1954 buick century conversion

I guess by now it is no secret I have a 1954 Buick Century w/322 nailhead. I also have a 396. Will they work for a guy with average means and knowledge?

For an average “skilled” mechanic yes…for me no.


The old Buick nailhead V-8 engines were easy to work on. I owned a 1954 Special with the 264 cubic inch version of that engine. The spark plugs were hidden under covers. I bought new plug wires and couldn’t fit the covers back on so I left them off. The one thing about the Buick that made it harder to service than other cars at the time was the torque tube drive (enclosed drive shaft). The rear axle had to be dropped to remove the transmission. This made replacing the clutch more difficult and time consuming. I had a standard transmission, although probably 95% of the 1954 Buicks had Dynaflo automatic transmissions. I liked the way you started a Buick in those days–switch the ignition switch from either off or lock to on and depress the accelerator. This activated the starter and when the engine started, a vacuum lockout switch deactivated the starter.

I’m not sure why you would want to install a 396 engine. I would think that a later version of the nailhead V-8 might be easier to install since I think it was the same basic block as the 322. I don’t know what you have in mind for a transmission. The original twin turbin Dynaflow wasn’t very efficient. If you have a standard shift, that would be great.

You will want a different transmission and possibly a beefier differential. Maybe even new wheels and tires that can handle the power. Jay Leno put a new suspension in his Buick, too.

Yeah, I don’t think a Dynaflow trany will work with a 396 engine. However, I worked at a Buick, Olds, Pontiac plant in the 50s. I think it was 1954 there was a shortage of Hydramatics so we put Dynaflows in some Oldsmobiles and Powerglides in some Pontiacs.