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1961 Impala SS409, Holy Grail?

wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
http://www.classicdreamcars.com/61IMPALA.html


Is this the Holy Grail for collectors of post WW2 Chevys?

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    andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,402
    It's between those and the 1970 Malibu SS with the 454/LS-6.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I'd say the '57 fuelie convertible is still the Holy Grail.

    That 409 looks a lot like the 348 4 speed convertible I had, only I think the color is a shade lighter (hard to tell from the great photos).

    My guess is that the later 409 SS ('62-64) is worth more because, as the ad says, hardly anyone knows about the '61s. It's hard for people to fantasize about owning a car all their life when they don't know it exists.

    It would be interesting to know if the 348 3x2v was the 280 or 320 hp version. With the mild hydraulic cam the engine is no world beater, but with the solid lifter cam it's pretty lively.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    No, I think the '57 Chevy convertible. The 409 is a rather crude car and not in a terribly handsome body. Certainly, it is a desirable automobile but it's not the Holy Grail like the '57 Chevy is.

    The 409 is about the engine, the '57 Chevy is about the whole car, is what I mean. It's a BIGGER chocolate bunny for the collector.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Yeah, and the reason they called the 348/409 a truck engine isn't out of respect, as the ad implies. It was literally a truck engine, having been designed initially for large trucks. The '61 409 was in a fairly mild state of tune, especially compared to the '62-4 dual-quad solid lifter versions that were marginally streetable.
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    As I recall the lowest power rating for a 61Impala SS was the 335 hp 348 "police engine" with auto, then 340, 350 (348) and 360 hp 409.

    Out of curiosity how does a 61 Impala SS 409 compare to a 57 Convert on pricing.

    I remember some years ago Super Chevy (?) making a big deal about this car.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    A 1957 Chevy convertible with fuel injection or 2X4 would be worth about double a '61 409SS convertible. If it was just a "normal" '57 Chevy belair convertible, it would be worth about 50% more.
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    andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,402
    but then I've never been that big on the '57, IMO
    the '56 is much nicer.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Yeah I think I remember now that only the hotter 348s (and the 409) were available with the SS package in 1961. I thought the "police" engine, only available with HD Poweglide, had 305 hp, but maybe they boosted the power for '61. I know they kept improving the two hottest 348s, the four barrel and 3x2v with solid lifter cam.
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    gmengineman1gmengineman1 Member Posts: 32
    There are few '61 SS 409's around. So few the CPI price book only talks about a price (mint) of $42,000. If this one is worth restoring and in the opinion of your trusted expert can be done right, it may be worth your money. How much? How much do you have to restore this car properly? '61 and '62 bubbletops are rare. Keep that in mind. I saw a '61 bubbletop with a tripower 348 sell for $22,000. That help?
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    now that you mention it, 305hp for the police unit sounds correct
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I'm home now so I can look at the ever-reliable Bill Carroll's Chevrolet V8 Performance Guide, 1969 edition.

    The Turbo-Thrust 348 was the boat anchor in my car, rated at 250 hp with small WCFB four barrel from '58-'61. Then there's the Super Turbo-Thrust 348, same engine and years but with three Rochesters--same carbs as Pontiac Tri-Power and also probably the Olds J-2 and Cad 3 deuce setup of that era. Both the 250 and 280 have 9.5:1 CR and mild cam.

    Then there's the Special Turbo-Thrust, a "special order high performance engine" with special main and rod bearings. Hydro cam and 9:5:1 CR, so it was detuned from the '59-60 version that had solid cam and 11:1. That's the one that came only with the HD Powerglide.

    At the top are the Special (Super) Turbo-Thrust 348 with either 340 hp (one AFB four barrel) or 350 hp (three deuces). 11.25:1 CR, "pistons relieved for valve clearance, special main and rod bearings", mechanical cam. I heard that this cam was so aggressive it wore out valve springs, and when they compensated by increasing the spring tension the cam lobes wore down. Maybe that's when they realized they'd gotten everything they were going to get out of the 348.

