55/6/7 differences/ terminology

Discussion in 'Classic Buicks' started by Nailhead Ronnie, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Hey, help me and others understand Buicks of 1955, 1956 and 1957. A chunk in time that is just great for the classic car restorer, fan, buyer, seller. Seems like since the 53 Skylark pushed the issue and Buicks got glamorus moving forward.
    Thiers supers, specials, centuries, roadmasters, and series 60?.

    Help me understand.

    What was the top option fully loaded bot engine and features car from #1 to descending order? Or what was each models purpose?

    What did Rivera signify during those years?

    Did they stop making the skykark for 55?

    Any models im missing?

    Any tri power options?
  2. Smartin

    Smartin antiqueautomotiveservice.com Staff Member


    40 - Special
    60 - Century
    50 - Super
    70 - Roadmaster

    Riviera was terminology for pillarless hardtop...2 or 4 door.

    Skylark was built in 53 and 54. Then stopped until 61

    No tri-power options on any of the Buicks.
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  3. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Thanks, is the way you listed the models the order in how more of a car yiu where getting and paying for?

    How many different engine options did they have? Are these the early Nailheads with the trans pattern that wont hook up to the popular BOP pattern?

    Did these cars have the dynaflows?
  4. Smartin

    Smartin antiqueautomotiveservice.com Staff Member

    Engine options varied from year to year.

    Special and Century are "small series" and the Super and Roadmaster are "big series." So they share bodies. The Century is a jazzed up Special with more trim and engine options. Roadmaster is the top of the line.

    Nailhead trans patterns are unique.

    The 55-57 cars did have dynaflows. There was also a "3 on the tree" manual...but they are not very common.
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  5. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Can a 425 nailhead mate with a th400
  6. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    How was the Buick looked upon on these day. From what im feed I'm told cadillac and Oldsmobile had the hot engines in 55. Just trying to figure it all out.
  7. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Now lets talk about frames.

    Do the special and centry share frames aswell as do the roadmaster and super?

    Do any of these models have an x frame or enclosed driveshaft?

    Whats with 1957, ive heard some one tell me 1957 is alot of one year only stuff and could be a nightmare for parts?
    Is that true, if so for what model and trim?
  8. Smartin

    Smartin antiqueautomotiveservice.com Staff Member

    Special/Century used the same frame. Super/Roadmaster had same frame. None had a true X frame, but had the X crossmember WITH the straight rail on each side. They were very stout. Yes all of them had a torque tube enclosed driveshaft which is a major pain in the ass to work on.

    57 Buicks shared a bunch of parts with 58, but as with all of the Buicks from that era, were a one year only design. You have probably heard of the 57 ball joints being a problem, and are very expensive. They had a lot of play by design, which tricked most people into thinking they were bad.
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  9. John Codman

    John Codman Platinum Level Contributor

    1955 - 236 hp 322; 1956 - 255 hp 322, 1957- 300 hp 364. Riviera was Buick's name for a hardtop (no B pillar) sedan. Skylark was 1953-4 only. You are not missing any models. I don't believe that Buick ever used tri-power on the Nailhead. Nailhead bolt pattern is Nailhead only, and 1953-1956 are different then 1957 up. 1955 had 264 and 322 inch nailheads. The 264 came in two different horsepower ratings depending on whether it was automatic or standard. The major difference in HP was headgasket thickness. Almost anything except the block and pistons will interchange between the 264 and 322. I believe that the 322 also came in at least two different horsepower ratings. 1956 was 322 only, but in differing horsepower ratings. 1957 was 364 only, but also in various horsepower ratings. Very few parts if any will interchange between the 264-322 and the 364 (perhaps valve covers). All Buicks were available with the Dynaflow up through 1963 (Full size cars). 1964 up will bolt to a THM 400 that has a Buick only case. The crank is different on 1957-1963. I am told that with some work the THM 400 can be bolted to the 364-401-425 Dynaflow engines; it has been discussed here before. Tom Telesco or Doc can probably tell you how to do it. There is some parts interchange between the 364 and the 401-425 (heads, exhaust manifolds, oil pan, timing case etc) but intake manifolds will not. 364 intake manifolds are 364 only. 1955 had a large and a small standard shift Transmission. The 264s got the little box, the 322s got the big one. The big box is rugged, the little one is not. I hope this helps.
    I forgot to mention that basically everything except the block and pistons will interchange between the 401 and 425. Due to the bigger pistons in the 425 the engines are balanced differently. The same is true of the 264 and 322. There is also a 400 inch Nailhead used in the '65-'66 Skylark GS. It is actually a 401.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  10. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Helped a ton John, really did.
  11. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    Yes I've heard anout the ball joints, but not that they had alot of play. Thanks for all your help on this thread. Hope your 255 is coming along nice. I like your work, and write ups
  12. Nailhead Ronnie

