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Technical Buick 215 Mild Warm Over Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by RyanAK, Oct 2, 2020.

  1. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Hey, Gang. I recently bought a survivor '63 Cutlass with a Buick 215. It's a strong, smooth runner. I was surprised at how quick this car is, but... you know. It could be quicker. So I'm searching out a 'recipe' for warming over this little mill.

    Yes, I will call D&D. :cool: Just thought the H.A.M.B. would have some good input. I've searched the threads, and there's some good info around. But I have some design considerations that vary slightly from other HAMBers.

    This is staying in the '63 in front of the Roto-Hydramatic 5 (works perfectly for what it is...) and I'm looking for a build that keeps the stock displacement. It's a driver, not a strip car. Here's what I know about the Buick so far:
    • It's a 4 barrel
    • It's been rebuilt
    That's it. I know it's a 4v because of the Rochester 4GC. :p I know it's been rebuilt since the block number was lost and stamped with some sort of rebuild number when the block was decked. Other than that, without pulling a head, things are unknown. Buick set compression on these with piston design, so I'm unsure what ratio we're at. Could have had Buick low-compression, Buick high-compression, Olds flat-top, or something else put in at the time of the rebuild. Milling the block deck would have an impact as well. Ditto whatever gaskets were used. The only clue is that the immediate previous owner was running 89 octane without detonation. So...

    Eventually I'll buy another block and do a full build, but for now I'm looking to hop this Buick up a bit - staying as period-correct as possible. Essentially mid-60s bolt-on speed parts and a cam. There was a really fascinating article in a '61 HRM when the aluminum V-8s were introduced where Edelbrock and Isky ware developing the first generation of speed parts for these that showed impressive potential.

    Goal is to make a quicker driver. I'm not worried about E/Ts or all out top speed. 0-60mph improvement is a better metric. Improved lower RPM performance is more important than winding it up to redline. If this is the high compression Skylark engine, stock horesepower was ~185-200HP @ 4600RPM. (Gross...) If we can get to something close to 240HP on pump gas, that's about a 10:1 weight-to-power ratio. (Car weighs 2,400lbs...) That seems like a nice target... but may not be achievable. RH5 automatic and 3.23 rear.

    So... what can we do? Without getting into the rotating assembly, where can we get with:
    • Camshaft - several manufacturers offer various grinds. I'm no cam guru, I don't even play one on TV, so I could use some guidance here. Actually a lot of guidance...
    • Heads - are aluminum Buick 300 heads worth searching out even if keeping 215ci displacement? Or is working over the stock heads more appropriate?
    • Intake - Offy and Edelbrock both still manufacture intake manifolds that were around in the mid-60s. I'd prefer to search out an original piece, but not opposed to buying a new old design if there are gains to be made over the stock intake. 4 barrel or 2x2...
    • Carb - I like Rochesters, but most of my experience is with Quadrajets. So Rochester or an appropriate smaller Holley or Edelbrock. I'm open to suggestions... my only nervous thought is getting the trans linkage right with anything other than the stock carb.
    • Exhaust - I'm not sure there's room for headers... but maybe. I'm sure D&D will know for sure. Maybe Buick 300 or Rover manifolds would be an improvement. There's very limited room to run duals under this car, but I think I could manage a well done Y-pipe arrangement.
    I know a lot of this depends on where we're starting with compression, but let's assume for now that we're running the Buick high-compression pistons and we're somewhere around 10.5:1. What kind of 'recipe' can we create to squeeze a little more out of this little V8? You guys that have built motor up... anyone stay at 215ci? What kind of numbers were you achieving?

    This should be fun!

    Ryan
     
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  2. LAROKE
    Joined: Sep 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,739

    LAROKE
    Member

    Oldsmobile had it's own version of this engine. I'm surprised to find the Buick version in your Cutlass. The Buick version looks like a nailhead even tho it is not while the Olds heads appear more conventional.


    114_0136.JPG unnamed.jpg

    BTW, where in central PA are you? I grew up in Clearfield.
     
  3. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Hey, man. I'm in a little town called Mifflinburg. Near Lewisburg on the Susquehanna. Love the Clearfield area.