    These were early musclecars in a sense, but the idea behind what most people call the first true musclecar, the GTO, was a strong but relatively mild big block in a lighter car. That way people didn't have to put up with lopey cams and dual quads to make 4000 lb. cars go fast. There aren't that many people into high maintenance engines, but the engines in the first GTOs didn't need any more maintenance than the average Bonneville.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    To me the Holy Grail of post-war Chevies would be (drum roll please)...a '59 Impala convertible with 290-hp fuelie and four speed. Last year for the fuelie in sedans and first year for the four speed in sedans. I happen to like the styling but hear that not everyone does ;-). Must be red on red with white top, no continental kit please.

    Shifty, have you ever seen a '59 with either fuelie and/or four speed? Do you want to?
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    ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    .....was the only two-door hardtop style offered in '61, in both Bel Air and Impala trim, so that style 'in and of itself' isn't all that rare. Now, if it's an SS or especially an SS409, it IS super rare, but more because of the trim/model designation and engine than for body style. In '62, the 'bubble top' was offered only in Bel Air trim and is rather rare (and the best looking '62 Chevy, IMO).

    As for value vs. a '57, I have to guess if anyone could even locate a '61 SS409 convertible for sale (a real one, documented, etc.), it would cost the moon and the stars, if complete, regardless of condition. Keep in mind, a total of 453 SS cars (by all accounts, available on ANY Impala that year only), and only 142 409 cars (all SS) were built for the '61 model year, so how many surviving 409 convertibles could there possibly be? I also wonder if any there were actually any '61 SS made that were not two-door hardtops or convertibles.

    The '57s are probably more 'desirable' to most collectors, but not all that rare, unless we're talking a fuelie or one of the other 'hot setups' offered that year. There were over 47,000 Bel Air convertibles and over 166,000 Bel Air hardtops made for '57; desirable, yes, rare, no.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Supply and demand drive the prices and the desirability, not the rarity. Rarity can be really meaningless actually for some cars, because they are ugly or incompetent or whatever. The reason a 61 SS convertible 409 is worth about the same as a more common '57 Chevy convert, and the reason a FI '57 Chevy is worth double the SS is because more people want the '57 Chevies. People determine the market for the cars ultimately.

    And this supply and demand thing changes, as the type of collector changes.

    speedshift--no, can't say as I have ever seen a FI '59.
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    jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    A Chevy-loving friend of mine considers the '66-'75 Impala/Caprice Classic convertibles to be the Holy Grail of Chevys. I'll have to disagree on that one, as I've looked at numerous convertibles from that era, and the cars still appear to be crude and overweight. Any thoughts?
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    isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I've never seen a '59 with fuel injection either. Must be super rare.

    The strangest 59 I ever saw once was a 59 Biscayne Station Wagon with a 348. It had tri-power, and a three speed on the column with overdrive. As a kid working in a gas station, this old man would bring it in (often)to buy ten gallons of premimum!

    Now, how wierd is that one?
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That's one of the great things about the old days, you could get oddball combinations like that. With OD it was probably just the 280 hp version (IIRC you generally couldn't get OD with the hottest engines, must not have been strong enough) but even so, whoever ordered that car had a lot of imagination. Now that I think of it, that combination makes sense: cruise on the middle 2 bbl. and put it in OD over 45 or so for best mpg.

    At least he bought ten gallons, not "check the windows, check the tires, check the oil, a dollar gas". Of course in those days ten gallons would have cost, what, $2.50?
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    Ghulet,

    Would you translate that to an earthly sum?
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    The essential characteristic of a Holy Grail is that it's theoretically possible but practically unattainable. This makes a '59 fuelie four speed convertible the odds on favorite for Holy Graildom. It could exist, it should exist, but it doesn't ;-).

