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Old 01-29-2008, 09:37 PM
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Need help with '56 Caddilac

I have a 1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville that is in pretty good condition. By that I mean it's 95% original and runs. In my inexperienced mind that means it's in good shape. I have a general plan of what I want when I'm done restoring/rebuilding it. I want something I can drive around a few times a week and I'm not really worried about keeping it 100% original. I'd like to keep it fairly original in look but I want some modern performance and safety features such as disc brakes in the front, and I was also planning on switching the generator to a, what I would consider more convenient, alternator setup. I would also like to "beef up" the engine a little bit. It currently has the stock 365, which I'd love to keep, and I was wondering what performance mods I can do to it. I haven't had much luck looking up performance mods for this particular motor and was wondering if any of you had any knowledge on the subject. I would really love to be able to buy a few after market items (heads, carb, etc.) for it and gain a little more power but I haven't found any sites that have anything available for that particular motor. I have seen quite a few posts about larger (500) Cadillac motor mods, but not much for the smaller 365's. I guess the main question in this extremely long winded post is what options do I have for upgrading the performance of my motor when I don't have a lot of after market bolt on parts available? I'm fairly inexperienced in rod-building but I do have a father in law who owns a machine shop and a few brother-in-law connections to people who do machine work on engines. I really am at my wits end as far as looking on-line for any kind of "tutorial" for getting the most out of my motor but I figured that with all the "grease monkey's" here that i could get some help. Thanks in advance if you decide to take 6 hours out of your life if you decide to read this post.

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Old 01-29-2008, 09:41 PM
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There are not a lot of available items for that engine..Speedway motors does carry some parts for that 365..

I am not sure what fits as far as a disk conversion .. Some paint and some TLC and that car is a nice boulevard ride..

I have tried most all of it and now do what is known to work..
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Old 01-30-2008, 06:59 AM
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IMHO, a lot depends on what you are willing/able to do.

I've come to realize that reliability is paramount in building a ride. It doesn't matter how good it looks if you can't drive it (for whatever reason).

Along those lines, I would, at the very least, rebuild the engine back to stock specs. May involve some light machine work, but you'd know you could rely on it. Ditto the trans, although that may be more difficult.

Personally, I'd try and convert it to fuel injection, either with a commercial bolt-on TBI or something like MegaSquirt. I'd also convert to electronic ignition - either with a commercial distributor, or modding a GM HEI to fit (or even modding a more modern coil-pack ignition).

Someone else will likely chime in, but I believe there is a company that makes disk brake adapter plates for just about any vehicle.

I believe all the suspension parts are still available (Kanters probably has everything). My opinion is to tear down the whole front end and rebuild everything at once rather than having it down every 3-6 months as one thing after another breaks/wears out.

If it were me, being this close to spring, I'd plan on getting it running and enjoyable. Fix whatever needs fixing and drive it (assuming you haven't already). Throughout the spring and summer, concentrate on little things that need to be taken care of. Then plan on spending next winter overhauling what you can afford. Depends on your finances, other vehicles to drive, and space available, but I'd put together a multi-year plan - do the mechanicals next winter, work on the body the winter after that, etc. while driving it and enjoying it as much as you can during the nice parts of the year.

As an example, an engine rebuild is going to take weeks or months for someone who only has weekends to work. However, if you bought all the suspension parts up front and made sure you had all the tools, you could probably rebuild the whole front end in a weekend or maybe two.

If you can, get a factory service manual - Chiltons et al are OK, but the GM manual will be a much better resource. If you're lucky, there may be a guide to rebuilding these old Caddy's out there somewhere too.
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Old 01-30-2008, 07:05 AM
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This company specializes in parts for older vehicles:
They carry factory manuals:

Front end rebuild kits:

This company has a surprising amount of older parts in their catalog, and with decent prices.
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Old 02-03-2008, 08:24 PM
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Something that can be done to any motor and particularly a motor for which performance parts are unavailable is to mount a turbo or supercharger. Using a modest 5 to 6 lbs of boost can increase horsepower around 40%. Do a stock rebuild on the motor using pistons which will yield around 8.5:1 static compression ratio. Cast pistons will normally hold up ok at modest levels of boost.

Get one or more of these books and read through several times until you understand the principles and choice of parts. Most of the time, you can cobble together a system using a cheap OEM turbo from a boneyard. You have access to metal-working machines, so the fabrication of tubing and such should present no problem for you.
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Old 02-04-2008, 06:37 AM
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Sounds like a great car! I agree with driving it for a bit (if it's really up to being used on a regular basis) and then deciding what REALLY needs to be done. I've bought LOTS of project cars (that some well meaning but inexperienced owner intended to restore) as a pile when they found that taking one all apart is the fun and easy part. Putting all the pieces back together is drudgery, and takes forever.

Those cars have good brakes, there's nothing wrong with the drums on these, they're huge. Get a set of metallic shoes, check the lines and hoses, and drive it. I speak from experience here, we had a wonderful '56 convert, a radical custom, with stock brakes and susp.. It drove well and was safe. You can drop one of these on the ground with cut coils and lowering blocks and still have enough suspension travel to be useable.

As far as modifying the 365, just go thru it (or not if it's got good compression and doesn't smoke), scrounge ebay, swap meets and Hot Rod Hotline for a 2-4 Caddy intake or an old 3-2 aftermarket one if you want it to look the part. Or just leave it stock and detail the engine compartment, these look good as is cleaned up. Remember, you've got almost 3 tons of car to haul around, you can't make a dragster out of it. Well, you could but it'd be REALLY expensive!

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Old 02-04-2008, 11:02 AM
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If it has the original 4 spd hydramatic it is probably one of the toughest transmissions ever built for street. If it needs going over I think Gear Star is advertising that they can o'haul them.

It would be really cool if you could get it set up to stay in 1st gear a bit longer. That was always the goal back when these were popular for swaps in late 50's and early 60's. B&M was a real pioneer of these in the gasser days.

There used to be a 4 x 2 intake that used relatively small 2 barrel carbs in a staggered line. It would be double cool today. I'd add a dual exhaust and maybe some of the quieter Flow masters. Add some old time Crager Wheels and either red lines or some updated tires.

then just drive it and enjoy it.
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Old 02-05-2008, 10:14 PM
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First off, thanks for all of the responses. I do have the factory manual and I did have a front end rebuild planned (Kanter does have all of the parts available for that).
I hadn't really thought much about going with a fuel injection system because I figured that would just complicate things and make things less reliable. I may be totally wrong here and would love to hear some more thoughts on that subject.
I do realize that this is a HEAVY car and don't plan on doing any kind of racing with it. I did think that a few performance upgrades would help move this 5,000+ lb car a little better though. I don't really want to run a turbo or supercharger, again, just because of reliability. I plan on driving this car quite a bit when it's ready and would rather not have to worry about a forced air system. It's looking like I may just do a complete engine rebuild back to stock (hardened valve seats seem necessary though). I love the idea of finding a 2-4 intake, I'm definitely going to have to check ebay a little more often.

Thanks again for the responses.
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