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Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

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ClassOf56
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Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:15 pm

Since reviving my old 283 looks like it isn't going to happen, I need to find a different motor to put into my 18' Chris Craft Continental. It sounds easy, since the Small Block Chevy is available relatively inexpensively just about anywhere, and are for the most part unchanged over the years.
For the engine, I am not planning to make it all original. Everything else on the boat will be kept period correct, if not original. I am not building a show boat, but a boat that I can use frequently as my primary pleasure boat. I have a boathouse that I will be able to keep it in all summer either in the water or in slings. So I want it to be reliable and strong running. As soon as I get this boat on the water, I will be selling my 1990 Chris Craft Concept 198 (which I bought new, and am still very happy with). I will most likely buy a 350 Long Block and either transfer the old stuff over or replace it. My assessment of what I have is as follows:

1. The Exhaust manifolds are shot, so I will need replacements. Should I try to find some old Chris-Craft ones? Or something else?
2. The alternator looks like it is from a car, so I will need to buy a marine alternator
3. The Starter probably works, but I would like to have a new one
4. The distributor probably works, but I would like a new one
5. I can use the existing Holley intake manifold
6. I will probably buy a new Holley marine carb. Can you buy the wedge spacer that goes under the carb? The one in there looks like there is a crack in it.
7. The water pump can probably be rebuilt, but I will most likely replace it. Have there been any improvements in water pump design over the past 55 years?
8. Hopefully, the front and rear engine mounts will fit the new block. Does anyone have any info on this? Are there special block numbers I need to look for or avoid?
9. I assume that I need a ‘Front Flywheel’, correct? Is that available?
10. Will the transmission bolt on to the new block ok? I have the manual gearbox. Is there any reason to get a new transmission? How much horsepower will this one take?

As always, I appreciate the comments. This forum helps me keep my thoughts in order and in a place where I can reference it from anywhere, so I really appreciate it being here.

Thank you,
Steve A
1956 18' Chris-Craft Continental

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by evansjw44 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:50 pm

I am by no means an expert. There are a few here. But I can off er few introduction tips.
1) If you keep the manual Paragon trans the engine crank has to have an oil passage to the trans. A crate motor will not have that. A crate motor crank has to be modified.
2) Most replacement motors are more geared to '57 Chevy than a boat. You need a low end torque engine not a high end high flow drag motor.
3) You don't need a high flow carb and intake. You need the low end torque. Aluminum intakes are prone to corrosion. You have to block off the carb heat crossover passage.
4) Your distributor doesn't need vacuum advance. Keep the one you have and get it rebuilt. If you keep the flywheel forward configuration moving and use an aftermarket distributor the distributor moves to where the tach drive is. In its original position, the distributor is driven off the gears in the back of the engine, not the cam shaft per normal Chevy.
5) A high volume oil pump is a good addition.
6) The CC small block forward conversion has a special low clearance oil pan and the internal oil pickup is not like a crate motor. You will at least have to retain the CC oil pan and the pump and pick-up if you keep it flywheel forward.
7) CC didn't use the carb wedge after about 1965. I'm not sure why.
8) Avoid using an electric fuel pump, at least without and oil pressure cut-off switch. Fire hazzard.
9) Newer blocks are thin wall casting in difference to the older thicker wall castings of the '60s. If you have a good block it might make a better starting point than a new thin wall block. Check with a good engine builder that does marine work not a hot rod shop.
10) Your engine probably has the older CC split cooling system. If you mess around with the cooling you might get a surpise. Newer small block conversions use a circulating cooling system.
10) Consider using a Mercruiser or Crusader or Marine Power converion engine where they have worked out the issies. Beware, most of these are flywheel aft conversion and will give you clearance issues for the oil pan at the back end.
Jim Evans

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:52 pm

Thanks, Jim. That's a lot to think about. I think the best bet is to get the old one apart and see what I have left to work with. I don't want to have to invent a lot of things to make this work. The guy I am working with primarily builds marine race engines. I am meeting with him this weekend to look at the boat, and I will bring up these points.
Steve A
1956 18' Chris-Craft Continental

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by mfine » Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:57 pm

