What should I do to my Cutlass?

thelifeafter245

Not-quite-so-new-guy
Jul 27, 2020
12
3
Hey all, I'm new here if this in the wrong spot please delete it. Anyways so I'm 18yrs old and just picked up a project car, an 84 cutlass supreme, for $500. The body and interior are in decent shape but the motor and trans have pretty much had it. It's the 3.8l v6 and what I think is a th250. Previous owner claims 103,000 original miles, I just can't believe that. The odo has been rolled over so I'm thinking 203k or even 303k, idk. I've included a pic of when I pulled the valve cover and it's absolutely disgusting. Surprisingly the engine still runs(well kinda) and the trans shifts as smooth as butter, apart from leaking fluid from literally everywhere. I'm rambling sorry, anyway my question is what should I do to it once this engine/trans dies, I am going to wait until either of them give out before I go swapping something like a 350/th350 in, mainly as I work part time at a discount store making less than $150 a week lol. So what would be the best option for an engine trans and everything else I would need to have the car running and driving for about $600? From what I've seen the th250 will bolt up to a 307 but most say its not even worth it being so puny, what do yall think? I'd like to stay with either the th250 or the th350 so I won't have to change the driveshaft. As far as my skill level goes, I can do most basic and intermediate things with cars, I've done shocks, struts, brakes, valve cover gaskets, water pumps, timing belts, etc but I've never pulled an engine or trans out of a car. There is a great deal for a running olds 455/turbo 400 combo in my area for $450, if I went that route how would I go about finding motor mounts, and how much would a different driveshaft be? People in my area (middle TN) think that running 350/th350 combos are worth their weight in gold, its not uncommon for one with around 180k miles to be listed for $900-1200. So if I went with a chevy setup my only real option is a 305/th350 setup and those are still going for about $600-700 in running condition. For some reason olds 307s are quite alot cheaper at around $300 in running condition, but I have yet to run across one with a transmission as well. I'm still new at all this old car stuff, I came from the land of V-Tec and jdm, so I'm not sure what to do with a carburetor and vacuum modulated transmissions lol. I am anxious to learn and hopefully have a really cool car to show for it when it's done. If I am not correct with any of my info please correct me, like I said I'm very new to all this. Thanks again.

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Reactions: Tony1968

fleming442

Captain Tenneal
Supporting Member
Dec 26, 2013
12,358
113
Any engine other than a Buick (v6 or v8) will require different frame pads an engine mounts. As an Olds guy, I simply cannot condone a Chevy engine install, so Ill just sit on the sidelines as other tell you to stick a SBC or LS in it.
Those 3.8s are virtually indestructible. Change the oil to some 15w-40 diesel, and run it. Is this your first "project car" or your first car? Either way, it's not going to be fun without a garage and enough money to make some things happen (basic safety stuff like tires).
 

85442/86buick

G-Body Guru
Feb 12, 2013
653
93
Toronto
Welcome to the Club,

Looks good for $ 500.....and it runs ! Perfect.

My 2 cents - I agree with running what you have for now and focus on tires / brakes / front end / shocks. And research your butt off.
and no engine / trans swap is cheap or easy.
 

lilbowtie

Comic Book Super Hero
Jan 7, 2006
3,374
113
Canton Mi
What you do and have expectations for is on your shoulders. Keep what you have running - I've seen engines look a lot worse. Keep looking and keep your options open and something will fall in your lap. Olds / buick swap is pretty much straight forward. Car looks solid - and by the way welcome to the forum.
 

Longroof79

Rocket Powered Basset Hound
Oct 14, 2008
11,184
113
Gainesville, Fl
Welcome to the forum and the world of 'merican cars.
I like Lilbowtie's suggestion. That looks like one sweet car for the money. It also looks like a car you can get into and drive, keep maintained, and enjoy. Just think of the amount of money a car like this would save you in the long run.
Otherwise, if you're insistent on keeping this Cutlass. Concentrate on making the car safe and reliable mechanically. Keep the V-6 alive for as long as you can and save your money for a future engine swap, if that's what your ultimate plan is.

Trust me, we've all been there, starting out with a shitbox that needed everything to a reliable driver. I suppose that's how many of us started out and learned how to make improvements, etc.
 

69hurstolds

Comic Book Super Hero
Supporting Member
Jan 2, 2006
4,705
113
I know it's probably not in the cars for you but if you put pen to paper as to what you are going to spend to get your car to your satisfaction, this is a good deal.
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/335305437484938/
You trying to help this guy sell this car or something? :)

$5K isn't that good of a deal for that car, JMO. Don't let the $1234 at the top fool you. That's just to get you to click on it.

