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  • Engine: increasing 259 power

    I got very lucky recently and was able to purchase a 1964 'full flow' 259 engine which is supposed to be an 8.5:1 engine. It's supposed to be a 'good running' engine, BUT. There is nothing wring with my 67,000 engine with the possible exception of having dried out valve seals. Many of you have had experience rebuilding, overhauling, and modifying Studebaker engines, so I thought I would seek some feedback. I would like to assure myself that the engine is in fact a good running engine and would like to do so prior to going thru the effort of changing engines. While I'm at it, I would like to make some minor modifications to increase its power. Here's what my plan is. Run a complete compression check, both wet and dry (to get an idea of the condition of the rings). Pull the heads. Drop the pan and check the rod and main bearings (while checking, might as well replace them unless they are pristine). Check the cylinder walls visually measuring for cylinder taper on each cylinder with the piston at TDC to see if there is any measurable wear. A decision will be made at that time whether the pistons will be pulled, cylinders honed, and new rings installed. If its to have new rings installed, I would simply use cast iron rings. Regarding the heads, (and this is where your input will be valuable), I was thinking that I might install R3 intake valves and new springs while doing a 3 angle valve job. I might also do a very mild porting job on the intake side. If I'm going to install bigger intake valves, I would install an R3 cam. Now, would I be able to 'feel' any increase in power? Or would the valves, springs, and cam be a waste of money? What do you guys think? Oh yea, should I use 'thin' or 'sandwiched' head gaskets?

  • #2
    I am no expert, but everything I have read about these engines would suggest that an R-3 cam would be a waste. Most of the guys who know, say that for normal driving even an R-2 is not needed. This last one disappointed me because I really like the sound of an Avanti.
    I am sure some of the really experienced people will chime in on this and I am very interested in what they say because I have a 259 also.
    "In the heart of Arkansas."
    Searcy, Arkansas
    1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
    1952 2R pickup

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    • #3
      A question to be answered is "How often do you drive over say, 4000 rpms?" The answer is likely to be "Almost never."
      A hot cam really comes on in the upper rev ranges, but is doggy at low revs - such as normal street driving.

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      • #4
        I'm doing the same thing as you to a 259, my first improvement is blocking the exhaust crossover in the intake and installing some headers and a 600 AFB that was OEM on the 67 Buick 340. You being in FL shouldn't miss having the hot exhaust crossing over under the carb. Kinda like a low buck "air gap" intake that's popular on the SBC.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Studebakercenteroforegon View Post
          A question to be answered is "How often do you drive over say, 4000 rpms?" The answer is likely to be "Almost never."
          A hot cam really comes on in the upper rev ranges, but is doggy at low revs - such as normal street driving.
          This would depend on what type of transmission, auto or manual. Personally if the engine is built to redline at 6,000 RPM then I will shift close to that. More like, I would find shift points for each gear to not drop RPM too far down the torque curve. So as to keep moving forward at the best acceleration. The engine should, therefore; be built to the driving style and to match transmission and rear axle gearing.

          Getting back to the original post.

          I am building a 259 bored 0.100" over, 274 cid, with a cam grind similar to many performance grinds for Studebaker engines. NOS crank and all new Clevite bearings, etc... Aluminum cam gear, windage screen, and other small tweaks. The heads are not finished yet but I have all the parts ready. 1.84" intake and 1.5" exhaust valves. This is the Chevy conversion that has been done before over the years. Intake is stock but match ported and a 435 cfm carb. 390_400 cfm might be better but I have this carb on the shelf, I used to run it on my OHV six. I do have a few other carbs, 2bbl and 4bbl but will start small first, as smaller is usually better in this case. The Delco window distributor has been rebuilt with a Mallory pointless conversion. It will work in conjunction with a Malloy 6al and ACCEL 8.8 wires. Fuel is supplied with a Carter rotary pump running through a Holley regulator. It will be filtered before the pump but I have to wait until the exhaust system is finalized before I know what filter will fit where.

          Many more things can be done as it is time, money, skill and imagination that limits the end result, mainly the money. Roller lifters, adjustable cam gear, aluminum intake, R3 exhaust manifolds, turbo or supercharging, etc... It really is a matter of what you want to do with the car it's going in. Mine will be beaten to an inch of its life and it will enjoy it. Car and driver in harmony, as the rest of the car has been setup for driving. It will be begging to be flogged. Sorry just having fun as I can't wait for it to be finished.

          Len
          Last edited by Skybolt; 02-10-2016, 05:52 PM.

