Engine Rebuild for Classic Car

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  #1  
Old 03-10-16, 12:57 PM
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Engine Rebuild for Classic Car

Hi,

The work I have done on cars is pretty limited. Brake jobs (have changed a master cylinder), oil changes, oil pumps, fuel pumps, thermostat. Basically, changing out parts when I have a manual to follow.

So, basically, I am fairly handy although not too experienced with "serious" engine work.

However, I have been looking for a classic car as a project - gravitating toward early 60s Thunderbird/Falcon or late 60s Camaro/Firebird.

It turns out that finding one in decent driving condition, without a ton of rust is not cheap - 6k at least. Do some restoration on top of that and you can easily get the price way up there.

The way I see it the three big things are body work/paint, engine, interior. I know there are other things that can add up, but it seems these are the three big areas.

So, I am thinking about getting a motor (junkyard, craigslist) and rebuilding it. I would choose a specific engine with the intent of buying the car in the future. This way, I can broaden my list and get something with a decent body, but doesnt run.

The reason I wouldnt tackle body first and get an engine later is simply because of space. A body will be sitting around a long time taking up all my space.

Now, the biggest problem I have is where to start. I dont even know how to do an analysis on engine. Do bench test it like you would a small motor, running it outside the car?

And how difficult is it to do a rebuild? I understand that some things kind of need to be done in a shop such boring holes if needed (not that I know when it would be necessary) and doing tests to make sure the block isnt cracked.

So, I guess what I am asking is - is it reasonable to do this and, if so, where would you start?

My son is 12 and I figured it would be good learning for both of us and would be fun. Who knows, the engine may even end up in his first car some day.

Any thoughts?
 
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  #2  
Old 03-10-16, 01:29 PM
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Just a few random thoughts, in no particular order, which may or may not make sense. Not that it's necessarily extremely limiting, depending on which engine you choose, but you're obviously locking yourself into finding a certain brand of automobile, and, again, it depends, but even with the same brand you could end up with the wrong alternator brackets, etc., and every extra piece that have to buy again because you couldn't find a corresponding vehicle at the right price goes against the bottom line. You don't want to go to all of that work and just stash it in a corner, so you're going to need a stand to run it on, some type of safe fuel system, and some type of exhaust, because you would very likely ruin valves running it without one. You mentioned "classic", and a lot of "car guys" are "numbers guys", meaning they like vehicles with matching engine numbers. To me, it's getting the cart ahead of the horse, but, if you go for it, I would start by trying to find a vehicle with an engine, send the body out to someone and simultaneously go to work on the engine.
 
  #3  
Old 03-10-16, 01:47 PM
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I know it is kind of limiting to choose an engine first. But in my search, I have come across so many cars of certain make/model/year that I am confident with patience I would find, eventually, the car to match the engine.

As far as having incorrect brackets and other ancillary things, I didnt think about that but I cant imagine it would be likely. It is a chance I would be willing to take on that front.

You don't want to go to all of that work and just stash it in a corner, so you're going to need a stand to run it on, some type of safe fuel system, and some type of exhaust, because you would very likely ruin valves running it without one.
So, you do run it outside of the car? I would need to look into this more. But why couldnt it just sit in a corner? Providing it was protected from dust, falling, etc. It wouldnt harm anything, would it?

As far as matching numbers, again, Im ok without that. I am not getting into this to be a true "car guy" and wont be looking to sell based on matching numbers, authentic rebuild, etc.

if you go for it, I would start by trying to find a vehicle with an engine, send the body out to someone and simultaneously go to work on the engine.
That would seem to make the most sense. The problem, though, is that I would expect an engine rebuild to take quite some time. Between getting over learning curves (remember, this would be my first rebuild), compensating for mistakes, free time that is hard to come by, etc. I could have an undrivable car planted in my driveway... for, potentially, a long time. Unfortunately, I am not on huge piece of land where I can just put the body out of the way somewhere.

So I guess this looks like a tough thing to do here.
 

Last edited by rmathome; 03-10-16 at 02:08 PM.
  #4  
Old 03-10-16, 02:24 PM
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Remember, Chevrolet made their mid sized engines from the same short block for a gazillion years. Things changed like bore, stroke, intakes to 4 bbl, but the engine's basic design is the same. With some of the changes were things like Pedro mentioned....brackets, exhaust system locations, oil filters (yes, the 1955 265 had no oil filter from the factory) that were added on.

Set your sights on an engine, and it pretty much sets your destination car, so be aware of that. Yes, an engine run up stand would be nice. You don't want to wait until you get your car to see if it runs.

Basically when you get a restorable car you start with the drive train and rotation items, then move to the body work and interior. It takes a long time and a lot of patience not to mention money.
 
