Early 1968 400CI - Pontiac GTO Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2019, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
 
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Early 1968 400CI

I made a 3 hour drive to look at and possibly purchase a Pontiac 400 (which I did buy). The engine code is YE, block casting number is 9790071, and the casting date is J037.

The crank is nodular and casting number 9773524.

Heads are #1 5 and cast J057 - small valve heads, press-in studs, BUT someone installed poly-locks which came with the heads. I don't have an issue with small valves/press-in studs as big valves can be installed as can be screw-in studs.

Intake is an Edelbrock Performer.

The cam was still in the engine, a Crane Cams SSH-310 NC. Research says it is an early 1980's cam, 310 adv. duration, 236 @ .050", 114L/S, and a.485" lift. Cam timing at .050" cam lift is: intake opens 9 degrees BTDC, intake closes 47 degrees ABDC, exhaust opens 57 degrees BBDC, exhaust closes 1 degree BTDC. Cam lobe lift is .3233".

The seller advertised it as a 389CI block because of the YE engine code (Wallace Engine codes show it used for both the 389 & 400) but listed the Nodular crank as a 400 (again, online info). It was being sold as a long block, but did not include many of the bolt-on parts - which could be bought at extra $. So what I was getting was the block, heads, crank, pistons and rods, and an Edelbrock Performer intake. Not having the small parts was not an issue for me as I have spare parts and of course you can purchase much of what you need aftermarket. Price - $650.00 which I thought fair, not great, but fair. This was still a reasonable price in my book as compared to the prices asked for Pontiac engines in my area, and it had not been bored.

The seller got the engine disassembled with a 1968 Firebird project car. He had several other project cars as well, but was presently restoring a 1969 396CI Camaro Pace Car he purchased as a project car another owner gave up on. The story was he took the disassembled engine to the machine shop. All the freeze plugs were removed, which usually indicates some machine shop work as this is done before vatting the engine. The machine shop told him it would need to be bored out. The seller said he did not want to put that much money into the engine and thought it just might get by with refreshing the engine with rings, bearings, gaskets, etc.. Said he then sold the Firebird body and kept the engine as a possible transplant into a 1955 Pontiac convertible he did have under cover. He later decided he would keep the 1955 original if he ever got to it (but it was for sale if interested, and "no" I did not have him lift the car cover off it to look - don't need another big project. LOL). So he decided to sell the engine.

The engine is an October (J) 1967 build making it a 1968 engine. The casting number on the crank is also a late 1967 engine. Looks to be all original and never bored. Stock factory pistons & cast rods. Had a factory GM head gasket still stuck on 1 head. Bearings left in the rods/mains were evenly worn down to the copper. No heavy embedded materials, burned bearings, or uneven wear patterns.

One of the things I like to check first after confirming engine code and casting date, it the condition of the cylinder cores inside the water jacket. If they are badly rusted, pitted, or corroded, then it is best to pass on it. This engine looked good inside for its age. I then go over the engine looking for any obvious problems. If there are any cracks, some can be visibly seen, while others will not show up until you take it to a machine shop to have it magnafluxed. Most times I will not purchase an engine part, ie block, heads, crank, without a money back guarantee in writing from the seller that if any parts do have cracks, I can return it for my refund. I am also willing to make arrangements for the seller to take it to a local machine shop and have them magnaflux it for cracks and compensate the seller for the machine shop work and even his time - if he is willng. I have done this with a set of heads I had to retrieve an hour away. Today there are a number of ways to transfer money and you can pay the machine shop direct as well. If the price is seemingly a good deal and not to high that I can't eat it and take my lumps, then I will take my chances - like at swap meets. And yep, I have had to eat a few parts that proved to be bad.

The engine overall looked good/clean and I did not see anything obvious or worrisome. I BS'd for some time with the seller and an older friend about owning these cars and the trouble we got in when younger, so I felt the sale was honest as the seller was not trying to push the engine on me or rush me out of there. So, I knew I was taking a chance, but could still recover some of my investment if need be.