    As for the '65-up convertibles, they're just too big. The earlier ones are smaller but still feel ponderous. I had a '65 Impala SS with 327 and four speed and while I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had run on more than seven cylinders, it was not one of the handful of cars I'd like to have back.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    The real holy Grail might be Corvette #1. This car is still missing.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    And if it did show up its owner would have to have a really good story.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I'm sure it will involve Elvis somehow.

    It's possible they never stamped a #1, or it may have been destroyed. There's a story about it somewhere, but I've forgotten the details, since a '53 Vette doesn't excite me very much. But it is historically interesting.
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    ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    .......'moon & stars', of course, is whatever some loony collector is willing to pay for it. Ballpark for a '61 SS409 convertible? Probably even in crummy shape, $10-15k? For a trailer queen, I wouldn't at all be shocked to see $60-75k. I dunno.

    Yes, the '57s are more expensive (I personally don't get it), but I'd rather have a '61. I think they're great looking, reasonably sized (especially compared to '65 and later SS) and unusual.
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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think the '57s serve as a cultural icon. You see them in ads, on t-shirts, in old movies. The '57 just says THE FIFTIES! like no other car can. It's the poster child for monied car collectors now in THEIR 50s.

    61 Chevies just don't have that kind of pull in people's imaginations.

    You take a '55 Corvette or '55 Studebaker. Which one will everyone point to, talk about, remember? Same thing here, except it's not fair to call a '61 Chevy a Studebaker.
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    jpstaxjpstax Member Posts: 250
    Here's a good website on classics for sale:


    http://www.mershons.com/view_photo.asp?ID=4523&image=Exterior


    It shows a '63 409 in pretty good condition.

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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    The '57 is more than a car, it's a revered symbol. It's the Marilyn Monroe of cars. I wasn't into them until the first time I hitchhiked, when I was 13. Instead of getting picked up by an axe murderer I got a ride in a very nice black '57 with four speed. I sat in the passenger seat in silence and just soaked up the vibes. Maybe you only feel them if you're of a certain generation.

    As for the '61, well, that's a whole different ballgame. My favorite from those years is the '59. They're the same car from '59-'64 but for me the '59 is more evocative, more over the top. Sounds funny but if I had an old sedan in my garage I'd want it to make a statement. A '59 makes all kinds of statements, good or bad but never indifferent. The dash is great too, with those hooded instruments like the contemporary Corvette. I like obsolete engines and the 348 certainly fits the bill, especially with three twos and a solid cam.

    A '60 would be great too, or a '62 (had one). Never really took to the '63 or '64--the greenhouse just doesn't seem to fit the rest of the car--but they seem to be worth more, at least the 409 version.
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    Wasn't the 61 409 the first time a Chevy had a larger engine that a Cadillac (390cid)?. Larger and performance tuned at that. A novel concept for GM?. That the 1961 Corvette could not
    be had with the powerful 409 made the 409 seem special when it was introduced. Wasn't chevy racing the 409 in NASCAR at the time?
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Chevy won the Grand National championship in 1961 with the 409. Pontiac won more races but Chevy had more points. The 409 also did well in drag racing against the Ford 390/401 and Pontiac 389 Trophy 425A. In '62 Ford brought out the 406 and Pontiac the 421 Super Duty. The re-engineered 409 was still very strong at the drags but didn't do well against the Pontiacs in NASCAR. In 1963 Chevy brought out the "mystery engine" Z-11, the predecessor to the 396/427 porcupine engine, but then pulled out of racing. By '64 the 409 wasn't competitive except on the street and ironically these seem to bring the most money.
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    jpstaxjpstax Member Posts: 250
    The 409 was a great engine for its time, but I read recently that it could only do a 0-60 in 6.2 seconds. That was a little bit slow by today's standards. My wife's Buick Regal GS will do 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. However, we are comparing a carbureted engine back then to a fuel injected one now; and points, a rotor, and condensor back then versus electronic ignition now. Things have certainly changed for the better. I used to do my own tune-ups back then, and they were a pain.
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    andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,729
    ...remember too, that a 409 Impala probably weighed a good bit more than a Regal. Also, tires back then weren't all that grippy, so it was easy to spin the wheels instead of getting all that power directly to the ground. Just for comparison, what would a Chrysler Letter Series do, 0-60-wise, or a Catalina 421?
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    I believe that a 409 enlarged to 427 inch was developed and used for racing in the 1962 model year. A very rare piece.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Interesting road test. 94 mph is doing well for a 3700+ pound car with 3.36s.

