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Engine identification

9 replies
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  • Member since
    January 2011
  • From: Baytown, TX.
Posted by rigbuilder on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 12:59 PM

Thank you for posting this question and a big thank you to Ace GarageGuy. Your reaponse has been extremely helpful.

I love building models.

  • Member since
    May 2015
Posted by 426-Hemi on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 8:52 PM

Hemi's? OLD ones had the distributor in the rear of the block, the '64 to '71 Hemi's had the angled distributor in the front passenger side, and the new Hemis '5.7 and larger" have coil packs.... NO distributor at all


  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Central California
Posted by jcbigpaw on Sunday, October 2, 2011 3:14 PM

Thanks for the tips. This should be helpful.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • From: Des Moine's, Iowa
Posted by Everett on Sunday, October 2, 2011 8:12 AM

and the oldsmoble had that dip in the rear on the bellhousing

Big Smile Everett K

  • Member since
    February 2010
Posted by ace-garageguy on Friday, September 30, 2011 9:24 PM


I'm going to assume you're familiar enough with engines to recognize obvious ones like the Chrysler hemis, the Chevy 348/409 with its distinctive valve covers, etc. Here's a couple of general tips for identifying some others.

ALL small-block Chevys from 1955 until the introduction of the LS series "new architecture" engines look pretty much the same. Distributors are in the back, the timing covers are roughly oval shaped but wider at the top, and the exhaust ports are two-close-together in the center, and two on the ends of the heads.

Old big-block Chevys have a similar shaped timing cover, distributors in the back, are a little bigger overall, and the exhaust ports are evenly spaced.

Many Ford engines have evenly-spaced exhaust ports. The 289-302(5.0) and 351W have readily identifiable valve covers. Most of the older Fords have distributors in the front, along with the deeper part of the sump. Most old Y-block Fords have a rear distributor and a front sump, BUT the exhaust port spacing is like the small Chevy, and the intake port spacing is exactly like an Olds ( two pairs of two on each head ). on some, and on others the intake ports are two pairs of two STACKED.

Cadillac and Olds engines are visually similar, with similar exhaust port spacing to the small Chevy (two center, two on ends of heads) but the timing covers are entirely different. Cads sometimes have a water crossover casting between the front faces of the heads, but the Olds 303 thru 394 have the water crossover as a part of the front of the intake manifold. Later 425 and 455 Olds motors look similar to the earlier ones.

Pontiacs look like Olds engines, kind of, but the forward head is on the opposite side

The "nailhead" Buick is readily identifiable by the skinny, vertical valve covers.

I'm not that familiar with the Mopars, except the hemis. The 340 Mopar represents the smallblock non-hemi family, and the 383/440 represents the big block, non hemi. Early hemis came as small Dodge Red Rams, middle displacement DeSoto Firedomes, and larger Chrysler Firepowers. Most of these in kits have id on the valve covers.

If you really want to get them right, I'd suggest doing a google image search of the following terms, and studying the similarities and differences:

Small block Chevy engine     ( 265, 283, 302, 327, 350, 400 )

Big block Chevy engine         ( 396, 427, 454 )

409 Chevy engine     ( looks like a 348 too )

Chevy LS engine

Ford Y-block engine

Ford FE engine     ( Ford-Edsel )

Ford MEL engine        ( Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln )

Ford 289 engine     ( looks like 302, 5.0, 351W )

Oldsmobile Rocket engine       ( 303-394 from 1949 tilk 1963 )

Oldsmobile 425 engine      ( looks like 455 too )

Cadillac331 engine     ( engines from '49 thru early '60s look similar )

Pontiac 389 engine

Buick nailhead engine

Mopar 340 engine

Mopar 383 engine    ( looks like 440 )

etc. That should get you started...........there are many many more....overhead cam Fords, 289 Studebakers, all manner of inline sixes, Corvair flat infinitum. Ya just gotta start somewhere.....

The major things to look at are:

1) shape of valve covers

2) spacing of exhaust ports

3) shape of oil pan

4) distributor location

5) timing cover shape and water pump configuration

6) spacing and location of intake ports

7) location of spark plugs


Plan your work, work your plan.

Measure twice, post once.

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Central California
Posted by jcbigpaw on Friday, September 30, 2011 7:16 PM

Im not really interested in which kit the engines came out of. I was using that as a means of identifying them. For example I have the motor from the Quicksilver 60 Chevy which the box says is "a Z28 motor" but doesn't say what year so not much help.  All of the engines in question are v8 motors. I know a block can be used for more than one engine designation depending on the bore etc. Not sure how to tell at a glance Ford vs Chevy though for example. Any quick tips?

  • Member since
    July 2005
Posted by Snake45 on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:27 AM

Identifying the general type of engine (Chevy, Ford, Pontiac, Buick, etc.) shouldn't be any problem at all. I think the OP wants to know what particular kit each engine came in. That could be a little trickier but there might be identifying features that will help nail things down.

Recovering aircraft modeler. "I can see me bound and gagged

Dragged behind the clownmobile...."

--Warren Zevon, "Hostage-O," Life'll Kill Ya, Artemis Record 2000

  • Member since
    January 2005
  • From: Cape Coral Florida
Posted by BigTallDad on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:04 AM

Are any of them painted in accurate factory colors? That's a starting point.

Sort them by number of cylinders, flathead vs OHV, configuration (Vee or inline) then, as Snake45 suggested, post some pictures. Make sure you have multiple engines in one picture (the dreaded 3 pics-per-post rule)

"In order to teach a dog, you must first be smarter than the dog" P.R. Ferguson

  • Member since
    July 2005
Posted by Snake45 on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:40 AM

Only thing I can suggest is to post good pictures here and see if anyone can help identify them.

Recovering aircraft modeler. "I can see me bound and gagged

Dragged behind the clownmobile...."

--Warren Zevon, "Hostage-O," Life'll Kill Ya, Artemis Record 2000

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Central California
Engine identification
Posted by jcbigpaw on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 11:31 PM

I've been enjoying the articles in SAE on what engines are available in which kits.  I have a problem working back the other way though. I have a couple boxes containing thirty years of parts and broken kits and quite a few engines.  I have done my best to determine which kits the engines came from to identify them for future use but still have quite a few which I don't know the origin of. Anyone have any ideas on how to figure out what these engines are? 

Tags: engine


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