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Technical Buying a seized-up engine Do's & Don'ts

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by WilliD, Oct 3, 2020.

  1. WilliD
    Joined: Oct 12, 2013
    Posts: 24

    from Illinois

    Finding a lot of early engines 1930s -1950's froze up & for sale ..any tips for a newbie to tell if motor is blown-up or just froze from sitting ? thinking of buying an Inspect camera to look down into cyls thru plug holes maybe..Thanks in advance Bill
    Deuces likes this.
  2. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 4,252


    Don’t pay more than scrap price. Well, if it has accessories on it you might need them pay a bit more.
    Deuces, 1934coupe, squirrel and 6 others like this.
  3. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,530



    That is the best answer you can get right there. They are worth scrap price or what good pieces you can remove from them are worth. Figure that 99.999 % of the time the seller doesn't have more than scrap price if that in them to begin with. I see it on FB marketplace and Craigslist here. Old rusty engines that have been sitting out in a field for the past 50 years are all the sudden "valuable antique engines" and the photos usually show them still sitting in the weeds where they were dumped years ago.
  4. 61 Sunliner
    Joined: Oct 24, 2012
    Posts: 48

    61 Sunliner

    Inspection camera won't do much good on a flathead. All you can see from the spark plug hole is the top of the valves and the top of the block.
    Deuces, WilliD and flatford39 like this.

  5. Los_Control
    Joined: Oct 7, 2016
    Posts: 709

    from TX

    I recently bought a frozen 1952 8BA, with 4 speed trans from a 1951 F1.He was asking $300 for it on Facebook market place ... been up for a few weeks with no interest. I offered $100 and he was happy to accept it and get it out of his way.

    The flatheads are prone for the block to crack, some cracks are ok, while other cracks will turn it into a boat anchor. Example is a crack from head bolt to water jacket you probably can ignore ... or a crack from a valve to a cylinder and is possible to repair, cost kinda suggest boat anchor.
    Roll the motor over and pull the pan, the pan rails are common to crack from freezing ... boat anchor again.

    You really need to disassemble the engine to see what you have. And then if it looks good, now you need to send to machine shop and have it hot tanked and magna fluxed before putting money into it.

    Rule of thumb, assume it is junk and scrap. It has a starter, maybe can sell for $50, A generator? A fuel pump stand & fuel pump A rebuild-able carburetor That is what the motor is worth.
    You may need to buy 2 or 3 complete engines to get enough parts to build 1.
    You wont get burned if you use that attitude.
    If the seller wants more, then they need to pull the heads, intake, oil pan and show it to you then ... if it looks good, now it is worth a few hundred dollars as a rebuild-able core.

    Just information I have learned because I recently bought my first flat head motor since high school (40 years ago) and had similar questions on what to look for.
    I have zero flat head running experience. Worth what you paid for it.

    They are not all bad, I think I may get lucky on my $100 engine.
    Low mile, original pistons zero cylinder wear, valves look perfect ... lifters are all stuck and think I can fix this.

    Do not be afraid of them, just do not pay much for them.
    Deuces and WilliD like this.
    Joined: Dec 14, 2009
    Posts: 2,676


    I’ve bought lots of “ junk” engines for scrap or core value.

    at one point I had about 10 235’s and 261’s kicking around and didn’t pay more then $300 for any of them , most where 100-150 bucks.

    Chevy and ford small blocks complete same thing under 500 bucks and with everything attached.
    If it’s just a long block and been sitting outside the price goes down dramatically.

    these old engines are very robust and forgiving, so if they are just stucks, some”love and persuasion “ usually get them going again.

    if they need any type of machine work and hard parts, cost of doing a rebuild can get out of hand in a hurry.
  7. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 4,252


    Yep. I
    Yep. I pulled apart a bare 24 stud 59 block that was stuck. Took two days to beat things apart. All said and done one hole was going to need a sleeve if wanting to just go 30 over on the others. Probably would have been ok to go with the big bore, anyways, as a stuck solid block, I couldn’t get better than a 50 dollar offer (no accessories, just long block)

    After it was apart, no visible cracks on the deck or pan rails and I sold the bare block with the main caps for 300 bucks. I probably worked for 3 bucks an hour tho to get it to that point;)
    Deuces and VANDENPLAS like this.
  8. railcarmover
    Joined: Apr 30, 2017
    Posts: 502


    'You pay your money,you take you chances'....I don't think twice about scrapping an'em cheap,dump 'em quick..
  9. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,368


