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New Project: 54 Pontiac Chieftain, "Viola"

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Skankin' Rat Fink, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. Heads & such back on ... Let's paint!!






    Stock paint color for a stock engine. I want this motor swap to look more or less factory-done.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  2. Motor pull!!


    The front sheet metal comes off this car all together, after removing just a handful of bolts.







    I've never seen this car so naked.


    Old and new.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  3. I'll never have this kind of easy access again, so I decided to scrape and clean the frame & firewall for paint. I must have removed 5lbs of solid grease.



    I used Bill Hirsch engine enamel, because it has given me impressive adhesion on engines with no primer and imperfect cleaning.





    Waiting for the next step ...

    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
    Ron Funkhouser likes this.
  4. flypa38
    Joined: May 3, 2005
    Posts: 530


    Diggin' it!
    Is that a spin-on conversion on the new engine's oil filter? Looks different than mine right there.....
    Also on the engine paint, have you tried brushing it on, or spraying only? I was gonna get some of that paint and just paint what I could with a brush so I don't have to stop driving long enough to pull the engine!
    Keep up the good work!
  5. Thanks! I always spray my engine enamel, so I don't leave brush marks.

    The oil filter is a spin on conversion. It was a little pricey but it's very well made. I think you can also use the oil filter bracket off a later Pontiac V8. I didn't know this at the time.
  6. Let's make it happen ...




    New motor mount holes here, behind the factory straight-8 and straight-6 mount holes. For anyone watching at home ... if you're putting a Pontiac V8 with a "chin" motor mount into an earlier Pontiac, don't use the reproduction-style front motor mount! That's the one you see here, and it's no good in the earlier frame.


    The factory mount is shaped differently and fits the frame better.


    Rear engine crossmember comes forward from its stock location. New holes drilled in the frame rails here as well.


    And that's in!




    Steering clearance is excellent.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
  7. flypa38
    Joined: May 3, 2005
    Posts: 530


    Looks great! Any updates?
  8. Still working on details. Engine accessories, fuel and vacuum lines, etc. I redid my generator and reassembled it this weekend. I will share more photos soon.
  9. 62hotcat
    Joined: Jan 7, 2007
    Posts: 201


    54 pontiacs were designed for a V8. Whatever reason were not put into production. Looking good.
  10. I have heard that it was an order from GM, to protect the sales of the new Nailhead V8, by giving Buick a couple years' head start. I tend to believe it.
  11. 2015-11-15 16.38.34.jpg

    I expect to run a decent stereo in this car, so this is my solution for the charging system.
    - 1959 Oldsmobile 35-amp generator case, field coils and armature
    - 1955 Pontiac end plates, for proper installation on factory brackets
    - new brushes, new bearings, new paint
    - new 35-amp voltage regulator to match.

    I'll let you all know if 35 amps is enough. If not, I'll be on the hunt for a 50-amp Delco-Remy from a Lincoln or Cadillac.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
  12. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 7,837


    Years ago I had a 47 Pontiac and a wrecked 53 Olds and it looked like the Olds motor would have bolted in at the rear and drilled a couple holes up front. I wish I still had a old Pontiac.
  13. Throttle linkage was a challenge. I must have had a hundred people tell me to go to a cable throttle. They don't get it ...

    The gas pedal in this car pushes a rod straight down through the floor. The '54 straight 8 had a pivot on the side of the block. The '55 Pontiac had a firewall bellcrank, to push upward on the intake manifold bellcrank.

    I began by trying to set it up with the factory '55 piece. The arm of the bellcrank hits the back of the cylinder head before I can get to full throttle.

    IMG_20151017_182937 (1).jpg

    IMG_20151017_183147 (1).jpg

    The solution was a new fabricated firewall pivot, and a modification to the bellcrank.

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  14. Back out in the sun.



    Bam!! It's a car again.




    Motor looks good in there. Next up ... driveshaft and wiring.

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
    Ron Funkhouser likes this.
  15. Dropped the car off at the driveshaft shop yesterday.