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          • #6
            I have an R3 cam in the engine in my 62 Hawk with a 289 and 4 speed. The engine runs really well above 2500 rpm, but below 2500 I would rather have an Isky E4 cam as the low end torque isn't great. The use of a hotter cam such as an R3 in a 259 in my opinion is not a good idea. A friend of mine has a 259 with a 4 speed, 3.31 diff, Isky E4 cam and 500 cfm Edelbrock AFB in a 60 Lark which runs really well. The use of larger valves in a 259 may or may not give you much of an improvement over the stock parts without larger displacement, more compression, more carburetion, a cam such as an R2 or Isky ST5 and a better exhaust. Bud

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            • #7
              As an added note, I like the thin head gaskets as they were originally used by the factory. The sandwich type gaskets that are supplied in the gasket kits will lower the compression by about 1/2 point. Also do not use a carburetor any bigger than a 500 cfm as the 259 is to small as to need anything larger. If you can find a carburetor in the 400 cfm range like a Carter WCFB, that would even be better. Bud

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              • #8
                Here's the way I increased the power of my little 259............................
                Attached Files

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                • #9
                  I am building a 259 bored 0.100" over, 274 cid,
                  Which pistons?

                  jack vines
                  PackardV8

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                  • #10
                    I have the ingredients for you. I took my 259 down and was about to build it. I have steel shim head gaskets. A reground R2 type ground. A new resurfaced set of lifters, and a set of cam bearings. A Mallory Rev-Pol ignition system, with Packard 440 wires. A Offenhauser 4 bbl. aluminum intake with a nos 450cfm Stromberg 4 bbl. And a set of R valve springs. I am to the point I can't do much any more and I am about to sell some stuff. If interested, let me know. You really won't do much, if anything working on the heads. UNLESS you stuff it, then it will help.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PackardV8 View Post
                      Which pistons?

                      jack vines
                      Originally made for an Australian GM six cylinder 186 at 0.040" over. These have a wrist pin slightly smaller than stock Studebaker so the accompanying pin is discarded and the piston honed for the Studebaker pin. It sits higher in the bore for better squish and can be bought any size from stock Studebaker size to 0.120" Studebaker specs. This is because the original pistons for the six can be sourced from the 179 six or the 186. I imported mine from the manufacturer as there are none of their aftermarket automotive piston agent in the USA.

                      I offered these pistons when I ordered mine as I could get sets for a reasonable price but that was a couple of years ago. If there was any serious interest I could resume talks with the manufacturer and see if I can still get them.

                      IMHO these specs should have been used for Studebakers pistons from the start.

                      Len
                      Attached Files

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Skybolt View Post
                        Originally made for an Australian GM six cylinder 186
                        Len
                        http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Holden-To...wAAOSwv0tVa8N6

                        These are Holden (GM) Pistons- Holden was the top selling vehicle for many years, and at the time of the 179/186 "Holden Red Motor" had more than 30% of the market - several hundred thousands of cars were sold with these bulletproof engines. Readily available on ebay, through Engine Masters, SuperCheap, Repco etc. Price on the above set is 270 US. All the ebay sales were for sets of 6, so sourcing the extra 2 will need a flexible seller to not to sting you too much on price.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Quentin View Post
                          http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Holden-To...wAAOSwv0tVa8N6

                          These are Holden (GM) Pistons- Holden was the top selling vehicle for many years, and at the time of the 179/186 "Holden Red Motor" had more than 30% of the market - several hundred thousands of cars were sold with these bulletproof engines. Readily available on ebay, through Engine Masters, SuperCheap, Repco etc. Price on the above set is 270 US. All the ebay sales were for sets of 6, so sourcing the extra 2 will need a flexible seller to not to sting you too much on price.
                          That was always the problem. Buying 4 sets was an option, or splitting the cost with 2 friends, but try to find those 2 at the time you need the pistons. That's why I went to the manufactures and arranged sets of 8 landed in the USA. I didn't mention going 0.080" over, as in the eBay listing, as that would put the Studebaker std bore 0.140" over which is a little beyond a safe size even on the best block. If really desired I can get those too.

                          Getting back to original post again, I also used a ring set with a plasma-moly top ring for use in a Chrysler 273, as it is a set of 8.

                          Len

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                          • #14
                            A 259 can be built into a pretty awesome motor but due to its short throw crank it is best suited to high rpm applications. Can-Am comes to mind... Properly built, it can handle 7500rpm shifts all day long, but is that what you really want? For playing in the street and getting the groceries it would be better to build a moderately warmed over 289. This would give you the bottom end response of the longer stroke crank without requiring the motor to get up into high revs to find power. Also, all the goodies you mentioned regarding the R2 parts and specs work best on the 289.

                            That being said, I would be interested in finding out a bit more about these Holden pistons. I happen to like high revving motors!...

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                            • #15
                              I've never seen an oil filter mounted back by the distributor before. How did you do that? The engine I will be messing with is a '64 'full-flow' which has 8.5:1 compression.

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