1972 Oldsmobile W-30 Engine Build & Detail - Muscle Car Enthusiast March 2010

This is an archival piece of media from March 2010

The focus of this article is a 1972 W-30 455 but the information here covers
many of the details found on all Oldsmobile 455's from 1970-72.

Editor's Note: Every couple of years the Kryta brothers at Inline Tube build a show car to display their company's products. But beyond just showing off their catalog parts, they, like their customers, just enjoy the hands-on process of reconstructing cool muscle cars. Their next project car is a 1972 Olds W-30. John and James Kryta share their detailing research and methods with us in this in-depth engine detailing article.

This is more than an article about one engine but covers many of the details of all the Oldsmobile 455’s from 70-72. This is a 1972 W-30 Engine that is rated at 300 HP with 8.5:1 compression with 410 lb of toque. While only 772 442 W-30’s were made there were roughly 26,000 442’s made between 70-72 and many more Oldsmobile A-bodies with the optional 455 under the hood. This 455 was not only for the light cars but your dads 88 or 98 most likely had a similar unit with nearly the same horse power. The 455 was used in the entire Oldsmobile line up and it is not hard to find one in just about every car from the era. They are all the same basic engine, same color and many of the same parts. The numbers are different and you won’t find an aluminum intake or a flapper on a station wagon but you will find the high flow dual exhaust W Z manifolds or the heat riser shroud. Pulleys and brackets are shared and a few head numbers have the same casting numbers in 1972 but are low performance but any machine shop can convert them over. Hard to find temperature sending units, oil pressure units, brackets and hardware are also the same as the big cars.

The standard W-30 was out fitted with a special open air cleaner with a flapper that sealed the air cleaner to the underside of the scooped fiberglass hood. This was an option on a Cutlass. The W-30 also came standard with an aluminum intake, big valve heads and a blue printed engine that was not available in any other model. There are many similarities in parts but few combinations ended up as W-30 engines.

This is the engine for the next Inline tube show car. Every couple years the company builds another car to take across the country and show off their new products. We are not only a company that makes parts but we use them on our own cars and are guys working on cars just like you.

1. SHINE TIME: As we get close to the engine we can see the details that make this a show car engine. The paint is shiny and bright, the bolts and brackets have fresh plating and many of the small detail items are new instead of using pitted and rusty old parts. It can be a time saver to buy new instead of spending hours on one part fixing it to look new. New clamps, belts, wires and hoses are a must and other reproduction parts just make the job go faster.

2. TIN MAN: The tin coated steel pump to carb line and the UO tag on the oil fill tube is part of the detail sticker set from Inline tube. The oil fill cap and tube were installed after engine paint and are silver zinc plated. The cap is specific to 71-72, in 70 it is a flat top cap.

3 PUMPED UP: The fuel pump has an aluminum base and a gold cad can. The tin coated lines goes to the top of the pump. The Oldsmobile pump has the can facing up while most other GM cars have this can down. It is common to see the pump installed upside down. The fuel return pipe is also on the top of the can. This is on all high performance cars and returns unused fuel to the tank.

4. ENGINE MONITORS: This is a rally pace car meaning it has working oil pressure and temperature gauges. The large unit is the oil pressure gauge. It is mounted to the engine block with this special long brass elbow. This gauge is a close replacement to the original that is more flat on top. The temperature sending unit is the brass fitting in the intake; this again is a close replacement but should have a standing stake instead of the stud. The blue wire is the jumper to the engine wiring harness that is only on gauge cars.

5. X MARKS THE SPOT: This large red x on the driver side valve cover is an inspection mark that is common to Oldsmobile’s of the 60’s and early 70’s and in later years turned into an ink stamp. The valve covers were painted after they were installed so the bolts are painted over top.

6. TOPPER TIPS: Here is the correct installation of the plastic air cleaner topper that is held on the car with these white springs and small valve cover brackets. The spring attaches to the side of the bracket not the hole in the bracket. The spark plug wires are held in place with simple black plastic clips. The valve cover vent tubes on Oldsmobile’s are all different lengths and angles depending on the engine type. These are very difficult to find 455 tubes in the correct black paint.

7. BEHIND THE SCENES: The bracket on the top corner of the valve cover was on all cars and it was to hold the tube and metal line used to supply vacuum to the power brake unit or power booster for the brakes. The throttle bracket is phosphate and the carb return spring is white. The tube at the right in the picture is the drain tube from the flapper assembly. Any water that got into the hood scoops would be drained at by this tube.

8. COILED AND READY: The coil bracket is silver zinc and mounted directly to the boss on the intake manifold. The coil is gloss black and had the coil foil decal to identify the coil. The phosphate fitting at the bottom of the picture is usually frozen into the intake and must be carefully removed. This is heater hose fitting and if the system had water instead of anti freeze the fitting can be badly rusted. The white strip hose is to operate the air cleaner flapper door.

9. GLOSSED OVER: The air cleaner base is gloss black and so is the heat riser tube. The intake is natural aluminum and the engine is Oldsmobile blue. This color varies from plant to plant and engine to engine. We have seen many different shades of this metallic blue. The spark plug wires are again held with a simple plastic clip.