1) replace. There are aftermarket ones available new. They don't look exactly the same, but a used set is going to be high risk if you don't get it magnafluxed for cracks before buying. Barr and Osco make the new logs and all the parts and gaskets.
3) just have it rebuilt
4) use the old one or get a marine electronic ignition. As mentioned, you want a software or spring/weight advance, not a automotive vacuum advance system.
5) you can but you want an intake tuned for low RPM torque so you want to check the model. A new Eddlebrock 2101 or similar is not expensive if it warrants a replacement.
6) I wouldn't use a Holley. They have a reputation for leaking fuel and the one my boat came with did just that. Minor issue in a car, potential disaster in a wood boat. Eddlebrock 1409 is an affordable new marine carb based on the Carter. That would be my first choice.
7) there is a "modern" cam driven "Magnaflow" single impeller pump that will fit with little modification. It is a single input rather than double, but has the two outputs to keep the rest of the cooling system the same. You want the smaller of the two sizes. Or, just get new impellers and maybe a new cam plate if you have the rubber impeller pump. Not sure I would replace the pump if yours does not have issues.
8. I am not sure which blocks will and won't work, an engine guy should know.
9) the flywheel forward is how the engine is mounted. The flywheel is still on the flywheel end of the block but the block is in backwards from how it would mount in a car.
10). You need a hole in the crank to feed oil into the gear box but otherwise it will fit and it will handle the power. There are plenty of threads on this.

Other thoughts...
An electric fuel pump is way better and safer than a mechanical even though a lot of people on here feel otherwise. Yes you need an oil pressure cutoff (super cheap) but in return you get fast easy starting with today's more volatile fuels that can evaporate out of the carb, and there is no diaphragm to fail from ethanol or age that will allow fuel into the oil pan turning your engine into a bomb. Most modern CG approved inboards use electric pumps.

Electronic ignition plus electric fuel pump and a good carb with working electric choke will give you an engine that starts as easy as your modern fuel injected car. I personally find that appealing. Other people like to wear out their starters, batteries and patience cranking away on a more original design.

You can make a modern mercruiser or other modern inboard fit, but watch the rotation and clearences. This will be more work and money than rebuilding a 350 to fit in place of the CC 283.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by evansjw44 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:41 am

I mostly agree with the previous post. I would add a few comments.

If yous manifolds have seen salt water they are junk. If your block has seen salt water be suspicious.

As for carbs, I have Carters on my 327Fs and I like them. The Edlebrock is mostly a copy of the Carter. Holleys do leak and they blow power valves, Rochesters are fussy and a pain to tune. The Edlebrock is also easy to tune.

If you re-use your block be sure it is magnafluxed and cleaned.

An older 283 block (pre 1968 I beleive) is has "small" main bearing journals. It won't accept a 350 crank. After 1968 GM changed the main bearing size to "large" journal that will accept a 350 crank. A "small" journal block will accept a 327 crank.

The water pump suggestion is valuable. You need to maintain a temp monitor for each side of the engine as they are cooled independantly. Makes sure the intake blocks off the cross over passage.

If you go with the electric fuel pump you will need a by-pass switch to prime the carb for starting. My carb bowls go dry in 3 days so I end up carnking a lot to fill them up on cold start. Hard on the starter but the engine gets oiled before it fires. I'm just not fond of electric fuel pumps.

Make sure you are getting a high low end torque set up. Cam, Manifold and carb need to be chosen with that objective. You don't want to be trying to manauver with a balky low torque at idle motor.

Get a cam the is set up for hydraulic lifters. Lashing valves is a pain.

Be aware some of the replacement motors are built in Mexico. They can have quality issues. I have a good friend that's an engine builder and his shop gets crate motors all the time from customers and they find the cylinder bore not straight, off centerline and sloppy tolerances. They find croocked connecting rods and egg shaped journal ends. It goes on from there.
Jim Evans

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:36 pm

Thanks guys, this is all very good information. I will be reviewing it with my engine guy over the weekend. It sounds like I need to make some decisions, and I would rather do it fairly quickly. The longer I wait, the longer before I can get on the water.

I REALLY like the log style manifolds from Barr, they would really allow me to keep it looking correct for the period, and allow me to improve on the motor.

I was reading on some car performance websites about the 283, and they all say that it is great for high RPM horsepower, but terrible for low end torque, which is funny since all we want it torque. The inputs on the water pump, starter, carbs, ignition, etc are all great and will be taken into consideration. I will let you know more after I talk to the engine guy. I have rebuilt engines before, but don't really want to build this one myself for some reason. Probably the time commitment.

