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How could we drive the old muscle cars today?

isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
Awhile back, I left a post under the Most
Beautiful Cars topic.

As I typed, I daydreamed a bit about the beautiful
1965 Buick Riviera I once owned.

And...I would love to find another one just like

But...How would I ever find gasoline it would run
on? When it was new, it needed super premium 100
plus octane, red blooded leaded gas!

It had a 425 Cubic Inch engine with two four
barrel carbs and it put out 360 H.P.

Now, when I owned it, ten years ago, leaded
premium was still (barely) available. It wasn't
very good compared to the old stuff, but the Buick
would run on it.

In order to avoid pinging, I had to retard the
timing which, to me was like hobbling a race horse!

And, I think that Buick had 10.5 to 1 compression
ratio. Some muscle cars had an even higher
compression ratio.

How could these cars even run today?

I also owned a 409 Chevy and a Pontiac GTO. These
also needed very high octane gasoline.

When I had the Riviera, I tried gas octane
boosters. They seemed to have little effect and
made the engine run hotter.

Muscle car owners, have you crippled your cars
with thicker head gaskets, etc or what?

Just curious!


  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Last year I saw a beautiful, all original 65 Chevelle Malibu SS with the 350 horse 327and 4speed. White with maroon interior. 64,000 original miles-documented. The engine had never been detailed. I remember looking at these on the lot brand new, when I couldn't afford one. I actually considered buying this one. But thinking about how I was going to feed that motor with 11 to 1 compression-there was no way-or was there? What would it be? The owner told me he was afraid to run any octane boosters in it, because of damage to carb and other rubber parts. What would one do??
  • You can always go to your local General Aviation airport and buy 100/130 octane avgas. It will cost you, but the cars seem to like it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    We have similar tastes! A '65 Malibu with that drivetrain is one of my all time favorite cars!

    Ever see a late '65 Malibu SS with the 396? Very rare but I think I would rather have the 327.


    Yeah, I've heard that suggestion and in my area, there are no small airports that I know of. Even so, will they sell gas to non avation customers?

    With that Riviera, I probably would have used a quarter tank of gas getting to the airport if it was more than 20 miles away!

    Any other ideas, anyone?
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    When I was considering the Malibu, a friend who's a mechanic suggested going out to the airport. Trouble was, it cost 3 bucks a gallon. And I was palnning on driving this car! Isell-when the very first 327/350 Malibu arrived at the local Chevy dealer in 65, it was all black, and boy did I want one! I always preferred the 64-65 bodies to any of the later Chevelles. Later that year, I remember the first, and only 396 65 Malibu to arrive. It was silver with black interior. What a sweet car! But-I too preferred the 327/350-one of my all time favorite engines.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I think you could build a lower-compression version of the motor in such a way, using improved components, to perform just about as well as the very high compression version of the past--but of course it would not look stock. For one thing, you could turbocharge or supercharge, either of which demands a much lower compression in return for lots of added power.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Well, sure, as many have done with their small block street rod motors. The thing about this Chevelle was that it was a pristine, intact, original car-you just don't see many like that with that combination of options. It'd be a shame to change the engine, and probably lower the value of the car. Now, if someone else upgraded the engine and made it look all stock [and lowered the price] maybe I'd go look again....
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    I would hate to "geld" a car like that by doing some micky mouse modification that would stop the pinging or whatever...

    Guess there is no good solution.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 24,911
    If it's going to be a 100 point trailer queen, it doesn't really matter. If you want the look and feel, and really be able to drive, you can always find a motorless car, and drop in a new GM crate motor (don't they make a 350 and a big block direct replacement?). Then you can drive to your hearts content, on pump gas.

    Only other idea I have is, if you have an all original hi-comp. engine car, is swap out the original engine (and store it), put in a street driveable motor, and swap the original back in if you decide to sell/show it. Sort of defeats the purpose, but at least you can use the car.

    I hate seeing some of these cars never being driven. Seems like such a waste.

