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Early Pontiac 389 - I have questions

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by scootermcrad, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Okay... I've done a little bit of reading. I didn't want to be one of those guys that doesn't at least do a search of SOME kind on here before asking, but not sure I really saw all the answers. Some yes, some no. I'll ask again since it's been awhile since early 389's have even been talked about in-depth.

    So I've got this nice little 389 out of a 1960 Catalina, thanks to my little Sis'. It's complete with the exception of the carb. Even has the starter and transmission. I admittedly know absolutely NOTHING about these engines!!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    So I have lots of questions!

    The engine's nesting spot will be in our 1953 Pontiac. The car will simply be a cruiser, but have every intention of really putting some miles on this thing in the future. My wife will probably even drive it to work quite a bit so I'm looking to just make a nice get-up and go motor without a lot of crazy performance upgrades. Just a nice reliable motor that can get that '53 going down the road. I really want to make the motor look as if it would have been offered stock in 1953 as well, so paint colors, air cleaner, valve covers, those sort of things will be left alone or made to appear to belong.

    Transmission plans are to put a nice over-drive transmission behind it. Either a 700-R4 or a 200-4R. (Plenty of debate around here between those two) I know I'll need an adapter for that as well.

    What I know about the motor so far:

    Head numbers: 536109
    Exhaust: 532312
    Timing: 536192
    Block: ?? Can't find the number. Where is it?? Number back by the distributor reads E50 or E60 (hard to make out). Numbers on the front passenger side of the block read 7847 and a lightly stamped number above that reads 360C (I think).

    The questions:

    * Any suggested improvements to the engine beyond a basic rebuild that it would greatly benefit from? (ignition/dizzy, cam, oil pump, oil filter, exhaust, compression, etc.)
    * Anything to look for when disassembling the engine?
    * Should I consider switching from a 2 bbl to a 4 bbl or a Tri-power setup?
    * Should I consider a hidden PCV system or just leave it alone with the road draft tube?
    * When switching from the stock Hydramatic type transmission to a later GM over-drive transmission is there anything I should know besides the basic adaptation?
    * Worth switching to aftermarket exhaust headers?
    * Noticed there was a few websites listed here in older threads, but some of them aren't around anymore. Any books worthy of picking up to do the rebuild?

    Any other information worthy of noting would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
     
  2. 53chevy
    Joined: Mar 5, 2001
    Posts: 1,570

    53chevy
    Member

    The 389 in my '60 Pontiac has been strong for about 3 years now. Everything is stock, except for the Weiand intake and valve covers. The gen was rebuilt along with the P/S pump. Except for the radiator hoses and belts, all parts are NOS (i.e. reg, points, caps, rotor, switches, fuel/oil filter etc.). Hey Scooter, I need to have a part replaced for my trans, are you selling it? Thanks.


    Oh, the gen. mount looks different....

    Ken
     

    Attached Files:

  3. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Thanks Ken! And yes, the gen mount looks different. Is yours after-market??

    That's one thing I'm also considering. The car is going to be completely rewired (possibly as negative ground) and I may switch to one of those PowerGen units that look like a generator but is an alternator. Maybe I won't though.

    As of right now I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the Hydramatic. I may use it later for something, if not it may go back to my Sis'. No plans to sell it as of right now.

    Speaking of... I've not even seen the adapter for the O/D transmission. Would I retain the bell housing that's ahead of the aluminum portion? The portion that's painted the same as the block?
     
  4. Lost in the Fifties
    Joined: Feb 25, 2010
    Posts: 407

    Lost in the Fifties
    Member

    I really don't think that you want the fight you'll have if you try to put headers on in a car that didn't come with a V8. The way the bolts come in from the bottom are a b---h to get in and tightened, also. If you don't want an HEI to show, then you might want to put in a Pertronix kit in your dist. That engine has plenty of torque with a 2 bbl. and gets pretty decent mileage. I think it will perform better with a pcv system. There are several different stock filter mounts to make it easier to transplant your engine. Can't help you out on the transmission.
     
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  5. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Yeah, not too worried about the actual transplant of the motor into the car itself. It's getting quite a bit of frame work so I can use the side mounts on the engine. The car was a straight 8, so it's got quite a bit of room for headers if needed. But if the engine wouldn't really benefit from it then I'll restore the stock exhaust headers and run 'em.