Assuming I have stock heads, are there things that can be done to them to get more torque?
Also, I can't find any casting numbers on the Holley intake manifold I have. I understand that they have a whole series of Street Dominator's, and I need to figure out what one I have.
Steve A
1956 18' Chris-Craft Continental

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:15 pm

Holleys have 28 possible points of fuel leakage to the outside of the carb. Edelbrock has none. The Edelbrock 1409 is the way to go. I've cure many customers running problems by replacing the Holley with the Edelbrock.

On the flywheel forward engine if you stay with the original style exhaust manifolds. You have to use the osco brand not the barr brand. Barr left a divider out of one of the passages making them a 2 pass not a 3 pass manifold. The flywheel forward 283 requires the 3 pass manifolds. If you use the Barr manifolds you will have overheating issues.

You also have to use a special intake gasket on one side so you don't let the water flow between the heads in the intake manifold chamber.

Also a new marine power or crusader engine requires a lot of modification to install. Mount blocking, running of cables, bigger exhaust. Center rise manifolds might not fit under the original engine box. Engine box will probably be to short because flywheel art engines are 6 to 12 inches longer depending on brand of gearbox. You can not use the manual 283 trans on a flywheel aft conversion.

I've done lots of 283 to 350 conversions. I buy long block 350 marine ends and bolt all the Chris Craft conversion parts to them. I drill the crank, high torque starter etc. I've done around 15 or so of these.

See attached picture. This is a flywheel forward 283 with a 350 in place of the 283.
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by mfine » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:49 am

evansjw44 wrote: If you go with the electric fuel pump you will need a by-pass switch to prime the carb for starting. My carb bowls go dry in 3 days so I end up carnking a lot to fill them up on cold start. Hard on the starter but the engine gets oiled before it fires. I'm just not fond of electric fuel pumps.
That is exactly the opposite of what should happen. When the carb is dry it takes a lot of cranking with a mechanical fuel pump to pump it back up. Extremely low RPM while cranking means very little fuel pumping. The electric pump pumps at max volume right away until the float valve in the carb restricts it. The oil pressure cutoff also has a delay after cranking. Crank for half a second, and it will keep the fuel pump running for an additional 10 seconds which is more than enough to fill the carb from completely dry to full. Pump the throttle to full and back a few times to "prime" the engine with the accelerator pump, leave the throttle slightly cracked, turn the key again and it should fire right up.

A bypass switch would work, but you don't need it. Just turn the key to crank briefly and it should bypass. If not get a new oil pressure cutoff. The ones I use are made by Holley and are dirt cheap.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by charlesquimby » Sat Jul 12, 2014 2:55 pm

I have built several flywheel forward 350s using 283 Flagship hardware, and one thing that always has to be done is grind the oil pan to accommodate the increased rod journal throw. This may not become an issue with the Chris crank-case, but might deserve some consideration. Good advice on the use of AFB or the Edlebrock clone. CQ

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:04 am

Thank you all for the information! Jim, those pictures are awesome! I would love to have something that looks so stock and ran strong.

Does the flywheel forward 283 run in opposite direction of a normal engine?

Also, I happen to have a set of new-in-box set of ZZ4 heads and intake manifold. Reading other forums it sounds like they fit a 283, but am trying to figure out how well suited to a boat they would be.
Steve A
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by mfine » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:29 pm

ClassOf56 wrote:Does the flywheel forward 283 run in opposite direction of a normal engine?

Also, I happen to have a set of new-in-box set of ZZ4 heads and intake manifold. Reading other forums it sounds like they fit a 283, but am trying to figure out how well suited to a boat they would be.
A twin engine CC will have one that runs in each direction. Most smaller boats with one will have a standard (automotive ) rotation as viewed from the flywheel. Because the engine is in backwards, the shaft will rotate opposite a car. Note that CC re numbered the cylinders in these engines, so the firing order according to Chris Craft will not seem to match anything you see from GM but this is just a labeling issue.

As for the second question. I would not rebuild a 283 for a boat. Make a 350 that looks like a 283. Boats benefit from torque and displacement more so than cars, in part because we don't have 6 speed transmissions to keep the RPM's in the sweet spot. Head choice will be based on displacement and desired compression ratio. If you will always run 93 octane premium, you can get away with higher compression, but not too high, you have no anti-knock sensors like a modern car. For 87 octane fuel, build it with a lower compression. Fuel sitting in our vented tanks can lose their octane rating so be conservative. Heads are readily available with just about any combustion chamber size needed to give you whatever compression ratio you desire.

Other than that, the 283 setup has a water exit on the flywheel (forward) end of the heads. If you buy new automotive heads, you will need to drill and tap the head and maybe machine the surface flat so the gasket seals well.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by Peter M Jardine » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:04 pm

I kinda go back and forth on old engines. They're a pain in the ass,mostly because they weren't all that good to start with. Most of the time spent rebuilding older engines is trying to correct all the inherent faults in the manufacturing process. At the same time, I get confused at the judging process in vintage boats. The 'numbers matching' part of the vintage car industry doesn't matter as much, yet all the attention to wire color and all that stuff applies. I'm not a collector, I'm a boater, (at least that's what I tell myself :mrgreen: ), and on the larger boats, I generally will accept any upgrades in electrical or propulsion, safety or construction materials.... BUT.. I do believe in keepin the vintage look of Vanora. In the end, I guess it's what people choose to do, and as long as they enjoy their boat, all good. I do think that reliability trumps most things... I want to use my boat, but lets face it, if use was the whole deal, my boat would be fibreglass.

At the end of the whole thing, one of my mentors in the vintage car business said it best, when I said I could have easily bought a crate engine for the Supersport instead of building the hotrod 430 ....."Anyone could do that"

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:33 pm

I agree with your thoughts. I want it to be safe, reliable, strong and look original, in that order. The 283 that's in there isn't original, as the block is from 62-68, so numbers matching is already lost.

I absolutely LOVE what Jim pictured. It looks stock to the casual observer, but is a strong, reliable 350. Tons of work and money, but absolutely the best of what I am looking for. I haven't heard from my engine guy yet this weekend...
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:11 pm

Have you gotten the hull card for your boat yet. As Chris Craft did not offer the 283 until the 1958 model year. So if your boat is a 1956 it would have had a K series engine in it.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by mfine » Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:41 pm

What Jim pictured won't cost anymore than rebuilding a 283 to the same level, maybe less. There are a few forum members and club advertisers who can do that for you. Make a few phone calls, you'll probably find it is not as bad as you're thinking.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:14 am

Hi Jim,

I have ordered the Hull card, and the full packet of additional info, but it hasn't arrived yet. It should be here shortly. I was told that it had come with the inline 6, and was later updated to the 283 by the original owner. That is why I was saying that having it 'original' isn't so important, but I really like it looking original to the casual observer. Anyone who is in this club is not a 'casual observer', and I would expect them to know the difference, and hope they would appreciate what I am doing.

I can't wait to get the Hull card, as I have a ton of questions that might be answered.
Steve A
1956 18' Chris-Craft Continental

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:12 am

In the chris craft service books I have. Chris Craft had a service bulletin with all the parts you need to change from a k series engine to a 283. So even the factory promoted it.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by Tightline5 » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:26 am

Should have had a KLC I'm thinking.

My vote is go large and overkill.

Hey Jim grab your ankles and hold on we are going for a little ride next year at the Hartwell Show :):):)
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:34 am

Tightline5 wrote:Should have had a KLC I'm thinking.

My vote is go large and overkill.

Hey Jim grab your ankles and hold on we are going for a little ride next year at the Hartwell Show :):):)
I've got my bucket so I'm ready anytime.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by kjhoffman » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:35 am

Hi,

I have put together several updated 283 conversions. If you want it to look original you need to use a pre 1968 block. All 350,s have different crankcase ventalation. A small journal 327 from 62 to 67 will bolt together with no modifications other than drilling and tapping the crankshaft. A windage tray in the pan will help keep from oil starvation. I have used early FI heads by drilling the front of the head for water oulet's with great success. The Edelbrock 1409 marine carb is the way to go. It will run right sweet right out of the box. A Pertonix ignition is desired and kits are available for either the Autolite or Delco distributor.

see most original Chris craft 283 on utube.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:30 am

Hi All,
I haven't had much time to do anything since my last post, other than to see what it takes to remove the engine, but I did get the hull card. The boat originally came with the KBR engine, so in '56 they bought the biggest motor available and between '56 and '62 they pulled it and put in the 283. I am thinking that I really would have liked the original owner!

I plan to pull the engine sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, and once I see what's left of the insides I can decide what to do. I did find a cheap 307 online, and that could be a great option to use as a start for a rebuild. They are known for torque, I guess.

My biggest concern with a crate 350 is that I am still not clear on if my front and rear engine mounts will bolt up properly.

