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Restoring a 1951 Chev. Bel-Air to factory specs.

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Comments

  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    ...was a 1950 Buick Roadmaster with the big straight-eight.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    216s are pretty fragile by modern standards is what I meant. I mean, 15 lbs of oil pressure and little tin buckets throwing oil up to the pistons? LOL!

    Thing was, back then people thought nothing of rebuilding or at least "refreshing" engines at 50,000 miles or less, and they drove a lot slower then we do.

    I'd certainly upgrade to a 235 if I were rebuilding an old Chevy. Many old Chevys you find today have been upgraded years ago. There was a reason people did even back then.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    were all about low end torque. You could actually slip the clutch and start off in high gear, or pull away at idle no problem. Same with the old Chrysler flathead sixes. Cars were geared lower for low and midrange torque,with torquer cam timing, etc, and did keep up pretty well in everyday traffic. It's just the highway passing that got a little testy.
    I remember overhauling an old Chev 216 in highschool autoshop. The cylinders had .029 taper in the bore, and the rod journals were .006 flat. I remember the shimming the bearings, etc. I remember the day we started up my engine for a grade. Huge clouds of blue smoke! But it ran. We got a B on ours. I always wondered how long that engine would have lasted in a car! Oh yeah-I remember the teacher had a 57 Corvette, with the 283/270 horse, 2X4bbl, Duntov cam. Boy, did I want that car!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,066
    ...an engine that needed a rebuild every 50K miles back then would last today? Oils are so much better, and the roads are so much better too. To get the same effect that a 1950 Chevy had to go through, you'd probably have to take a modern car cruising around a construction site or farm or something...kick up some dust, find some deep ruts, etc.

    Also, I'm sure that 50K miles back in 1950 would also represent a lot more cold starts and short trips than it would today. My Granddad lived about 2 miles from his job. So did the guy I bought my '57 DeSoto from. I'm about 14 miles from work. Using that same ratio, for any given mileage, the older car would have 7 times more cold starts on it than mine would!

    As for gearing back then, I don't know what it would be on a 1950 Chevy, but a '57 DeSoto with a manual tranny came standard with 3.91 gears, with 4.11 or 3.73 optional. Even with the Powerflite, one of the options was 3.91. Considering this is for cars with 325 Polys and 341 Hemis, I'm sure a 6-cyl car back then would've been geared even shorter, wouldn't it?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    Probably the thing that would kill a babbit bearing engine today would be the way people drive stickshifts. They don't understand the dangers of lugging an engine or what horrific damage serious pinging or overheating can do.
    I think back then people were paying closer attention to their cars.

    Besides, a 216 Chevy would be mercilessly harassed on modern roads. You'd have an SUV up your butt every second of the day. My friend's Model A (perhaps a tad slower than a 216 Chevy at highway speeds) has to be driven with very strict attention because if you go fast enough to get people off your back, then you are going way too fast for the brakes and suspension.

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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    Wow, so even the most wimpy econobox from the '90s would easily dust an old 216 Chevy!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,785
    Still, a 216 Chevy is perfectly capable cruising at 70 MPH. I mean, what more do we want from a nice 50's car that won't be used for daily commuting etc. They really aren't slugs if that's what anybody is thinking. Granted, the 235's were much better.

    A Model A Ford is something else. No way would I take one on a freeway. When I had mine, it felt comfortable at 40 MPH, maybe 45 but that was about it. Mechanical brakes that actually worked fairly well, no turn signals etc...no thanks!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,066
    Then it sounds like it would fit in perfectly with modern-day traffic!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    Model As are scary in that respect. Also a babbitted engine.

    I guess I just don't have any confidence in an old 216, but maybe if it were completely and expertly rebuilt I would. Personally I would never rebuild one if say I bought an old Chevy pickup from the 50s (which I love) --it seems like so much trouble for so little return.

    Think about it--if you are down on oil in the crankcase with a "splash" lubrication system.

    The 216 is SO primitive! It's really the equivalent of an engine built in 1925 or so.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,785
    They were, I think, tougher than you remember.

    My first car was that '52 Chevy- 216. I paid 35 dollars for it. I seem to remember it only had something like 60,000 miles on it.

    It had never been apart and it ran well. It did ned a quart of oil probably every 400 miles and no doubt could have used an overhaul, bt it really didn't smoke and it ran well.

