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Pontiac 389 schooling needed

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Bear Metal Kustoms, Jun 16, 2007.

  1. Bear Metal Kustoms
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    Bear Metal Kustoms Alliance Vendor

    I just picked up a 59 Pontiac Catalina. It has the original 389 and trans in it.. I pulled a rocker stud on an exhaust valve in it's prior life and was parked.. What is the proper way to fix this.... Is it fixable or should I find another head? What transmissions will swap onto the 389? I have always been into SBC or Mopar. This is my first Pontiac and trying to beat the learning curve. EVILT
  2. G V Gordon
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    G V Gordon Member

    As far as what trans will fit the short answer is the one that came on it. The universal BOP pattern didn't come about till 1966.

    There are adapters and kits to mount a later trans but the cost is high. But not much higher than rebuilding an old Hydromatic.
  3. yekoms
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    yekoms Member

    Pontiacs have positive stop valve adjustment from the factory. The rocker arm nut (3/8")bottoms out on the stud (7/16") for the valve adjustment. The problem is that there are a bunch of different combinations of valve, push rod lengths.
    The other issue is that some older Pontiacs oiled the rockers through an oil hole in the block and head to a cast galley under the hollow rocker studs. Kind of like mopars oil the rockers through the shafts. Some of those hollow rocker studs seem to loose their press fit and pull out.
    If you are rebuilding the engine check into using the later lifters an push rods to oil the rockers like a Chevy. Put screw in studs in the heads. ARP makes a stud with a 1/2" thread and a straight 7/16" top. Then they can be adjusted just like a Chevy.
    I'm a cylinder head guy so I can't help you with the trans info. I don't type to good so PM me if you want to talk on the phone about the head stuff. Take care,Smokey
  4. rustynewyorker
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    rustynewyorker Member

    Rocker studs are press-in on these heads. You may as well pull the heads and make sure nothing is cracked, sometimes they crack across the exhaust seats, and then you can have hard seats put in them. 59-60 have somewhat unique rocker geometry, my short block I put a better cam in and got stuck trying to figure out how to build the top end right so I don't bend the valves to hell starting it.

    The dual-coupling Hydramatic is not a bad trans and you can get close to 20 MPG out of one of these cars if that's in good shape. Finding someone who knows them and can rebuild one properly is another story. This trans was used in all 56-60 Pontiac, Olds and Caddy, and in Bonnevilles and Caddy through '64. Not sure if the Olds 98 continued to use it or not. The 1960-up versions were revised somewhat and have a smaller trans case, I think they're lighter too.



    The bad news - unless you find a mega-rare 58-60 manual bell, you're SOL for another trans. The starter bolts to the bellhousing on these, not the block, and no one's made an adapter for 59-60 to late TH350/400/200R4. I don't know why, a lot of the bolts look close, you'd just need to machine a ring with a provision to mount the starter. That manual bell will take most any late model 3 or 4 speed trans, it has the common GM pattern. In fact in '60 you could get a 4-speed, stock.

    A 389 is basically the same as a 400, if you should rebuild the motor have the cylinders sonic checked, .055 over takes you to a stock standard 400 bore. As long as there's no core shift, you should be able to punch it out that far.

    You can save some weight and some money on the water pump by bolting on a 301 front cover. Any D-port Pontiac header bolts on, although you'll have to play to see what will actually fit in the car. A 301 HEI will also drop in should you want one. (301's are junk, so better to part out, but any late front cover and HEI fits, Pontiacs used the same basic block 55-81).


    As for the car itself, the front motor mounts are 58-60 (or 64, I forget which) and also '69 Gran Prix, will bolt to any other Pontiac block with the mounts towards the front of the block (some later engines they moved them back some), making a 65-up 389, 400, 428, 455 a bolt-in - you'll need a short tail trans with it and probably have to make a crossmember for that, but that shouldn't be hard.

    I drove a '60 Catalina everywhere for three years in the mid-90's - a hell of a fun car to drive, even bone stock with the 2bbl motor, manual brakes and steering, it stopped fine, handled great, and would go like stink. I think the only change I would make if I had another one is to swap in an alternator.. I got tired of changing generator brushes every 7500 miles or so.
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  5. G V Gordon
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    G V Gordon Member

    Bendtsen's Transmission Adapters at www.transmissionadapters.com is the kit I was thinking of. About $700 for the kit not counting the cost of the trans.
  6. rustynewyorker
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    rustynewyorker Member

    A little trans bolt pattern primer for Pontiac -

    55-60 are basically the same; 61-64 are just enough different they don't directly interchange. 65-up use the BOP pattern and move the starter onto an ear on the block. Some 64 blocks may be tapped for the starter.

