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Hot Rods School me on Buick Nailheads please.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by lothiandon1940, Oct 24, 2018.

  1. Yeah, I've lived a SBC sheltered life for the most part. Owned one Ford Flathead (my first car, '53 Mainline). Other than that, my other hot rods have been Chevy powered. I really want to expand my horizons and I think I want to experience a Buick Nailhead in something. My knowledge of them is non-existent other than I know there were various displacements over the years and apparently like many Olds and Pontiac engines, they were quite the torque producers. I like that thought in a light-weight hot-rod. Besides, they look pretty damn cool with their unique valve cover arrangement. What were the various displacements and is there any particular weaknesses to consider when examining a potential purchase? Thanks a bunch for any info/ opinions.....Don.
  2. chevy57dude
    Joined: Dec 10, 2007
    Posts: 4,633


    Just what are you cooking up?
    New project for Don, let's hear the rest of the plan!
    Fenders or no fenders?
  3. ................Ha,ha.........No where near that stage yet, Steve. Just know that I would like to have something Nailhead powered before I check out.:D
  4. hrm2k
    Joined: Oct 2, 2007
    Posts: 3,500


    Don, I still have a leftover 324 Olds engine ( fresh rebuild ) with 3 deuces ( from a different build that failed ) in case you change your mind :)
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  5. J. A. Miller
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 1,082

    J. A. Miller
    from Central NY

    One of the first engine swaps I was involved with (12 year old in charge of handing wrenches) was my older brother's best friend put a 322 in a 53 Ford. His rear tires didn't last long!
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  6. ............I'll keep that in mind, thanks.:)
    lothianwilly71 likes this.
  7. firstinsteele
    Joined: Jun 13, 2013
    Posts: 809


    264, 322, 364, 401, 425, . First one was the 322 in 1953. Last was a 425 in 1966.

    A friend has a 264 in a Ford PU, 1950 I think.

    lothiandon1940 and Hnstray like this.
  8. The first Nailhead in 1953 was 322.

    By the late fifties the had grown to 401. I have a book at home I can post more info when I get home.

    I know at some point they changed from internal to external balance crankshafts.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  9. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,078


    Don't use the first small 264's, from 322 and up are the good ones. Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 8.25.41 AM.png
  10. BuckeyeBuicks
    Joined: Jan 4, 2010
    Posts: 1,190

    from ohio

    Don't give up the nailhead plan. They have been the go to engines for hot rods ever since they came out in 53. I would recommend the 64-66 401 as they have the B-O-P trans pattern. That said you can get adaptors to use many different transmissions to any nailhead . Nothing looks cooler than a dressed up Buick nail with three deuces and chrome valve covers, plenty of power even in stock form for a light hot rod too. Go for it!!
  11. TagMan
    Joined: Dec 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,754


    Plus: Gobs of torque, cool looking, lots of dress up & speed equipment available.
    Minus: Lots more expensive to build than a SBC, and limited revs due to the tiny valves.

    Go with a 401 or 425.
    264 & 322 are too small and difficult to get aftermarket stuff for. 364 is kind of a "red headed step child".
    1oldtimer and lothiandon1940 like this.
  12. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 9,992

    from Quincy, IL

    While I generally agree with your comments, Buick nailheads never had the BOP pattern. That pattern was intro'd in 1964 models for the Buick 300 V8 and 225 V6. The 400, 430, 455 that followed, starting in '67 models, also got the BOP pattern.

    I think there is often some confusion because the early ST-400/TH400 was used with the 401/425 but that was a unique case design for the nailhead block pattern. That design was also sold to other manufacturers such AMC (Jeep), Jaguar and probably others.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
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  13. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 5,267


    To me nothing looks better then looking into an engine compartment and seeing a Buick Nailhead. I've had several over the years and they really turn out the torque. If I were to again consider using one I'd go with a late model with an open drive set up.

