New-Found Knowledge

I have added this page to keep telling the Buick world what I have discovered since I completed what is turning out to be Phase 2 of my Riviera's new life.  My wife just LOVES me...

Rocker Arm Comparison  Bolting on 455 Heads  Use a Belly Pan  Breaking in Your New Cam  Buick Lifters 
Block off the Heat Crossover Passages  Front Timing Cover Seal  Remove and Install an Harmonic Balancer  Installing a Torque Strap  TA Shorty Headers 
TAs Adjustable Oil Pressure Regulator  Setting your Timing
Oil Pan Baffles  HD Fan Clutch

Here is a page from a 1969 Buick Salesman's Brochure explaining all the intricacies of the Stage1 and Stage2 options available for the 1969 model year.  Click on the thumbnail to see some pretty amazing information from the vaults of Buick. Next to it is a page from the Buick dealer parts book showing the original Stage1 and Stage2 part numbers.
stage1-21.jpg (216966 bytes)           Stage1 Part Numbers.jpg (134105 bytes)

Here is a photo of original Stage2 parts:  Stage2 parts.jpg (35072 bytes)

Use TA's adjustable oil pressure regulator.   And CRANK IT UP!

TA Performance's adjustable oil pressure regulator is a beautiful piece of inexpensive equipment that will save your motor (and your wallet in the long run).  It tightens the spring on the oil bypass valve in the oil pump, requiring higher pressure to open the valve.  This valve allows oil to return to the pan when the pressure gets to be too much.  Well, I've NEVER heard of a Buick engine that couldn't do with more oil pressure.  Nor have I heard of a Buick engine that had too much oil pressure.  So by making the bypass valve stiffer, requiring a higher level of oil pressure to open the valve to bypass the engine's oiling system and return to the pan, you are effectively routing more oil into the engine instead of the pan and at higher pressure.  While I had one of these adjustable regulators, I wasn't really sure how to use it.

Well here's how: CRANK IT IN!  I went from 10 lbs of oil pressure at hot idle to 23 just by cranking in that allen screw!  Don't be afraid.  You want about 1/4" of the screw sticking out past the lock nut as a start.  Then go from there.

Bolting on 455 Heads

The addition of the Kenne Belle Stage3 heads.  I picked these up used for $300.   Yeah, every once in a while something good finally happens to everybody.  However the dolt who did the valve job for me sunk the valves too far.   So I found an excellent shop who installed 16 valve seats for me.  You want a maximum valve tip height of 2 inches and 100 thousandths (2.100").  Any more and you begin putting strain on the valve train and can contribute to front cam bearing failure.

Word of warning!!!!  The intake manifold bolts on a 430 head are 3/8", while the intake manifold bolts on a 455 head are 7/16".  The 430 bolts are too small to use on the 455 heads.   So be sure you have all 12 bolts before you silicone the thing up and drop it in place.  Oh man!  I got lucky in that I found 4 bolts that fit just to hold the intake in place while the silicone setup.

Also, I am using the TA composite intake manifold gaskets. They offer a superior seal than the stock metal gasket.  If you go this route you will need a belly pan to keep hot oil off the bottom of the intake manifold and to prevent sucking oil into the PCV valve.  TA can show you how to make one from an old metal intake gasket, but it is easier to just spend $35 and buy a slick reusable drop in piece from Automotive Machine and Performance (AM&P).  Their phone number is (270) 729-5556 and they are located in Philpot, KY. Their website is:   They are listed on my Suppliers page.  TriShield Performance also has one, but theirs bolts to the bottom of the intake.  It is a matter of preference.

The 455 heads are a direct bolt-on replacement on a 430, and just using a Fel-Pro gasket is sufficient to block off the oil passage in the block that feeds the 430 rocker arm shaft.  

430 Rocker Arms vs. 455 Rocker Arms

The 430 rocker arms have a 3/8" socket in them.  The 455 rocker arms have a smaller 5/16" socket to match the 5/16" cup in the lifter, and they are a lot flimsier than the 430 pieces.  If you use the 430 rockers on a 455 block you must use a pushrod with a 3/8" end on the rocker side and a 5/16" end on the lifter side.  TA has hybrid adjustable pushrods with the different size ends or you can measure the length you need and they'll custom make you a set.  Also, the 430 rockers are 1.59 ratio where the 455 are closer to 1.5.  I kept the 430 rockers and shaft, which work well on the 455 heads.  However, the 455 oils through the lifter like every other later conventional engine.  So a change to a new lifter was in order in my 430.  I seemed to get more oil to the rockers after the change than when I used the oil-through-shaft method on the 430 heads.

