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1964 Thunderbird Engine swap

Discussion in '1955 - 1966 Classic Ford Thunderbird' started by s1nemesis1s, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hey guys,

    Been doing a great deal of thinking - I know, dangerous right? I may have even asked this before but would share my thoughts I am in now.

    My tbird's motor is not in great shape, the transmission is suspect too - I am wondering, I have a 95 Roadmaster with a busted body but GREAT LT1 motor an transmission. Would it be possible, to swap my tbird to an LT1? I know it sounds crazy, but I think that it could be very cool and provide the restomod I am looking for? Has anyone done anything like this? Thoughts?
    64ZCODE likes this.
  2. Anything can be done with time and money. Question is do you want spend all that money to do it? We are talking custom fabrication, Welding, wiring, the necessary computers and sensors for the new engine and transmission, resizing of the driveshaft or needing a custom one made. There is A LOT to doing something like this including A LOT of money and time invested. Are you willing to do something like this?
    s1nemesis1s and 64ZCODE like this.
  3. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    I am willing to do it, but the more I look at my car I hate to chop it up that way - I will park the roadmaster, store it correctly, and do some measuring and thinking. The money part, of course, is not enticing, especially considering I can buy new heads and intake for the 390, and build it a bit.

    Let me ask this - what would a C6 swap look like with my stock setup?
  4. Uhh... I think the C6 is pretty similar to the transmission in your 64. Cruise-O-matic right? I believe the C6 was the new model that came out in I think 66 or 67. It was made to handle the higher torque of the 429/460 engines. Also it was made out of cast aluminum over the older heavy as hell cast iron. What is wrong with your 390? They are pretty reliable engines.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  5. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Mine starts okay, but continues to smoke. The smoke lessens as it runs more and almost goes away, but if you give it the beans it smokes pretty badly. It is blueish so not too rich, thinking it burning oil. So I figure at the very least it needs probably a valve job.
  6. Blue smoke could mean piston rings as well.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  7. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Probably so, unfortunately. Was doing some research on engines and I keep reading the same thing - buy a long block that is already assembled with a warranty, as opposed to rebuilding the whole thing. I am a ways off from this project, I am doing suspension, undercoating, and so on for now - which will keep me business probably until next summer with everything going on in my life - but I think that if I do put all that energy into the suspension and rearend I should probably do the engine and transmission. (Also have a total replacement of the fuse system in mind and most of the wiring since mine is hacked up.)

    I guess what I will do is pull the engine and transmission myself. I have never done it, but I have also never done any of these other things lol - leaf springs, brakes, front suspension, so I figure, what could go wrong :D. I feel like I could do a rebuild, I guess we will see what time brings. I feel very lucky to be able to talk to you all about this and bounce ideas off of you all - so much appreciated.

    I remember back when I first bought this car and you guys helped me bring her back to life, pass transfer inspection, and get her on the road - it was such an awesome feeling and I thank each of you. I think once the car is "done," it will be so rewarding. However, I do recall the warnings of how much it will cost, and so on - At first I thoughts, "na, they are crazy, it will be fine." Now after lots of money in, and a car up on wood blocks - I am starting to see and appreciate the friendly warnings. lol I love these cars, so this is a passion project. It is also in tribute to my mother. It was one of the last things she saw. I remember showing her the car online and she said, "Well, honey, it looks like a money pit. However, you love those thunderbirds, so just be careful." So, doing my best.
  8. Spent almost the entirety of a year just rebuilding my car to drive it. All the suspension components, brakes (every component), engine work, transmission rebuilt (very expensive, cost me $2700). Rebuilt the rear end, A lot of sanding, painting... some welding and other assorted things. It's a long journey I must say and at each step I keep asking myself is it worth it? Should I continue or should I sell and recoup some of the costs. I still have so much to go. The headlight motors still need to be hooked up. The car now runs like crap ever since I installed the new intake. Need a new carburetor since my old one is crapping out on me. So much to do, but so much time I just don't have time for.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  9. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Wow, you have really done a ton! What sort of engine work and transmission work did you have done for 2700? I added up the costs of new Edelbrock heads and intake alone and it is shocking! I want them though as they are so much lighter and flow better, but it's just going to have to wait, money is always the problem lol. Just need to win the lottery.

    Sounds like I am on the right track though, starting with the suspension and so like you - at least I know I am on the right track. My brakes are fairly new and the lines look new too, but the hardware looks ancient. Think I'll pull it apart and replace the hardware, but never done drum brakes so this will be a learning experience. I really appreciate all the help and advice. I'll be replacing the pinion seal soon and I will probably replace the bearing.
    I have heard good things about the cruise o matic, but if I could move over to a C6 my rebuild and repair options open up locally. Hmm, so much to consider. Thanks for all your help!

    I bought a powder coating gun from Amazon and I am converting a large trash can into an "oven," going to coat all the suspension parts I can.