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  16. The driveshaft guys did some nice work. The transmission is about 12" forward of its stock location, so they made a 2-piece shaft to pass through the X-frame, and to keep the length reasonable.


    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  17. Put a couple of odds and ends back on the engine, wire the ignition and starter, and the engine is running pretty nicely.


    Shift into drive .... the car doesn't move. Reverse .... nothing. All I've got is low gear. So naturally, I ran around the block in 2nd gear.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  18. The test drive was fun, but the lack of drive/reverse was worrying. I'm now feeling pretty stupid for not even dropping the pan before putting this transmission in the car. I consult the Hydramatic manual, seek some input from transmission folks, including here on the HAMB ... and what I come up with is a front band problem. Let's drop the pan ...


    Ffffff ....

    That front band is BUSTED. The friction material has broken free. It hurts more when I think this transmission was probably rebuilt, based on how clean it is.

    The transmission doesn't separate from the engine in the car because of the weird 2-piece bellhousing. At this point I'm faced with removing the engine and transmission no matter what. A transmission overhaul would be expensive, and I hate automatics, so I felt overhauling the Hydro wouldn't be worth it.

    The project has reached a turning point. I thought I was close, but I'm taking a little bit of a different direction. I'm changing to a manual transmission. Stay tuned ...
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
  19. sololobo
    Joined: Aug 23, 2006
    Posts: 8,165


    digging this Poncho bro, doin some good stuff. Please never remove any exterior stainless trim, that's what makes a Pontiac. Great work
    Skankin' Rat Fink likes this.
  20. Ever since I put this engine back together, valve adjustment seemed wrong. I didn't seem to have any adjustment between zero lash and the valve hanging open. While I started putting my feelers out for manual transmission parts, I thought I would try to get this adjustment straightened out.

    2016-03-20 11.49.36.jpg

    All my information, including sales material, shop manual, etc. shows hydraulic lifters in all Pontiac V8s. I thought I had collapsed most/all my lifters somehow by adjusting them wrong. So I pulled the intake and got in there ... it turns out that someone put solid lifters in this motor, somewhere along the way. I was dumbstruck, I had no idea such a thing existed. But inside this thing, there's no check valve, no spring. The pushrod seat sits against a hard shoulder. Where did these come from?? Were they an aftermarket part, or perhaps from a GMC 288 engine? The HAMB hasn't come up with the info for me yet. I made a thread about this issue ....

    2016-03-20 11.53.45.jpg

    Now, all my parts catalogs show a different part number for 1955 Pontiac valve lifters. They cost more and they are tough to come by. EGGE was out of stock. I spoke with a couple of old-Pontiac guys on the phone, and they had indicated that 1956-up lifters should work, possibly with custom length pushrods. Lifters for a 1956-up engine are easily available from major brands, and cheap. Same for the pushrods.

    2016-03-20 12.04.03 LABELED.jpg

    The lifters do look different, externally. The oil groove is a little different. The pushrod seat height is different. Oil groove height is appropriate--it lines up pretty well with the oiling hole in the engine.

    Catalogs indicate that 1955 pushrods are "supposed" to be the same length as 1956+. But when I compare the new pushrods to the ones that came out of the motor ... the ones in there were longer. The difference in pushrod length looks very similar to the difference in seat height.

    I put it all back together and ran it. The lifters seem to fit, work, and adjust perfectly. So in my non-expert opinion, this is a perfectly workable setup, with cheap and easily available parts:
    1955 adjustable rockers
    1956 lifters
    1956 pushrods
    Ron Funkhouser likes this.
  21. flypa38
    Joined: May 3, 2005
    Posts: 530


    Question on the generator.......any chance you have a part number for that case? I already have a longer 35 amp armature. With the longer case and armature, how did you get the generator to fit the stock bracket? (At least that's what I thought I read!)
  22. The long case is exactly one inch longer. All I had to do was make a one-inch spacer for the rear mounting bolt. I don't know a part number offhand, for a bare generator case. I do know where you can get a complete 1954 6V core generator, which has a long case, if you want to message me. Otherwise I would check the 1960 Master Parts Catalog.

