Ed's Project Car Swap Meet BLOG

Chevrolet was the first to offer real horsepower to the masses in 1955. Then the guys who brought you "The Hot One" followed that up six years later, i.e., 1961, with our fondest memory, the “409." Brother Ed put this engine in his 1963 Chevy Impala in 1971. As to the engine’s power, that’s not folklore. The car did hole shots when he popped the clutch in idle. We drove to school each morning driving like we were at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. My friends who rode the bus told me they’d see this blue dot in the distance down the road. They said that is when they raised their hands to say hello. They said only a vapor trail was seen as we sped past the bus which was going in the opposite direction.

We had to be at school by 7 a.m. We’d leave the house about twenty minutes to 7. We drove to Ed’s girlfriend’s house, she ran out to the car and we drove the rest of the way to school in warp one or two. We were never late.

Speaking “409” talk now, Ed pulled up to a traffic light. He looked left, right and all around but he forgot to check the rearview mirror. The police car was right behind him. It was like the car was at Island Drag Way. The light went green and pop goes the clutch then…boom, second gear, boom, third gear and boom, fourth gear. The cop ate his dust but did not give up pursuit. He pulled Ed over, walked over to Ed’s window and said, “What you got under the hood TODAY? You left me in the dust!” As luck would have it, the officer was a Chevy guy and new of Ed's practice of swapping out engines as often as most people change their socks.  He had been a great source of  parts and  info for Ed's builds so there was no ticket that day; simply a tour of the engine compartment and Ed’s real fine, “409.” Ed's lucky day.

The Beach Boys sang about this engine, “she’s real fine, my “409.” I’m sure they weren’t talking about the weight of their girlfriend at the time. The motor DESERVED a song of its own. Nice job, Brian Wilson. I still got that song queued on my best of CD.

The 409 legend began in 1958 when Chevrolet introduced a 348-cubic-inch V-8, often called a 'AW-head." This acronym was created because of the pattern made by its alternating valve positions. Look down on top of a 348 cylinder head and the valves traced out a “W"-or an "M" depending on your relative position. (For those of you who love trivia.)

Tech talk time now; put on your thinking cap for muscle cars. First and foremost, boring out the 348 block was not suggested because it is said there wasn't enough cast-iron in place between the water jacket and cylinders. Engineers had to recast the block to increase the bore then they stretched the stroke to produce the displacement that helped people like my brother break speed limits in third gear.

More tech stuff to come: hold your head tight so it doesn’t explode all over your wife’s lovely furniture. From there, modifications were plenty, so much that swapping parts between the 348 and 409 was basically out of the question. New forged aluminum pistons featured centered wrist pins and symmetrical valve reliefs milled straight across the piston top in pairs. Their 348 counterparts had offset wrist pins and one large intake relief, one smaller exhaust relief, meaning two opposite sets of four pistons were required. All 409 pistons interchanged regardless of which cylinder bank they belonged to. Now that you know that, world peace is just around the corner. If only the world knew this trivia, we’d all have that goofy smile on our faces. Oh well, too bad for them who don’t know what is in our heads now….hmmmm, should I have said that?

Anyway, for those of you who can’t read, we got lots more pictures to look at. Have fun on me.

Just the facts:

  • Production: 453 Impala Super Sports with both engines, 348 and 409-409 V-8 production is listed at 142 with no break-down given as to model {some went into Bel Airs, Biscaynes, etc.)
  • Performance: 14.2 seconds at 98.14 mph in the quarter-mile, according to Motor Trend
  • Brakes: four-wheel
  • Suspension: drums independent A-arms w/coil springs in front; four-link live axle with coil springs in hack
  • Transmission: Muncie four-speed manual
  • Torque: 409 at 3,600 rpm
  • Horsepower: 360 at 5,800 rpm
  • Compression: 11.25:1
  • Induction: single Carter four-barrel carburetor
  • Engine: 409 cubic-inch "W-head" V-8
  • Original price: $3,500, approximately
  • Weight: 3,737 pounds
  • Wheelbase: 119 inches

Now more pictures:


Cheers, Fast Eddie

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