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  #1  
Old 02-22-2010, 02:47 PM
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Default 1959 Tbird engine change

I currently have a 1959 Tbird that is stock with one exception - the engine. It's a 390. The 59 didn't come with a 390 it came with a 352 or an optional 430 Lincoln. My current engine block is cracked around the frost plugs so I need to do something about it. What I'd like to do is get a 430 put in.

Can anyone see any problems with swapping an engine this way? What would I have to look out for? Can you forsee any unexpected costs i.e. would I have to get a new transmission? What sorts of questions should I be asking anyone willing to build or sell me an engine? I don't have an engine lined up at the moment because at the moment I'm on a fact-finding mission.


Any advice is good at this point. In other words, if you have experience with a 430 engine/squarebird combination, I'd love to hear about it.
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  #2  
Old 02-22-2010, 06:52 PM
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Howard Prout has a 430 in his Squarebird. It's a big engine, married to (I believe) a Cruise-O-Matic, and he loves it.

If time is on your side, keep checking eBay. 430's show up from time to time. Personally, I want an old tired engine that I can rebuild because it is 'seasoned'. You can usually find good prices for these engines. Buy from a seller with a perfect feedback and a history of at least 200 items.

As I tear down an engine, I number-stamp the rods, rod caps, main caps, and take lots of pictures. Next, find a good engine-machine shop. I don't know how much work you will do, but I offer my bare block to the shop and save money. By 'bare', I mean REALLY bare. No freeze plugs or oil plugs. Heads are bare too.

The shop boils all the castings, CLEAN, then they magnaflux them. If any cracks appear, there is no sense in continuing. If all castings are good (no cracks), machining begins.

First, they order pistons & moly rings. While waiting for parts, they rebuild the heads, and machine the crank. When the pistons arrive, they are measured, and the cylinders get bored and honed to match.

Back in '59 we had no unleaded gas, so the machine shop bores and inserts hardened exhaust valve seats. I usually have them machine the valve towers to accept viton seals (like modern engines use).

Before leaving the shop, they true all the surfaces by cutting a few thousandths off the head surfaces, and the block deck. This elliminates water pits and any warpage. They insert cam bearings, brass freeze plugs, and new oil plugs. If the crank has been machined, or it is off balance, I let the shop dynamically balance the crank. Then, it's time for me to weigh pistons, balance rods, and assemble. Cost for machine shop--- ~$1,100.

Order a new Master Gasket Set, new oil pump and drive shaft, a true ROLLER timing chain and new sprockets, lifters, bearings and rod bolts. Then assemble, using proper assembly lube and Plastigauge. Additional cost for parts- $500. So, parts and machining costs are ~$1,600 for a complete major overhaul, using new major brand parts.

I always 'degree my cam' because I have found crank-to-cam timing marks to be too far off (which turns a great engine into a real dog).

The final assembly produces a new, well-balanced, smooth, and responsive engine that should last at least 150,000 miles, just like a new modern engine. - Dave
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  #3  
Old 02-22-2010, 09:26 PM
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Holy! That's a great answer! Thanks for sharing that info. Gives me a real head start. Thanks!

~K
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Old 02-22-2010, 11:09 PM
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I just found out how to decode the serial number on my Bird. It originally came with a 352 not a 430 ( as one would expect given the rarity of the 430 engine). I believe this will cause untold problems switching to a 430 because the engines were very different.

Hmm.....
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Old 02-23-2010, 12:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karambos View Post
I just found out how to decode the serial number on my Bird. It originally came with a 352 not a 430 ( as one would expect given the rarity of the 430 engine). I believe this will cause untold problems switching to a 430 because the engines were very different.

Hmm.....
I personally would dig up another 390 and go from there. They are cheap and plentiful. Unless you are worried about originality and want to find yourself a correct 352. Pretty hard to tell from a quick look the difference between them.

When my 352 had issues, I pulled it, set it aside for later and dropped in a 390, other than having to change the starter and flywheel on the 390, it went it without a hitch.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:03 AM
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Default 1959 Tbird engine change

You have been given some terrific advise! I would not go the 430 route for a number of reasons. One of them is the availability of parts for it. I have seen here and other places, that they are harder to find then those for a 352 or a 390. When you do find them they are usually more expensive. There are other factors regarding the 430 that might cause you to change your mind about going the 430 route. Unfortunately, I cannot think of those other technical drawbacks at the moment, but others here know them. If originality is a concern, then go with what was in the car when it was built, a 352. Or find another 390 and go that route as Bryan suggested. You will have a much better chance of finding replacement parts for them. Dave, as always, has given you a great deal of information, that will be helpful to you.
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  #7  
Old 02-23-2010, 01:28 AM
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I agree with Bryan about the 390. It's still an FE engine with more HP than the 352, and much more economical than the 430. The 390 is a good match for your Thunderbird.

Check out this eBay listing:
CLICK HERE
This 390 has a transmission and is available in Portland. Consider talking with the seller. His feedback score is 99.8% with 2,800 transactions. In my book, he's honest.

If he has what you're looking for, you might take a little trip with a pickup truck down to Portland OR. I'm sure customs won't say much about an old nasty engine and trans.

I would buy that engine with intentions of a major overhaul. In fact, I did that with a Y-Block, last year.
Check it out. <--click here - Dave
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karambos View Post
I currently have a 1959 Tbird that is stock with one exception - the engine. It's a 390. The 59 didn't come with a 390 it came with a 352 or an optional 430 Lincoln. My current engine block is cracked around the frost plugs so I need to do something about it. What I'd like to do is get a 430 put in. ...
Any advice is good at this point. In other words, if you have experience with a 430 engine/squarebird combination, I'd love to hear about it.
Not advice, but just food for thought. Guessing that your car originally came with a 352, but it was changed to a 390 later at some point. Both the 352 and the 390 are the same basic engine and tough to tell them apart. Understand you have to change out the block, so you could easily use everything off your engine and just replace the block and get back to 352. Or...if you want more HP and more cubes, you have many other choices with the same block. All you have to do is change up bores, cranks, rods and the like and you can configure your Big Block Ford FE into any of the following; 332, 352, 360, 361, 390, 406, 410, 427 or 428.

You already have all of the peripheral engine bolt on stuff that fits a FE Big Block and your original tranny. Just use all of that stuff with a new short block and create the engine of your choice

Perhaps you might like to read a very informative book by Steve Christ called "How to Rebuild Big Block Ford Engines". It goes into great technical detail about all years and models of FE and FT engines.

Back in '94 when I bought my '58 the engine rebuilder found that the wrist pin retaining clips had disintegrated, the pins slipped and scored the cylinder walls so badly, I had the choice of sleeving the cylinders or boring them. The rebuilder adviced taking the 352 to a 390 with not much more then boring, new pistons, rings and rods. So I have the original engine and it still looks the same, but it's a 390 now.
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  #9  
Old 02-23-2010, 12:26 PM
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Adding the 430cid engine will also require the fabrication (and welding) of the special motor mount brackets over the existing 352cid mounts...

-Jon in TX.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:21 PM
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Default 1959 Tbird engine change

Thanks, Jon, for jogging my memory banks! THAT was one of the reasons I was trying to think of as to why maybe going to a 430 was not the greatest idea... The extra work underneath that will have to be done to make it work right..
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