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.