Vintage engines have come full circle in hot rodding; lest there be any doubts, running an old school V-8 is cool and it can be fun. Once you select a particular style or era, one of the most critical selections centers around which engine is right for the car. Often the small-block Ford or Chevy is the engine of choice for its versatility, availability, affordability, and horsepower.

Some of the popular vintage V-8s to consider when researching your powerplant are the Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Lincoln, and then there is the 425 Buick Nailhead. Locating a suitable donor engine will always take some effort but perseverance and lots of phone calls should pay off. Always a desirable source is the donor car; in this case how about a rare '64 Buick Wildcat with factory four-speed and dual-quad-fed 425ci? When scavenging an engine (and think trans, too!) from a car you also have the opportunity to gather up all the pulleys, brackets, cables, and anything else you can think of that will make the swap that much simpler.

In this case, once extracted, the engine was delivered to Reid's Automotive in Whitman, Massachusetts to begin a full rebuild.

It was time to "dress for success." Remember the build style of your car may or may not dictate how you accessorize the engine. For the purpose of this article the engine is intended for a '27 Ford tub with a post-WWII theme. (The one deviation from the theme is the addition of a Muncie M20 four-speed transmission--but you won't see it so that doesn't count.) The engine was to reflect the '60s-era performance, and how it would have looked if transplanted into the '27 in '64.

In reviewing the stock parts that were included with the engine (noting that many of them are rare and not easy to come by), the decision was made to retain many of them. South Shore Plating in Quincy, Massachusetts handled the chrome chores, which included the oil pan, valley pan, timing cover, valve covers, and a number of miscellaneous items.

Part of the performance theme meant running a magneto. A call to Joe Hunt Magnetos for one of their high-performance electronic distributors complete with a polished case answered the call for both performance and looks. Matched up with satin black 7mm woven spark plug wires and knurled spring-clip Rajah plug-wire ends from The Hot Rod Company; both components again answer the performance and appearance code.

One of the most visible portions of any engine is the induction system. There are a few combinations available for the Nailhead, each one with its own style and practicality. Our engine came with one of the most sought after: the dual-quad. We opted to retain the factory intake but asked Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, to prep it, which included grinding it smooth to prepare it for paint. To complete the intake, a call was made to Edelbrock for a pair of Thunder Series AVS 500cfm carburetors accented by their signature EnduraShine finish and all-black throttle linkages. Wanting the Nailhead to be kool and stay cool a FlowKooler high-flow water pump is used.

After deciding on a color for the engine, it was delivered to Eli English of Pittsfield, New Hampshire, to prepare it for paint by first deburring the block and heads, and then laying down a mirror-like coating of vibrant red gloss. Once the paint had dried, the engine was installed in the rolling chassis and sent to Steve Pierce at One-Off Technologies in Gilford, New Hampshire, for final assembly.

It was now time to address the stock factory alternator. Following the theme a Powermaster chromed PowerGEN alternator was used. Combining the classic looks of a generator with the output and reliability of an alternator makes it ideal for this application. Since we are applying a part that wasn't originally intended for the Nailhead a custom bracket was required. Nick Acton of Acton Custom Enterprises designed the custom mount to get the alternator as low as possible on the block while also incorporating a belt tension system. Nick also created a custom stainless steel fuel line running from the carbs to the polished Edelbrock high-flow fuel filter, then on to the fuel pump. The crowning touch was a pair of original Cal Custom air cleaners that Steve modified to fit this application. When combined with the custom-made lake pipes by One-Off Technologies, the overall appearance of the engine takes you back to the mid '60s. Mission accomplished!

(Editor's note: for those looking for more information on the Nailhead as well as the Buick try one of the following websites:;;;

Dept. 5.0
2700 California St.
CA  90503
One-Off Technologies
2401 Dutch Valley Dr.
TN  37918
Acton Custom Enterprises
Joe Hunt Magnetos
South Shore Plating
Speedway Motors
P.O. Box 81906
NE  68501
Competition Specialties
REid's Automotive
The Hot Rod Company
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