Buick Lifters - Oy Vey!!!
A lot has been said about lifter taps in Buicks, and I am among the many people who would shut their car off at 9PM and then fire it up at 7AM the next morning and listen while the lifters pump up.  There is a solution: use Chevy lifters.  The Speed Pro lifters are a good performance lifter.  Their part # at Summit is SLP-HT-817R and they are not too expensive.  Now, here is where it gets dicey... If you decide to use Chevy lifters you will need to get either longer pushrods (measure a few so you can be as precise as possible, then have them made) or use adjustable pushrods.   This is because the cup in the Chevy lifter is actually deeper than the Buick lifter, so stock Buick pieces are too short.  TA Performance can provide you with both, and their adjustable pieces are really nice.  BUT, if you keep the 430 rocker arm shafts, you must use the hybrid adjustable pushrods with a small end for the lifter cup and a larger end for the rocker arm cup.  Is this really necessary?  I've heard some say they use the smaller end in the 430 rockers with good results, but TA has told me they receive sets of rockers that have done this and they are worn pretty badly.   It is worth the extra $$ to get the hybrid adjustables.  In May when Jim Weise did my cam swap the 817R lifters were not available due to Federal Mogul's bankruptcy status.  So I went with their standard Chevy lifter - made by Johnson.  BIG MISTAKE!  In mid-October all those lifters collapsed.  It was weird, as it all happened at once.  I suppose the dinky lifters couldn't stand up to the Stage1 valve spring pressure.  I replaced them with Lunati "Performance" lifters.  We'll see how it goes.

                                                                        Setting Lifter Preload

If using adjustable pushrods, there are a couple of cautions:

1) They can break very easily if you crank the jamb nuts together too tightly.  I broke 2.  TA will gladly sell you new tips, but at $10 a pop it is more cost efficient to tighten them as directed by Mike T. and Jim Weise.  Just put your wrenches on each nut, grab them in ONE HAND and squeeze.  That's all the tighter you need to get them.

2) Find ZERO LASH with each lifter resting on the base circle.  This is very easy to feel.  As you adjust the pushrod out very slowly, you will feel when it finally has taken up all the slack.  Then turn it 1/2 to 3/4 turn and lock it.  I found it easiest to know when 1/2 of a turn was complete by counting 3 corners on the hex nut as they spun by.

3) Here is which lifters you can do as a group with each 180* rotation of the crank:

The Fel-Pro head gaskets claim No Retorque needed.  I was told by a respected GS member that I should retorque them after a couple of warm-up and cool-down cycles anyway.  Especially if using ARP replacement head bolts for the first time.   I'm glad I did!  I got movement out of a couple of the head bolts, and one on each head (the front-most under the valve cover) moved a lot.  TA suggests torquing the bolts to the factory spec of 100 lb ft, except for the three center bolts under the valve cover (closest to the intake manifold).  TA recommends torquing these to 110 lb ft.

Removing and Installing Harmonic Balancer

I MUST interject here now to pass on two of the absolute best tips I've ever received to remove/replace an harmonic balancer.  They are posted in the Wrenchin' Secrets forum on the v8Buick web page.  These two tips are for those of us unlucky enough to own a real nice impact gun.  If you happen to own one, just use it to crank the balancer bolt off and back on.

To break loose the harmonic damper bolt, instead of busting a nut trying to wrench it loose, simply fit your socket and breaker bar on the nut.  Then lay the handle of the breaker bar on a solid piece of the frame or steering box (you'll be OK as long as it is on top of the frame and on the driver's side of the engine bay).  Then just bump the engine a bit with the key.  The nut simply breaks loose.  EASY!

To tighten it, instead of stuffing a screwdriver in the flexplate or using some other "wedged in" method, just pull a spark plug and stuff some nylon rope into the hole.  I used a pretty thick piece of rope and it still took a pretty long length to work, so if you are using something thin like sash cord you'll probably need a pretty long piece.  Be sure to leave a good length hanging out so it doesn't all end up in the cylinder.  Maybe even tie a screwdriver or something to the end just as a precaution.  Then rotate the engine BY HAND until the cylinder has compressed the rope and is locked good and tight.  Then you can use leverage or some other means to crank it on.  I bought a 3' length of 2" pipe from Home Depot to slip over the handle of the breaker bar for leverage.  But have to REALLY, REALLY crank it on!!! 200 lb ft minimum!  You'd be surprised how hard you have to crank it on to get 200 lb ft! Then rotate the engine the other way and pull the rope out. 

