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Hot Rods Spending the money building vintage engines

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Roothawg, Jun 18, 2020.

  1. My engine builder is wrapping up my 324 Oldsmobile. While it's more or less a stock build, it's also about as fresh from the factory as can be with everything either new or rebuild. I'm about double what my buddy has into his recent Chevy 283 build, but I stopped tracking dollars and cents when I started rebuilding my 69 Pontiac Firebird at 16.
    In my opinion, there's a value factor in opening the hood and having a unique motor. And I'm not talking about third party appreciation at a car show, but my own appreciation.
    It's the same reason why I stop to look longer at a car with a straight six, or a Nailhead or a built Y-Block than I usually do when the there's the standard 350 Chevy with 3x2s and Edelbrock valve covers.
  2. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 7,111

    jimmy six

    Where are the these cheap SBC’s from and what’s inside? Questions a concerned buyer should ask.

    I shudder each time I hear “it’s a crate engine”. 99% over the time the owner has no idea from where or says it because the previous owner said told them.
  3. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,172


    I used to buy junkyard 283's and now as I get older, mission creep sets in and everything gets new parts, because it "might" leave me stranded.

    With the Caddy, I end up looking for custom made forged internals, because no one builds speed parts anymore for these beasts.

    So, you want a set of custom forged pistons? That'll be $1,000 please. Oh, rods to go with those? We don't sell any exact fit, we could get you a set of BBC or Olds rods, but they will have to be narrowed, since you had a larger cam built, the non-adjustable rockers won't work but we can tool up and make you a set of adjustables, of course that will require custom push rods....... and down the slippery slope we go.
  4. I learned many years ago that there will always be someone with a faster car, so I decided to build whatever I like, rather than the fastest car. Horsepower is no more than a credit card away........I am fortunate that I have the means to buy anything I want......but a DEMON engine in my '32 roadster would be blasphemy in my eyes.......the 286 flathead suits me just fine. Ditto for the 327/375 HP Rochester injected engine in my '40 coupe.......I will simply rebuild it when needed. Also ditto for the Nailhead in my '35 pick up. An SBC or SBF crate engine would be much less cost and more power, but would have a lot less character.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,059


    We always had a Cad powered truck when I was coming up. I think we only ever had to replace 1 from wear, she used a lotta oil. Early 390s, the lone late 390, a couple 429s, the 65-6 variant. We'd get a whole car, make it run and drive around the block then a mile away to the quarter car wash, when it was only a quarter (!) for an initial clean up. Pull it, gaskets as needed, cool color, run the livin shit out of em. Now I'm not talkin an early Ford, the oldest Ford was a 62 with 63 Cad 390, and I whipped the HS kid's 350 4spd Camaro in near embarrassing fashion. We did drop 1 in a 38 Dodge PU, a 66 429, but we also ran the rear axle from that Cadillac. That truck had long legs. I guess when you take 1000lbs or more off of a Cadillac you're gonna go fast, period. The last one was a 7(cough-cough)ty 5 500 in an F-150. I could whip the shit outta 5.0 Mustangs for about 600'. You wanna see a car guy pout, whip his ass a little in a stock quiet truck. I guess the point is if it's a runner in good stead give her some eye candy and go play. Funny thing, buying the whole car was often way cheaper than just the engine. Worked for me;)
  6. louisb
    Joined: Oct 13, 2008
    Posts: 996


    To me it is about v
    (Warning: Non-HAMB friendly post ahead!)
    Had a friend with a stock 500 caddy in an early Nova we would run at the local street drags. (At Coon Bottom no less. This is rural N. FL after all) The car looked like complete shit but cleaned up on a regular basis. All the locals knew not to line up with him for money. :D

  7. 0NE BAD 51 MERC
    Joined: Nov 12, 2010
    Posts: 1,366

    0NE BAD 51 MERC

    That motor is so pretty it even makes you look good James.;);) lol Larry
  8. 0NE BAD 51 MERC
    Joined: Nov 12, 2010
    Posts: 1,366