    I've been thinking that a 2bbl would be plenty as well. I have no idea what came stock on the motor. Was it a Rochester? Or was it a Carter WCD or something?? I'll probably rebuild the Rochester I have laying around and run it. Not sure what the bolt pattern is, though.

    I definitely don't want an HEI style distributor. I DO however like the Podtronics idea. What actual distributors were interchangable?? 1955-1960?? 1955-1964?? Something else??

    Anyone converted one of these earlier motors to PCV?? Is it worth the trouble??

    Are the water pumps easy to rebuild or will I have to pony up and send it to someone like CPR or Kanter?? What else will interchange?
     
  6. I drove a Catalina with the 2bbl 389 for a long time and it had gobs of get up and go completely stock with the 2bbl and a single exhaust. But part of that was the trans - that's a 4-speed Hydro and they are a great trans if it's working. I'd run it if it looks good.

    If you do remove it, the iron bell adapter goes with it. If it's set up, get it turning before trying to take the trans off, the last one I did set up I had to rip the bottom end apart and take the crank out on the trans to get it apart.


    Engine number and code is stamped on the right front below the head, should have a number that would have matched or been close to the car's serial number and then a two-digit code that will tell you if it's the regular 10:1 motor with the Hydramatic, or the lower compression (8.6) economy motor. (IIRC, A1 is the Hydro, E1 is the economy).

    Those D-port heads will take any D-port Pontiac manifold or header. In a '53 steering clearance will be the issue, unless you change the car to a 605 steering box (which should be doable, it's been done on 55-57s and the frame design is the same). But who knows, a header for something with a tight engine compartment (Trans Am?) may work.

    If you don't want to run the stock type vertical bolt motor mounts, the block will take the later type as well. (1959-60 and 1969 Gran Prix only used that type of mount).

    The 59-60 motors are tough, they have some unique valve train geometry and if you change the cam you can putz that up. They run so strong out of the box, I don't think they need it. You can put an HEI in - it's a drop in conversion. I think with the 389 you can even change the front timing cover to a later one which will let you use later brackets for an alternator, and the water pump is easier to find. They bolt right up, the only hard part may be the seal around the crank snout.

    If you feel like you want to go 4bbl, the intake is about $100 used and originally had an AFB on it, so you could put the Edelbrock repro on there (they repro a Chevy version so it's not quite the same). The tri-power isn't as pricey as the later one because intakes are 59-60 only (aluminum intakes generally were designed to work 55-60), but still isn't cheap to get one with all the right stuff on it.
     
  7. 4-bolt water pump; Kanter was selling you a rebuilt for $125 plus a $25 core. 1959 was reverse cooled, so I'm not 100% if they will swap, but they ran the 4-bolt through '64 or so.

    Stock 2bbl carb was a Rochester 2GC, they're fairly common.

    Any later distributor is going to be a drop in install, my '59 motor I had an HEI from a 301 on before I sold it.


    As for the PCV, you don't really need it, when they get worn or cracked rings they'll smoke out the tube, but something that's freshened up and maintained won't get that way.

    If you have the block checked to make sure it can go that far okay, a .055 bore will take it to the same size as a stock bore 400, which makes most of the rebuild kit pretty cheap, just make sure the pistons have reliefs for both versions of the heads (+.030 389 pistons will).
     
  8. 53chevy
    Joined: Mar 5, 2001
    Posts: 1,570

    53chevy
    Member

    Cool. It's original, plus it's the same in the manual too. Keeping it stock should give you plenty of power. The after market water pumps seem to not perform well either. I bought a couple of, you guessed it, NOS. The propeller design vary too, not sure if it matters, just FYI. Also, BOP has a nice one piece oil pan gasket and rear main seal too. They also have an aluminum valley pan. I'm sure there are more knowledgeable people than me who can provide more info. Good Luck.

    Ken
     
  9. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    WOW! That's a great response! Thank you!

    The HEI mentioned... Is that similar to the HEI you would drop in a SBC with the monsterous cap and coil built in? Or is this the unit that has the controller remotely mounted, similar to the Mopar LA units? Is this conversion available from places like CPR and Kanter or is it simply a NAPA run with the correct part numbers?

    I don't think I would want to change the cam unless I'm going to switch intakes. I would think if it's a good runner in it's stock form I would like to leave it stock and keep the same cam profile, unless it's worth switching to work better with a O/D trans.

