In October I finally decided to make the leap to start buying parts. I figured I would start with the engine, transmission and bellhousing, the three biggest pieces.
Engine Selection. Since this will dictate all your other decisions, make this one before you buy anything else. I searched the Internet for quite awhile before I found a "Buick 215" for sale. A list of similar engines can be found at TR7 Conversion Page. I found the engine on one of the online classifieds, www.excite.com I think. Other places to look, www.ebay.com, and of course the Mailing list. Now that I've actually purchased the engine, I hear of quite a few for sale. You can also certainly follow the Rover V8 route, and if you have more money I think this would be the way to go. You can get newer engines in a larger variety of sizes. Parts are more expensive, but you also get newer technology. If you go with a Rover engine, most people also use a SD1 transmission. I certainly will not try to explain all the possible combinations, just what I used.
The price of my engine was $300, which I thought was quite reasonable. The "gentleman" selling the engine said it was running when removed two years ago and had been stored inside since then. So I sent him $500 ($200 for truck freight), and the engine was here a week later. I was in for a shock when I arrived. It was obvious that the engine had been stored for a few years with nothing covering the spark plug holes, the intake or the exhaust inlets. The engine was froze, so I was pretty upset with the purchase. Asking for some sort of a compromise on the money proved frutal. Unfortunately, I was too far away to just return it, so I was stuck with it. Had I lived closer, he would have gotten the engine back, one way or another ;-) So I immediately started the disassembly process only to find that the cylinders were completely full of debris. Some sort of insect had decided to call the engine home.
The engine also proved to be an Olds F85 engine and not a Buick 215. The differences are around the heads. The Buick heads have 5 bolt holes surrounding each cylinder and the Olds have 6. A pic of the Olds head is to the right. Olds parts are much harder to come by and are more expensive when you do find them. I ended up just buying Buick heads to go on my Olds block, $200 with a complete valve train. There are various compression ratios that can be obtained depending on the type of Buick 215 you have. This information is available elsewhere and I won't try to impart knowledge on the perfect compression ratio to use, as this is still over my head.
Lessons Learned. Buy the best engine you can find within reason. I've since found a completely rebuilt Buick 215 for $800 and several that were better shape than mine for less than $500. Be prepared to spend at least a month shopping for an engine. I regret not taking more time at this point to look for the right engine. Unfortunately, I had too much money tied up in mine to just ditch it, and get another. Also buy the most complete engine you can find. Mine didn't come with a distributor, starter, alternator, or any kind of induction sytem. The advantage of going with a Rover is you can often find someone parting a Rover 3500 or a Land Rover where you can go get the complete engine with components. This will save you a lot of money. My suggestion would be to spend the money on a professional rebuilt model from one of the V8 suppliers. Expect to pay between 1500 and $2000 for a fully rebuilt engine. Definitely worth the money, if you've never rebuilt an engine before.
As a side note, during this time frame I sold the drivetrain from my MGB. I ended up getting about $800 total, which helped to offset the initial purchase of the above parts.
Back to The Table of Contents