  #5  
Old 03-10-16, 05:42 PM
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Check your local high school for adult education classes. Long, long ago I took one on small engine repair and I was hooked. The class met a couple times a week in the evening and I learned how to completely overhaul an engine. Many/most schools also have classes on body work and general auto repair. Good to know stuff when starting out in restoration.
 
  #6  
Old 03-11-16, 06:49 AM
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Most cities and towns have "car clubs" where folks congregate on a regular basis for a "show & shine" and to shoot the breeze.
I strongly suggest you get involved with those folks and ask your questions.
 
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Old 03-12-16, 05:25 AM
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I agree........You are putting the horse before the cart before you know exactly what the cart will look like.
Compared to a body restoration the engine will be a small portion of the overall cost.

I also agree that older GM small block V8's will fit in more vehicles than other engine types and have a big selection of repair parts available.
If you rebuilt a small block Chevy engine and would up with a different body you would have no problem selling the engine.
 

Last edited by GregH; 03-12-16 at 06:23 AM. Reason: Typo
  #8  
Old 03-12-16, 03:39 PM
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Excuse me for being blunt, you are putting the cart before the horse! Second point, I wouldn't buy an engine from someone who wasn't experienced in engine rebuilding! You might have an engine rebuilt for a nice first generation Camero but what if a nice Dodge Dart shows up that you want? Chevy small block in a Dodge, I think not!
 
  #9  
Old 03-13-16, 05:25 PM
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I agree that I am putting the cart before the horse--that is the point.

The reason being that it seems like it saves me more space.

If I get a car and pull the engine and it takes me a year (or more) to finish the engine (due to learning curve, obligations to job/family, etc.), then I have a car sitting in my driveway, unable to move, for all that time. Since this is a diy forum, i assume everyone on here is familiar with projects that take forever for whatever reason.

You might have an engine rebuilt for a nice first generation Camero but what if a nice Dodge Dart shows up that you want?
Would I be allowed to wait for a Camaro?

I wouldn't buy an engine from someone who wasn't experienced in engine rebuilding!
When did I decide to sell this engine?
 
  #10  
Old 03-13-16, 07:49 PM
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Of course you can wait for a Camero with everyone else who wants one. Some one else commented on selling the engine and I responded to that just in case you were considering that, read the posts!
 
  #11  
Old 03-14-16, 10:27 AM
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I've had 3 over the years (69 Firebird conv., 70 Mustang Mach1, 65 Mustang conv.)...currently done with it. Your approach is different--but do-able. The "Big 3" all made several models in the 60's-70's that shared a common engine size. Stick with a small block to keep costs manageable and it will fit most any engine bay from that mfr. A Chevy 350 to really save money--it's the most common and the re-build parts (and adapters if you want to put a Chevy into an Olds, for example) are plentiful and cheap compared to small block Ford or Chrysler.

One of my daughters wanted to build a car with me and have it complete by the time she got her license. I thought it would be a great project and even had the "perfect" starter car picked out (an early 70's Maverick or Comet) but ultimately decided I was more comfortable with safety systems found on newer cars. We found other projects to bond over. JMO...
 
  #12  
Old 03-14-16, 10:39 AM
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Rust

Depending on where you live , finding a mostly / entirely rust free car can be easy to impossible , to some where in between .

I live in a mostly dry climate , far from the ocean . Some salt in the winter , but not a great deal .

You may or may not like Chevrolets , but I read they are the least expensive to restore , especially the engines ( small block V-8 ) .

Were it me , I would put body & interior at a higher priority , over engine / tranny / differential .

Do some searching on YouTube , they have lots of engine videos . Many are performance videos , but some are for stock engines .

According to them , it is often more economical to either find a good salvage engine or the next step up would be a crate engine .

God bless
Wyr
 
  #13  
Old 03-15-16, 09:29 AM
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Were it me , I would put body & interior at a higher priority
I'm starting to see that.

I'm a little confused about rust. Of course, I know rust is bad. But when I google things like "how much rust is too much for a project car" I get answers ranging from
1) any amount of rust is too much. A car must be 100% rust free

to

2) surface rust is ok. Just use any one of the various ant-rust chemicals to clean it off, then protect it.

As a newbie, this is kind of confusing. I absolutely would avoid anything that is rusted through and would require welding in new pieces. But, how can a 40 or 50 year old car not have any rust at all?
 
  #14  
Old 03-15-16, 10:30 AM
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You'll pay a premium for a rust free car! Surface rust can sometimes be deceiving what a novice eye might think just needs sanding could real a hole once the sanding is done. Ideally any suspect rusted metal would be cut out and a new piece welded or brazed in. It's also possible to clean it up to clean metal and make a fiberglass patch although the odds are that type of patch won't last as long as new metal. Some will pop rivet in new metal and then fiberglass and bondo.
 
  #15  
Old 03-15-16, 12:25 PM
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Ideally any suspect rusted metal would be cut out and a new piece welded or brazed in
But if you look under an older/old car (which I have not done) wouldn't the entire underneath almost have to have rust, at least surface rust?