    As for the transmission, it really should be gone through. Everyone I've talked to about this transmission says that they're HUGE money to have done and if anything happens on the road they're pretty hard to get parts for. Being that it's going to be our "family roadtrip car" I like the idea of having something with a drive tranny I know I can work on or get parts for if anything happens. Quotes are anywhere from $1500 to $2000+ to have it gone through. Much less for a later over-drive and I'll have the O/D gears to-boot.

    Interesting point about the steering box. I've been thinking about it off and on. The stock steering turns sooooo nice, but I'm sure that box will need to be rebuilt. Has quite a bit of play. No idea how close it will sit to the engine.

    Here's where it's going... :D (yes, I have a long road in front of me! HAHA!)

    [​IMG]
     
  10. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Now I just need to see if I can find those numbers on the block...

    EDIT: FOUND 'EM! Just didn't look close enough up by the valley cover. :rolleyes: They were hiding behind the gen bracket.

    298894 and an S1 type engine. What is the S1 mean?
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
  11. buds56
    Joined: Dec 9, 2004
    Posts: 176

    buds56
    Member

    I think a stock rebuild will make you pretty happy, lots of torque, smooth idle, decent mpg.

    A 57 or 58 left exhaust manifold will drop the exhaust down in front of the steering box.

    On my 57 347 engine I put a later model pvc grommet right in the hole in the valley pan and run a pvc valve.

    Its hard to beat a good AFB for reliability, and I like points.

    Here's a link to a trans adapter, http://www.wilcap.com/pontiac.html#287350
    I have no experience with them.

    link to engine id http://www.wallaceracing.com/cgi-bin/engine3.cgi
    Gen bracket looks like from an AC car
    Good Luck
     
  12. S might mean it was intended to be a manual trans (Synchromesh) motor. That would be the lower compression engine. Which is okay, it will run well on 87 octane gas.


    Just a standard HEI distributor from a '75-'81 motor, so yes the one with the coil in it, big and ugly. No need for a kit - bolts directly in place and wire it accordingly. Pontiac motors use the same basic block design with various upgrades and changes right to the end in 1981, so there is a lot of interchangabilty. Paint Darth Vader's eyes on the side of it and go -

    I put 30,000 miles of daily driving on a Hydro with no problems, except for a spring in the internal part of the shifter broke once and had to be replaced. It was nice to be doing 65 at the top of a highway onramp and blend in with traffic. But yes, it's not so much parts as finding a guy who knows what he's doing to repair one of these for anything internal.

    The later BOP pattern just about bolts up, but as you may have noticed the starter bolts to that iron bellhousing adapter and not the block, pretty much that's the reason to use an adapter between the two. Given the torque of one of these I'd have the trans built tough specially for the car, though.
     
  13. 55chieftain
    Joined: May 29, 2007
    Posts: 2,180

    55chieftain
    Member

    If your basic rebuild will include an overbore, than I wouldn't even think of reusing the rods. You can get new forged rods w/arp bolts for $239 from the Pontiac vendors like Butler performance.

    Keep the 389 pistons instead of the 400 pistons if your reusing the 389 heads because of the valve angle differance. I just got a rebuilt 4 bolt pump at autozone for about $50 for mine. The factory adapter between the engine and trans won't be reused with the wilcap or bentsens adapter.
    I have 3 tube headers on mine , there about the best for tight clearances, I moved my engine up higher and to the right to clear the steering box. But for a stock type build , probably not worth the hassle.

    I don't have this book yet but it's supposed to be pretty good. I do have Jim Hands"max Performance Pontiac v-8's. It's really good and goes over alot of basics.

    http://www.amazon.com/How-Rebuild-Pontiac-V-8s-Design-Workbench/dp/1934709417

    And if going for a factory look than get the 40-57 blue green engine paint from Bill Hirsch.
     
  14. HEATHEN
    Joined: Nov 22, 2005
    Posts: 7,592

    HEATHEN
    Member
    from SIDNEY, NY

    A fact not everyone knows is that it was the original intention of both Chevrolet and Pontiac to debut their new OHV V8s in the '53 models, bot that mess in Korea forced them to rearrage the schedule, so dropping a first generation Pontiac V8 in your '53 chassis isn't as tough as it might have been. The driver side exhaust is somewhat of a problem; the '55-'56 LH manifold exits toward the front to get away from the steering gear, but the ports are so small on it that it won't work on '60 cylinder heads. In fact, the '56-'58 dual exhaust cars had a funky looking cast iron elbow for the driver side that headed the flow rearward that looked like a piece of elbow macaroni. You could always be ubermanly and run fenderwell headers........

