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Old 10-31-2014, 05:24 PM   #1
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Question Seeking advice on custom engine for 1965 Buick wagon to tow a vintage Airstream

Dear Airstream enthusiasts,

Since I was 7 years old, my family has owned a 1965 Buick Special station wagon, bought second-hand. Over the years it has become my car. Here are a few pictures of the restored car for the curious:

Biquette and autumn trees 2013 - canebas

I have long dreamed of purchasing a restored vintage Airstream trailer - something in the 19-22 foot range. Here is the 1964 line-up for reference:

http://www.airstream.com/wp-content/...5419526d42.pdf

Alas, the dream has become a nightmare before it could even get started. The custom engine I ordered for my trusty wagon failed after just 3 months and 1000 miles. So I'm just about back to square-one.

I should have asked this question here before embarking on this nightmare, but better late than never. I'm trying to power my Buick with a genuine Buick V-8, so that basically boils down to two choices: the Buick 350 cid or one of the Buick big-blocks (400, 430, or 455 cid.)

The Buick small block is one assertive engine. Stock versions could produce over 300 horsepower and over 400 foot-pounds of torque. It should be also noted that the 1968-1972 Jeep Wagoneer was powered by the Buick small-block and I assume my more timid wagon couldn't tow anything heavier than those Wagoneers.

The engine that died was a stroker version of the Buick 430 cid. It made over 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. However, I now believe the muscle car camshaft that was installed was completely unsuitable for towing. Contrary to the engine builder's recommendations, I now suspect that my original preference of an RV styled camshaft was a much more reasonable choice.

The dead engine is now at another engine builder and will hopefully be undergoing post-mortem soon to determine the cause of failure. My problem is to decide whether to try to salvage this big-block engine or start from scratch with either a 350 Buick or another Buick big-block.

Unfortunately, I'm sure it will be difficult for this forum membership to be able to help me, but if anyone has some thoughts about the specifications for custom engine to be built for a classic car to be a tow vehicle - any wisdom would be appreciated!

Cheers, Edouard
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Old 10-31-2014, 06:55 PM   #2
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Brakes matter more than motor. torque slip, cam profile and compression (quench height ) must work with final gear ratio.

We had cars that cruised just below peak torque. Elec ignition and FI would sure make a difference

Also I'd be looking to upgrade steering and handling. GM cars weren't too good


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Old 11-01-2014, 09:01 AM   #3
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First off there is no replacement for displacement.Especially while towing.The engines power band should be designed around the rpm you will be towing at.Any engine builder who does not understand that should be avoided.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:30 AM   #4
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For towing, an RV cam, possibly dished pistons, and more displacement are all good things. The old 455 is a good engine, and unless there is a problem with the block, I would stay with that. Don't bore over if you can help it. Boring out means less material to take heat stresses caused by towing, among other things.
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Old 11-01-2014, 09:40 AM   #5
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Seeking advice on custom engine for 1965 Buick wagon to tow a vintage Airstream

Why not try the Rover 4.2 efi 14cux variant?
It's a grandchild of the Buick 215 but improved! These are easily supercharged, don't they the anti Brit naysayers scare you away. These are great motors!
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:07 PM   #6
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I have a 1998 k2500 suburban with the 7.4 gas engine. This will pull anything. So look for an engine and transmission from one of these trucks, then work out your axle and tire ratios.
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:30 PM   #7
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Great engine if it would fit. Don't forget to upgrade tne cooling system and suspension. I'm sure some modifications would have to be made.
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:44 PM   #8
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I agree with earlier posts suggesting that you keep the block you have, if possible, and build a good tow vehicle out of that. Add good brakes, good cooling (engine, transmission, oil), good electrical system, etc...
That is a cool car and will look awesome pulling a vintage airstream.

My 2-cents....
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Old 11-01-2014, 01:57 PM   #9
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Seeking advice on custom engine for 1965 Buick wagon to tow a vintage Airstream

My recommendation would be a 400 block, 4" bore and stock stroke.

Strokers are not great for hauling, and neither are max bores.

But a 350 would work fine for pulling the size trailer you mention.

Awesome car, I always thought that full size 60s GM cars had excellent suspension, steering, and brakes.

