In 2019 I saved up enough money to get the 55 year old Nailhead in Sherman the Buick rebuilt. Getting it rebuilt locally was not really an option, because the city nearest to me has one speed/machine shop, and has a reputation for doing it their way or the highway. The concern here is you can read all over the internet that the Buick 401 has some peculiarities, and if not paid attention to, will lead to failure of the rebuilt engine in short order. Primary examples are oil gallery plugs that are a non-standard/non-stocked size, heads that do not need valve seats installed, in fact attempting to install seats can result into cutting in the water jacket, and difficult to install camshaft bearings.

Because of these reasons I sought out a Nailhead Expert to perform the rebuild. There are a few of them around the U.S. There is Russell Martin in Grass Valley, CA, Tom Telesco in Stamford, CT, and Dave Gaines in Cooper City, FL. I'm in the southeast US and went with Dave Gaines. Note that I toyed with the idea of sending it off to Jasper Engine's "Authentic Custom Engines" as they have a Nailhead right on their main page, have pricing in line with others, and will run it on a dyno. I called them twice over the years, and the second time they have instituted a policy of cutting the heads to put valve seats in. Even if the customer doesn't want it, they will do it or not rebuild the motor. No thanks, this isn't a Chevy.

I crated the Nailhead up and shipped in to sunny Florida. Episode 1, below, shows the process. 

While the engine is being rebuilt I took time to paint and coat parts such as the exhaust manifolds, pulleys, and power steering pump. Most coating products are from Eastwood. I also attempted to use Evapo Rust gel which did not work for my situation. See parts go from rusty and dusty to primed and painted. All that in episode 2, below:

Next up, the engine has made it to the rebuilder and is disassembled and evaluated. The heads need new rocker shafts and arms, and once they arrive they get reassembled A crack is discovered in the block and it is shipped cross-country to California to see if a fix can be attempted. We learn a lot about motor freight, re-weigh fees, and what repairs are used for cast iron. 


While the motor is being built, the cooling, heating, and air conditioning parts under the hood are brought up to snuff. In this episode I make a 1962 Impala heater valve work on a Wildcat, and show off many shiny (or semi-gloss) new parts such as the fan clutch, muffler cover, and A/C drain tube.


The electrical system is refurbished. The Delco 10DN alternator needs brushes resoldered, the solid state voltage regulator gets hidden in a factory original case, date codes for the stater and alternator are explained, and the horns are refurbished.

In episode 6, my wiper motor that had long been on the shelf gets cosmetically and mechanically restored. I had removed the end of the motor years ago to clean it, not knowing that the brushes would fly out. See a really old beetle in a place it shouldn't be, and learn how to adjust endplay. This includes the installation of a Dorman Dorman 54000 Washer Pump Repair Kit.

In episode 7, things related to the transmission are brought up to snuff. This include the transmissions mount, shift lever bushing, frame bushing, cleaning and testing the kick down switch, and testing the solenoid in the transmission. The unit is a 3 speed TH400, called an ST400 in a Buick.

In episode 8, the A6 Air Conditioning Compressor is given a cosmetic restoration, the power steering cap gets a new gasket, and I use a product called Brass Black to put a dark coating on the balancer bolts instead of using paint.