    It's true that the hydramatic could cost you a bundle if it needed to be completely rebuilt but, if it doesn't, you really wouldn't need an overdrive. The low first gear ratio allowed Pontiac and Oldsmobile to be some of the first cars to run rear gear ratios on the order of 2.69:1 and get away with it. You still had enough overall gear reduction to get under motion, and once in high gear, the fuel mileage was above average (for the times) with the high rear cogs. If you happen upon an Edelbrock intake with EP4B cast on it, grab it---it fits '55-'64 heads by having two water ports near the front of the gasket surface. You simply pound a soft plug in the hole that doesn't apply to your vintage engine. '60 engines take the same style camshafts and lifters as the later 400-428-455 engines, so there are plenty of grinds to choose from. For the street, you can do worse than one of the factory performance profiles. Beware of cam companies that grind the same specs from their small block Chevy cams onto a Pontiac shaft; Mac McKellar found out that Ponchos like more lift and duration on the exhaust side, and the Chevy specs are almost always the same for int/ex. In an era when a lot of the Detroit carmakers were tossing bogus horsepower ratings around in an attempt to attract young buyers, Pontiac engines usually put out pretty close to the factory rating, which did them good in stock drag racing classes. Nothing like running a 300 hp Pontiac against another make that's rated at 300 hp, but in reality puts out 240 hp!
     
  15. Seems like the early rods are forged, or otherwise somewhat desirable.
     
  16. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    WOW! Even MORE great stuff! Thanks!

    Is there anything standard that's NON-HEI? I don't mind a standard points type ignition. I hate to be too picky, but if I can get around using one of those behemoths I would like to avoid it. The vision I have for the engine compartment in that car would be murdered by that... but if it's the best option I will do it.

    Think I'm going to steer clear of the PCV stuff. Going to keep the road draft as stock.
     
  17. Any of the electronic kits for a stock type distributor aught to work if that's what you prefer.

    Come to think of it, Pontiac themselves put a plug in the draft tube hole and either the PCV went in it, or a tube went from it to a PCV valve... not a big deal to adapt one.
     
  18. 55chieftain
    Joined: May 29, 2007
    Posts: 2,180

    55chieftain
    Member

    I personally wouldn't use the factory forged early "rubber rods" only the sd forged rods are really worth anything. For that price it's not worth the risk IMO.
     
  19. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I just may have to take a closer look at that transmission. I plan on going through everything. How easy is it to do an inspection to see if it needs anything beyond a re-gasket or minor refresh (whatever that may involve)?

    WOW! Killer! Thanks for the input! I appreciate it!!

    Wow!! Keeps getting better and better! Very cool! I would love to make it appear under the hood as if it were the ACTUAL V8 prototype car. May have to do a search for that. The idea of at least making it appear like it could have been offered that way is very appealing. What carb would they have used on the V8 in '53? Was the standard Rochester available yet? I believe the stock I-8 was using a Carter WCD, but I'm not positive on that.
     
  20. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
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    Great! Thanks!
     
  21. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I definitely don't like to skimp on rebuilds. If replacing the rods is a smart thing to do for a couple hundred more, I will do it. Planning on new slugs as well, so why not. I only want to be in that bottom end once and I definitely prefer to do it right the first time.
     
  22. 55chieftain
    Joined: May 29, 2007
    Posts: 2,180

    55chieftain
    Member

    Heck for $300 more you could replace the stock 3.75" crank for a 4.25" stroker and go to a 453 on a 4.120 bore. Never ends does it?
     
  23. GassersGarage
    Joined: Jul 1, 2007
    Posts: 4,729

    GassersGarage
    Member

    Trans adapters are made by Bendsten's Transmissions and Wilcap Adapters. Wilcap makes them to order, but Bendsten has them in stock. I got the Wilcap for my Grand Prix but it needed modifications to work. Your trans, if toast, costs about $2K to rebuild. My trans had 3K miles on it when it went, so I switched to a 350th. The Grand Prix had freeway gears anyway and I wanted to keep the stock shifter.

