The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Danny G, Jan 29, 2012.
Was the aluminum 215 that came in the Buick specials a little nailhead?
It is only in the last 5 or 10 years that folks have come to call the early Buicks "Nailheads" in polite conversation. We used to call them Buick 322 or Buick 401 or Buick whatever size it was. Nailhead was actually a derogatory term refering to the small valves; a nick name not an official designation from the factory. As such the only answer to the question would have to be an opinion, as the term Nailhead is itself an opinion.
The head design mimicked the the cylinder head style of the larger engines. That engine/head was also shared with the Pontiac Tempest in'61/'62 when they were ordered with the optional V8, though I think very few Tempests were actually so equipped with V8's in '61/'62.
The Olds 215 is the same base engine with heads designed in the Olds style.
I agree with most of what you say with two exceptions...it's been longer than that that the term has been used. Beyond that, the FIRST such use that was common "back in the day" was NAILVALVE, not Nailhead. Nailvalve more accurately captured the character of the small valves, but for whatever reason the term morphed into 'Nailhead' in common usage.
Wasn't that engine design sold to Range Rover? I rented one once, years ago, and it was solely underpowered.
Yes the GM/Buick version was bought by Rover Cars of England and used in a variety of Rovers, including the Range Rover. Commonly 3.5 litre and later 4.0 litre. The Rover you rented may have been sluggish, but I would suspect the heavy weight of the Rover was more responsible than the Buick/Rover V8.
In England, or anywhere else, performance is a function of power to weight.
It was brought by Rover Cars, (who owned Land Rover/Range Rover) in 1963 when Buick no longer wanted the engine.
More or less Yes. It followed a similar vertical small valve design that was used with the other buick v8s. there is a pretty good history of the engine on wikipedia of all places.
I dont know chub, I had auto shop in high school and my instructor was a gm tech who taught us that those motors were Nailheads and why they were Nailheads. That was 28 years ago.
They are great little engines. I had a '29 Model A CCPU that I put an Olds 215 in - as said in an earlier post, mostly the same engine. They weigh only about 320 lbs fully dressed out - great for a light car like a Model A. Best adjective I've heard for these engines is "peppy". You won't win any races, but plenty of power for general driving.
GM used the engine '61-'63, in Olds F85s, Buick Skylarks, and a few Tempests. Also as noted in other posts, sold to Rover, who used it into the 90s. It is said that GM tried to buy it back a time or two, but obviously that didn't happen.
Stay away from the 2 speed automatic that was available with these engines - said to be one of the worst automatics ever. I ran an S10 clutch and 5-speed behind mine with a 3.55 rear - worked great. Dunno what automatic would work - the bell pattern is not your std BOP.
A 390 Holley is a good choice for carburetion.
D&D Fabrication (www.aluminumv8.com) has lots of parts and a wealth of knowledge about the little engine that could.
Nope, they really are not, even though some refer to them as Baby Nailheads. The horizontal valve covers on them are merely to mimic the look. If you actually look at the base of the valve cover you'll see that they do not sit horizontal like a Nailhead but are at an angle. You'll also notice the distributor at the wrong end.
Hogwash, I've been messing with these engines for a pretty long time and they have always been referred to as Nailheads to me, and this goes all the way back to the late 70's. Some of the older guys have mentioned Nailvalve as was pointed out as well. And I am only referring to the 264,322,364,402, and 425's. Nothing else is a Nailhead...
I Have a soft spot for those engines, the largest they went was 4.5 4.6 or somwhere around there last found in the range rover in the late 90's they were ahead of there time, especially the turbo 215 cars in the early 60's right before they sold em to rover. as the story goes the rover engineer tripped over the motor on a buick factory tour or something like that, those motors were an awesome option for mgb's and such, but that is a for a different forum. but yeah they are a small motor, small in displacement, the ford small block is smaller in size but bigger on cubes, but heavier, the coolest thing about those motors is you can polish em head to toe.. which makes for some fun looking engines.
Likewise, I was a pre high school model builder when it was pointed out to me in the late 70s that the engine I was gluing together was a nailhead...
Whether this was "right" or not I can't say, (nailhead, nailvalve) but to me, Buick motors with the "weird angle valve covers" have been "nailheads" ever since.
I'm not saying it's right or wrong to call it that. Since I was born well before the first Buick V-8 hit the showroom floor perhaps my perspective is skewed. In my circle of gear heads back in the 60's calling a fellow's Buick engine a Nailhead would have been akin to refering to his mother with a racial slur.
The term however it came about is now in common usage.
It's till just a nickname though.