Once home and putting the engine parts up, I did discover a problem. The main caps were off and I decided to install them to keep them from getting lost. The problem was with the #1 main cap. I installed it, but the bolts just didn't want to tighten down by hand as the others did. Upon further checking, I found that the end of the main cap is cracked at the dowel pin alignment hole. I then took a closer look at the caps to make sure someone had not mismatched the caps using ones from another year or something. The #1 cap has a casting date - J027 which in my opinion makes it original to the J037 block date. There is also a part number. Using the last 3 digits, the first cap ends "482." Each main cap also has a number and they were in sequence, "483," "484," "485," with the end cap having a different number. So I would say the #1 cap is original to the engine and either the dowel pin or dowel pin hole in the cap is slightly off and has been this way since day 1. The bolts will draw the cap down and over the pin, but you can see what it has done. Not a critical failure on a low HP engine, and not really a big concern in my opinion - might have been a good negotiating point to get the selling priced lowered a few bucks. But, I will replace it should I use the block to rebuild and have it align bored/honed.

So FYI, another thing to check when purchasing an engine.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2019, 03:25 PM
 
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Thanks again PJ for the continuing education.

DK

<)))>><

"Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." - Saint Augustine
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2019, 06:48 PM
 
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Jim - I stand in awe of your knowledge! I'm new to the forum and a new owner of a classic GTO ('69) and it's great to see this kind of expertise from someone so willing to share it.

Though I owned several muscle cars when I was young ('62 Impala 409, then a '65 389 tri-power goat, then a '71 Roadrunner), they were all new (the Roadrunner) or only two or three years old when I bought them. I am not a mechanic and, honestly, am becoming a bit concerned that I may be getting myself in for more than I can handle. But I love the classics just as much now as I did then, so look for me to be bugging you on the furum periodically for info and advice. I'll try to not abuse the privilege.... I'm also on the lookout for a good local classic car mechanic for the big stuff.

Tom
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2019, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by integrity6987 View Post
Thanks again PJ for the continuing education.

Glad you enjoy. I too continue the education and there is always something I can learn. I like to post photos to go along with my explanations so people can see what it is I am writing about.

It is too easy for someone who doesn't know what to look for when selecting & buying an engine or parts for their project, or are getting ready to rebuild what they have, and find that there is a major problem that they were unaware of. Trying to start with the best engine you can, saves you money and heartache. Many of these engines are not in the best of condition and many have been abused. Initially the best you can do is a visual inspection hoping all looks good. You won't be able to see the cracks or flaws that magnafluxing brings out until it is done. Sellers know that a Pontiac engine gets a premium price as well as knowing that it is essentially a "buyer beware" sale. So you have sellers who are less than honest and will sell junk knowing it is junk and then tell you "sorry, you looked at it." Well, in my world, I don't have X-ray vision and won't know if the block, heads, or other main parts are truly good until my machinist magnafluxes them. So if I do find a flaw that renders the engine junk, I really don't feel I got a fair and honest deal and believe the seller should burden some of the loss. Of course that is not going to happen, so this is why you almost have to either cut a deal with him to somehow get the parts to his machine shop prior to purchase or a written guarantee that you get your money back if your machine shop finds the engine to be junk. Of course if you have a witness with you and he states he would refund your money or an email/text communication, then you have a court case.

So there are a few obvious things to check and look at before buying engine parts and as you see here in the photos, another thing to look at is the main caps! LOL Again, not a deal breaker as the ear is for the alignment pin and even if it broke off, the main cap will still do the job. The cylinders have a nice ridge on them and I am not sure if .030" will clean it up, or may have to go .040" over. But the fact that it has not been rebuilt and is still original is what was appealing. Many of the blocks in my area are sold as "fresh .030 overbore." Why would I buy an engine already bored over and you did not fit/supply pistons to go with the "fresh overbore?" So if I buy Brand X pistons, the bore size could be too large or too small depending on the final hone sizing the piston manufacturer recommends. I stay away from these and they pop up more than I like to see around here.