    What the camera shows you in there may scare you off of a usable engine. go to coldwarmotors on youtube and look at the junk that he gets to run. Look at what he found inside the combustion chamber of the 51 sightseeing limousine.
  10. WilliD
    Joined: Oct 12, 2013
    Posts: 24

    from Illinois

    Great Advice..appreciated ..definitely pay & take chances to some degree..Pulling oil pan &heads will tell A lot.
    Deuces likes this.
  11. ekimneirbo
    Joined: Apr 29, 2017
    Posts: 1,454

    from Brooks Ky

    Actually if its froze up, that could be a bonus. Then you can expect to get many engines cheap enough that if some are completely non-repairable, its no big deal. Its going to vary some with the type of engine you are trying to buy. Get a large tub or big drum and buy some citric acid off Amazon. Lower the engine into the tub and let it soak a couple weeks before you try too hard to disassemble it. Better to buy one that you know may be bad than to buy one thats supposed to be good ...........but isn't.
    Truckdoctor Andy and WilliD like this.
  12. ekimneirbo is spot on. I assume an engine is needing to be rebuilt no matter what, and pay accordingly. Running, froze, or anything in between. At least if the seller is advertising it as froze, you know what you are getting and can get it for scrap price. I have seen plenty of "running" engines that were in worse shape internally than frozen ones.
  13. Fortunateson
    Joined: Apr 30, 2012
    Posts: 3,419


    X2 on Cold War Motors. Also check out Marts Garage on there, look for the Crusty Flathead sessions.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2020
    Blues4U likes this.
  14. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,263

    Atwater Mike

    My neighbor/friend was collecting and salvaging metal for a couple of years, cleaned out 'City Motors' in old used car lot that had a plethora of old engines removed from trade-ins...and a few 'good running engines' they never used.
    Mike showed up one evening with the big flatbed, engines piled 3 high...must have been 40+ on there.
    He said "I put the flathead V8s on the back, in case you wanted 'em..."
    My cherry picker recovered 3, one a 59A, one plain 59, and an ECM ('49-'53 Merc)
    The 59A was complete, as was the Merc...Merc had 2 cracks in cyl. walls, deep...but crank was Std./Std, (4")
    I salvaged all the innards, built a nice 59A to 5/16" X 1/4, (274 Cu. in.) and had some parts left over...
    (using a few pieces on my 'new' .040" over 59A) Seems like I'm using stuff I've had forever...Warm feeling. :cool:
  15. Unique Rustorations
    Joined: Nov 15, 2018
    Posts: 412

    Unique Rustorations

    Camera might be useful in some applications but I prefer to bring tools (to remove the heads) or cash to make the deal ($100-150 tops). If I’m buying something specific or higher dollar it’s coming apart or I’m walking away. And I agree with the “running engine” BS line. Imo they are always broke or completely worn out. The big talkers at swap meets and on CS are loading them back up at the end of the day. I always assume the worse when I’m buying them. Regards, Randy

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  16. I have been playing with cars for a long time and probably learned a lot about engines from salvaging bad ones. I actually have a crank and rods in a current engine from a Z-28 motor. It was not too old and cheap. All we saved was the crank and rods, and the crank needed to be turned.

    My best advice for a novice on a seized motor is to not get your hopes up or avoid them. if you looks at it like parts and it is better then that you will be pleasantly surprised and if it is parts only you were already expecting that.
  17. sunbeam
    Joined: Oct 22, 2010
    Posts: 4,974


    The ones to stay away from are the ones that turn part way.
  18. Unique Rustorations
    Joined: Nov 15, 2018
    Posts: 412

    Unique Rustorations


    How true! This one was bought from a fellow shop owner that “was a good running engine” when pulled. I called BS when it would turn only part way. He drove over to my shop cause he couldn’t believe what I was telling him. A blown head gasket (actually the coolant had failed and caused collateral damage to the head gasket and one of the core plugs (replaced with one of those rubber jobs). He gave me half of the $150 I paid for the 389 back. Regards, Randy

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.
  19. 57JoeFoMoPar
    Joined: Sep 14, 2004
    Posts: 4,671


    If you buy a stuck first gen Olds be prepared to remove the block from around the crank if the trans is still attached. It's a nightmare.
  20. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 7,132

    jimmy six

    Unless u have a way of loading them up, u might need to pay a scraper to pick it up. A yard near me pays $.05 a pound for cast iron engines.... u add it up.
    VANDENPLAS likes this.
  21. I picked up an early nailhead when I was in high school because it would turn part way, all I needed was a crank to replace a broken one in a friends motor (I think it was flawed from the factory). It actually would turn a long way back and forth.

    I got it home and pulled the heads and found a stuck valve. I have no explanation for the situation. The cylinders had zero ridge and the cross hatching was still visible in the bores. Instead of putting the crank in my buddies well worn nail we put his heads on the new to us short block and put him back on the road with a better mill than he had to start with.

    Sometimes you get lucky. :)
    VANDENPLAS likes this.
  22. sunbeam
    Joined: Oct 22, 2010
    Posts: 4,974


    My experence was usally a rod not hooked to the crank anymore.
    olscrounger likes this.
  23. oldsman41
    Joined: Jun 25, 2010
    Posts: 1,282


    Engines like that no more than scrap price

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