    I have thought a few times about jumping ship, but I have you much money, time, and love for it...but it does cross my mind on occasion.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2019
  10. I replaced all the lines with stainless steel brake lines (Classic Tube had the lines already pre-bent and ready to install). I replaced both the master cylinder and power booster, All the brakes where redone. All new rotors on the front along with wheel bearings, calipers and pads. Complete rebuild of the rear drum brakes too. I took all the front suspension components out and had them all sand blaster and powder coated. Replaced all the old suspension because... well because it was crap and gone. Metal to metal rubbing in some places. As for the cost... That was the single cost of having my transmission pulled out and rebuilt professionally ( I was not going to try and rebuild an automatic transmission). It was toast and slipping. Only first gear would work. Well first and reverse so it needed a completel rebuild. Even the case was cracked. The previous owner or whom ever put that trans in never bolted the top part of the bell housing in and cracked it. As for engine work? So far I put new exhaust manifolds on. New 2 3/4 aluminized exhaust pipes along with some flowmaster super 40 mufflers. I installed a new MSD ignition system complete with the coil, distributor and wires. I now just recently installed an Edelbrock performer 460 intake, and I got a holley 750 carb I want to have put on too. This summer I completely gutted the interior. Fixed some rust and then laid down dynamat insulation. Like I said before I had pulled the read axle out. Completely disassemble it, had it sand blasted then I painted it with POR15. Installed some new axle seals and put it back together. Oh and a new fuel tank. Since the old one had a hole in it. New tires and wheels etc... Costly it was... I am now at the point of trying to find people to do body work. A daunting endeavor which is going to be the most costly thing I want done on the car.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  11. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Wow that is amazing! I know I will be asking tons of questions soon and leaning on your good guys for help, so glad you are here.
    Bodywork is always a tossup I am finding. Most of these shops just want to do expensive insurance jobs now where parts are prepainted or primed and ready to shoot and bolt-on. Working on a rusty bird is the last thing they want - well some of them. I have also found it is hit or miss depending on the phases of the moon LOL HAHA. They can do great one day not suck the next. I am seriously considering doing all the bodywork I can myself, and paint the car with spray cans, do a 2K clear coat over it, and wet sand the whole thing - seeing some AMAZING results on YouTube and has tested it on a piece of metal a while back and it worked out nicely. I need a body shop to make my quarters "right," but I need to decide between what is right and what I can afford. If the car looks good, is safe from further rusting, I am good with fiberglass and bondo. I want to save as many birds and old beasts as I can - if I wrap myself up in bodywork costs - as you said - it is the most expensive!

    I have drums all around and stuff looks almost new - but I am going to replace the hardware and pull them apart to do all the suspension - I like you have a ratty suspension and it needs TLC. The front end seems okay enough, but I want to be SURE about it for the safety of the around me on the road and my safety.
    That was VERY ambitious of you to gut the interior. I am going to have to get close to this. The previous owner started painting all the blue stuff black with VERY CHEAP black paint that never cured totally and is sticky - yuck. I think I will pull the carpet and do sound deading as well. My floors look undamaged, no holes I can see from the bottom - so I am glad about that - but I have a bunch of high temp paint that is going to be sprayed painted on the floors and the undercarriage. I have new tires and rims waiting to be installed, jumped the gun on that a little soon, but oh well.
    I have upgraded to petronix and have an intelletronix ignition box to put in as well - already running a new coil as well. I would like to switch to a 1 wire alternator and go internally regulated, but I am still unsure of some of the things needed for that. Mine came with a new tank, but the filler neck oring leaks so that is on my radar as well. I am debating on powder coating the rear end, would have to do it in two sections as my "trash can oven," can only fit so much.
  12. You may not see holes until you pull the carpet and insulation. That old crap held water like a sponge.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  13. Don,
    Just a thought, blue smoke on startup that goes away as it runs is usually indicative of worn valve seals and seats. Have you done a compression and leakdown test to see what the condition of the lower end is? If the lower end is not in bad shape a rebuild wouldn't be to awfully expensive. With a few add on that 390 would be really strong.
    Just some thoughts.
    Take care
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  14. I agree with this. Best to rule out anything needing a major teardown.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  15. For the bodywork end of it go to some car shows, talk to people and gravitate towards the older generation, they are a wealth of knowledge and know how to fix things instead of just swapping parts. I always wanted to learn bodywork and paint my own cars and I learned more from a older thunderbird enthusiast than I ever could have in a trade school. I provided the car and the supplies and he shared his knowledge. I painted scrap parts, parts cars you name it just for practice. I also had the benefit of working for 20 some odd years in a MB dealership and would spend free time talking to the painter and body men. I agree most shops now are all about the insurance jobs and will price anything else to convince you to leave. I’ll tell you this, you’ll feel way better knowing you did your own work than paying dearly and not knowing what or how it was done, you may not be as efficient as a professional but your car is your passion and no one will take the same care with it as you.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  16. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    I have not done the tests yet. I believe I have a gauge, just have not gotten around to it. I need to get some of my stuff together, my tools are all over the place - with trying to settle after mom passed and taking care of my brother, I have been lucky to just keep tools in the garage. Right now she is way up in the air on blocks and I am doing the suspension. However, I am hoping to knock that out this fall/winter/spring. I am doing undercoating and everything - so I want it to be right. Once that is done I think I will run a compression test on it and a leak down test. I will come back to you guys for some help on numbers and stuff for sure.