Have a 1974 400CI block with main caps for sale right now. $450.00 and as is. Same seller has the 1975 5C heads for $250 as is. 1976 Pontiac 400CI small block (Duh?) with TH-400 transmission for $2000 - shows to have roller rockers, aluminum intake, headers, holley carb, and aluminum foil wrapped around a number of fuel items. Cast iron Q-jet intake for $200 which says for a 1967 - which it is not. These prices are too high in my book, as it means taking a chance of losing money, and if someone has an engine for sale with a bunch of racing goodies, tell me it hasn't been beat on - I need a 30 day warranty on it.

But, there are also good deals and it takes patience and looking to find them. It helps to know what you are looking at and know when to walk away. Like I said, I had to drive 3 hours, just above Atlanta, to take a look and it could have been a wasted trip. But, I like antique malls/stores and there are a lot going that way so I would have salvaged the time used! LOL
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2019, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Tom McBroom View Post
Jim - I stand in awe of your knowledge! I'm new to the forum and a new owner of a classic GTO ('69) and it's great to see this kind of expertise from someone so willing to share it.

Though I owned several muscle cars when I was young ('62 Impala 409, then a '65 389 tri-power goat, then a '71 Roadrunner), they were all new (the Roadrunner) or only two or three years old when I bought them. I am not a mechanic and, honestly, am becoming a bit concerned that I may be getting myself in for more than I can handle. But I love the classics just as much now as I did then, so look for me to be bugging you on the furum periodically for info and advice. I'll try to not abuse the privilege.... I'm also on the lookout for a good local classic car mechanic for the big stuff.

Tom


Thanks, but I am not an expert, just a hands on enthusiast who owned a few of these cars when younger and learned to work on them out of necessity because I couldn't afford a "real mechanic" to work on them. I also had a passion for old cars since learning to drive and it still remains today - although a little slower on working on them at this age. The drive train is my focus. Never rebuilt a transmission or rear-end gearing, but can certainly replace them as I have been known to blow them up. LOL I can work on brakes & suspensions as well. I am more into a driver (the faster the better) than a show car. Interiors are not my cup of tea, but have ripped them apart and can sort electrical issues if need be. Went to school for auto body repair and can do most work, but there is so much to know and much is year specific that there is no way I could know it all. Others here are really good at this, far better than myself. I am also a welder and like to fabricate.

I have owned a bunch of the older cars in my youth and worked on all of them (have a lot of photos of them, but many I don't). Most of the cars in my early 20's were from the 1950's through to the 1970's as they were cheap and easy to work on. Had a used '69 RoadRunner with 383 4-speed & Air Grabber hood which was long gone when I bought it - 318/904 automatic was in its place and the Air Grabber plate up under the hood was gone - open hood vents and still had the pull cable under the dash. Solid body tho. Had a spell with the 409's. Had one built up & running transplanted in a '65 Impala SS Convertible, also 1 factory 2 x 4 engine complete, 1 1965 truck 409, 2 348CI engines and extra heads, intakes, dual point distributors, and other parts - all long gone.

I am also a reader and collector of car materials. I used to buy & read many of the news stand car magazines when younger and still have them, probably over 400 or more tucked away. Got a book shelf that could rival a library with my oldest book going back to 1910 - many of the old How-To books, automotive repair books, and engine blueprinting principals and theory books. I have many Pontiac specialty books having engine builds and car specs - several from the early 1980's that are no longer in print, but gave you info needed to build up a good engine - 350, 389, 400, 428, or 455. Also have a nice collection of the period magazines that did features and write-ups on the new Pontiacs/GTO's through the years and articles on the Royal Pontiac Bobcat engine treatments done by Milt Schornack.

So I am not an expert, but I am an enthusiast who likes to learn about our cars like I hope others do, and if I don't have some kind of first hand knowledge or can't throw out an answer to a question in the area I am best at, I try to sift through my materials to get an answer - because it means I am learning something that I did not know myself. Learning never stops in my book, and knowledge is power.
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