    Here's where I put the spacer. The nice thing is, even if you have the big oil bath air cleaner, the edge of it is notched to clear a longer generator. The factory 55 generator for cars with A/C was longer, but it was built differently, with the brushes in the end plate.
    Ron Funkhouser likes this.
  23. Nose off. Engine and transmission out again. Separating the dual-range hydro from the engine is not easy, so this is how it has to be done.


    I've now got all the major parts together to change to a stick. All bought from various people, on and off the HAMB.
    1956 Pontiac 3spd, from Minnesota (Buick HD selector, "6-bolt")
    Editor's note, 2018: the transmission turned out to be a 1957. The major difference is gear ratios.
    1957 Pontiac flywheel, clutch, bellhousing; from Michigan
    NOS throwout bearing support, from North Carolina
    1951 Pontiac clutch pedal, from California
    Ansen Posi-Shift floor shifter, from Missouri

    The clutch shop will be going through the clutch for me this week. Resurface flywheel, rebuild pressure plate, set the pressure plate finger height just so, and supply me with throwout bearing & pilot bearing.

    20160506_201523.jpg 20160508_155519.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
  24. I've gone with a better clutch option, after some expert advice from my clutch shop. Falcon Clutch in Deer Park. I definitely recommend this shop to my LI HAMBers.

    Flywheel is fresh, disc is new. The pressure plate is a raised-diaphragm type, stock equipment on a 64-up Pontiac. Should give very nice smooth engagement with lighter pedal pressure, vs the original style pressure plate. The clutch fork I had is also not Pontiac -- must be Olds or Buick -- and wouldn't fit any throwout bearing I could get my hands on. I now have a GM short throwout bearing (original equipment 57 Pontiac), 1957 Pontiac clutch fork pivot, shortened 1/4", and tri-five Chevrolet clutch fork. The arm of the clutch fork sits very near the starter, but the clutch linkage will be pulling from the rear.







    Still have the 55 Hydramatic kicking around under the bench. It's for sale.
  25. I got this Ansen Posi-Shift floor shifter at a great price from a fellow HAMBer. It took some work to make it fit, but I'm very happy to be able to get my hands on one. The HAMB rocks.

    The bracket that it came with had been cut and welded, apparently in an effort to shorten it. It wouldn't fit on my transmission. I fabricated a new bracket to replace the old one. I measured from the front engine mount to the shifter handle to be sure the shifter comes up in front of the bench seat where I want it.



    All the linkages were missing. New linkages were made with heim joints so I'm not adding any unnecessary "slop" to the shifter motion. The Ansen shifter was supposed to come with a replacement shift arm that points straight up. Instead I turned the stock one around and used the factory rod attachment to rigidly attach a plate that puts the attachment right at the top. With the stock arm behind this, I still have the option to add a small overcenter spring toward the front.



    With all the linkages hooked up, this shifter works very nicely. I thought it had kind of a bad reputation for slow shifting, but it seems like the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts will be quick & sweet.




  26. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 7,837


    I cant wait to see it back in and driving.
    Skankin' Rat Fink likes this.
  27. Shucked it back in.

    2016-07-03 16.30.51.jpg

    I love having this much room at the rear. The view is nicer this time ... clutch linkage and shift linkages will be visible under the hood.

    2016-07-03 16.32.33.jpg
  28. dan c
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 2,192

    dan c

    looking good! everything always takes 3x as long to fix as you think it will, doesn't it? a high school buddy had a '55 and one of the first things he did to quiet the engine was adjust the solid lifters...
    Skankin' Rat Fink likes this.
  29. Put together the clutch linkage yesterday. The cross shaft sits to the rear, so there is a 1/2" push rod to the pedal, and a 3/8" pull rod to the clutch fork. Each rod has one end threaded left-handed for fine length adjustment.

    Left hand threads were cut on the old lathe in the basement.


    Clutch linkage complete! The cross shaft is made from an old bench mandrel, which has been sitting in the shop unused since my great-grandfather passed away.





    pontiac likes this.

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