    2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4i Limited Tech (mine), 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's) and 2015 Jetta Sport (daughter's)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    It IS a waste...these are not one of a kind handbuilt Bugattis, these are strong production cars that can take the real world. So you scratch it, you fix it, big deal...whaddya gonna do, be buried in it? You know, you do the show circuit, it gets old after a while...and if it doesn't get old, you need a new life maybe. I mean, I love cars as much as the next guy, but I do get a littel bored after a while arguing over the authencity of the color of the master cylinder reservoir cap cover.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Isell-probably right-no real good solution for that car. Just buy some expensive gas and drive it around a little like you would any other old car in mint condition. But for others-like these so called matching nos Vettes with original high compression engines-what do they do? I mean drivers-who cares about the trailer queens. Id never buy a car just to show.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    It's getting pretty extreme these days. I've seen cars that are not only never driven, but have mittens for the tires so when they are put on the ground no dirt or grass gets in the treads.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Yeah I've seen some of those trailer queens. Some of those owners are also trailer queens, with mittens to keep their hands warm while they get them off the trailer. Some of those guys don't even know what engine their cars have.They just get on their cellphone and call their broker. That's what intriqued me about that 65 Malibu-it had never been shown. Like I said, the engine had never been detailed, but looked like any 63,000 mile car
    that had been driven, stored, and pampered. It came from some rancher in Montana who bought it new and drove it along with all his other toys. Stored for some years till sold to the current owner in estate sale. Current owner hadn't driven it more than 1,000 miles in last 8 years. Not many Chevelles like that out there. Most are either "trailer queens"[and some of those are FAKES] or have been totally restored, all new, with upgrade heads, etc to make them drivable on the street. And actually, none of those Chevelles do much for me at all. But seeing this one,and remembering that first new one I saw new-gee here was my chance to have a new 65 to drive around. The other problem with this car was he wanted WAY too much money.
  • ... for almost all high compression cars of the 60's. That is the consensus of my fellow GTO owners on the GTO mailing list. If you experience knocking you can retard the timing a little but with an engine in good tune even that might not be necessary. Or you can add Toluene in a 5-10% ratio to bump up the octane level considerably.
  • johnrr1johnrr1 Posts: 70
    Pump gas is fine , even though the factory rated the motors at 10.5 or 11 to 1 they really aren't , they are usually at least a half point to a point lower, retard the timing or add some booster. Even better would be to install a thicker composite head gasket and add hardened exhaust seats while the head is off , your valves will thank you for it , they will seal better than the thin steel shim and unless you are racing it you won't hardly feel the difference.
    If your old enough to remember a '65 new on the lot then getting back behind the wheel of a 400 plus h.p. monster will scare you enough that a little drop in h.p. will be welcomed . I talked to an older gentleman recently selling a Challenger with a 383 that was hopped up a little and when I asked him why he was selling it, he said it scared him , was going to by a Camaro with a smallblock . I know it hurts but its reality.

    Please give me a break with the ... but it looks so pristine , I wouldn't want to change it.. unless you tell someone they will never know. I know it is great to have it look all nice and original , if that's the case then get inline with the trailer queen guys and put the mittens on the tires. If that's your bag , fine either don't buy it or spend the money and blow the dust out from underneath the cover from time to time while you hide it, not driving hurts it more than retarding the timing and using lower octane fuel , unless of course your storage is climate controlled year round .

    I just repurchased my 69 Superbee , paid 10,000 for it , I put a bigger cam and an aluminum intake and Edlebrock carb on it , it has headers , but it looks basically all stock till you open the hood ,I drive it and I race it. I even closed the hood on something on top of the radiator and dinged the hood from the inside out and cracked the paint , oh well I'll have it fixed , it's not a show car as far as I'm concerned but it did take third in the first show my friend put it in. This winter I'm building a stroker motor and when you pop the hood you won't be able to tell its 500 cubes in that low deck b motor ... sorry for the rant , but these things were meant to be driven not hidden in some warehouse never to be seem , its the guys in the mittens that have put a Hemi car out of my reach , and I'm still p.o. about it ... john
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I'm all in favor of changes for performance and safety. Just keep the old parts in a box if someone wants the inferior brakes, manifolding or whatever else you're changing.

    Who ever got the idea to put a Plymouth or Ford or Chevy in a museum...these aren't suits of armor or Roman statues...they're cars. Drive 'em!

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    WEll that's exactly the point here. Someone saved a car I thought I could DRIVE. But I wasn't THAT stoked to pay what the guy wanted.Plus I remember those weak brakes and rearends. A friend went through 3 rearends on his 64 Malibu in 6 months. Who wants to know how to drive a trailer queen for christ's sake... Didn't think that's what I was asking. Thanks for the tips.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    I don't want a trailer queen. I have attended many a car show and swap meet. The cars that attract me are the daily drivers that are in a condition 3 or so.