JMO- at 150 per week, you can't have much money to be able to set aside to fix up the beast. I agree you need to sit down and make a plan first. Set the goal. It may not be your final goal, but you do need a goalpost placeholder or something until you get the money saved up to do what you want. I can only suggest fixing what you have as best you can for right now. The best thing you can do at the moment, is find a local friend that knows SOMETHING about these old cars if you don't. They can be a big resource in helping you understand what's what and can show you things you can learn from. Trying to learn from us remotely on a forum can be done, but it's just not the same.

If the transmission shifts well, then change out the lip seals and gaskets first to stop the bleeding. Buy a new filter kit which comes with the gaskets, then get the rear and torque converter lip seals for it, and maybe a shift linkage shaft seal one too. Whichever ones you can find that's leaking. I mean, there's not much else you would need to stop the fluid from coming out. Check the torque converter stub for excessive wear where the lip seal contacts as well if you have to replace the front seal.

Change the oil, and vacuum lines on that 3.8 engine. Try to get it running as best you can before discounting it. It may last longer than you think if you take care of it. I'm only giving out this advice due to the money situation. If you have the drive and the $$, nothing is impossible.

95% of the time, even if the 307 came with a transmission, it would be a 4 speed transmission. But, they did make some 3 speed versions in the early to mid 80s. So there's hope. Hold out for the engine you want. If you want an Olds 350, look under rocks. In either case, SBC or SBO, you'll probably be changing frame mounts and engine mounts anyway. A 455 would probably tear up your rear end fast. You can go crazy with that later.
 

Longroof79

Rocket Powered Basset Hound
Oct 14, 2008
11,184
113
Gainesville, Fl
I guess I should've realized that the bogus price of that Cutlass was too good to be true. Besides, at that price, he'd have absolutely no trouble selling it.
69hurstolds has some good suggestions. ^^ As he said, set a goal for what you plan to accomplish.
 

thelifeafter245

Not-quite-so-new-guy
Thread starter
Jul 27, 2020
12
3
Any engine other than a Buick (v6 or v8) will require different frame pads an engine mounts. As an Olds guy, I simply cannot condone a Chevy engine install, so Ill just sit on the sidelines as other tell you to stick a SBC or LS in it.
Those 3.8s are virtually indestructible. Change the oil to some 15w-40 diesel, and run it. Is this your first "project car" or your first car? Either way, it's not going to be fun without a garage and enough money to make some things happen (basic safety stuff like tires).

Thank you all so much for responding, not sure how the quoting works but I think I did it right, to answer Fleming442's question, It is not my first car. As of now my daily driver is a 2002 Camry, I've owned other cars in the past but this is the first I'd call a project. In the way of tires and shocks and whatnot I actually got off really well. I bought the car at an estate sale after the previous owner passed away. He was working on the car and in the process put new shocks all around, I'm assuming he did some other stuff with the suspension as the car rides perfect, better than my Camry that has new struts and sway bar links all around. Brakes still have a good amount of life left and it stops on a dime. And conveniently I picked up some S10 Rally wheels that are surprisingly decent for $50, then I was lucky enough to catch a walmart flash sale on some 14 inch tires. Never heard of the brand but for $26 a tire I'm not complaining. I mounted and balanced them myself so no cost there. So as of now the car is perfectly roadworthy other than the engine. It's not even that it fails to start or anything, but it just feels like its dying to me. When you first start it up there is massive amounts of lifter clatter then it quiets down and sometime it will misfire and other times it will be fine. Other weird thing when you turn it off after its been driving a while smoke will come out of the hood, when I popped the hood I concluded it was something at the rear of the engine just bellowing smoke, looked as though it was the back of the driver side valve cover gasket, but after replacement there was no change. After getting under the car I found that it leaks alot of oil and transmission fluid. So I'm wondering if somethings leaking onto the exhaust somewhere and smoking up. Also there is smoke out of the transmission dipstick tube after the engine is shut off. Not sure what that is but the fluid level isn't changing and its not slipping or anything. Other stuff I've done to the engine is just basic maintenance, spark plugs, oil, air filter, etc. And while I appreciate y'all who are showing me some other g-bodys I really don't think that's an option. It would take me a couple of years to be able to have $5k to spend on something like that. Even then idk, I really like my current car, it looks bada** and rides like a dream. I just really hate the 3.8 and all its little problems, not saying that a sbc or olds I get won't have them, it's just I feel I will be much more inclined to fix them if its an engine I like. My dad has a 82 Caprice with a 305/th350 and the only mod it has is a flowmaster. I really enjoy driving it and from working on it with him it seems easy enough to work on, and the V8 sound is absolutely mesmerizing. That's all I really want out of this car, a decent driver that makes a good sound when you press the gas. I don't much care for performance parts or speed, at least not right now, going to college for I.T and when I get a decent job that's going to change lol. Anyway again guys thank you all so much for the replys and options.
 
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