By on October 17, 2011

After painstakingly building a medium-hot 406-cubic-inch small-block engine to replace the Impala’s very tired 350 (motivated by the car’s lackluster quarter-mile performance), 1998 became 1999. Finally the New Engine was ready for swapping.
The old 350, which I’d bought as a long-block from a cheap rebuild shop in L.A., had served me well, but its power output probably wasn’t much over 150 horses and it was starting to smoke under heavy throttle.
While the car was getting a power upgrade, I had some other plans for it. The Pontiac Rally wheels, which I’d had in place since my 1991 Generation X couch-surfing expeditions, would be replaced by something more in line with my original artistic vision for the car.
There was no way the worn-out Turbo-Hydramatic 350 transmission I’d installed in 1990 would survive more than a couple of pedal-to-metal beatings behind the new engine (it was slipping pretty badly on the second-third shift), so out it came.
I know how to swap transmissions, but there be monsters inside them— I don’t have the faintest idea how to go about messing with the deep innards of an automatic transmission, and I wasn’t about to start learning at this point. I thought about buying a TH350 rebuilt with drag racing in mind, but the price tag on such a transmission was sort of a budget-nuker. Instead, I went to Pick Your Part on Half Price Day and bought several maybe-recently-rebuilt-looking TH350s from six-cylinder Novas for $40 apiece. That way, I figured, I could just keep blowing up transmissions and swapping in “new” ones as needed. Hey, a transmission swap in a 60s GM B Body takes about 20 minutes, even at my slow wrenching pace.
I picked up a B&M Shift Improver Kit and installed it in the first of my junkyard transmissions, choosing the “Stage 2” U-joint-bustin’ options.
I had a patriotic Lydia Lunch portrait watching over this process. If you’re going to have a pinup, do it right!
I’d installed an Addco sway bar in the front a couple years earlier, thanks to my Year One employee discount. I’d bought a rear bar at the same time, but installation required drilling honkin’ big holes in the rear control arms and I didn’t get around to doing that job until it was time for the new engine to be installed. I figured the rear bar would help limit wheel-lifting tire spin when launching at the drag strip, plus make it easier to spin out when getting on the throttle in turns.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think to photograph the process of mounting a rear sway bar on my Impala, so you’ll just have to imagine the sight of a 1/2″ drill bit chewing through big-ass control arms.
I removed the carburetor, disconnected the headers, tied the power-steering pump out of the way, and all the other little jobs you do when pulling an engine. Hook up the chain, start lifting!
More than eight years of service from this engine, but it was time to go.
As was not the case with the rear swaybar installation, I felt the need to document the hell out of this moment. I shot the 350 extraction from many angles.
Including the view from behind the wheel.
Out! And my long-suffering parents (whose back yard I’d commandeered for this project when my own driveway on the other side of The Island That Rust Forgot proved too small) experienced a flashback to my high-school years, when all manner of horrible, parts-shedding hoopties and associated components lowered their property values. Yes, the 350 sat there for a few months prior to me finding a buyer, I’m not very proud to say.
I painted the 406 flat black, after an old racer told me that it helped with engine cooling. Actually, I did it because it looked cool.
By the late 1990s, my income had risen to the point where I was no longer forced by poverty to swill terrible piss-yellow beer while working on cars… but here’s a can of Pabst on the fender. I must have been raiding my dad’s beer stash that day; his Minnesota-ized tastes die hard.
Installed! The whole swap took just a couple of hours, an experience that Those Kids These Days with their finger-bustingly-tight Civic engine compartments will never know.
I pored over the J.C. Whitney hood scoop selection, thinking I’d rig up a seriously redneck-looking cold-air-induction system, but finally settled on the much more functional grille-mounted-ducting solution. I grabbed another air cleaner at the junkyard, grafted its snout onto the existing air cleaner, and ran dryer ducting to home-heating vents on either side of the radiator. Unfortunately, the left-side duct interfered with one of the Fiat X1/9 scoops I’d installed in ’93, so I had to remove the scoop.
I figured that this setup should be good for force-feeding a good supply of cold outside air into the Quadrajet (which I’d pulled from a ’70 Eldorado with a 500, on the assumption that the jetting for a 500 ought to be about right for a cammed-up 406). I’d also modified the HEI distributor with high-performance advance weights.
For cooling, I added a fan clutch to the factory engine-driven fan and retained the BMW 7 Series fan I’d been using for auxiliary cooling since the early 1990s.
The BMW E23’s electric radiator fan is by far the best pusher-style unit you can find in the junkyard. It forces a typhoon of air through the radiator (caveat: it also draws ridiculous power— 15 amps, if I recall correctly— so you can’t run it with the headlights at the same time if you’ve got a small alternator). I used a pair of these fans a decade later, when attempting to rig up a rear-radiator setup in a V8-ized Volvo 240 race car).
My long-term plan was to see if the car could stay cool on junkyard electric fans alone (dispensing with the horsepower-sucking engine-driven fan) so I also purchased a W114 Mercedes-Benz fan.
Yes, it ran. Oh, did it run! Next episode: Glorious return to the drag strip!

IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15 • Part 16 • Part 17

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

32 Comments on “1965 Impala Hell Project, Part 16: Another Heart Transplant...”

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    1999? Oh lordy, I’m starting to dread the end of this series. Why can’t it go on forever?

    • 0 avatar

      So much time, love and attention heaped upon it… it’s just gonna end badly.

      • 0 avatar

        I realized that very early along.

      • 0 avatar

        Given that the Hell Impala seems to be no longer around, and I can’t see someone who’s put this much time and effort (and some money) into something like this letting it go voluntarily, I’m thinking that it met with either a collision- or economics-influenced end. And the Dodge A100 project is still in progress (I guess), so it wasn’t a marriage-precipitated end, either.

  • avatar

    I’m amazed you didn’t have to pull the radiator when you did the transplant. When i swapped the 318 for a 360 in my Plymouth about 10 years ago, I found it much easier to do so without that ginormous heat exchanger in the way.

    Electric fans: I hear modern Ford Taurus fans are pretty butch. The electric fans, not the drivers, that is.

    • 0 avatar

      If I have the entire junkyard for parts selection, I’m not choosing anything electrical from a Detroit car. I’m going with Toyota, (old) Mercedes-Benz, or (old) BMW.

      • 0 avatar

        Which means that if you were doing this now, only a Toyota fan would make the cut? I have to add that I never replaced an electric fan on any of my high mileage cars…

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct. The pre-bubble looking Taurii with the 3.8L have a very strong fan, and the Lincoln Mark VIII (which I use) is even better, however both are puller fans.

      Murilee, the stock pusher fan on my LeMons BMW was dead when I bought the car. Replaced it with a $20 el cheapo eBay unit that has worked great for 5 races now.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’67 Ford Wagon got old MB pusher fans, as they looked remotely appropriate if noticed behind the grill, and came with nice metal mounting brackets and stout wiring.

      I bought a pair of Taurus fans for future use…not sure if they’ll end up in my Falcon or Wagoneer.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Yay, something we both have in common – although my HVAC ducting hack job is in the Pinzguaer, redirecting the Eberspacher BN-4’s rear cabin output towards the forward cab for winter driving duties. The normal Pinzgauer arrangement uses an ineffective exhaust stove to redirect heat towards the forward vents.

  • avatar

    Murilee, you make fun of your wrenching skills but I wish the prior owner(s) of my Camaro wrenched as well as you. I spend the majority of my time and money fixing their fixes. Forty years of being hacked on takes its toll.

    • 0 avatar

      I, too, was impressed with Mr. Martin’s skilz. *WAS* impressed, that is, until I saw the pics of the intake ducting. Notice the plastic tye-wraps used to secure said ducting to the scoops at each end? He didn’t cut the pigtails off flush, NOT EVEN CLOSE!!! Those protruding tails become flesh-eating pirañas to anyone’s arm working within 30 feet of the engine compartment. Murilee, I hope you went back and flush-cut those tye-wrap tails. If not, may the blood of your arms and hands forever drip upon the sullied manifolds of engines the world over…

  • avatar

    Murilee, do the Turbo 400s still run a pretty good premium over the TH350s? I know many of them get used in Jeeps.

    • 0 avatar

      They were harder to find back then, plus they’re a lot heavier than the 350s. No idea what the going rate is these days.

      • 0 avatar

        The problem with the 400’s are the extra space they take up. You have to move the crossmember back (most B bodies from that era have an alternate mounting point, even a ’65 if it was assembled in February or later) and either shorten or get a shorter driveshaft.

        The 400’s are also very parasitic, they consume 40-42 horsepower, probably 12-14 more than the 350 series. They are great transmissions but better suited to a big block.