    It's a Buick. I was surprised as well. The guy I bought the Cutlass off of pulled it out of a garage where it had been for decades. The Olds 215 was also available on a pallet buried in the corner. The old fella that had it said it was supposedly rebuilt stock but 0.030" over. Old fella wanted $2,000 for it, so the guy I bought the car from passed on it. It may still be there for all we know...

    I don't have a photo handy of the engine... but here's the car. I'll eventually start a build thread and keep this one specific to the Buick in the Cutlass.

    Does that make this a Bolds? Bumobile? Bu...? o_O

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member


  5. LAROKE
    Joined: Sep 5, 2007
    Posts: 1,739

    LAROKE
    Member

    Had an o/t olds-buick myself back in the eighties. It was an olds Cutlass company car that I wrecked during a storm. When we got it back from the shop, the guy had substituted a skylark front end he found in a scrapyard. This thing had Buick badging on the front and Olds badging on the rest of the car. It was so well executed, the leasing company didn't notice when we turned it in.
     
  6. ekimneirbo
    Joined: Apr 29, 2017
    Posts: 1,591

    ekimneirbo
    Member
    from Brooks Ky

    The Buick 300 heads are used to lower compression when someone strokes a 215 or a Rover. They are rare and only made one year. I'd just consider leaving it alone and changing the rear end gearing. I'd also go pick up that Olds engine if its cheap and then consider putting a turbo on it.
    With a newer style turbo and some tuning.....
     
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  7. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Funny how stuff like this used to happen. Wonder how long it took for the leasing company to figure it out!

    Thanks... I assumed the 300 heads would lower the compression and were part of the stroker builds. Not sure just how easy it would be to change the rear end gearing... I think these rears were specific to the '61-'63 Y-body Buicks and Oldsmobiles and topped out at 3.23. I also wonder what higher gearing would do to the transmission... these weren't known as strong units....

    I'm not sure $2,000 for an Olds 215 with an unknown quality rebuild would be considered cheap... The factory turbo Jetfires are cool, and I've seen some of these 215s with a modern turbo which are exceptionally cool... but that's not quite what I want to do with this car.

    R
     
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  8. Mike VV
    Joined: Sep 28, 2010
    Posts: 2,117

    Mike VV
    Member
    from SoCal

    The Buick V-6 basic design came right off of the 215 drawing board.
    I've ported a few V-6 heads, both the street head and the stage one head.

    That said, and as you may well know, that ANY cylinder head cast before about 2000 can well use some careful rework in the intake ports and at least some touch-up work in the exhaust ports.
    It has been a while, so I can't give specifics without looking at the stock ports again, but yes, porting and a proper three angle seat with two on the intake valve is well worth the money.

    Mike
     
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  9. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Thanks, Mike. I was hoping there was something to be gained by working the stock heads... considering the $$$ for aftermarket performance heads like T/A and the rarity and questionable gains of going to the aluminum 300 heads without fully building a stroker. Appreciate any info you can share.

    I've never done (nor had done for me...) porting or valve work, so I'll have to see if there's someone in the area that's competent. Most mechanics around here are 'technicians' that replace parts, or... tractor mechanics. (Heh!) But there are some performance oriented shops a little farther afield that cater to the drag and dirt track guys. I'll start asking around when it comes time to go full into the project. Unless this is something that a guy can learn to do himself...
     
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  10. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 1,260

    Hollywood-East
    Member

    Had the exact same 63 cutlass, 215 buick, 4-v eon's ago, fast lil ripper for what it was, lo milage granny car..
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  11. You could put one of those cell phone endoscopes in the spark plug hole and check the pistons.
     
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  12. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Wait... Hollywood... this EXACT car?! I bought this car out of Rochester... right in your neighborhood. If you owned it, I'd love to know whatever history you have on it. And yeah, it is a fast little ripper!

    BTW... when do the brown trout start coming into Oak Orchard?
     
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  13. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Ya know... I was thinking exactly that! I think the difference between Buick pistons in the amount of dish... not sure if it would be apparent with the endoscope or not... But worth a look!
     