    0NE BAD 51 MERC

    I like Ford's with big Ford motors . And just saying 428 or 429 brings visions of things like SOHC, Cobra and super cobra jet and BOSS. And I like the sound 351 Cleveland better than 351 Windsor and 460 sounds like TRUCK ENGINE! lol It cost me at least double to build a similar performance street Ford engine over a Chevy but I just like having vintage Fords in my vintage Fords. And besides Crate Motor sounds a lot like Kit Car!! lol Larry
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
    waxhead, williebill, Roothawg and 2 others like this.
  9. saltflats
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 10,312

    from Missouri

    We have a boss in the mix also, guess we never got the memo on the crate thing. ;)
    0NE BAD 51 MERC and Roothawg like this.
  10. Since we are talking vintage engines, is an FE Ford (390) considered vintage or hard to get parts for? It probably sounds like a foolish question, but, (ducking before the stones fly!), I’m a Small Block Chevrolet guy. My nephew is looking at a 1955 Customline two door sedan with a 223. I suggested 302, he counters with 390. I love his idea, but don’t know the availability of engines or parts. A stock 390 with a small cam and a four barrel would be all he needs.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  11. dan griffin
    Joined: Dec 25, 2009
    Posts: 473

    dan griffin

    When I built my 50 Olds 98 about 17-18 years ago you could buy a complete rebuild kit for a SBC from a 1-800 outfit for less money then a gasket set for a Olds. I had a sign in the window that said (caution this vehicle contains no easy to obtain 1-800 parts.) Rocket 88 (1).JPG Image.jpg The car was my daily driver and it was not uncommon to come out of the store and find some old guy standing off to the side waiting for me to start the motor to see if the car still had a Olds motor. When people would ask if it still had a Olds motor I would tell them that if I had to run a Chevrolet I would be home setting on the couch watching TV


    scott27, triumph 1, 40FORDPU and 5 others like this.
  12. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,172


    A 390 is basically a drop in for the mid fifties Fords. They are expensive to build. Talk to Royboy about that. He just built one in the last couple of years. He can give you the lowdown on it.

    I am building a 302 for mine. It’s out of a 2000 Explorer. It has the roller cam etc in it. Not period correct, but the hood stays down on a custom anyway.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,059


    I hope I didn't give the wrong message, old hopped up engines are like Playmate of the Year. Dear ol Dad didn't have the jack to built additional HP even in the lowly regular choices. He raised 5 kids and we never went hungry. He just fell back on the old strategy that worked in his formative years before family. Buy the biggest engines from the biggest cars and put em in the lightest ones. A long time ago, I think I was 6, he stuffed a dual quad Eldorado engine in a 36 Dodge pickup and kept the hydramatic attached. He had to change the gear and run the biggest mud n snows he could get for traction. By his and his pal's accounts from back then he seldom to never got beat. Again, a whole car and all the stuff from it he could use for the installation.

    I posted these 2 pics a couple times before. In my heart of hearts I really dig a big bad Cadillac for hot rod power. Were I to go after the $$$$$$ eating holy grail my platform would be a 9 main Packard straight 8. The choices go all the way to 1954 and some of those already had 4bbl carbs, but I'd have to have all the Edmunds eye candy and spend untold hours port matching and unshrouding, cam studies for ultimate power, lightening the rotating assembly and more. What would I get out of it? If it got anywhere near 250HP I'd probably pitch a tent in my pants:eek: But if it was in a 2000lb (or lighter) open wheeled roadster and geared to use the power as delivered I imagine a formidable low RPM beast of a hot rod. That ALWAYS makes sense, right?
    scott27, 97, Dangerousdan and 10 others like this.
  14. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,136


    Spend the money on the Caddy. It'll be cooler than a salmon's ass in Hudson Bay.
  15. fegsta
    Joined: May 17, 2020
    Posts: 177


    No I do that to 322 and a 401

    Sent from my KOB-L09 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Roothawg likes this.
  16. fegsta
    Joined: May 17, 2020
    Posts: 177


    Stick with it mate, my jobs not safe at all but, at my age, and this virus taking best part of this year away you have to keep the dream alive, I'm on the verge of going for another project, just trying to work out the end price.