    I remember driving it from San Pedro to San Diego with a friend once and returning that same night.

    Pushed it 80 MPH the whole time without a problem.

    One time it did pick up a slight rod knock but luckilly an old timer (he was probably 45)who had a small shop in town, heard it and suggested I let him fix it before anything happened.

    I remember he pulled the pan and did something to adjust the shims etc. No more knock.

    I ended selling it a few months after that and remember seeing it around town for years after that.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    For anyone seriously interested in swapping out the old 216 for the 235, here's a detailed explanation of how to:


    http://www.chevrolet.com.au/articles/engine_swap.htm

    It's a great swap, with all pros and no cons attached, unlike some engine exchanges.

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  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    My mom's first car was also a '52 Chevy (two-door sedan, I don't know if Special or DeLuxe), green, with a three-speed. She learned how to drive on it (1964-65).
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Great link. Makes you wonder why anyone with a tired 216 would do anything but bolt in a 235. Or even better, the truck 261. Or still better, a 302 Jimmy with a few vintage speed parts and maybe an early Hydro. More power, more reliability--and it's "period correct". My conscience would be clear.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,785
    Good article. the 235 is far superior. My only point was that the 216's weren't THAT bad!

    And I would have no problem making the conversion. A V-8 I wouldn't do.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    Is the 230 from the '60s different than the 235?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The 230 came out in 1963 and it's a more modern engine with short stroke and seven main bearings.

    The 230 is a stoked version of the 194 that was the optional Nova engine in 1962. The standard engine was a 153 four banger that later became the Iron Duke--GM never throws away a perfectly good engine. I think the four was based on the 194 six tooling.

    The first Chevelle in 1964 had a special 230 with a "general performance" cam and 15 more hp than the Nova and Impala version. Also had a chrome valve cover and air cleaner lid that year only.

    There's also a 250 version that came out in 1966 and a 292 truck six that's still alive and well in UPS trucks.

    There was also a 215 version that Pontiac used in '64-65. The 230-250 OHC Pontiac six was based on the Chevy six block.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,331
    Good little engine the 230. They used them in Checker cabs I believe, as well as the 283.

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  • I could be mistaken, but I don't think the Bel Air model came out in 1953. The '53 and '54s were almost identical, and, I believe, they were the first Chevys with a one piece windshield.
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Posts: 307
    The Bel Air name arrived in 1950 to designate the Chevrolet Hardtop. It was also the first year of the 235, which carried on to '62.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,066
    the Bel Air become an an entire series? As in hardtop, 4-door sedan, 2-door sedan, etc? Was it 1955?
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Posts: 307
    1953, 150 Special, 210 Deluxe, and 240 Bel Air. In '55 Special and Deluxe became just the 150 and 210, while Bel Air dropped the 240. For what reason, I do not know.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,066
    like the 150, 210, etc just internal platform designations, or assembly line designations or something like that? Kinda like how my '57 DeSoto Firedome is referred to sometimes as "S-25" or something along those lines?
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Posts: 307
    Yes, but it was not uncommon for them to carry over into badging, and on the '55 to '57 Chevy's there was no other identifiers for the base and mid-range models.
  • OK, I am rebuilding a 1953 Bel Air. I want to put a CD player in it, and I swear that I have seen these before. It is a flip down face that looks like the old original AM/FM radio with dummy knobs. I have had this confirmed by about 6 people that they exist. BUT, nobody can tell me where to find them. Has anyone ever heard of or seen these, and if so where the heck can I find one? Thanks for the info
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,785
    Well, first of all there was never an "original" AM/FM radio in those. FM wasn't an option until 1963 or 1964.

    Then you would have to convert to 12 volt and your Chevy wouldn't be original anymore.

    And, I've never heard of such a thing. Usually people just hide the non original unit under the seat or in the glove box.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,010
    I think I've seen ads for modern AM-FM radios that look old in Hemmings, in the color ads at the beginning
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,066
    usually in something like a '57 Chevy. I have no idea where to get them, though. Back when I used to drive my '67 Catalina convertible more frequently, if I wanted tunes I just brought a boom box with me! :)
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,196
    I kept the original Sonomatic AM radio with the cool B-U-I-C-K lettering across the selector buttons in my 1968 Special Deluxe, but had a modern unit with a tape deck hidden under the dashboard.
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    link title

    Looks like nice work, but a little expensive?
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