  14. wuga
    Joined: Sep 21, 2008
    Posts: 369

    wuga
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I have had a 62 Cutlass with a D&D built motor since 1987, motor built in 2000. It was a 4BBL car with a Roto (garbage). I immediately switched it over to a 4 speed and finally a 5 speed. You will never get torque from this engine, that is why the Roto has such a low first gear. I also have two 5L built with Rover 4.6 and Buick 300 heads. My advice to you is to save your money now until you are prepared to spend big and then do the Rover thing. The only way to go. Any other money you spend now is just a waste. If you are serious about just a little hop up, talk to Dan at D&D. It will be the best advice you can get. Know the casting numbers from your heads and block and go into this with your eyes wide open. There are a lot of opinions out there, but you need current knowledge and parts availability. Good luck. You will always be the only one at the cruise.
    Warren
     
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  15. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Hey, thanks Warren. I appreciate the feedback and will eventually build a motor and swap in a 4-speed. I’ve started the search for parts for the conversion to a stick already. But... this is a long-term plan. I’ll definitely be reaching out to D&D. I just happen to work during their shop hours...

    Maybe a little background on motivation is in order. My son Spencer is five, crazy for cars, and Autistic. He loves projects with daddy on my daily driver ‘78 Suburban, so I bought this Cutlass to drive and enjoy and wrench on with Spence. The big dollar build will happen eventually, but for now I’d like to just do some mild, period hop up work to the Buick mill to make the car a little more peppy and have a neat way to spend quality time with my son. So Phase I is warm this car up. Phase II... when Spencer is a bit older... is a built motor and a 4-speed swapped in.

    [​IMG]

    Fun, fun, fun!
     
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  16. gsjohnny
    Joined: Nov 27, 2007
    Posts: 113

    gsjohnny
    Member

    ryan,
    you can try http://forum.britishv8.org/
    these guys do the v6, the 215 and the rover. they are serious about these engines. esp intakes.
    also there are some 215 guys on the v8buick.com site in the small block section.
    d&d are the good guys for the 215. btw, 215 buick has 4 head bolts. olds turbo's have 5 head bolts.

    my 5 yr grandson is also austitic. verbage right now is 'cousin itt'. pretty funny listening to him on the phone. when we get together he stops but has a BIG smile for me. just waiting for him to really talk.

    john
     
  17. 5window
    Joined: Jan 29, 2005
    Posts: 7,745

    5window
    Member

    Hey, Ryan, cool car and good for you in starting a project with Spencer. If you want a small world, back in 1963 my dad, Spencer, bought a Olds Jetfire-turbocharged 215. When the turbo could be kept running, that thing could scoot and my dad drove it like the fighter pilot he used to be. I'd love to get a 215, someday. If you want an even smaller world, I live in Lewisburg. I'd love to see your project sometime when this virus thing is done. Best of luck.
     
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  18. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 1,260

    Hollywood-East
    Member

     
  19. lake_harley
    Joined: Jun 4, 2017
    Posts: 1,162

    lake_harley
    Member

    I have a 215 Olds in my T roadster which weighs about 1400# wet. The engine is a basically stock rebuild other than an Isky (if memory serves) cam. I can't recall cam specs for sure but I think it was the 2nd cam up from the mildest that Isky offered. 280 degree duration and probably .460" to .480" lift at the valve. With the cam it has a nice lopey idle but nothing crazy. I never dropped the money for a 2 X 2 or a 4 Barrel intake, but did make a adapter to mount a 350 CFM Holley 2 barrel on it. It's never been dyno'd, but I always expected that with the mild cam, lakes style headers and the slightly larger carb it might be good for 170-ish HP, but honestly I don't care what it produces. With the T as light as it is, it's a spirited little ride and love to have people guess what kind of engine it is. So far only one fellow actually knew what it was and most guys never even knew they existed.

    I've been intrigued by the tiny V8 ever since learning of them in a mid to late 60's Hot Rod magaizine article that covered a Corvair that had a 215 in it. I can't remember for sure if it was in the back or mid-engine though. The car's owner was holding a complete 215 in front of him in one of the photos. From then on I knew I wanted one some day!