The engine in my 50 Ford was a 401 Buick. Maybe it's a personal thing.
I think it's probably all in what you put the engine into . A couple years back our shop restored an MGB , then installed a mildly-worked 215 into it ... it's quite lively ! It fit like a glove , since MG (in England) had an MGB-V8 car that used their version of the engine . Their cars didn't have a t-5 trans & a narrowed posi S-10 rear in 'em though .
We also put a fuel-injected v-6 GM engine into an MGB (a 3400 from a late Grand Am , turned 90* for RWD) , but that for another thread .
The "nailhead" moniker possibly came from the mis-term on a model box in the "70s,(AMT '40 Ford coupe maybe). There was a whole generation of will be gearheads being influenced at the time.
I had a fellow gearhead put one in a baja'ed VW when we were in HS. There was a company that made an adapter kit, etc. Can't remember calling it a nailhead or not though, early '70s.
As I remember it the 215 had some teething problems and didn't sell well.
It seems that I recall that they had either over heating problems or sleeve problems or both.
So GM dumped the design and Rover bought it cheap.
Rover went on to fix the problems and used the engine for many years and got a lot of hp out of it considering the displacement.
This is just my recollection of the history of the 215 cu/in Buick aluminum engine and may not be based in fact.
The answer to the original question is no the 215 is not a Nailhead.
Nailhead is a reference to the design of the engine and certainly not Buick engines in general.
didn't need an adapter to put one in a vw, they bolt right on .
Really? Whoda thunk it?
Around that era, several manufacturers were experimenting with akuminum block engines. AMC, Mopar and this GM Buick/Olds just to name those that come readily to mind.
I don't recall hearing of any specific operational problems with when they were new, but that doesn't mean there weren't. Just means I don't know for sure either. What I think I do know is that the materials and casting processes flor these were more expensive than iron and that fact, more than any other consideration, is more likely the reason all of the makers discontinued their use of aluminum...at least for a time.
It is also the period when 'thinwall casting' was being perfected, first in the 221" Ford in 1962 models, as I recall. The advent of that technology accomplished much of the weight reduction being sought and further reduced the immediate appeal of aluminum.
Of course, as time has based everything old is new again and improved methods, material alloys and another round of weight savings brought us many modern aluminum engines.....not 'us' in the HAMB tradition of course, but in the general population.
Really Shirley you are joking If not, Shirley you are smoking
I have a book published in 1973 that uses the term Buick Nailhead. In another place, it calls one a "vertical valve Buick".
I have one of the little Buicks. It has a slight family resemblence to a nailhead.
oh yea.. you just use self tapping screws.
sorry.. had to..
I remember that in warm climates that they had a problem with owners using straight water with out any corrosion inhibitors and they had a corrosion problem. In the early sixties it was not uncommon to drain the antifreeze out in spring and refill with straight water. I knew people who mixed kerosene in the water or alcohol to prevent the water from freezing. Anti freeze was not permanent, you had to refill every year and most people didn't, just used straight water. I never used anti freeze in any flat head Ford V-8 that I had and I had a few in the fifties. I just checked the history of Prestone and it was in 1962 that Ford, G.M. and Chrysler started selling cars with a 50/50 mixture and used as a year round product.
Back in 76 my brother dropped one of these into an OT 73 Vega station wagon. He got two speeding tickets the first day he drove it.
Great little engines. I have seen them used in every thing from boats to home built airplanes!
I am really curious about Bluedot's statement "Stay away from the 2 speed automatic that was available with these engines - said to be one of the worst automatics ever" Is the Dual Path that bad? I never owned one but I have heard if these are maintained and not abused that they perform well....anyone out there have experience with these auto trans? Is a rebuild on one a difficult procedure? J
GM had problems with excessive bore wear/scuffing cos the pistons/rings ran in the aluminum alloy bore with no iron liners (I believe this was the first use of alloy bores anywhere). GM sold it to Rover in the UK. They used a different alloy to overcome the problem and used it for 40 years .......as bluedot has said.
The Buick 215 has 4 bolts/combustion chamber and the Olds has 5. The Olds was the base for the Repco Formula 1 engine with which Jack Brabham won World Championship in 1965. It was epoxy filled in the lower part of the waterjacket.
F-85 Olds is the "bomb".....ran a 4 bbl.
I beat the crap out of a skylark with a stock trans and it was fine. I'd run one today if I had an application for it. As for the Cylinders being aluminum? I've never seen one without Iron sleeves. They were ribbed on the outside and cast into the aluminum block. They took a .030 over bore well and gave our family many miles of trouble free service.
I have to say zman "nailed it" ..........all true.
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