    Sent from my KOB-L09 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Roothawg likes this.
  17. A Boner
    Joined: Dec 25, 2004
    Posts: 5,722

    A Boner

    There are a ridiculous number of SBC’s out there, including mine. Sure glad there are some “engine junkies“ out there that aren’t afraid of spending tons of money to avoid having a bellybutton engine. If they didn’t, there would REALLY be a shit ton of SBC’s out there! So, thanks guys.
  18. -Brent-
    Joined: Nov 20, 2006
    Posts: 5,655


    I loved a well-dressed, hopped-up vintage engine and I have a lot of respect for the time and money it takes to find and afford the parts.
  19. dana barlow
    Joined: May 30, 2006
    Posts: 4,038

    dana barlow
    from Miami Fla.
    1. Y-blocks

    I posted earlyer #31,but I didn't add;;
    Over the years,an I been seeing it from the late 1950s more then a few times..
    I've seen to many hot rod builds get lost in "Big HP Hunt",as they put a lot of $$$$$ in to speed parts for what was a running engine anyway !!..
    If they had just put the running engine in the way it was*,got hot rod running n driving; ;;They would of been very impressed with how fast it was{ plus had a running car}. But have seen too many never finished,as the engine never got completed. It all got sold off at a loss. The early OHV V8s in a lightweight car,even near stock form,will kickass even today. With out super $$$$$ of speed parts. Cam kit an carbs can be added later. A factory 4bbl an good EX can amaze you !!!
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  20. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,614

    from Michigan

    Had a thought.
    Where'd it go?
    There it is.

    I must say, that on the other hand, a big old overhead valve V-8 engine that's been reworked to the nth degree... bored, stroked, all the head work, everything that can possibly be done... maybe supercharged... and does make gobs of power and sounds like it... is an amazing thing.

    One more thought...
    Ummmmm... oh yeah...

    It's a pleasure to the ears when an engine is TUNED WELL and has nice crisp throttle response... no matter what it is.
    scott27, yard man, LAROKE and 3 others like this.
  21. Yeah you’re right ,

    But Dana is saying that too many get sidetracked by the big numbers,,,,,and the big money outlay that is required to achieve those numbers .
    And after funneling several thousand dollars into a basic engine,,,,,,then still needing the money to do the car,,,,,,they rethink the whole project ,,,,and just drop the whole build altogether .

    Also,,,,,you are right,,,,there is nothing like the sound of a finely tuned and running engine,,,,especially when it is built right and the valves and rings are sealing correctly.
    An engine at high rpm will just sound better if the heads and valves are right .

    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
  22. And like Highlander was saying about his dad using the Cadillac mill and tranny .
    A good mechanically sound engine will really haul in stock form,,,,,when it is removed from a 5000 pound car and placed in a light hot rod car or truck .

    And like LouisB said about the 500 Caddy mill,,,,they make excellent running engines,,,,,,,a few things can be modified and upgraded,,,,and they are hard to beat .

    31hotrodguy and dana barlow like this.
  23. Use the Caddy! That is what you really want. That is what this is all about. Make it yours.

    Sent from my iPad using H.A.M.B.
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  24. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,614

    from Michigan

    Hi Tommy. I wasn't responding to Dana or anybody with my idea of a screaming high compression early V8. Just stray thoughts LOL. I'm all for whatever a guy can do.

    Much respect for Roothawg being willing and able to invest heavily to do a classic engine justice.

    Totally with theHIGHLANDER making some modest modifications to the biggest V8 ever to get lots of grunt.

    Or the rare 800+ horsepower dragster engine that originally powered a 50s station wagon.

    I'm a little like theHIGHLANDER... how about a 440 from a motorhome.

    But a little bit like Roothawg... there are certain parts that I absolutely need or absolutely WANT... regardless of the cost.