I have used these two tips and am amazed at how well they work!

TA Shorty Headers

The TA Shorty headers are a magnificent piece.  The quality is superb, and we are lucky that the only set of headers offered for the 67 - 70 Riviera is a really nice set.   However, like nearly all header installations some work is involved.

Just getting them in can be a challenge.  I pulled the bolt on each engine mount and jacked each side up to aid installation.  The driver's side is really tight, and TA recommends (as do I) you drop the steering box.  It takes 5 minutes and is only 3 bolts.  It really helps.

There are 2 bolts that are a real PAIN to get to.  The rear most on the passenger side is greatly obstructed by the heater/AC box.  The lower center bolt on the driver's side is just plain TIGHT to get to.  TA only mentions the driver's side bolt, but I'm telling you about the other one.  TA also suggests inserting the bolts and wrapping the threads with several layers of narrow masking tape to hold the bolt tight against the header flange before even dropping the headers in the car.  Then when the headers are held in place by a couple of bolts the problem bolts will be pressing against the threads and be simple to just thread in.  It works beautifully, HOWEVER, I had no luck with the masking tape.  It takes an awful lot of tape to wedge the bolt onto the hole in the flange.  And I'm funny about having that much tape interfering with the threads.  So I used a 3/8" automotive air conditioning ring seal.  It fit snugly over the threads, and held the bolt in place nicely.  A little thicker would have been nice, but mine worked like a charm.  Also, it will melt completely away.
ACrings.jpg (25095 bytes)

I didn't know about the passenger-side bolt, and ended up contorting myself into a horrible position while laying across the engine bay.  Even then it was miserable.   I recently replaced my header gaskets (no kidding, huh?) and using the rings on the 2 hardest to reach bolts was a snap.

Which ever method you choose, you MUST choose one.  When the tape stopped working for me on the driver's side I tried for almost an hour to thread the bolt in using several various methods.  It simply can't be done.  That's when I hit on the idea of a ring seal.  A grommet would work too, if you find the right size.

Front Timing Cover Seal  -  The part number for the neoprene front timing cover seal is National Part # 450446. I have not had a chance to get it crossed referenced.  If you still have the rope seal, you need to remove the metal rope-seal retainer from the inside of the cover.  Then the 3 retaining tabs in the seal area need to be filed smooth so the new seal can be pressed in.  It is recommended to put a ring of silicone around the edge of the seal area before seating the seal.  It helps seal any imperfections which could cause a leak.  Then tap the new seal in place with the spring facing toward the front of the car.

Setting the timing on a 400/430/455 Buick

This simple procedure can make or break you.  There is no other way to put it.   It sounds simple enough, but there are some guidelines:

There is no better/easier/quicker way to improve the performance of your car than to set the right amount of timing.  It can turn a sluggish ride into a tire burner!

Block off the intake manifold pre-heat crossover ports in the heads.

For a performance car this is a must.  For a stock cast iron manifold grocery-getter, these ports provide quicker warm-ups.  But to gain performance you don't want to heat up the intake manifold any more than you have to.   A cooler, denser charge of air and fuel produces more power.

For the 455, buy four 18 millimeter freeze plugs.  Dorman part number 555-102.  The 430 uses an odd size, however I don't know what it is.  You will need to try several until you find one that fits.  Using a socket that just fits inside the cup of the freeze plug, hammer each one into the four round ports on the intake manifold side of the heads. You want the "edges" of the plugs to face you when they are tapped in place.   The ports are located right in the center of the intake manifold surface of the head, just below the long rectangular opening.Hammer them in until the edge is just a hair below the surface of the head.  It should be obvious to you by now that the intake manifold bust be off in order to do this.

Breaking in your new cam
Here is where you can either save money or cause lots of extra aggravation and expense.

No new engine should be fired for the first time without adding a pint bottle of GM Engine Oil Supplement (EOS).  GM EOS is the choice of virtually every engine builder. But don't just dump this into the engine thru the valve cover, it will take a long time to get into the oil pan. Put the first 3 quarts of oil into the engine the normal way. Then with the 4th quart, put half of the quart into the engine, then add half of the pint of EOS to what's left of the quart of oil and shake it up. Then pour this mixture in through the valve cover. Then repeat this with the remaining half pint of EOS and the last quart of oil. This should be the very last step done to a newly rebuilt engine before you pre-lube it, install the distributor, and fire up for the first time.
EOS.jpg (18408 bytes)
  Most of us use the Stage1 valve springs.  They are necessary for higher lift/longer duration cams.  BUT... breaking in your new cam with them is not a good idea.  Damage can, and often does, result.  Jim Weise swears all my cam bearings wiped out right at startup and break-in of my new cam/engine.  The combination of my poor oil pressure and the stiff springs resulted in too much strain on the cam and bearings, which did in my bearings.  If you can, purchase a set of TA 1125 double valve springs and the nifty air compressor fitting that screws into the spark plug hole of the head.  Pumping compressed air into the cylinder will hold the valve closed while you remove and replace the valve spring.  TA also has a sweet valve spring removal tool just for this purpose.