The wagons also had superior fully boxed frames, adding A LOT to the firmness and solidity of these cars.

The cam selection will at this point have the most to do with the rear ratio you are running.

I would venture that about 9 out of 10 ten that if the stroker blew, the block is toast anyway.
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Old 11-01-2014, 04:47 PM   #10
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I'm with overlander63. The cam is important. The peak torque rpm should be near the cruising rpm. The best/cheapest way to upgrade is to find an original GM HEI distributor from a newer 1977+ I think, Buick engine. A good well tuned carburetor will be very competitive with Fuel injection...especially when you figure the cost of the fuel injection. If the Buick does not have front disc brakes that is a must-get for you. They can be retro-fitted from a newer A or G body or purchased after-market.
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Old 11-01-2014, 05:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elagache View Post
Dear Airstream enthusiasts,

Since I was 7 years old, my family has owned a 1965 Buick Special station wagon, bought second-hand. Over the years it has become my car. Here are a few pictures of the restored car for the curious:

Biquette and autumn trees 2013 - canebas

I have long dreamed of purchasing a restored vintage Airstream trailer - something in the 19-22 foot range. Here is the 1964 line-up for reference:

http://www.airstream.com/wp-content/...5419526d42.pdf

Alas, the dream has become a nightmare before it could even get started. The custom engine I ordered for my trusty wagon failed after just 3 months and 1000 miles. So I'm just about back to square-one.

I should have asked this question here before embarking on this nightmare, but better late than never. I'm trying to power my Buick with a genuine Buick V-8, so that basically boils down to two choices: the Buick 350 cid or one of the Buick big-blocks (400, 430, or 455 cid.)

The Buick small block is one assertive engine. Stock versions could produce over 300 horsepower and over 400 foot-pounds of torque. It should be also noted that the 1968-1972 Jeep Wagoneer was powered by the Buick small-block and I assume my more timid wagon couldn't tow anything heavier than those Wagoneers.

The engine that died was a stroker version of the Buick 430 cid. It made over 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. However, I now believe the muscle car camshaft that was installed was completely unsuitable for towing. Contrary to the engine builder's recommendations, I now suspect that my original preference of an RV styled camshaft was a much more reasonable choice.

The dead engine is now at another engine builder and will hopefully be undergoing post-mortem soon to determine the cause of failure. My problem is to decide whether to try to salvage this big-block engine or start from scratch with either a 350 Buick or another Buick big-block.

Unfortunately, I'm sure it will be difficult for this forum membership to be able to help me, but if anyone has some thoughts about the specifications for custom engine to be built for a classic car to be a tow vehicle - any wisdom would be appreciated!

Cheers, Edouard

Quality rebuilders are more an exception than the rule any longer.

I would recommend you thoroughly research the BOP engine via publications such as those issued by motorbooks international. Learn about the Buick proprietary engines of that era; high-nickel, etc. If you want displacement, then consider a "crate" benchmark engine from GM Powertrain; such can be had with plug-and-play systems for engine management. Limited by budget and craziness.

Buick branded and manufactured engines were known for reliability, performance, and longevity. However, aside from the vintage aspects, they are anchors compared to what you could "practically" repower your awesome B with today.

As for me, I'd stay stock and locate an old school B rebuilder.
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Old 11-01-2014, 11:19 PM   #12
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455 stock would do it...
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:30 AM   #13
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That is going to make a very cool rig elagache .

Any solid V8 with decent torque will do the job.

I would focus on a transmission rebuilt specifically for towing. The right tranny setup will shift when you need it to and help you keep the motor on its torque curve, minimize torgue converter slip, and keep things cool.

There are still many places that do the work including torque converters, shift kits, clutch packs, coolers etc.

Next see if you can find lower gears for the differential.
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:46 AM   #14
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I would do a lot of research to determine who can guide you through all this. In stock form this vehicle apparently towed a smaller Airstream with no problem. However you are IMO attempting to go first class and upgrade. A competent (very expensive) custom house may be able to assist you. Even checking with someone like Car Talk, Jay Leno's Garage, or a custom restorer might get a source who can engineer a mechanical plan to include brakes and complete drive train, to give you a properly matched package which would be reliable and quite functional.

Restoring cars, modifying....... welcome to the world of big finance.


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