. That might be a little tough. Not impossible but tough especially if you are on a time schedule.
    You have mentioned the 11 to 1 compression of your 300. If you have your engine rebuilt I would assume that they are going to bore the cylinders to the next oversize. You have stated the miles on this motor being very high, 200,000+ so I'm assuming this. I don't believe that the 11 to 1 pistons are still available in the general after market. So you would be using lower compression pistons and you wouldn't have to worry about using today's gas.
    The Buick 350 would be another alternative. It would still be best to find a complete donor vehicle to get everything that you will need. If it is in good condition it will provide plenty of power for your wagon. Regardless of what the factory ratings were it still has 50 cubic inches on the one you have now and that usually means more torque.

  5. #5
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    I was wrong. Egge Machine still lists the 11 to 1 pistons for the 300 Buick at $300 a set. They also list the 9 to 1 pistons as well which would be a much better choice for today's fuel.

  6. #6
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    The Buick 300 engine only had 11:1 compression in the 64 engine with aluminum heads. These same pistons were used in 65 300 engine, but only produced 10.25:1 compression with the larger combustion chambers in the iron heads. These same pistons and iron heads were also used with the 340 engine (stroked 300) for 10.25 compression in 66 and 67. You can get away with 93 octane fuel in all of those engines (depending on timing). Aluminum heads allow extra resistance to detonation. Generally aluminum heads can be run one compression point over the same heads in iron without detonation. Buick knew what they were doing with the 11:1 ratio in the 64 300.

    The buick 340 and 350 will bolt directly in place of the 300. The same mounts, transmission and accessory drives can be used. The 350 will require new exhaust manifolds as the head exhaust spacing is different between these engines (same crank is used in both though). The 350 was made from 68 into the 80s and has a lot of aftermarket parts available. The 340 was a two year deal in 66-67 and evolved into the 350.

    Once the engine changes are made, you may not feel any difference in power without considering upgrades to the transmission and rear as well. The three speed TH350 will bolt in place of the two speed ST300 without modification to the mounting points or driveshaft. A Sport Wagon from 66 and 67 would also make a good donor for a 340, ST 400, and driveshaft that are a direct swap. Most of the wagons came with al least 3.23 rear end ratios, but standards had a 3.36 that would pick up the pick up a little. Now you have more to think about!
    Last edited by Dr. Frankenbuick; 12-31-2010 at 08:53 AM.
    Steve B.



    67 GS 525 Buick Stage IV
    66 GS Convertible
    65 GS HT
    63 Riv
    02 Subaru WRX Turbo
    03 Ford Cobra Convertible (Factory Supercharged)

  7. #7
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    Thumbs up Thanks, indeed much more to think about!

    Dear Steve (Dr. FrankenBuick), BigRivy, and all,

    Thanks so much for some short but incredibly important comments! Indeed, I now have some much clearer choices and a practical path to pursue either way.

    To help folks (if it can be called help! ) I created a blog entry that describes my thinking up to roughly to this moment http://www.teambuick.com/forums/blog.php?b=134. It also has a cute picture of my Buick wagon as "moving van"

    The nitty gritty details that matter is that this car has gotten some modifications along the way. I can't put in a TH350 transmission without replacing the one that's already there! Also, along the way I've had miserable struggles with the original Carter AFB carburetor. Right now the car has a Edelbrock Thunder carburetor (1801). Since the car is at the body shop, I can't be sure, but I'm almost certain that the car has the crossflow radiator as its heavy-duty radiator upgrade.

    Thanks to BigRivy, I now have the pointers so that I can specify the 300 cid V8 be rebuilt to its original factory specifications (or modestly enhanced.)

    Thanks to Dr. FrankenBuick, I can also consider the Buick 350. The performance gains is certainly nice, but the issue will probably be decided mostly on how comfortable I am with the status of the 1965 engine being so "low" on the interest level of suppliers. Right now parts are available, but there is only so much you can do for an engine that was produced only a few years. If the goal is to keep the car as a practical vehicle, there is a lot to be said for having an engine in the car that was in production for decades.

    So, it's time for me to go back and think! Certainly, part of that thinking will involve seeing if I can find an engine rebuilder who I trust to do the job correctly and will do the work for something less than an arm and a leg!

    Thanks to all for all the great help and Happy New Year!!

    Cheers, Edouard

    P.S. Just an unfortunate "gotcha", but I just checked the EGGE machine company website and their rebuild kit for the 300 cid V8 is described as for an 11:1 compression ratio http://www.egge.com/kits?make=BUICK&year=1965. I don't know if that's a typo on the website or an error in assuming the 64 and 65 engine used the same compression ratio. The 66 340 engine kit has the correct 10.25:1 ratio.
    Last edited by elagache; 01-01-2011 at 12:53 PM. Reason: Added info on EGGE 300 V8 rebuild kits.

  8. #8
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    There is some more information on the 65 engine compression ratios and engine codes here: http://www.teambuick.com/reference/y...ne_number.html.
    Steve B.



    67 GS 525 Buick Stage IV
    66 GS Convertible
    65 GS HT
    63 Riv
    02 Subaru WRX Turbo
    03 Ford Cobra Convertible (Factory Supercharged)

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    Talking Team Buick data much better than faulty memory!

    Thanks "Dr. FrankenBuick" !

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Frankenbuick View Post
    There is some more information on the 65 engine compression ratios and engine codes here: http://www.teambuick.com/reference/y...ne_number.html.
    Let me indeed second that suggestion! Surfing the web has the hazard of dredging as much bad information as good. When in doubt, go back to the Team Buick references rather than the last spot you "surfed".

    It doesn't help when you "remember" that a car was rated 270hp, when the service manual stubbornly agrees with Team Buick - it was only 250!

    Optimistic dementia?

    Thanks again to all!

    Cheers, Edouard

  10. #10
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    engine swaps........

    I have had a 64 skylark in the past that originally had the 300 /2bbl engine.... that car had the same frame as the 65 GS.... down thru the years i rebuilt the original engine to the 300 ''optional'' specs..... that was the best, most fun combo that I had in the car.... broke less and raced more..... then I installed a nailhead.... and tom is right.... there are special things that you have to have.... the frame mount pieces, the engine plates, the motor mounts,,, the right radiator,,, the exhaust manifolds,,, I put in a th 400 with a switch pitch,,, and I had to fab a rear cross member.... and shorten the drive shaft 5''.... and change starters..... and some wireing to accomodate the changes that I made.... but the car was a brute and was not beaten on the street for 2 years..... then I put in a 430/ stage 2 combo... and that was the most powerfull set up..... of all... but it would not hold up because i went with 12 to 1 pistons and every time I got down on it hard the headgaskets would pop.....
    If I were going to do all that over..... i would go for a engine combo that was exactly the factory set up for a GN.... except in a 65 body.... that will be reliable and get good mileage..... or....
    go with a 455/ th400 combo.... and keep to stock specs.... basicly a bolt in swap ..... with lots of torq......
    Rebuilding the engine that is already in there is different from engine swapping.... when you start swapping engines , you are moving into a higher level of hot rodding.....

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