This engine was out of the 1969 Riviera that I parted out. I'm rebuilding it for use in one of my other Buicks.
I originally intended to put this engine into my 1973 Electra, but it may not end up going there. We'll see how things go.
At one point in the past, I had researched getting an entire rebuild kit, and had decided that Poston Enterprises was the place to call. I had talked with Jim, the owner, and the guy really knew his stuff and loves cars as much as any gearhead does. They sell a book on how to rebuild your Buick motor that is excellent. Plenty of photos, lots of descriptions, and in-depth tech info that you simply can't get anywhere else. Since that original research, lots has happened in the world. There are now three companies making aluminum cylinder heads for the Buick 400/430/455 engines - TA Performance, Bulldog, and recently, Edelbrock. The B4B manifold is back in production. Poston has been sold and it appears that Bulldog is casting brand new Buick 455-style cylinder blocks in cast iron or aluminum! Man how things have changed since my original planning sessions. That means everything was back up in the air, and I needed to re-researching things from scratch again. So much for all of my previous planning work on the rebuild. :-)
Please note that this page is not in strict chronological order - I have grouped relevant sections together for easier reading and locating of relevant data should folks want to do what I've done here.
The engine is a 1969 Buick 430. The heads are casting #1231109 which is for a 1969 Buick 400/430 and the block is casting #1383424 which is for a 1967-1969 Buick 430. The stampings on the block are "49H932039", "RD", and "305". The longer stamping breaks down as 4 = Buick, 9 = 1969, H = Flint Assembly Plant, and 932039 should match the car serial number in the VIN code of the vehicle the engine originally came in - and in this case, it does. Also, the leading "9" on the serial number indicates the engine was used in a Riveria. The "RD" means this is a 1969 non-export 430 with 10.25:1 compression and a 4-bbl carb that was rated at 360hp @ 5000 RPM and 475lb-ft of torque @ 3200 RPM. I have yet to find anything to tell me what the "305" means. Anyways, that all confirms that this motor is the original motor that came in my 1969 Riveria parts car.
The engine itself came equipped with an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold and Holley carb, but the car had experienced a mild engine fire, so the engine needed to be gone through to be sure all was well. The carb was also stuck solid and was good for nothing but parts, if that. The intake survived pretty well, though it does need a good sandblasting to clean off all the oxidation. As you can see, the fire did creep inside the valve covers, but barely. The innards of the engine appear untouched - the bottom of the intake and the lifter valley are pretty typical high-mileage engine stuff, but nothing looks overtly wrong or damaged. The block was still full of coolant when I took the heads off, which is a good sign nothing is cracked. The engine appears to have had the heads off at one point - it had composition head gaskets and not steel shim head gaskets, which was what I believe was there originally. The timing chain also appeared to be a replacement double-roller chain, not the original nylon covered gears that I believe were original. So, someone had done at least some basic freshening on the motor at one point or another.
The basic plan is to get a running engine into the car as cheaply as possible with good longevity. Maximum power output is not the primary consideration - price is. Longevity related items such as oiling system upgrades and balancing are the only "optional" items I'm considering for this build. I want to get this engine rebuilt, cash is tight, and I know I won't have a chance to do another rebuild for a while. If I'm reading all of these catalogs correctly, my choice of parts should reflect those priorities.
I've created separate pages to track some of the longer pieces that were here:
Here's the list of stuff I plan to re-use.
Here's the breakdown on the parts I need for rebuilding the engine - I've decided to go with the PAE Enterprises based rebuild kit. They are a dealer for Poston and TA Performance, so they can get the parts from them and include them in one purchase.