I'm pretty sure cars weren't treated for rust 40 or 50 years ago and, if not, how could any metal, outdoors, not have rust on it?
 
  #16  
Old 03-15-16, 12:52 PM
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They were undercoating cars in the 60's and it seems to me that those aftermarket shops that did undercoating do a lot better job than what the factory does today. Plus the metal was always painted. How much rust depends a lot on how/where the car was used.

I wouldn't be overly concerned with surface rust but rather holes and whether or not I felt I could repair them.
 
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Old 03-15-16, 01:11 PM
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You're in New York, I'm in Michigan, and we're both in the rust belt. As Mark mentioned, surface rust is not that big of a deal, but, locally anyway, I know that pretty much anything you find that falls into a reasonable price range is going to have more than surface rust. It goes beyond the rust belt today too, because you wouldn't be the first one touring the south for something that hasn't seen road salt. And the "barn finds" that you hear about are few and far between, not even worth hoping for. That's the primary reason I suggested finding a car, and sending the body out while you do the engine. You can buy fenders, doors, etc., and a good body man can make it look new again, but, to me anyway, the drive train is a cakewalk compared to the equipment, time, and talent required to bring back a vintage body. The few guys that I know who are really good at restoring older cars have a big backlog and a lot of patience, so they'll sometimes be a year or more on one, fitting in other more time critical jobs along the way, and working on the older ones at an easier pace. You might look into the suggestion of a vocational class as someone mentioned too. Not only would it give you an opportunity to learn what tools you'll need and how to use them, but it will probably put you in contact with at least a few like minded individuals that you can share thought and ideas with.
 
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Old 03-15-16, 01:13 PM
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Ok, naive questions here.

1) If you have surface rust you sand it out or use a chemical de-ruster? This is assuming it is truly just surface rust.

2) If you have something rusted through, lets say a fender or rear quarter panel, you replace what is needed--cut out and weld? I really don't want to get into this on my first project.

3) However, small holes can be filled? Right? Using filler much like you would use plaster on a small hole in a wall? Or is that not correct? I am assuming there is some sort of mesh (which would act as the equivalent of plaster's wire mesh)

3) Severe rust on frame - walk away.
 
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Old 03-15-16, 01:52 PM
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No comment on rusty/rusted sheet metal. I've done my share, and the majority of it actually came out real good, but I don't have the time, money, talent, nor desire to do any more than absolutely necessary, so will leave that up to Mark or someone else to comment.

As far as frames, it all depends. You've no doubt heard of "frame off" restorations? If not you will, but it's essentially removing the body from the frame, and opens up options. For example, a buddy of mine had a something like 1969 Chevy pickup that had a good engine and drive train, and a very clean frame. For some reason though, the cab was bad, real bad. So he bought something like a 1970 pickup that had been broadsided, frame was shot, but the cab survived untouched, and was in very good shape. We hauled that wrecked truck to his house after work on a Friday night,pout the good cab on his truck, hooked up the steering, throttle, brakes, heater controls, etc., and had that truck road ready by Sunday night. And some passenger cars are like that, lift the body off of the frame. Others use a unitized body, with the front and rear frame rails welded to the passenger compartment, and they can be changed, but obviously a job for experts, and not inexpensive. Point being though, depending on what you go with, it is possible for a relative novice to swap certain bodies and frames.
 
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Old 03-15-16, 02:35 PM
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Frames don't often have detrimental rust but it does happen. I wouldn't be afraid of surface rust or even a little scaling on the frame. It's a good idea to tap around with a hammer or poke with a screwdriver to make sure the frame is solid.

I'm not sure body filler can really be equated to drywall/plaster repairs. Walls are more or less solid and don't see temperature extremes. Just filling a hole with bondo [even using a mesh] is apt to end in failure fairly soon [year or three] You can replace fenders, door skins etc although patching them is normally cheaper [if you don't count labor]
 
  #21  
Old 03-15-16, 04:34 PM
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Frames don't often have detrimental rust but it does happen.

Easy for a man from TN to say ... ask a man from Detroit !!
 
  #22  
Old 03-16-16, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by 2granddaughters

Frames don't often have detrimental rust but it does happen.

Easy for a man from TN to say ... ask a man from Detroit !!
Plenty. Anyone searching for a classic Mustang (one example) knows to look close at the "torque boxes". That's the reinforced area where the floor, firewall and unibody rails meet. On some popular cars like Mustang, Camaro, Chevelle, Cuda you can pretty much buy new all the visible sheetmetal and floorpans.

I used to go to classic car shows and look through the photo albums of some of the cars on display. I'd look at the hopeless "before" pictures and be amazed anyone would attempt a restoration of a 2-ton hunk of reddish-brown swisscheese.
 
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