    But I'm nothing like the guy with the classic dragster engine. LOL
  25. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,506


    The Flathead for my Model A is probably the most expensive engine I have ever had to date in my 73 years.
    Not may hp per buck for sure but it was one of those "have to do someday" things to check off the list.
    I've got a 56 Desoto 330 Hemi out in the shed that may go up for sale simply because I don't think I'll ever be able to afford to build it right. There is a 66 396 in pieces right beside it in the shed that again needs the whole nine yards to be done right.
    If the flathead cruised down the long roads at 65/70 for hours on end when the Model A or what ever I put it in if I sell the A body and frame that is good enough. I don't need to win drag races or burn up the roads with it.
    My conclusion is that if you are going to build an older non Chebby small block engine (cool old engine that isn't a SBC of any size) for your ride you just have to factor in that it just flat is you want, it doesn't matter that you could get more power and go faster for a fourth of the cost and so be it. The cool factor and high Bubba factor is justification enough as long as you don't go deep in debt doing it. It doesn't make much sense to owe several K on a card just because you went with the cool old engine rather than the un cool newer engine.
    louisb, Desoto291Hemi and Roothawg like this.
  26. Hi Ricky ,
    Sorry man,,,,,, I wasn’t trying to get onto you about your ideas .
    I just didn’t want Dana to feel like the Lone Ranger .
    I share a lot of thought patterns with Dana,,,,,and many ,many others here too .
    Including you as well,,,,,,,440 from a motor home would be great .

    I always plan on a nice warmed over build,,,,,you know do the basics .
    Good prep work,,,,,clean and remove casting flash,,,,,work and mod the oiling passages.
    Then ,,,,,,my old habits take over,,,,,,bigger pistons and compression,,,,,too much cam,,,,,,highly modified heads,,,,expensive unnecessary valves,,,,,,expensive unnecessary valvetrain,,,,,,,,,too much dad gum induction,,,,,,,,,,,,arrrggggggg,,,,,,,,,please,,,, someone help me !!!!!!
    Lol .
    Yeah,,,,,,it’s a sickness !

    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
    Roothawg likes this.
  27. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,614

    from Michigan

    That's okay, Tommy. My post came right after Dana's and you thought I was being Miss Contrary LOL. I like Dana and we definitely need to keep him from feeling alone LOL. Hi Dana! LOL.

    Everybody have fun tonight
    Everybody wang chung tonight

    Everybody have a great Sunday!
    Roothawg and Desoto291Hemi like this.
  28. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,614

    from Michigan

    In the spirit of the thread...

    One of my all-time favorite 50s style components is a 6x2 intake manifold with strombergs and Chrome helmet air cleaners.

    I want that for my 440.
    The Edelbrock 6X2s for the big block Mopar engines almost do not exist.
    That's partly why I want it.
    I MIGHT be able to find one.
    I WILL scrape enough money together to afford one.
    It's gonna be a few $$$.

    And if I can't find one...
    I'll build a log manifold.
    After I LEARN to build one. LOL

    Wish me luck.
  29. Darin Younce
    Joined: May 8, 2019
    Posts: 576

    Darin Younce

    Gotta agree, a lot of absolute's with engine building, everything pretty much has a measurement where as body work and painting can be a bit varied and requires experience in several fields. Rust issues , what to do what not to do, metal fab , welding, fillers, primers paints and how each one is applied, then there's the artistic side which brings up a whole new level of craftsmanship. Chops, channels, custom grills, flames , fades pinstripes.
    Roothawg likes this.
  30. Binger
    Joined: Apr 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,685

    from wyoming


    Nobody has talked about building a banger. There is a quick way so spend lots of money. The dollars spent per horsepower is silly. I could have built 2 or 3 very healthy SBCs for the money. Tons of work and a 5 speed conversion to be able to cruise 65 is a little silly. But I feel much cooler driving that rather than a belly button SBC.

    Sent from my iPhone using H.A.M.B.

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