  • avatar

    I’m going to guess you saw high 14s at about 100, assuming you had something other than 2.73 out back.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Just when you think the car couldn’t get any cooler… it does!

  • avatar

    I went the electric Fan route on my hot rod back in the 80’s, along with over-sized alternator pulley and water pump drive. A friend thought i was crazy but it saved the alternator from 7000 RPM abuse, prevented the water pump from over circulating the water, and really dropped a few tenths off the time. The mustang GT used a vacuum operated switch to cut out the alternator at WOT to get 5 more horses out the door.

    I replaced the 2 speed with a 3 speed in my Fairlane, along with 3.25 gears and a higher stall converter. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.

    I miss the days of cheap horsepower, plentiful parts in the yard, and cars you could actually modify any way you wanted.
    Just try doing that today.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one who is going to ask about the lemon?

  • avatar

    86er, a TH400 is still way more expensive to buy than a 350. It’s a much heavier duty unit, and a must have for a vehicle making serious power. A healthy big block would devour a TH350 in short order.
    The 400 takes a bit more power to turn, and is about 30-40lbs. heavier than a 350 unit, but that is the price you pay for extra beef. The 400 uses the same crossmember as the TH350, but you have to slide it back about 4 inches. Most chevies had the extra holes drilled at the factory. You have to use either the driveshaft from a TH400 equipped vehicle, or have your existing driveshaft shortened. The 400 also uses a larger yoke.
    The 350 is by no means a heavy duty trans, but it can be beefed to withstand the power of a moderately built small block. They are easy to rebuild, they were what I learned on. The only special tool needed for an entire rebuild, if I remember correctly, was a pair of snap ring pliers. I could pull the front pump without even using a pump puller, all It took was a stout pull on a chain attached with a couple of bolts.
    Th400’s were hard to find with a chevy bellhousing even back in the 70’s because GM was too cheap to install them in most chevies, except in the most heavy duty applications. Racers would pay out the wazoo for them. Aftermarket companies started making adapter plates so that one could mate a 400 with the BOP bolt pattern to a chevy engine, because the BOP 400 trannies were much more common.

    • 0 avatar

      In some cars you can swap the TH350 crossmember around and it will line up with the TH400. I have one in my ’71 Camaro because somebody back in its history decided that it needed one. Given the mild 350 it had in it when I bought it, not to mention the original 307, I have no idea why. Still, that gives me one thing on the car that I don’t have to worry about.

  • avatar

    That was what I said, dryl, they both used the same crossmember, only with the 400 it was moved back 4 inches. Every chevy I remember seeing had the extra holes already drilled into the frame.

  • avatar

    @golden2husky….the factory clutch fans used in those days were very reliable, and did a great job of keeping engines cool. Even warm running engines like the 400 chevy. And they bolted on in 5 minutes, without having to mess with wiring and mounting like an electric fan.
    The extra current being drawn from the electric fans drew more power than a factory clutch fan or good aftermarket flex fan and put an extra load on your alternator. BTW awhile back either Car Craft or Hot Rod had an article on electric fans, and the lincoln Mark XVIII fan was tops.

  • avatar

    I love photo #3.

  • avatar

    I saw a surprisingly similar vehicle the other week, it was a ’66 & just a rattle can or two from looking the part. Oh, and RHD… When I get a chance I’ll post a photo. It was also for sale if you want another one!

    • 0 avatar

      Where was the 66 for sale ? 65s are my favorite but I would love a 66 clone of the 65 from hell project car. Oh, crap ! Just noticed you are in Oz…
      (Im)patiently anticipating the next chapter. GREAT work. The articles and the car.

  • avatar

    A patriotic American pinup? That’s funny, especially for a fan of Brezhnev! What am I not seeing here?

    Yeah, yeah, I know – I’m extremely late to this party.

  • avatar

    Scarey, not to sound mean or anything, but why would you want to make a car look like that? I wouldn’t even be seen in that car, and I’m a bit of a redneck.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait to see it at the strip!

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Art Vandelay: Naa. Many I disagree with are fine. But if the shoe fits…and I mean fits like that slipper on...
  • teddyc73: Freedom units? Those darn Americans using their own units of measurements and wanting freedom and such.
  • Mike Beranek: This kind of QC is how Mercedes got where it is. Too bad every car wasn’t built this way.
  • teddyc73: Their quality is just as good as any other automaker. They do make the number one selling vehicle in the...
  • Art Vandelay: You could, but we’d have lost the space race.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber