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She's Real Fine that 409 |

She’s Real Fine that 409

409 5 window coupe

You’ve heard the famous song by the Beach Boys, which you probably have heard a thousand times on classic rock radio stations. To some hearing this song is just a nostalgic listen of a classic rock tune, and to others it brings back a whole lot of hot rod memoires! For those who fall in the latter of bring back memoires, you know what I am talking about. The old days of spending a week putting a 409 Chevy Big Block into your hot rod or gasser then going out cruising during the  weeknights, while picking up girls and street racing, then blowing up your 409 at the drag strip on the weekend. Even though the memories are mostly good memories with the 409, you may also have some bad memories and some times of frustration with the mill. Enough of a trip down memory lane lets get right to the point!

Bring back any memories?

Some of you hot rodders may have noticed in the last 3 to 5 years the 409 has made a bit of a comeback. It’s becoming a commonly used mill for people that are in nostalgia drag racing, people building era correct hot rods and gassers and it’s even used as an engine for street rods again!

Its said Russ Campbell uses a 409 in his 1962 Chevy Bel Air, here he is at the Hot Rod Reunion

We learned that these engines have made a recent comeback but why did they fade in the first place?  One reason for this is Gm stopped producing the 409 in 1965 and started producing the 396 (a different song entirely, we aren’t their yet so you can still talk about your HEMIs and GTOs). The other big reason was the number of maintenance problems with the 409, which a lot of you older guys will remember such as engines constantly blowing up at the dragstrips or on the strip.

The main reasons behind the frequent blow ups was power quality connecting rods couldn’t hand the power a lot of hot rodders were trying to make so they would break most of the time. Another problem was the unusual layout of the combustion chambers, the combustion chambers where located at the top of the cylinder bores instead of in the cylinder heads, which lead the deck of the engine to be only 74 degrees and lead to wedge shaped combustion chambers.

Because of this wedge shaped combustion chambers, heaver pistons were needed. These heaver pistons caused another problem because they were heaver on one side so they rock around in the bore and when hot rodders tired to go faster the weak connecting rods (as mentioned earlier) couldn’t handle the power so they would blow.

No blow ups here but this but a wheel stand because of this 409!

Despite this problems and issues hot rodders still had a lot of fun with their 409s and of course the Beach Boys did too and today, guys can have fun with the 409 motors again using newer modern parts! Everything from 4-Bolt main conversion kits, to new pistons, new cam, aluminum heads and one new part that will make all you 409 fans really happy new connecting rods! Hot Rod magazine built a 421 stroker to have 466 horsepower!

Not sure how much Horsepower the 55 Chevy Gasser "Phantom 409" has but Ill bet its 409 makes over 400!

Now if some of you guys are having trouble looking for a 409 motor to use, look in old Chevy Heavy Duty trucks from 1962 to 1966. Most of them came with a 409 that produced 252 Horsepower and 390lbs of Torque. Another place to look for the 409s is, instead of looking in the Coupes from the early 60s look in the passenger cars and the sedans. In junkyards these cars are more likely to be left alone and more likely to have an untouched 409!

A lot of the heavy duty trucks like this 62 Chevy C60 will have 409s

4 comments on “She’s Real Fine that 409

  1. My husband has a 1964 GTO hot rod and is considering a 409. Was that one that came with a 409 originally or did it use something else?

  2. Josh Courter on said:

    Hello Hope, the first GTO usually came with a Pontiac 389.
    IF you can’t find a 389 (I know they are hard engines to find) try this thread for other Pontiac motors to use
    http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/what-motors-can-i-replace-my-1964-pontiac-389-a-204848.html

  3. Ahhhhh the good old days. When the 409 was kicking butt on the track you had huge variety in the cars and the engines they used for power when you went to the local dragstrip. Now it seems that must everything you see is a big block Chevy powered dragster, with a powerglide and a bunch of electronics to slow the car down instead of running it wide open.

    Give me the old nostalgia drags anytime. Great to see the 409 battling with the 406 Ford and 413 Chryslers of the era.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  4. Harry Sisson on said:

    Neat article on the 409′s. -they certainly were a “sought after” engine by a lot of us old Chevy hot rodders back in those days. Heck, even the 348′s were pretty cool, and looked just the same. (most obvious visible difference was the oil dipstick on the 409′s were on the passenger side, 348′s on the usual driver side.)

    In regard to the 409 engine option available in the C60 trucks, that particular 409 cubic inch engine WAS NOT the same as used in the cars. In fact, the block itself was “taller”, the intake manifold was wider, -in fact I think many of the engine parts were totally different. But, maybe the heads and valve covers were the same, because they sure did have that famous “409 look.”

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