10. COLOR CODED: This is the engine vacuum tree. The hoses are different color to alert the assembly line work to their specific location. This is another very difficult piece to find and care must be used when taking it out of the intake.

11. LIFT HOOP: Here we get a glimpse of the fast idle switch that attaches to the front of the carburetor. We also see the blue engine lift loop. There was a special tool that hooked into this bracket and the back casting of the engine block to install the engine at the factory. This is the correct installation with the washers under the bracket. Every one of these is slightly bent and twisted from the engine install.

12. WATER NECK: The water neck is cast iron painted engine color and is a common source for leaks. The gasket must be thick or doubled up in this area. The rubber connector from the water neck to the block is ribbed hose with tower style clamps.

13. BELTS AND PULLEYS: The water pump has an “B” inspection stamp on it in white ink. The balance and timing bracket are one the engine when painted blue. The semi gloss black engine pulleys were bolted on after paint. The belts should be non cogged as shown. This is a non AC with manual steering car so no second belt is required. Oldsmobile had no specific pulleys for this combination so the 2 groove pulleys are used with one belt.

14. DISTRIBUTOR OVERSPRAY: Back at the distributor the cap should be black and the unit was in at the time of engine paint so the base would have overspray on the shaft. On the base of the distributor below the cap there is a purple strip. This strip was another color code used to identify the part quickly without having to read small part numbers. We have seen these in orange, red, yellow and other colors. The crayon make is another inspection mark.

15. THINK WITH YOUR DIPSTICK: The exhaust manifolds are cast grey and have a bolt lock that is bent over to hold the bolts in place. This lock is between the bolt and flat washer. The dip stick tube was put in before paint the dip stick after paint. So the tube should have blue over spray and the dip stick would be natural. The manifolds would also have light overspray on them that would burn off in the first few hours of operation.

16. POSITIVE I.D.: This one of the 3 vehicle identification numbers “VIN” on the car. One is stamped on the pad of the engine block, the other is in the dash area and the third is on the top of the frame rail. In 68 they are also on the cowl by the heater blower motor.

17. FROM ABOVE: The carburetor body is dark olive plating and most of the other pieces are gold zinc with black screws. The throttle bracket is phosphate. The intake is left bare aluminum and the winter snow flake is in the casting. This is the casting mark of the foundry that made many of the aluminum parts in the 60’s and early 70’s. The intake bolts are black phosphate.

18. MULTIPLE FINISHES: The pump to carb line is tin coated steel with gold zinc tube fittings. The carburetor inlet fitting is gold zinc. The PCV valve is in this location on all W-30 cars and “OIA” Outside Induction Air Cars or the cars with the fiberglass hoods. The W-30 intake also says OLDS W-455 under the hoses.

19. STARTER: The starter is black with the cover bare steel color. Oldsmobile starters have the threaded hole in the side used for the starter brace that runs from the motor mount to the side of the starter to support the rear of the starter.

20. HEAT RISER: This again shows the manifold bolt locks. This heat riser shroud is phosphate and usually badly rusted on the bottom where it would get hot and cold and collect condensation. This shield wraps the manifold and collects heat and directs it up the heat riser tube to close the vacuum pod on the air cleaner once the car was at operating temperature.

21. DOWN BELOW: This is the back of the manifold with the part number and date code. It also calls out the “RH” right hand side since it could be installed on the wrong side of the car. The filter is also white but should have blue engine over spray on it since it was on the engine at time of paint. We have seen cars with fewer than 1000 miles that have the original filters and they were white generic filters with overspray. Replacement filters typically have the writing on them.

22. PAINT MARKS: This is another shot of the fuel pump and the can of the pump faces up. Also seen is the block inspection mark of green paint. When these engines were put together there was a system of paint marks and sprays for the different procedures preformed to the engine. We have seen these marks running down the block in many colors. They can also be seen through the final paint since it was often thin in low areas.

23. PULLEY POWER: The engine was blue and since the pulleys are installed after engine paint you would see the blue through the pulley hole. It is also common on GM pulleys to have this reinforcement ring on the lower crank pulley.

24. CHOKE UP: This shows the top view of the carburetor and the Inline Tube choke tubes. They are often rusted to the intake and break off. These are the tin coated steel version, although stainless lines is an option on a factory cars we like to keep it original with steel. The carburetor also has a ring gasket that the air cleaner sits on; this is often missing causing a rattle between the two metals.

25. CARB COUNTING: This carburetor is complete with the Rochester rebuild sticker. The green tape on the back of the carb has the carb info on it. It is important to know what jets and hangers are in the carb because this is what determines the number on the side of the carb from the factory. Although after a dyno session they will all change but at the factory every carb with this number had the same jets.

26. PARTS DEPARTMENT: Inline Tube provided all the detail items for the external engine detailing. They manufacture many bolt kits, brackets, tubes and hoses. These small parts are usually missing and make a long build go much quicker. The parts are already plated the correct colors and ready to bolt on.