Using just the outer spring of the 1125 double springs, go ahead and break in the cam.  Then after break in replace the Stage 1 springs.   I wish I had spent the money for this in the first place.  It's a case of "spend a little now, or spend a lot later".  Replacing all the cam bearings requires a very sophisticated tool.  And while the bearings can be replaced while the engine is in the car, in order to replace the back cam bearing, the engine must be removed from the car.  See where it starts to get expensive?

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Installing a Torque Strap

Sometimes referred to as an engine tie-down strap, it secures the drivers side of the engine to the frame so if the driver's side engine mount ever lets go during a hard acceleration, only minimal damage will occur under the hood.  I went to home depot, bought 6' of vinyl-covered cable, 2 ends and a removable link and made my own for less than 7$.  Here's a pic:
strap.jpg (22902 bytes)

I slipped it behind the power steering bracket, then looped it around the frame just in front of the upper control arm.  It was a tight installation, but will prevent me from wiping out my radiator, carb and who-knows-what-else should my 475 hp/550 lb ft of torque ever decide to separate the 2 halves of my driver's side engine mount.

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This information has just come to light in January 2003!!!!!!!  It seems that 1967 - 1970 Rivieras that have enough horsepower to run quarter mile times in the 13 second and faster range are at an oil pan disadvantage.   Yeah, among the other oiling issues we face it seems that the center sump oil pan on this year Riviera is a victim of oil sloshing out of the sump on rapid acceleration and decelleration.   Funny thing is this was just documented by 2 racers on the same day.  Dave from TA Performance first mentioned this and Mark Dalquist on the board lent his testimonial.  They watched their oil pressure drop dramatically on acceleration and have found the fix.

The fix is a basic racer fix.  Baffles must be welded into the oil pan.  Any engine shop can do it if you are not good with a welder. Just be sure to leave an opening in the baffle for the dipstick to fit through! Here's mine:

baffles11.jpg (28222 bytes)
baffles2.jpg (22692 bytes)

HD Fan Clutch

I was running hot at idle every time I stopped at a light. Even worse with the AC on. It would creep up to 210* every time, then drop once I got up to speed.

Nobody lists a heavy duty fan clutch for our Rivieras. Nobody.

The Chevy truck clutch the GS guys run is too tall and hits the radiator and won't mount on the water pump. Our water pump is too close to the rad.

Being one who doesn't take "can't be done" lightly, I accepted my mission.

I called one of the biggies who make the clutches and the guy took a quick look and told me "no". I asked him if he could come up with a clutch based on all the measurements of my OEM standard duty clutch. "No," was his answer. He had no desire to do a hunt through his catalog.

So, hello Google! On Hayden's website they have a .pdf file with all their clutches listed by type. I wrote down all the Heavy Duty and Severe Duty clutch numbers. Their chart also lists all the specs and measurements of each clutch. I dissected each one and narrowed it down to 2 candidates.

The chart also conveniently lists every aftermarket supplier's cross reference number (a well done chart!). I got NAPA's numbers and found out one of them is the clutch the GS guys use, so that was ruled out.

I checked with NAPA and compared the only possible option with my OEM clutch. It is a dead ringer! It fits many applications, one being a 1982 Camaro with a 305 V8.

It is NAPA part# 271303!

It is only a hair taller than our standard duty clutch and the fan sits 3/16" closer to the rad than stock. The shaft is fatter and won't allow a box wrench to fit around the nuts (I'll grind a cheap wrench thinner the next time I have to remove the clutch from the water pump), so I got them as tight as I could with an open end wrench and used Loc Tite on the nuts.

It cooled my Riv down about 20*! In the late fall, winter and early spring when the ambient air temp is below about 55* I barely get it over 165*! 165* is too cold, I know, but I can compensate for that with blocking the rad with cardboard, but I can't compensate for boiling over! And in the heat of summer it never goes over 200* in traffic with the AC on.

Here is a comparison pic (the new HD clutch is on the left):



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