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Old 03-23-2008, 15:03   #1 (permalink)
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65' T-Bird 390 help!!

My name is Dwayne, and I just bought a 390 FE outta a Thunderbird (or so the guy told me) and here's the story and questions I have. I have it in my garage and I took it apart and found that almost every push rod was bent and the oil pan had water in it, the guy I bought it from was kinda out there so my dad thinks he set the timing wrong and went to fire it and bent the rods, its got a brand new timing chain, oil pump, fuel pump, and water pump on it. Here's my question... for the crank and pistons how worn is to worn, the pistons have got brown on them but if I hit them with a wire wheel it would all come clean, can I re-use them??? Also if the crank looks good do I still have to regrind it and get oversized bearings or if it looks good just use it??? Everything looks good and clean. I'm gonna hone the cylinders, and by no means is this a race motor, I have a 1975 Ford F250 highboy I'm gonna put it in. It's gonna be all stock just with a cam and headers. Any help with my questons is appreciated.

Thanks,
-Dwayne Jr

Last edited by tbird100636; 03-23-2008 at 19:43. Reason: Removed unnecessary details (age) and spelling.
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Old 03-23-2008, 19:33   #2 (permalink)
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cool Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

Hmmm... bent push rods and water in the crankcase...sounds like it took a bath to me. Got submerged in water and hydrolocked. I'm surprised you didn't find bent connecting rods. I don't believe an old engine like this is an interference engine where setting the timing wrong will cause destruction. Hey FFR428, could you chime in on this???
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Old 03-24-2008, 11:00   #3 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

Well you definitly had water in the engine. sounds like the head gaskets failed and water filled into the cylinders and into the block. When someone tryed to start it and more than likely got it running, that's when the pushrods bent, water is hard to push!! Your taking the engine apart anyway, so you definitly need to grind the crank, the rods may be OK but I would have a local machine shop check them for straightness. Check the piston skirts for any scaring and if there is, more than likely the cylinders are scarded. If not great!! If so, a simple honing may not be enough. Rods and pistons are easy to find for the 390, you can even pick up a good set at your local pick and pull. Make sure your block deck hieghts are even and straight and make sure your heads are straight, you don't want to have a another leak. Make sure you wash the engine completely to get all the crud out of it. I recomend engine soap and water. Solvent will just move the crud from one area to another. Don't forget to install new cam bearings.
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Old 03-24-2008, 12:21   #4 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

i dont wanna sound like a jerk (cause im truley not tryin to sound it) i may be 16 but i know what im talkin about, please dont talk to em like im 10 LOL. everything is fine the guy took the distribitore and i think he let it sit out side and never covered it, everything works fine, the crank pistons and rods are in great shap, all um gunna do is hone it. to be honest i dont wanna have to send the crank out (i dont have the money too). the guy just bough the motor then sold it so the water was only in it for a time period of maybe a week. Do you think just cleaning the pistons will be good, all the cylinders are VERY smooth(some have a litter discoloring nothin honign wont fix) same with teh pisons a little burnt but a wire wheel will clean it off.

thanks for your help its very appricated!!!!
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Old 03-24-2008, 12:22   #5 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

to tibird100636 ....if you read my recent reply i think it will give you a little more help...so you can help me lol. all the water was on the bottom and everythings VERY clean and not stuck.

thanks for the help.
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Old 03-24-2008, 12:55   #6 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

KD and Tbird have some very good points. And it's very possible one or more gaskets failed (head, intake) causing the water to enter the block. Being it was a fresh rebuild coilbind of the valve springs is also possible and would bend pushrods. Too big of a cam and stock or old weak stock valve springs cause this. It's also possible the pushrods hung up in the pushrod holes in the intake if the heads were milled and valvetrain geometry is whacked. There can be many variables in valve length, lifters, pushrod length, valve job, block decking, head milling, rocker arms, rocker stands etc... that can add to the havoc. So yep either hydrolock or coilbind would be my guess without seeing it. As far as the crank goes if you can drag your fingernail over the journals and they are smooth you should be ok. But do mic everything to be sure you'll have proper clearances. Maybe just a polish on the crank journals will hopefully take care of it. Do have the rods checked for straightness as KD suggested. And I'm not a fan of wire wheeling pistons. A good solvent should take care of the cleanup. Also double check valve to piston clearances. If the guy was "out there" as you said just check everything and leave nothing to question.
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Old 03-24-2008, 16:14   #7 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

everything is stock on the motor, when i took the heads of they were held on real good and there were no breakes in the gasket, is it posible that it might have been just because it was old? everything seems to be up to par and works good, i just wanna make sure i dont spend money on new push rods just to have it happen again, and like i said earlier i dont have a lot of money, ive barely got enough for a gasket set and a cam. and i understand about wire wheelin the pistons, i was just sayin it seemed like you could wire bruch or wheel them and theyd be like new.

would pictures help you guys determain whats wrong with it, and ill triple check everything as you said.

thanks for the help, i apperciate it very much!
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Old 03-24-2008, 16:38   #8 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

It seems questionable about the distributer was taken out and the water filled up the crank case,....and you had mentioned that the pistons were brown on the top, that would indicate water, if it was carbon build up it would be black.
On your budget you might as well just clean it up, new bearings, gaskets torque it all together and drop it in, and have fun with your motor.

are you using adjustible rocker arms? if so, they could have been too tight and caused the pushrods to bend.
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Old 03-24-2008, 17:29   #9 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

the pistons are black on top brown on the sides, no they not addustables and i didnt start it i just bought it and took it apart. like i said everythings great looking i just wanna make sure im not gunna go through another set of pushrods in the first start up.

everythings beautiful the conn. rod jurnouls are nice and smooth and clean, and i mean im not buildin a race motor just a stock motor and cam and headers.

thanks again.
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Old 03-26-2008, 06:40   #10 (permalink)
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Re: 65' T-Bird 390 help!!

If and when you get the old cam out post the numbers you find off it. The stock 390 cams were mostly in the .431-.440 lift range. The GT/CJ cam was the largest at .490. Stock springs can't handle the lift of todays more aggressive cams. If you use say something in the .530 range with weaker stock springs they'll coilbind and you'll bend the pushrods. That's why I suggested coilbind as a possibility of your pushrods all being bent. He might have fired it up and bent them. Then yanked the engine and left it outside and lost interest. And that's where the water came from. So whatever cam you go with or if you reuse the one you have be sure you have the right valve springs. Also when you get into the .550+ lifts you should look into adjustable rockers. Even tho your building a stockish engine things need to be compatable to work. Good luck and keep us posted.
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