    Nailhead Ronnie Life's 2 Short. Live like it.

    If one gets one of these years and does not have an engine/trans. How hard will it be to get in a 455/430/400/350 in it? Frame tampering or frame swap?

    Would a 401/425 be the better candiate?
  13. JohnnyGS

    JohnnyGS Well-Known Member

    great info thanks guys:) does that apply to station wagon also?
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  14. John Codman

    John Codman Platinum Level Contributor

    Yes. FWIW: The Caballero wagons (1957 and 1958) are highly sought after. Perhaps the most valuable Buicks of those years. I wouldn't kill for a '57 Caballero, but I'd think about it... :)
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  15. WQ59B

    WQ59B Well-Known Member

    I can talk about '59, which also has a Buick-specific rear axle & the TorqueTube set-up/Dynaflow ("TwinTurbine"). Due to the funky control arms out back that connect to the TorqueTube, one has to do some cutting/welding in order to change to a more conventional rear/open driveshaft WRT to the rear suspension mounting. By looking at online pics, '56 is the same set-up.

    I went that route and kept the factory perimeter frame.
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  16. John Codman

    John Codman Platinum Level Contributor

    Buick used the torque tube setup from god-knows-when through 1963 in it's big cars. The torque tube has some advantages, such as it's virtually impossible to have wheel hop under load, but sadly the disadvantages (from a performance modification standpoint) outweigh them. The torque tube drive has a very high unsprung weight which does not help handling. One seldom-mentioned advantage of the torque tube is that the car is actually propelled by thrust to the engine/transmission instead of the rear of the frame. It would seem reasonable to think that this would help directional stability. When altering the drive system from the torque tube to an open system, it is wise to consider that you are totally redesigning the way that the car is propelled, not just switching to an open shaft.
    Tom is correct about 1960 being the end of the 'tube. I was thinking about the Dynaflow when I made the post.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
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  17. telriv

    telriv Well-Known Member

    If I remember correctly the torque tube started in '34 & the last year of production was 1960.
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  18. Smartin

    Smartin antiqueautomotiveservice.com Staff Member

    60 was the last year for the tube
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  19. WQ59B

    WQ59B Well-Known Member

    Umm... what?
  20. John Codman

    John Codman Platinum Level Contributor

    The rear drive axle transmits the driving thrust through the torque tube to the back of the transmission. If you look at a Buick with the 'tube, you will see a very substantial rear transmission mount with a thrust plate that applies the thrust load to the rear transmission mount and crossmember. Since the tranny is solidly bolted to the engine, the engine is taking a bit of the drive thrust as well. Yes, I know - the rear wheels actually move the car just the same as any other rear-wheel drive car, bur remember the "equal and opposite" reaction. On an open shaft car the drive thrust is transmitted to the rear of the frame/unibody through either the leaf springs or the various strut rod linkages On the torque tube Buicks (and other torque tube cars such as my Model T), the rear springs take no thrust. Most torque tube Buicks don't even have strut rods - the Panhard bar positions the rear axle/torque tube side to side.
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