What's Under The Hood... Does It Really Matter?

9/25/2020
Jerry Sutherland
We at MSCC are not really judgmental when it comes to old rides.
 
After all, it boils down to personal choice and different budget levels when it comes to the old car hobby, but there are some things that go together like love and marriage when it comes to a horseless carriage.
 
One of those things is engines, so we decided to take a look at some popular car choices and figure out what belongs under their hoods.
 
The Tri-Five Chevys are one of the biggest segments of the car hobby is. The original choices were six cylinder and small blocks from the General, including the predecessors to the 350 engine.
 
The 283 was an upgrade from the earlier 265 in 1957 and was a very popular choice then and now for the Tri-Five boys.
 
 
A 1957 Chevy with its original 283 engine is a no-brainer: keep the engine and enjoy the higher resale value. However, any Tri-Five with a tired six-banger and an uninteresting history is a strong candidate for a 350 Chevy heart transplant.
 
This will enhance the value of the car, plus the 350 will equip the Tri-Five with one of the most popular and affordable engines on the planet.
 
What about a Mustang? Early Mustangs offered the 289 as a performance option and any Pony with an original 289 should be left under the hood whenever possible by its owner.
 
Once again the issue of value applies to this situation and an original early model Mustang with its original small block is worth more than one with a heart transplant in most cases.
 
Newer Mustangs offered big block choices like the 390, 427 and 428 under the hood. These cars were already collectible because of their massive horsepower and the probability an under-skilled owner would thin the herd by crashing one of these monsters.
 
The exception might be any situation where the new power train is part of an overall radical makeover that has transformed the Mustang into a custom show winner and/or flat out street warrior.
 
We also have to discuss cars that fall within the song lyrics of Billy Joel, in other words, "don't go changing".
 
The 1966 and '67 Chevelle SS 396 are good examples of these kind of cars. The SS 396 name became a legend on the street and an owner would be hard-pressed to improve the value or appeal of his SS 396 with a heart transplant.
 
How did Chrysler take a family hauler like a Plymouth Belvedere and make it into a legend? Easy-they put GTX on the fenders and shoved an elephant under the hood.
 
The elephant in the Plymouth's room was the 426 Hemi and there was no way then or now to improve on an Elephant-equipped GTX in 1967.
 
In fact, an original factory Hemi under any Mopar's hood from the 60s and early 70s cannot be improved by a transplant unless your goal is to sink the value of the car.
 
We will explore more of these questions about what belongs under the hood in a future MSCC piece.
 
Stay tuned.
 
Jim Sutherland

 
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