    Best wishes with your Bolds!;)

    Lynn
     
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  20. ekimneirbo
    Joined: Apr 29, 2017
    Posts: 1,591

    ekimneirbo
    Member
    from Brooks Ky

    If you do decide to find a 4.2 or 4.6 Rover, you will get appx 256 or 280 cubes. You can put a 300 Buick crank in it to get about 300 cu in, but increases the problems multifold to do so. Probably better to settle for a 4.6 and then the heads you need are already there. The 300 requires finding some of the hard to find alum 300 heads, and a rear main seal adapter among other things. Be aware that these engines are often sold as having a blown head gasket but upon inspection the problem is a leak around a cylinder liner. That requires a liner replacement and possibly a little welding of the aluminum between cylinders. But, when its done and you add a few other modifications like a cam and some porting, its a nice engine. These are the "smallblock Chevy" over in Great Britain, so you might check this site out for some good info. http://www.britishv8.org/British-V8-Current-Issue.htm
     
  21. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Hey, John! These kids are just incredible, aren’t they? Spencer is high functioning... if they still used Aspergers that’s how he’s be ‘classified’. They have a way of seeing the world that’s just a bit different than ours. And they can find ways to communicate with out words. I’m sure your grandson’s smile tells ya all you need to know.

    I was considering joining the v8Buick forum but hadn’t thought about the British guys. Probably should take a closer look. Thanks for the reminder. If I can find time at work tomorrow, I’ll give D&D a call. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Hollywood -
    Aw, man! I was hoping this was the same such car you had! But geez! TWO ‘63 Cutlasses with Buick 215s in the Rochester area?? Nifty. :)
     
  22. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Thanks, Lynn. There’s some cool contemporary hot rod articles around if one digs far enough. I bet this mill would be a rip in something as light as a T... even stock! The weight probably does wonders for keeping that buggy nicely balanced between axels. Dyno numbers are just a number but they’re convenient in justifying the money and effort spent. Ha!

    Thanks, man. A full build is a few years away but I’ll keep all that in mind if I search out a Rover block. I don’t think I’d stroke a Rover... just be satisfied with the gains from the additional displacement. But... if I’d decide to build from an Olds or Buick block, I’d much, MUCH prefer to track down a vintage stroker crank (they DO exist!) rather than go the route of 300 crank and heads. How cool? :cool:
     
  23. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    How stinkin’ neat!! Two Spencers a couple generations apart but within 10 miles, each zipping around in a ‘63 F-85. I’d love to get together. I’m sorta flying blind with this step into traditional hot rodding. Shoot me a PM. You probably know where I live in Mifflinburg and I’m sure you’ve seen the ‘78 Suburban with Yellow smiley face KC Daylighters on the front bumper driving around. Hard to miss! We’ll definitely get together.
     
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  24. nrgwizard
    Joined: Aug 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,258

    nrgwizard
    Member
    from Minn. uSA

    Hey, Ryan;
    Iffen you don't mind finding another hood to cut a hole in it - you know, for "lightening" purposes (& "clearance", I suppose you could put a 4-71 w/a 2' belt on it, keep the boost down... ( good luck... :) , chuckle...). Years ago, there was a guy making blower manifolds out of 4bbl ones w/an adaptor, think his name was Gary Dyer, near Chicago(?). It's the idea that's important here. Performance at whatever level you want by swapping pulleys. 4-71 would look right, fit right, & could be swapped later onto the Hi-Buck-Super-215, if wanted. Stock mill should be good for ~6psi, maybe a bit more. Give a nice bump in hp, maybe ~50%, torque bumped at least that, = fun on the street, keeping the oem redline. I would opt for better valvesprings, but the rest of the mill can stay stock, which will work out well. I do think I'd try to find out what static compression is, what quench exists, & how much clearance for the piston->valves. Make sure the headgasket n cyls are in really good shape, but that's a given for a stocker, much less even slightly modified. But that's just me.
    Love those little Al mills.
    Marcus...
     
  25. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Ya know, there’s a lot to be said for letting well enough alone. GM certainly did do quite a bit of R&D, but one must consider their design criteria. The Ray Block / Vic Edelbrock HRM article I linked above was pretty revealing. They learned quickly that the stock Buick and Olds 215s were definitely detuned for better fuel efficiency, rather than outright performance. Still, I totally appreciate what you’re saying.

    I was totally surprised how good the Roto Hydramatic was on this car. I was absolutely prepared to walk away from these Y-body cars, but this particular car is set up really well. Nothing in how the RH5 operated gave me a reason to even raise an eyebrow.