    When and if I buy another old car, it'll probably be driven maybe 2000 miles a year or so.

    I don't care if everything is dead original. I just don't like cars that have been Mickey Moused too much.

    Getting back to my old Riviera...It did NOT like pump gas one bit and these octane boosters didn't seem to do a thing. Maybe it was different, or, who knows, it may have been carboned up too which can cause pinging.

    It had very low miles and had belonged to an old lady.

    Anyway...thanks for all of the ideas!
  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    "It had very low miles and had belonged to an old

    There's your trouble right there. It WAS carboned up. Little old lady cars are usually only driven to the supermarket and Church, and as a result never get a chance to be run long enough or at high enough RPM's to blow out all the carbon. I think they make chemicals you can add to your fuel to clean the carbon out, or you can do what I did to my lawn mower-disassemble the engine and clean everything with varsol. (Good time to check all the specs and see if anything needs replacing.)
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    Lots of ways to rid an engine of carbon.

    Rislone is excellent at this if poured down the carb. Auto trans fluid works too!

    I've even seen old timers de carbon an engine by pouring WATER (slowly) down the carb.

    You wouldn't believe the crap that comes out of the tailpipe!!

    Wonder why I didn't think of that when I owned the Riv?
  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    Transmission fluid works, but also damages your engine. (You gotta wonder about the very first guy that did that...) And water-well, I'd be afraid of rust forming inside the engine, especially if some of the interior components are slightly damaged by years of use. I have no Idea what Rislone is, but unless it's specifically designed to be poured down a carburetor, don't do it-you'll be taking a big risk damaging something.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    After trying to SCRAPE carbon off with a sharp instrument, I'm not so sure any kind of liquid is going to do it!

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I still say disassembling it and using Varsol is the best approach. Of course, completely tearing down a 400 CID engine isn't always the most practical repair job on earth :-)
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    Rislone has been around for 50 years and it works!

    Once in awhile, we will get a trade in with low or uneven compression in one or more cylinders.

    In the old days (I was there!) this usually meant a valve job or worse.

    Nowdays, it's usually carbon deposits causing the problems. Little old lady trades that have never seen over 2000 RPM are the worst.

    I wouldn't have believe it myself because I have never believed in oil additives.

    But...If you pour a quart of Rislone Concentrate in the oil (not the carb) and go drive the hell out of the car, high RPMS, for a half hour, and then recheck the compression, you won't believe the difference!

    Rislone is sold in any auto parts store. comes in a yellow plastic bottle. It works!!, I am not a stockholder!
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    somehow that reminds me of a very funny story that dates to 1967. Off topic, but oh well. A friend had just got back from Vietnam [alive!] and was footloose and fancy free. An uncle had given him an old 47 Packard, with a shot and badly smoking engine. 4 of us cruised around in that car, which had such bad compression it would stall on the slightest hill. Overevving it somehow caused sparks to fly out of the hood near the hood ornament. Anyway, we stopped at a gas station and poured in a can of additive. He stomped the gas a few times and produced a HUGE cloud of smoke that engulfed the entire gas station and beyond. Noone could see anything because of the smoke. My friend continued to stomp the gas while we laughed and laughed. Finally we were told to "get that thing out of there" and left. Oh what a ride that Packard was! It was way, way beyond a can of Rislone!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    Fun times, weren't they...?

    In the gas station where I worked, we had an old timer who would sometimes pour a can of ATF down a carb in an attempt to free up a stuck lifter.

    Sometimes this method worked.

    But...the SMOKE !! One day so much smoke was created that it stopped traffic in the street.

    A cop pulled in and wanted to know if he should call the Fire Dept!

    When he found out the source of the smoke, he wasn't too happy with us!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    ATF is actually a VERY high detergent oil, but the crazyman should have known that pouring it down the carb doesn't get to the lifter at all....this would be great voodoo but very bad science. He should have put it in the oil.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,551
    In addition to the quart the carb got, he would add a quart to the oil.

    Looking back, I think he just liked the smoke!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    Completely dumb thing to do, by the way.

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    Speaking of smoke, I've heard of hot-rodders custom making a smoke apperatus by installing a fuel injector into the exhaust manifold, and connecting it to a small tank of motor oil. Putting it closer to the tailpipe and adding a spark plug would create flames belching from the back end.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I thought Harley invented that as standard equipment.

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