    I did a little research and it seems fairly certain that the Z-11 first appeared in February 1963 at Daytona, although it may have been announced as an option before then.

    It was a $1237.40 option on any Impala two-door hardtop (what, I can't get one in a Brookwood wagon?). Included four speed, HD suspension, Posi and metallic brakes. Oh yeah, and aluminum hood, front fenders and bumpers. "Buyers require approval from the Central Sales Office before the order can be filled." Factory racers only, please. The engine apparently made 550 hp but the 409 bottom end couldn't handle it so they weren't much of a threat, especially after Chevy pulled the plug on overt factory support.
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    Once again you are correct, the Z11 was 1963:

    http://www.geocities.com/greatamericanmuscle/Chevy-63impala.html


    The road test mentions NASCAR roots. Was it necessary to sell a certain number of 409 street versions in order for it to be eligable to race in NASCAR (homologated?)

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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    A manufacturer had to race with a regular production engine. NASCAR was political even in those days and they let the Z-11 race, even though it was a racing-only engine, supposedly because it had factory casting numbers. More likely it was because Chevy needed help to be competitive and NASCAR likes to even the playing field. The fact that the only Z-11 Chevies were the five cars that showed up at Daytona tells me that if NASCAR had homologation standards they were pretty lenient.

    Since you couldn't race with multiple carburetion each manufactuer needed a single four barrel version of their hottest engine. That's why the hottest 409 came in both single four barrel and dual four barrel versions from 1962 on. The four barrel was for NASCAR, the dual quad 409 for the street and drags.

    Starting in 1963 there was also a four barrel 409/340 "police" engine with hydraulic cam, usually bolted to Powerglide. I had this engine in an early '65 Impala wagon of all things.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I have a 0-60 time for the last milestone letter car, the '61 300-G, of 8.4 seconds. Quarter mile of around 16 seconds under 90 mph. They were too heavy and had too much cam and carburetion to be all that quick off the line, but one did the flying mile at Dayton at 143 mph (probably with the "short ram" 400-hp 413).

    A '62 Catalina Super Duty 421 could 0-60 in "under 6 seconds" and do the quarter in 13.9 seconds at 107 mph. Rated at 405 hp but may have put out as much as 465 hp.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    What's interesting about that test is that Chevy gave the 409 Powerglide more torque multiplication (3.36 gears, 1.82 first gear) than the 327. The HD Powerglide behind the 409 sounds like the same one they used behind the first "W" police engine, the 348/305.

    I wasn't too impressed with the 409/340 PG in my '65 wagon but to be fair it was probably about the same as the 396/325 with PG. Neither was meant to be a screamer.

    Going back to the '61 409, I had always thought it was kind of a half-hearted first step because it didn't have optional dual quads like the later 409s and it didn't have the 400+ hp ratings they did. And there's no question the later 409s were improved. But looking at the quarter mile numbers of the '61 it seems like the first 409 was conservatively rated (very unusual for the time). I think it was making close to its 360 gross hp rating.
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    wvkwvk Member Posts: 18
    To me 61 SS is unique because it was both first of a long letter series and was pure, no 6cyl
    models like those available beginning in 1962. All 61SS's were equipped with all the heavy duty police components and a choice of large displacement high performance V8 engines. It also was the first really BIG engine in a Chevy. It is interesting to note that SS was marketed and equipped as a superior high speed road car (with too much cam and a poorly designed distributor!), not a drag racer as it was beginning in 62.