    We’ll definitely do the regular dial-in stuff first. Timing, carb adjustment, etc. And yeah... suspension. I’m a huge believer in improving suspension. What good is HP and torque if ya can’t drive it? I’m looking into this and so far I’ve located a rear sway bar solution, HD springs, and I have an idea for improving the front sway bar. Add in a performance alignment and... zip! Brakes will get updated (manual, single cylinder master, four small drums on it...). Exhaust will take some figgerin’... not much room underneath. The stock single exhaust runs in the tunnel along side the driveshaft.

    Tell me more about the anchor pin adjustment...??

    Tri-power!!! Probably little gain over a 4v, but how stinkin’ neat! I wonder if there’s an adapter and room under the hood...

    Fun, fun, fun.
     
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  26. gsjohnny
    Joined: Nov 27, 2007
    Posts: 113

    gsjohnny
    Member

    and if you give up on the 215, i helped my buddy put a nailhead and 4 spd in one. real tight fit. but it was a 3 hand car to drive, 2 on the wheel and 1 on the shifter. lol

    my grandson comes running to sit on my lap when i start any equipment up. maybe there is hope we can train him to drive the dragster when he is older.
     
  27. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Oh man... Sheesh, Marcus! I don’t know if I’m ready for something like this... I’m gonna have to google 4-71!... But!... but... it is super interesting... Something like the later outside air setups on the Olds W- machines crossed my mind. Simple ductwork from below the bumper to a double snorkel air cleaner. But THIS!!??

    I think a few posts back I had dismissed any sort of forced induction. Apparently... possibly... I’m softening my position. I do think it’s beyond my skill set at the moment, but Mr. Marcus makes it sound achievable and the gains impressive.

    What would the drivability be like? Essentially a stocker when not under boost? Will the torque gains destroy the Roto? This car is gonna be essentially a daily driver.

    Actually... Mom had a supercharged 3.8 Riviera when I was in high school. That car was stupid fast. Hmmm...

    The hardest part may be finding another hood. It may require buying a parts car since there is zero sheet metal available for this car in the aftermarket.

    Fun, fun, fun. Now to find out just what a 4-71 is...
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
  28. RyanAK
    Joined: Sep 7, 2019
    Posts: 194

    RyanAK
    Member

    Wait... You put a nailhead in a GM Y-body?! What?! Which one? That’s seriously impressive. The 215 takes up most of the available room in this car. I know guys have gotten Buick 300s and later V6s in there... both with considerable effort. And there’s a younger guy on another board the “dropped in” some monster mill... AFTER he axled it and made it a gasser! I’d love to know how much surgery was needed to shoehorn that motor into one of these cars.

    Honestly, the 215 is intriguing to me. I like the looks of these cars, but it was really the motor that drew me in. This is pretty far from a bellybutton engine/car as ya can get in the traditional world. Rather than a bellybutton, this is more like a third nut! :rolleyes:

    Get your grandbaby in something with a motor and steering wheel. Anything he can drive. Even if it’s a PowerWheels. These kids focus and it’s our job to guide them. When Spencer was small, his deal was washing machines. To an obsessive level. Once he noticed daddy adjusting the timing on the Suburban, he was all in.
     
  29. gsjohnny
    Joined: Nov 27, 2007
    Posts: 113

    gsjohnny
    Member

    my buddy chopped the top, installed a narrowed 12 bolt in it and we replaced the seats with buckets and back seat from a 76 regal. perfect fit. the car and him reside in prescott az.
    did see a 215 intake on ebay and thought about buying and making a blower set up on it. but i don't have a 215, just v6's and 350's
     
  30. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,234

    Ebbsspeed
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    The Buick iteration of the 215 has 5 bolts around each cylinder, the Olds, both the turbo and normally aspirated versions, have 6. Look at the images of the two blocks below. The Buick is the same casting, but that bolt boss at the top of the each cylinder is not drilled and threaded. The reason it isn't used on the Buick is because the rocker shaft bosses on the heads are directly above where the bolt would go. Olds has a slightly different rocker shaft location which allows that 6th bolt to be used.

    Here's the Olds. See that bolt hole at the top of each cylinder?

    Olds 215.jpg

    The Buick below has the casting bump for the bolt, but it isn't used.
    Buick 215.jpg
     

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