Thanks,
Steve
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by mfine » Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:55 pm

Get a pre-68 327/350 block and it should all fit. Better yet, talk to the engine builders and see what they say. Some might have a block ready to go.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:37 pm

ClassOf56 wrote:Hi All,
I haven't had much time to do anything since my last post, other than to see what it takes to remove the engine, but I did get the hull card. The boat originally came with the KBR engine, so in '56 they bought the biggest motor available and between '56 and '62 they pulled it and put in the 283. I am thinking that I really would have liked the original owner!

I plan to pull the engine sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, and once I see what's left of the insides I can decide what to do. I did find a cheap 307 online, and that could be a great option to use as a start for a rebuild. They are known for torque, I guess.

My biggest concern with a crate 350 is that I am still not clear on if my front and rear engine mounts will bolt up properly.

Thanks,
Steve
Yes. They will bolt up. Look at the pictures I posted earlier in this thread. That is a 350 with all the 283 stuff bolted on to it.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:09 pm

Many thanks to both Jim G and MFine for the responses. So Jim, just so that I know what to look for, you are saying it doesn't need to be an older block, pretty much any 350 block will work OK?

That really opens up my options, for sure.

Thank you,

Steve
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jim g » Fri Aug 01, 2014 4:15 pm

ClassOf56 wrote:Many thanks to both Jim G and MFine for the responses. So Jim, just so that I know what to look for, you are saying it doesn't need to be an older block, pretty much any 350 block will work OK?

That really opens up my options, for sure.

Thank you,

Steve
Steve,

The earlier the better but basically your cut off is when GM started using the valve covers with the bolts down the middle instead of around the sides and you want a block before the one piece rear seal.

The supplier I get my marine 350 long blocks from. I tell them I want an early engine and thats what they send me.

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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:31 am

Hi Guys,

I made some progress recently! I have pulled the old engne out. It was actually VERY easy. I spent about 2 hours disconnecting everything and buildng a cradle for it that fit on my Hobiecat trailer, then took both trailers up to the local marina where they have a nice guy and a hoist. We backed the boat in, hooked up a chain, lifted the engine straight up, pulled the boat out, backed in the Hobie trailer, set the engine down, and drove away. It took about 15 minutes, and they only charged me $40.

I have decided that now that I have it out, I should check out and redo the bottom, so I am flipping it over in the next couple of weeks, so the motor will have some time before I tear into it.

Two questions:
- what does this 283 with engine mounts, water pump, etc weigh? I want to make sure I am not wrcking my hobie trailer. 600 lbs is probably ok, anything more than that and I will want to get it off of there.
- what does the hull for an 18' Continental weigh once I pull all the engine and hardware off? I plan to strip it pretty good before trying to turn it.

Thanks all,

Steve
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by WoodenRookie » Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:27 pm

I would assume 800 lbs for motor & trans, and 1800 lbs for the hull
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by jahearne » Fri Nov 14, 2014 7:22 pm

The whole enchilada wieghs about 1200 lbs including transmission and manifolds. At least that's what my flywheel forward engine & tranny wieghed when I shipped cross country, but it's all cast iron including the oil pan. If I remember right, my flywheel aft motors have a lot of aluminum.
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by ClassOf56 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 6:31 pm

Thanks for the reply. I have gotten estimates for the motor from various places, people and websites on the engine anywhere from about 400-1300# and on the boat hull anywhere from about 350-1000#. I guess that each depend on many variables.

While trying to disconnect the propshaft, I was able to turn over the motor that I thought was siezed, but by then it was almost out, so I continued.

I have drained the oil, fogged the cylinders and put fresh oil into it for storage. It is outside, but well covered. I will check it out more when the springtime warm weather comes. Either way, I am going to put in a 350, but I may put the 283 in an old 64 Nova SS I have stored away.
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Re: Crate 350 engine in a '56 Continental 18'

Post by steven.anderson.2011 » Thu Mar 19, 2020 2:46 pm

So, here it is over 5 years later, and I have a New Engine in the boat, hoping to be on the water this summer. I have learned a ton, and probably spent to much, but am happy to see it getting near completion! For some reason, I have a new screen name, but was ClassOf56 previously. I think I must have let my membership lapse for a while!https://photos.app.goo.gl/bMZQUao64UB817gR7Image
Steve Anderson
1956 Chris Craft Continental 18'
1990 Chris Craft Concept 198

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