Here's the breakdown on the machine work I plan to have done and what it will cost. I'm using Ewing Engine in Auburn, WA. I had some mixed luck with them last time, but in the end the engine works just fine, and their prices are significantly lower than anyone else I can find in my area. Also, the previous rebuild I did with Ewing was my first engine rebuild, so I'm willing to chalk up my issues partly to my inexperience. There's also the issue of my nearly legendary bad luck - if there's one bad part in an entire run of a million "identical" parts, I'll be the poor guy who ends up buying the lone bad part out of the entire run of parts. I have multiple documented examples of just how much someone is trying to teach me patience... :-) So, I'm giving them another shot on this to see how things go. After all, how hard is it to completely screw up a basic bore-the-cylinders-and-turn-the-crank rebuild job? If I was doing something more exotic, I'd pay more and go with someone who was more of a Buick specialist. I've found the right machine shops to go to around here - but the cost issue is just to much for me to justify on a basic budget rebuild like this.
Note that I did the work in two stages - in the middle was some custom work I wanted to do on the engine - improving some of the oiling passages (as recommended in the Guide to Buick Performance Engines, by Steven Dove), polishing the rod side beams, and removing the "ears" from the block to make future header installation easier.
The timing cover had two snapped off bolts in the water pump, plus some eroded areas that needed to be welded up to maintain proper thickness of the gasket sealing surfaces. The oil pump surfaces were in good shape, so I elected to have the cover repaired instead of replacing it. For $100 compared to $500+ for a new cover, it was an easy decision. I also elected to have that work done on the timing cover first. I'll do my custom work on it after I get it back from the machine shop - improving the oiling passages, adding a cam thrust bumper, and installing a distributor gear oiler.
I am working with a friend to freshen the heads and am hoping I will need very little if anything there in the way of extra parts not listed above. If I do need parts for the heads, I will add them in a separate list.
The heads turned out to be in decent shape with just a lot of miles on them. There was one broken bolt for the rocker shaft, but the broken bit of the bolt was not inside the head - maybe someone cheaped out on a previous rebuild and had the busted bolt removed but didn't replace it with a new one? The picture of the lone valve is with the 60 and 30 degree cuts done but not the final 45 degree cut, and the two bits of spooge on the ground are what was blown out of the oil passages in the heads - yuck!
The first part of the rebuilt kit (along with the extra-long drill bits I ordered for the oil passage modifications) showed up as promised, about 6 weeks after I ordered it from PAE Enterprises. UPS delivers big presents sometimes. :-) The rest of the kit will follow as soon as the remaining parts are ready, but this will let me get moving on the rest of the work - this is everything I need to do the final oil passage modifications and then get the final machining work done. More kudos to Jim over at PAE for splitting the order like this so I could move ahead on the engine work. I really appreciated it and they did it without having to be asked to. Customer service like this is what keeps folks coming back.
Teardown and Assessment
I took some "remember this for later during reassembly" notes while tearing down the motor. They are what I found on my motor and may not apply to anyone else's motor. The rod number stampings were unexpected - I was not aware that the factory did that, and if not, it indicates a previous rebuild was done on the motor.
Machine Shop Report and Parts Ordering
The report back from the machine shop confirmed my initial suspicions - the engine had been rebuilt before and was already .030" over + wear, which meant it needed to go to .060" over to clean up again. The crank was also already .010"/.010" under + wear, which meant going to .020"/.020" under to get it cleaned up and ready to go again. Armed with that information, I went ahead and ordered all of the needed parts from PAE Enterprises and waited for them to arrive. See above for notes on the custom rebuild kit I put together.
Also, the front cover was in good shape overall, but had some minor erosion around some of the coolant passages, likely due to electrolysis and no special conditioner for use with aluminum parts. The machine shop said they could build up the eroded areas by welding and repair the cover for about $100. For my budget rebuild, that beats $500+ for a new cover from TA Performance. I gave them the go-ahead to do that work and left the front cover with them while I was doing the various bits of custom work to the block and waiting for all of my spiffy new parts to arrive. Once I get it back, I'll need to do a few basic mods to it - mainly adding the cam thrust bumper and opening up the oil passages.
Cleaning, Machining, and Painting
This section is all about sandblasting parts, cleaning parts, getting my custom oil gallery and rod work work done, and painting everything to prepare for reassembly.
