1967 Thunderbird 390 engine lock...help

Background: Bought car in July 18, verified engine cranked (did not start), it sat for 4 months while the seller got a title, then we flat bedded it to my place, no issues. Since Nov I have been cleaning the engine up as it has rust from a rodent peeing on it, and sitting in a somewhat damp basement since 1977. Car has 60,000 original verified miles, and is in really great shape for a PA car. I have not tried to crank it since I first bought it. The engine and every part I've removed is original and I've been excited to play with it, until yesterday!

I'm to the point where the front of the engine and intake area are ready for prime paint and putting it back together (new carb, water pump, nicely painted parts, etc.), and I was going to do that this weekend. I have recently changed the oil, added Marvel Mystery to the cylinders, and dribbled Lucas over the rockers. Yesterday I tried to crank it to TDC, big click from the starter, no crank. Replaced rusty solenoid, verified the ground and voltage, same issue. Battery cables and starter warm! Battery on tender and new so I know it's good. Crank pulley appeared to move very little, like slight nudging, but no crank. Pulled the starter (original), tested on the ground, and it works! Oh crap!

Tried to move the flywheel via the starter hole, nothing but could not get much leverage. Put a chain wrench on the crank pulley and pulled, nothing. Verified the car was in park by moving the gear level to and fro, tried again, nope.

So what the!? Did this engine freeze up somehow just sitting or is it possible the transmission is in drive and an issue with the linkage, or locked in some other way preventing crank? The car is up on ramps and I have not attempted to lower it and see if it rolls in neutral, which is my next step. If that is fine, I'm bummed and need some help. When we move it out of its tomb, it shifted fine into neutral and rolled ok. It is not in the budget to pull this engine and trans to rebuild! Any suggestions from the group?
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fordrodsteven

Well-Known Member
I doubt that if the transmission was in drive it would stop the engine from turning. I would just pull out all the spark plugs and put some more MM into the cylinders. Then I would just keep working at trying to get it to turn by moving it manually. I would also apply more MM if it doesn't move after a few days and try again. Repeat. If you can get a couple rotations on it then I would hit with the starter (no spark plugs installed).
 
Get the car off ramps and put it on stands. You can get underneath and easily enough move the transmission lever into the desired position. Park, drive, neutral... etc. See if the rear wheels spin. Like others have mentioned let it soak in MMO for a few days to see if it loosens anything up. Otherwise you are going to have to pull the engine and see whats causing it to be locked up.

Also its an automatic transmission. Hence torque converter meaning a fluid coupling. If anything when you started the car if in gear it would lurch forward (or backwards respectively) rather rapidly and might I add DANGEROUSLY. Get the car's drive wheels off the ground and on some stands. How long did the vehicle sit before you got it? Like in how long sitting not running and just sitting in a damp basement? Because it could very well be that the car may have cranked before, but now its sitting in a rusty portion of the cylinder so its stuck. In anycase I would just recommend pulling the entire engine and going over it. It's never a good idea to let an engine sit for a long time without running it or putting in something to preserve the cylinders while its sitting in storage.

Let it be known a lot of Fords, Lincoln's or Mercury's with the column shifter were well known to suddenly move after starting or stopping and shutting off the engine. There was a MASSIVE lawsuit against Ford in those days that they skirted around by giving customers a sticker to put on their dash. It was an issue with the parking paw in the column wearing out and since park and reverse were right next to one another it could very possibly fall into reverse and move on you. Trust me when I say this is a VERY REAL thing and has happened to even me on a few occasions. Be very careful when underneath your vehicle. Block all tires and ALWAYS have it on stands if you plan on working underneath it.

Ever notice nowadays that park and reverse are now separated with a space in between them? There is a reason they did this.
 
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fordrodsteven

Well-Known Member
I agree totally with putting the car up without wheels on the ground but I tend to disagree with a lot of the other comments. I personally do not have lots of spendable income so I would not be yanking engines and transmissions out of cars just because it sat for a while. There may be nothing wrong so why try to fix something that aint broke? I also wonder about if the shift problem was so bad how would any manufacturer get away with just putting a sticker on the dashboard? I agree there were some issues with the parking pawl which is why I make sure the parking brake is set and the wheels are chocked or off the ground but I do that with any car I work on... Not just Fords (and Ford family of cars)
Just my two cents.
 
I agree totally with putting the car up without wheels on the ground but I tend to disagree with a lot of the other comments. I personally do not have lots of spendable income so I would not be yanking engines and transmissions out of cars just because it sat for a while. There may be nothing wrong so why try to fix something that aint broke? I also wonder about if the shift problem was so bad how would any manufacturer get away with just putting a sticker on the dashboard? I agree there were some issues with the parking pawl which is why I make sure the parking brake is set and the wheels are chocked or off the ground but I do that with any car I work on... Not just Fords (and Ford family of cars)
Just my two cents.
https://autoweek.com/article/wait-theres-more/little-warning-label-saved-ford-23-million-vehicle-recall
https://www.autosafety.org/ford-transmissions-failure-hold-park/
 
I agree not everyone has disposable income, but it is what it is sometimes. If the engine is stuck or doesn't move even after a few days of letting it soak then it has to be taken out and inspected for as to why its seized up. It does no good to "hope" everything is going to be alright when you know something is majorly wrong.
 