    59-60 are also on their own for the intake bolt pattern, although I think a 61-64 can be made to work.

    I've heard of an adaptor made for the 61-64 blocks, I think mostly so people can ditch the roto-hydramatic, but not for the 55-60.

    The Dual-Coupling Hydramatic uses a short cast bellhousing to connect to the block - you should be able to bolt any DC Hydro to your bell.

    I've heard of a $700 adapter for the Buick... the 61-64 adapter I'd seen being made was more like $200, it only amounts to a ring with a thick ear for the starter to go on. Heck if you kept the stock '59 starter, you could probably make an adapter ring yourself and just bolt through it like the stocker.
  7. G V Gordon
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    G V Gordon Member

    Website shows same basic kit for 55-60 and 61-64. Same price, maybe dual pattern drilled or comes with different plates. I don't have any first hand knowledge of the product. Just ran across it a couple years ago when I was looking for options on my '63.

    About that time I traded for a 455 so once that is built I'll just put a late trans behind it.
  8. RichFox
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    At one time I drilled and pinned the rocker studs into a '66 GTO. People used to do that all the time before installing screw in studs became the voge
  9. draggin'GTO
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    draggin'GTO Member

    It must have worked pretty well, the 389/421 Super Duty heads came that way from the factory.
  10. Bear Metal Kustoms
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    OK, all I need now is 1 rocker,1 rocker stud, and 1 push rod... I think I will try pressing in a new stud and pinning it.. That is the info I was looking for.. Thanks, EVILT
  11. Brandy
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    Brandy Member


    If you can't locate the one one and one.......:D ..........I should still have all that shit laying all over the garage from the multitudes of Poncho shit I've got.

    Lemme know.
  12. brad moulton
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    brad moulton BANNED

    Im sorry i didnt recieve your msg im sure it wasnt on there but i look again and i sure dnt need the NY criticism but thnx for the reply.
  13. Bear Metal Kustoms
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    Will the heads off a 62 fit the 59??? Or am I better off just swapping to the 62 engine? EVILT
  14. HEATHEN
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    HEATHEN Member

    Yes, but you'll need to use the '62 style intake manifold, which means you'll have to use the '61-'64 style front cover as well.
  15. Bear Metal Kustoms
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    So I could combine the 62 heads front cover and intake onto my 59 block and be ok.... Thanks, EVILT
  16. rustynewyorker
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    rustynewyorker Member

    How come you need the '62 front cover? Have to do with the change in cooling flow from 59 to 60-up motors? Having had 59, 60 apart and messed with 61, 62 I don't remember any obvious issues from one to the other. I know a '77 301 front went right on my '59 block, it's still on it up there.


    59-60 use oddball pushrods, hollow if I remember right. Kanter has them, they were like $8 each (about 8 times what the others were) when I priced them. If you go to the '62 heads I believe you'll also need to use the '62 pushrods to maintain the correct rocker arm geometry.
  17. HEATHEN
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    ...but, if it were mine, I'd just replace the rocker stud. Tain't that big a deal. "oldspeedtees" on Ebay is constantly auctioning the contents of an old speed shop, an the last time I paid attention, still had sets of Mr. Gasket screw-in studs for the early engines that oil through the studs.
  18. Brandy
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    Brandy Member

    If it were me, I'd just run that 59-60 block and shut the hell up. Stay away from the goat crap..........I heard it comes with black cats and brooms.:D


    ON THE OTHER HAND, if you do go goat, go full goat and get rid of that shitty 59-60 stuff...........I'll even take it off your hands for you.
  19. Bear Metal Kustoms
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    Brandy, I will get the lengths for the push rod and stuff from you.. I found a set of screw in studs and will be converting the heads... EVILT

  20. I have a Plate Style Adapter (Offy 3606) and either a Schiefer or Weber Flywheel that will hook up to a Early Ford. You would have to find a Bellhousing. All for sale.:D

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