    I was 14 y/o car junkie kid when a neighbor purchased a new red 61SS 348/340 4 speed bubbletop. Sounded kinda Wild next to Dad''s 55 Belair!
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Okay, now I understand the Holy Grail part :-).

    I hadn't thought about it but you're right, the Super Sport concept was more "pure" and enthusiast oriented in '61. Chevy did the same thing four years later with the original Chevelle SS 396: a mid-year introduction of a model that had all the good parts standard. The next year (1966) the SS 396 was watered down considerably. Too bad in both cases but apparently you don't make the big bucks selling small numbers of genuine performance cars.
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    carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    in 67 by offering a 2barrel, standard V8. GTO became a series, like the Impala SS. I don't think this stayed that way, though. I just remember a 2bbl V8 in 67. As for the 61, I was a 15 year old car junkie, and my best friend's cousin had just bought a nearly new 61 Impala coupe, with the 350 horse 348 and 4speed. This was in the fall of 61, and the 62s had just come out. I don't think it was an SS though-could you get that engine in a non SS car? Anyway, I was smitten with that car, and really liked the 61s for their crisper, leaner look over the 59-60s. Oh what I would have given to have that car.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Well, the 2-barrel was an option on GTOs in the late '60s. Other car makers offered this package in their intermediates (and even ponies) although not necessarily in their musclecars. Lots of cubic inches, high compression, small carb and tall gears, all for better fuel economy. These engines were torquey enough to pull economy 2.56 or 2.41 gears. I know Pontiac had been offering this package on their fullsize cars since at least 1959. Olds called it the Turnpike Cruiser option on the Cutlass.

    Yes, you could get the three deuce 348 in a non-SS car. I think only the 409 was exclusive to the SS. No 409 Biscaynes in '61, I guess. Hi-perf 348s are expensive so it looks like lots of guys remember them and show it with their wallets. I got my '61 convertible 348/250 four speed for $250 in 1971, drove the wheels off it and basically gave it away a few years later.
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    jpstaxjpstax Member Posts: 250
    I've been on vacation last 7 days, so haven't had a chance to respond until now. I borrowed this link someone posted on the Chrysler 300 topic:


    http://www.chrysler300site.com/cgibin/history.cgi


    It shows a the history of the 300 series cars.

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    andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,402
    Didn't think much of the 60s cars, tho.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

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    charts2charts2 Member Posts: 618
    Reading your post about the 1963 engine the Z11 409-427. Chevrolet made two seperate engines for racing purposes back in 63'. The Z11 version was strictly for drag racing. I believe 56 or 57 lightweight Impalas were made for this purpose. The 427 version for Nascar was called the (427 mystery motor) it was developed a little differently then the Z11 and was offered to I believe 5 or 6 racing teams at the time. Junior Johnson was leading the Daytona 500 when his (427)engine blew and the reliability of the rest was not up to par. I believe shortly after the Daytona 500 GM pulled the plug on factory support and that was the end of the Z11 for drag racing and the Mystery Motor for Nascar.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Hi charts2:

    So the Z11 and "mystery engine" are different engines. It makes sense. The drag engine would be built for peak output and the NASCAR engine for sustained output. Probably the cam was different and certainly the carburetion--NASCAR didn't allow more than one carb at that time.

    IIRC that strategy worked a lot better in drag racing, where the Z11s were very strong, than in NASCAR. The 409's bottom end obviously wasn't up to coping with the increased power over the long haul. That has to be why the 396's main journals are substantially larger than the 409's, although a modified 396 crank can be used to stroke the 409.

    There isn't a whole lot of information on the Z11/mystery engine, at least in my sources. Sounds like you're into W motors.
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    speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Just in case anyone is wondering why the 348 and 409 are called W engines, check out the top illustration...


    http://www.dr409.com/

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    Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I don't get it. You mean the flags?

    Actually a W engine is like the new VW, with two V8s sharing a common crank.

    W
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