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How to articles; classic car restoration

How to know when a classic car is restorable.

Page 8

Drive train

64 Impala picture of a small block motor with air conditioningWhen discussing engines in restorable classic cars, the level 1 and level 5 person might know just as much as the other guy. If there is one thing about classic cars that get's each of them equally excited, it's engine specifications. Where they differ is having the skills, and/or tools to do an engine rebuild.

Your restorable classic car can come with one of many drive train options depending on the model, or more precisely the series within a model. I can't offer much information on classic cars other than the 64 Impala, but I can give you the details that will provide food for thought which will give you a clear understanding of how to become familiar with the drive train in the classic car of your choice.

The 64 Impala came in a few basic models. The factory drive train options varied within each series. You would need the factory chevy shop manual for all the details.

For example, these were the basic models for the 64 Impala:

  • 4 door hard top Sport Sedan
  • 4 door Sedan (with door and window posts)
  • 4 door station wagon (6 passenger)
  • 4 door station wagon (9 passenger)
  • 2 door hard top Sport Coupe
  • 2 door convertible

The 64 Impala didn't come in a 2 door sedan (post) model.

Engine sizes in a 64 Impala

64 Impala picture of a 327 small block motorEach of these 64 Impala models was available with a 6 cylinder or V8 engine. The 1700 series was equipped with the 6 cylinder engines, the 1800 series was equipped with V8 engines. The 1964 Impala SS 1300 series was equipped with a 6 cylinder, and the 1964 Impala SS 1400 series was equipped with any one of several V8 engines.

Yes, believe it or not, the Impala SS was available in a 6 cylinder model! It's hard to imagine anyone wanting a 64 Impala SS with a 6 banger, but it was available.

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There were 3 basic engines, one was a 230 cu.in. 6 cylinder, one was either a 283 or 327 cu. in. chevy small block V8, and the other was the 409 big block or what is often referred to as the "W" engine.

See the chart below. Each engine size was available with different levels of horsepower.

6 cylinder1 barrel carburator230 cu.in.140HP@4400 RPM
8 cylinder2 barrel carburator283 cu.in.195HP@4800 RPM
8 cylinder4 barrel carburator327 cu.in.250HP@4400 RPM
8 cylinder4 barrel carburator327 cu.in.300HP@5000 RPM
8 cylinder4 barrel carburator409 cu.in.340HP@5000 RPM
8 cylinder4 barrel carburator409 cu.in.400HP@5800 RPM
8 cylinder2 x 4 barrel carburator409 cu.in.425HP@6000 RPM
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Numerous books have been written on the chevy small block engine. Some of them cover the specifications for many of the different series, including the many variations of the high performance small block. If you look on the bookshelf menu to the right you will find a collection of books on the "Chevy Engine rebuild" page that cover nearly every level of chevy engine detail.

Chevrolet came out with the 348 and 409 big block engines in the late 50's and continued producing those engines into the 60's. The 348 and 409 engines were installed in 4 doors, 2 doors and trucks as well. There were variations in those engines unique to each vehicle the engine was installed in. Some very good books have been written that cover this topic in depth, and you can find one of these books for sale on the classic cars bookshelf.

Chevy small block engines are a fairly universal fit between Chevrolet cars and trucks. Engines may have been serviced or completely replaced in a classic car such as the 64 Impala. For this reason you will need to know what the engine should look like on a prospective restorable 64 Impala. If your concern is originality, you will need to be familiar with every detail of the engine design, casting numbers, mounting brackets, and engine accessories.

In summary, you need to be aware, that of all the parts of a classic car that are most likely to be altered from original, it would be the drive train parts.


64 Impala picture of a powerglide transmissionThere were 3 basic transmissions available in the 64 Impala. The 3 speed standard, the 2 speed Powerglide automatic, and the 4 speed standard. There were 2 versions of the 4 speed. As you can guess one of these 4 speeds was made for the SuperSport.

Rear axle or differential

64 Impala picture of the serial number in the differential carrier castingThe most common gear ratio in the differential of the 64 Impala was 3:36 to 1. The station wagons were geared a bit lower but not by much. The steepest gear ratio was only 3:70 to 1.The gear ratios were the steepest in the 6 cylinder models, although the rear axle gear ratio in the 64 Impala tended to vary depending on the transmission. Even the 64 Impala SS with a 409 could come with the same 3:08 to 1 gear ratio as the 1800 series with a small block 283 and a powerglide transmission. If you are trying to maintain originality, you will need the chevy shop manual to get all the details on the variations of rear axle gear ratios. Click on Chevy Shop Manual under the Book Shelf menu to the right.

Finding classic car information

In a nutshell, you will need to get to know every detail of the drive train for your classic car project. I can't possibly document all of the specs for the 64 Impala in this article, so it pays to have reference books on hand.

If you want to become familiar with this beauty in greater detail, check out the "Chevy Shop Manual" page on the book shelf to the right. All the details you will need are in the GM shop manuals, which are now available on CD. As you can imagine, the chevy shop manual on CD is searchable where-as paper books, although well organized, can take some time to find what you are looking for.

You will need the chevy shop manual even if only using it as a reference when shopping for a restorable 64 Impala. Over the course of time many important details can be lost to drive train part replacements, or even if the car has been restored, it may not have been restored to specifications. When shopping for your restorable classic car, keep in mind that restoring a classic car to specifications is not important to everyone, so the car you are going to look at may not be completely original.

Other books can be indispensible as well. The Chevy Auto Part Interchange Manual on the book shelf menu to the right is a good swappable parts reference. You would use a book like this to help broaden your search to other Chevrolet models when trying to find interchangeable parts for your 64 Impala.

The best way to become familiar with your intended restorable classic car is...  Next page (Drive train con't)

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