A friend cleaned up the intake manifold plus the pulleys and the heat shield for the passengers side motor mount in his sandblast cabinet, and I got them painted pretty quickly. The manifold in particular cleaned up very nicely.
The block, rods, and oil pan came back from the machine shop after the initial cleaning and verification of suitability for a rebuild. Not too bad, though you can clearly see the rust where the block was exposed to the engine fire. Oddly enough, the machine shop only gave me back 7 pistons and pins. I need to go ask them about the missing one - they're decent .030" over pistons, and could be re-used in another 430 rebuild, so I'll see about hanging onto them. I hosed the block down with WD40 to keep any further rust at bay, the oil pan, front seal retainer, and mini-oil windage tray have been set aside for later use. I'll need to sandblast the oil pan before I can paint it.
First up was cleaning up the flashing in the lifter valley. This removes a number of potential stress risers, and makes life easier during the rebuild - no sharp edges to slice through the tender flesh on my fingers. Cutting and grinding cast iron makes an incredible amount of very fine dust. That's why the lifter valley looks gray in these photos - that's all the dust that this grinding work created. I also added a tech page for this based on these photographs.
I opened up the oil passages leading to the main bearings to ensure full-flow to the mains. It's common for Buick 400/430/455 engines to have slightly mis-aligned passages. Sitting the old bearings in the block revealed which ones needed to be opened up, and in what directions. In my case, I just drilled in about 1/2" with a 3/8" drill bit to get most of it right, and hogged the drill bit sideways on a few of them to get it the rest of the way. The oil passage on the #1 bearing is bigger than 3/8" from the factory, so that one was purely a matter of pushing the bit sideways to get the needed clearance. In the overall picture of the bottom end, you can clearly see the oblong shape on the #1, #2, and #5 bearing oil holes. The photo after that is a close-up of the #1 bearing oil hole. In the #3 and #4 bearing oil holes, you can clearly see the "step" in the oil passage where I stopped drilling - the last two photos show this closer up. Keep in mind that the idea here is just to ensure full flow to the bearings, not open up the entire oil passage - thus the limited depth of the drilling. I didn't want to risk going sideways and punching a hole in the main webbing and ruining the block. Also, I used a small round file to chamfer the edges of the drilled holes. The drill bit left a small raised ridge of metal that would have caused the bearings to not seat right, so a few minutes with a round file ensured all was well there. This also got added to a tech page using these photographs.
I removed the block "ears" to make future header installation easier. These "ears" were only used for the initial machining of the block at the factory, and are no longer needed, so off they came. I used a small cut-off wheel to groove the top surface, then used a Sawzall to complete the cut. Cast iron is soft, but these are decent sized chunks of cast iron to cut through, so it takes a while. I used two blades up cutting off all four ears, even though I used a copious amount of WD40 to help lubricate the blade. After cutting, I files the surface reasonably smooth and removed and sharp edges. As with the flashing removal, cutting cast iron makes an incredible amount of fine dust. The cut-off ears were surprisingly heavy as a group - I'm guessing 5lbs or more. Lastly, you guessed it - I made another tech page update using these photographs.
I drilled out the main oil feed passage from the oil pressure sender hole up to the front came bearing, using a 12" long x 7/16" drill bit I bought from PAE Enterprises. I also opened up the oil suction passage to 9/16" using a 12" long drill bit, also from PAE Enterprises. I used these pictures to update my tech page about this.
Based on information in Steven Dove's book Guide to Buick Performance Engines, I polished the rod side beams using my Dremel tool and a pack of small "sanding drums". This got it's own tech page.
Here's the oil pump, booster plate, and oil pump cover/oil filter mounting pad work I did. The first picture shows the old parts on the top, with the oil pump rebuild kit on the bottom. For modifications, I drilled a 1/8" oiling hole in the idler gear, and opened up the slot and round hole in the booster plate to be at least as large as the openings in the oil pump cover/oil filter mounting pad. Some careful file and drill work did the trick, and some follow-up work with a file made sure there were no sharp edges on anything I modified. I used these pictures to update my tech page about this.