    As for the motor, I would check with Groucho, he's had a lot of Pontiacs. His current ride is a '60 Pontiac Catalina.
     
  24. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Thanks Rick! I appreciate that!

    Yeah, I really think I will leave this engine pretty mild. I've never done a rebuild and left it mostly stock, but in this case, I'm looking for something that's going to move this big tin Indian, yet be decent on gas, and reliability is really important. So simple is going to be the key, I think. Seems running a Rochester 2bbl on the stock manifold has to be about as simple as can be. I think I have the air cleaner from the I-8 laying around as well. Would sure look "factory" that way.

    Anyone have some good info on these Hydramatics? I wouldn't even know where to begin with that thing.
     
  25. When I was in the Army in the mid to late 60's I had three different 59-60 Pontiac's with the 398 engines. My buddy's and I drove the hell out of them. We once left Alabama and drove for 19 hours up to New Hampshire at 90 MPH almost all the way, Remember this was the 1960's and there was about 1/10th the traffic of today. Those engines would run all day long.
    OK, the timing chain is the week link in the engine, so if your going to run it hard I would consider seeing if there is an aftermarket timing chain available. Not that the chain would brake, but that it would jump a link and the engine would race up, but once you shut it down there was no getting it running again.
    The stock left side rubber engine mount will and did brake. When they where broken and you pushed the pedal down the engine would jump up and the pedal would got to the floor. The only way to stop it was to turn the key off. Otherwise you where headed for one wild ride.
    I had one engine with the try power, and I ran a wire to the two outer carbs. The wire was routed into the glove box and any time I wanted to run all three carbs I just opened the glove box and pulled the cable. The cable was made from a piece of safety wire off a helicopter.
    We where a bunch of wild bastards and ran the hell out of them. How I got the try power was off one of my buddy's cars. He purchased a 60 4 door post car and it had the try power. We exchanged the intake manifolds and carbs.
    One other thing. Back in 1966 a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville 4 door hard top two tone brown car with 30,000 miles sold for $300. That would be around $3,500 in today's money. Back then people got a new car every three years. No one wanted a car six or seven years old.
    We had a buddy that was in charge of the POL depot. Petroleum, Oil's and lubricants. We ran Av Gas 115/145 in the cars. That was the purple colors fuel. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't run AV Gas.
    Well good luck with your project and have fun.
    Johnny Sweet
     
  26. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,305

    scootermcrad
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Awesome story!! Thanks for your input!
     
  27. 73RR
    Joined: Jan 29, 2007
    Posts: 6,300

    73RR
    Member

    Hey Scott, good to see that you have something lined up so you're not without a project...:p

    One of my very favorite rides was a '61 Catalina 2-dr post. Bone stock that car had plenty of grunt and it was not a light weight. You should have no issues pushing that '53 around with a fresh build.
    When you get to the cam, consider one of the 'RV' type profiles from the early 70's. They were used in some of the big cars/trucks trying to save some fuel. Very mild mannered and lots-o-torque.

    If you want to talk about the trans rebuild before you decide, call Gene at
    http://www.restorationhydramatics.com/
    good guy, full of info.

    If you go to a 4-bbl you should be OK with a WCFB. Period correct and adequate for a 389.

    .
     
  28. Scarebird
    Joined: Sep 26, 2006
    Posts: 858

    Scarebird
    Alliance Vendor
    from ABQ, USA

    Another option here for the dizzy is to have David Ray redo it for HEI; he machines it to take the small cap HEI componentry. I have one on my 71 Lemans with 428 and love it.

    These trans adapters, do they also take care of the trans mounted starter too?
     
  29. 55chieftain
    Joined: May 29, 2007
    Posts: 2,180

    55chieftain
    Member

    Yes, I believe they use the mopar starter.
     
  30. poncho55
    Joined: Oct 12, 2011
    Posts: 29

    poncho55
    Member

    Yes, both Bendsten and Wilcap have addapters that use a Mopar 2 bolt starter. I just received my Wilcap adapter for my 287 Pontiac motor (using the 200 4R) and have most components gathered together. I just got back my Carter 4 BBL WCFB? back from the rebuilder. He added an adapter to accomodate the throttle linkage as well as the tv cable from the 2004R. My Hydramatic does not run really well, so opted for the conversion tranny route. Think it will be great when it is installed.
     

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