If I had this problem, I would start taking the heads off. That's not a too bad of a job. Often it is just one or 2 pistons seized and with a little work they come loose. Problem could be because of a bad head gasket and water came into a piston
 
Get the car off ramps and put it on stands. You can get underneath and easily enough move the transmission lever into the desired position. Park, drive, neutral... etc. See if the rear wheels spin. Like others have mentioned let it soak in MMO for a few days to see if it loosens anything up. Otherwise you are going to have to pull the engine and see whats causing it to be locked up.

Also its an automatic transmission. Hence torque converter meaning a fluid coupling. If anything when you started the car if in gear it would lurch forward (or backwards respectively) rather rapidly and might I add DANGEROUSLY. Get the car's drive wheels off the ground and on some stands. How long did the vehicle sit before you got it? Like in how long sitting not running and just sitting in a damp basement? Because it could very well be that the car may have cranked before, but now its sitting in a rusty portion of the cylinder so its stuck. In anycase I would just recommend pulling the entire engine and going over it. It's never a good idea to let an engine sit for a long time without running it or putting in something to preserve the cylinders while its sitting in storage.

Let it be known a lot of Fords, Lincoln's or Mercury's with the column shifter were well known to suddenly move after starting or stopping and shutting off the engine. There was a MASSIVE lawsuit against Ford in those days that they skirted around by giving customers a sticker to put on their dash. It was an issue with the parking paw in the column wearing out and since park and reverse were right next to one another it could very possibly fall into reverse and move on you. Trust me when I say this is a VERY REAL thing and has happened to even me on a few occasions. Be very careful when underneath your vehicle. Block all tires and ALWAYS have it on stands if you plan on working underneath it.

Ever notice nowadays that park and reverse are now separated with a space in between them? There is a reason they did this.
The wheels should spin freely off the ground and in neutral. It's an automatic transmission not a stick shift that can be stuck or locked up in gear. If you put a breaker bar and socket on the crankshaft big bolt and turn it the driveshaft and rear end will not move because it's an automatic transmission. It will spin the torque converter that's all. If the crankshaft bolt won't turn your rods and or pistons are probably seized up. I wouldn't be pulling apart the top of the engine either
 
The wheels should spin freely off the ground and in neutral. It's an automatic transmission not a stick shift that can be stuck or locked up in gear. If you put a breaker bar and socket on the crankshaft big bolt and turn it the driveshaft and rear end will not move because it's an automatic transmission. It will spin the torque converter that's all. If the crankshaft bolt won't turn your rods and or pistons are probably seized up. I wouldn't be pulling apart the top of the engine either
Something is jamming it up somewhere if it cranked over when you first looked at it. Pull the distributor out and make sure it's not seized up. Timing belt could've slipped or broke off and pinching the crank or cam shaft. Something's binding it up
 
I agree not everyone has disposable income, but it is what it is sometimes. If the engine is stuck or doesn't move even after a few days of letting it soak then it has to be taken out and inspected for as to why its seized up. It does no good to "hope" everything is going to be alright when you know something is majorly wrong.
He said it turned over with no problem when he first checked it out. Something's binding it up somewhere
 
Update to the group and WOW thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.

I did remove the fuel pump but it made no difference.

I did try to put a big ass breaker bar on the crank bolt and pulled as hard as I could but got scared of breaking the bolt so I stopped. That's when we tried the chain wrench around the pulley, no movement.

This car did crank in July 2018, and that's why I bought it, I would not have otherwise. I did not think to lube the pistons with MM at that time. We were limited in time at the car and it was a 6 hour round trip to PA. We pulled it onto a flatbed in Nov 18, it rolled fine. We rolled it down the flatbed and winched it into the garage it's in now. From that point I've been working on the cosmetics of the engine because it was pretty rusty, radiator rebuilt, etc. Now I am ready to start reassembly and hit this point.

Prior to the ramps it was on Jack stands back in Jan 19, and I'm sure the wheels moved in neutral because I popped one drum off to have a look at the brakes (decent condition), and got some used tires on it that hold air. Up to now I had shifted the car to N and through the other gears, but have not physically moved it.

There are no brakes and the parking brake is not working yet and rusted, so I have to be careful.

Just so I am clear going forward....is it possible that a tranny related problem is causing this that may have cropped up shifting it as I've described? Would it crank if the tranny was stuck in a drive gear or if something else happened?

As others have mentioned I'm not keen to do a full rebuild. The car has 60000 original miles and in really good shape, compared to others I've seen.

Plan for next visit is to get it up on stands and make sure wheels move, check transmission linkage, try to move crank again. Starter is now off the car. Thanks.
 
Something internal. Transmission would not prevent the engine from cranking. Pull the heads and start there. Though like I mentioned before sometimes it is what it is. If the engine is locked up to a point that even trying to turn it comes up fruitless then you’re going to have to pull the engine. But it’s not all doom and gloom. These engines and transmissions. Are very simple so it’s pretty easy to get them fixed up. Never give up.
 
Anyway its very rare that it is completely blocked after some month. I remember a 1930 Nash convertible I bought of a farmer at his barn. This car was parket in 1950 and never used anymore. It was about 15 miles from my house. So I went there in morning with a compressor, tools,battery and fuel and some hoses to give the car fuel directly from my container. Before starting it up I checked for spark and gave some fuel directly into the carb. Car started right up with lots of smoke out back....but it was alive after 62 years at the same spott. Pumped up the tires and we drove it home...was a funny trip as the radiator was without a lock and halve way it started to spitt out water direct into my face as the convertible top was down and all rotten.
I feel sorry for Gbird67. Lots of more work then he thought now. I wish you luck that you quickly find out whats wrong with your engine. Keep us informed
 
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