I finally got the 12" long 9/16" drill bit I needed to open up the main oil suction passage to 9/16", so that was next. A couple of relatively easy drilling operations and that was done.
The story of getting the drill bit in is one of those things that shows some great customer service from a business - even when a mistake happens - and is one of the reasons I'm super happy to have bought from PAE Enterprises. The story starts with the initial shipment of parts and drill bits for my rebuild - purely by accident, Jim shipped me a 1/2" drill bit instead of the 9/16" one I needed. It was a simple mistake; no big deal - and Jim was more than willing to send me the bit ASAP. The problem was that when Jim went back to get another 9/16" drill bit from his supplier - they were on backorder - and I was waiting on that bit to move my engine rebuild project forward. That could have been the end of it, but without my asking, Jim offered to send me his 9/16" bit and he'd get a new one as soon as they were off backorder. Wow - now that's customer service! I couldn't in good conscience leave a great Buick engine builder like Jim without his trusty 9/16" drill bit for rebuilding the 1967 to 1970 engines, so I told him I'd drill out the holes in my block, send the bit back to him, and he can send me mine when the backorder comes in - I need it way less than he does. Jim's simple act of sending me that drill bit pretty much earned him a customer for life, and ensures that I'll mention his name and business every time I talk about my rebuild. PAE Enterprises rocks because Jim runs the place like a good business ought to be run. I give them my business, and I think you should to. :-)
NOTE: As of early 2010, it seems PAE Enterprises has more or less imploded and the quality of their work has gone downhill pretty badly. The website is offline as of March 2010 and some of the popular Buick messages boards are full of complaints about Jim. I have no idea what happened, but something clearly did.
One wrinkle did come up after I had gotten the engine back from it's initial cleaning - I found out that the "early style" mid-sump oil pan will likely not work down in my later Electra chassis, and that a later-style oil pan is needed. Fortunately, I have a couple of later model 455 engines in the garage that came out of later model Electras. They have oil pans that will bolt right onto the 430 - all 400/430/455 oil pans share the same block mounting bolt pattern. This means I'll need to take one of the later 455 oil pans and pickup down to be cleaned in the second round of cleaning work. Not a huge deal, but it's something I needed to remember to get done. Below are the pictures of the early "mid sump" 430 oil pan, pickup, and oil splash shield compared to the later model 455 pieces. The 430 pieces are the "clean" ones at the bottom of the pictures, the 455 ones are the "dirty" ones at the top of the picture. You can see that the oil splash shield is the same, but the pan and pickup are different. I'll get the oil splash shield cleaned now since it costs the same and I'll be less likely to get confused on what is what later on this way - there won't be an oddball "dirty" part that's not matched to anything else.
The valve covers on the 430 were kind of munged up in the fire - the heat warped them a good bit - and they are not usable anymore. I grabbed the valve covers off the same motor that donated the oil pan and pickup, and I'll send them down to the machine shop to get cleaned along with the other parts. After cleaning and a quick spraying with Buick Red, they'll be perfect for my budget engine rebuild.
Since everything but the pistons and pins was ready to go, I loaded up everything that needed to go back to the machine shop into the truck to get ready for later. The total list of stuff was the freeze plugs and cam bearings from the rebuild kit, rods/caps/bolts, main caps, main cap bolts, block, oil pan, oil pickup, oil splash shield, and valve covers.
I finally got around to deburring the tops of the pistons to help prevent detonation and loading them into the truck. After that, the engine and various parts headed back to the machine shop for final machining, then came back to me. Here's what I got back from the machine shop. Note that one flexplate bolt is missing, so I still need to head back down the machine shop to get that.
Next I need to open up and deburr the oil passages in the front cover, install the cam thrust bumper in the front cover, and open up the gaskets for the oil pump. Then there's more cleaning of the engine, and I'll need to get around to actually painting the engine.
I'm not there yet, but when I am, I'll write about it here and add pictures of the process.
Page last updated 03/08/2010 10:19:20 PM