    If things go the way they seem to be going right now I may not have the money to deal with the problem for 18-24 months from today. However, she runs, and I feel lucky for that. I can work around the engine by doing all the other fun stuff:) But, I will run these tests hopefully this year and find out what is going on exactly with it.
    Thank you all so very much!
    ak7an likes this.
  17. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    You all are totally correct - I was going to go into as a complete teardown and build back up - but if I could get away with just a valve job I might do that for the foreseeable future..however, it sounds like my problems might be deeper than that.
  18. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    This is an excellent idea!! I didn't even think about doing that - good lord my mind is mush. I would love to go back to school and learn welding and some bodywork - but alas...already spent out on school - phew! I will have to edjuma'kate myself lol.

    I completely agree, I am finding more and more often that even if you pay for quality work you get bum service and bum work. My dad has a 1992 Roadmaster that he loves. It started to have electrical problems. I worked on it and found some issues with his door switches and so on and replaced them. However, the issue kept coming back. We finally called a bunch of trusted shops and were told to take it to this one shop and the guy there is a "wizard." Well, we left it off, dude comes by their shop 3-4 days a week and works at another shop on older cars like this. A week later best he could come up with was "well I unplugged the RKE module and it seems okay"...I take a 20 dollar Uber out to get it for my dad, long story on why I had no ride, picked up the car, and within 30 minutes of driving it the interior lights came on again and locks were cycling - problem still there. I recorded it on my phone, then pulled over. I messed with the driver's door and as I had suspected it was the door latch assembly..but when I told the guy that when I dropped it off - that I suspected it - and then when I confirmed it later - he dismissed me....took it back per my dad's wishes, dude looked at it for another week, and said, "welp it's the door latch assembly"....that will be 300 for the latch assembly and 375 for my time. I told them to go ahead. I went to get the car and he had not only broken most of the tabs off the door panel, he also busted the speaker and broke dash trim during his diagnosis. I went inside spoke to the shop owner and told him I would pay for the part and 1 hour of this man's time - no more as my dad's car is totally messed up now. He agreed, apologized profusely and refunded it.

    My dad likes to have his oil changed by this shop he has been going to for years. Never mind that I have all the things to change it and have been changing oil for since I was 13... He wanted it changed here. Fine, it's my dad and that is what he wants so that is what he will get. When I went in I asked for an oil and filter changed - asked if they had the filter on hand - said they did, and all was well. Gave them the keys and sat down as the guy pulled his car into a bay and started the lift. I stepped outside to take a smoke and I watched the older tech pour out my dad's filter, clean it off and put it back on....then proceeded to lower the car, and then to add 1 quart of oil...and close the hood. I guess he didn't know I was watching or thought I didnt know what was up. I marched right in and gave him a piece of my mind. Ended up driving it out of these without having to pay - but it just shows you, people take the easy way out many times.

    So, I try to do as much as I can myself as I just cannot trust others to do a good job - I want to trust, but every time I do I get burned. I work as a System Engineer in IT and on occasion I get my hands very dirty - I always do a complete job, and treat every job like it were a personal project - I never cheat the system...makes me sick to see others doing it.

    So, I will try to do as much as I can at home on my car. It might not perfect, but at least I know it won't rust totaly out or fall apart lol.
    jj_sharp and ak7an like this.
  19. Ditto. In my experience 'they' usually do good work, but not always.

    When working on my wife's Thunderbird, 'they' have always put it off as extremely low priority.

    It was hard to find people to do the work. She had the car 1.5 years for a paint job and some mechanical work (2 shops). Now it can be driven, after a long down time.
    s1nemesis1s likes this.
  20. s1nemesis1s

    s1nemesis1s Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hmm, wondering if I can pull the heads, have the work done on them and check the rest of the motor, put some new rings in, and a gasket set. As is, my engine likes to leak. I can tell someone has had the intake and maybe heads off pretty recently, which makes me wonder if the bottom end is needing attention. I need to run tests of course, but I just wonder if a refresh would be a good alternative - or a terrible idea. it would give me a chance to clean the motor up, replace the oil pump, seals, gaskets, timing chain, new flywheel - rings if that would work on a "refresh." I see kits on eBay, I thought I could just clean up my bores and avoid a hone, just...refresh everything. If that would stop the leaks and smoke...I might be game for that. Plus, I would learn a WHOLE lot. I know this is Shadetree as all get out - but it would be a learning experience and allow me maybe get years more out of the motor.

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