    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  14. Does 401/425 speed equipment and bellhousing patterns match the 364?
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  15. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 1,987

    Hamtown Al
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    There must be something in the water around MD and VA. I'm making a deal today to get both of these engines... and the Rivieras they are in!
    This is the 425 engine.
    This one seemed to run pretty well and we believed was a 425 as well but my inspector believes it to be a 401.
    I'll know more later today.
    I suspect either one will be an increase in HP from the current 50 HP.
    What do ya think?
    Anybody got any info on what bellhousing might hook to a 5 spd Ford trans that is in it now?
    Probably should just run the relatively rare Super Turbine 400... it seems I'm getting two.
    mkebaird, lewk, mgtstumpy and 7 others like this.
  16. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 1,987

    Hamtown Al
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

  17. ^^^^^^Sweet Cabriolet, Al....^^^^^:)
    lothianwilly71 and Hamtown Al like this.
  18. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 1,987

    Hamtown Al
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    Wait until it has a Buick... wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?
    Here's the one that was in my 32 3W gasser... it would fly!
    If it will fit in one 32, it should fit in another.
    BTW, the stock manifolds for 425 engines output a 2.25 inch tailpipe... vs the 2" pipes on all other engine stock cast headers.
  19. 302GMC
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 5,304

    from Idaho

    '53 - '56, and '57 - '66 on the bellhousing ….
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  20. scrap metal 48
    Joined: Sep 6, 2009
    Posts: 5,432

    scrap metal 48

    I guess you want to be like Tommy Ivo.. You're not going to run 4 of them , Are you???
    Hamtown Al and lothiandon1940 like this.
  21. .........Wouldn't that be cool! I'll be lucky to afford one!:D
  22. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 1,987

    Hamtown Al
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    Two would be the max for me but not sure can find a Corvair adapter for the second engine!:D:D
    I'm gonna start with one.;) Ideally the mystic 425 LX engine from the Riviera Gran Sport with the 2 4s and 2.25" exhaust pipes. It has the cast BUICK on valve covers for the folks that don't know what it is if it ain't a SBC!;):D:D360HP if you believe the spec sheets.
    Might take a bit of Mothers Mag and Alum polish but they'll be sweet.:)
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  23. ......................So, I'm assuming that stuff like starters and water pumps are easier to find for the 401 and 425 versus the 264 and 322?
    lothianwilly71 likes this.
  24. Don, if you are gonna mess with a nail head, don't mess with anything that isn't a 364, 401 or 425, and preferably a 401 or 425. You can still buy new water pumps and the parts selection for rebuilds is a little better. The ST-400 is a great trans to run behind one, if you can find a good buildable core. They have a really cool converter feature that varies the stall speed.

    If you get serious about wanting to build one or swap one into your 40 or 32 let me know, I usually have 2 or 3 401 or 425 motors in the shop and sometimes a few ST-400's. Right now I have a 425 for my 32 sedan project and a 401 to put in my 54 F100. both with ST-400's. nothing sounds like them! I'm wishing I had done one for my 39, but I'm pretty sure I would grenade the stock 3 speed in it pretty fast if I had!
  25. texasred
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 1,002

    from Houston

    Stay away from offy intakes for the 401-425, the only one they made worth a damn was for 6x2s.. google Centerville biuck parts he has everything to make a nailhead nail it..
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  26. bchctybob
    Joined: Sep 18, 2011
    Posts: 1,431


    You've gotten some good information here. I wouldn't mess with the 364, it's a one of a kind among Nailheads, early intake manifolds don't fit them and neither do the 401-425 intakes. '56 322s seem to be the best to start with among the early engines and they are mighty torquey like their bigger brothers. Of course there is no substitute for cubic inches so price being equal, the 401 and 425s would be the wise choice. Early engines had rear sump pans while most 401-425s I have seen have a center sump. I'm not sure but the pans may be interchangeable.
    Another good thing is they all share the same external dimensions for the most part - they are pretty compact for their cubic inches. I'm putting a 425 and a switch pitch 400 in my '33 pu and I have a '56 322 with a 3 spd/OD that will go into my VicChero ( '50 Shoebox pu) - if I ever get back to it.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  27. 1953 chevy
    Joined: Sep 30, 2011
    Posts: 42

    1953 chevy
    from tucson

    Don't have allot of rodder info on the naiheads but I can tell you about the durability of them I resurrected a 2 56 and 1 55 buick 322 nailhead cars all been setting for the last 40-50 years all 3 ran fine drive them to the car shows. All 3 had to have freeze plugs and water pumps and carb rebuilds. No lifter noise either go figure.

    Sent from my LG-K550 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  28. leon bee
    Joined: Mar 15, 2017
    Posts: 223

    leon bee
    from Arkansas!

    53, the first one, has some one year only parts.
    gggholson and lothiandon1940 like this.
  29. So it appears that a 1957 Buick would likely have been equipped with a 364ci engine?
    lothianwilly71 and gggholson like this.
  30. yes, 364's go from 57 to 61

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