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Pontiac 389 V8 Engine

The Pontiac 389 V8 was first introduced in 1959 and would become one of the most popular engines of the muscle car era. The engine evolved from the Pontiac 370 in which the stroke was increased. There were a lot of changes to the 389 during its eight year production run which gained the engine even more notoriety. Most experts agree that the 389 was one of the key factors in starting the muscle car wars of the 60s.

One of the first major changes for the 389 came in 1960 when Pontiac stopped using its “reverse flow” cooling option for the powerful V8. From 1955 to 1959, Pontiac had used a cooling system (and some GM motors still use it today) where the coolant was sent to the heads first and then down through the block. The idea behind “reverse flow” was to keep the heads cooler because of the large problem with engines in the 50s burning up and warping the valves. By 1960 GM had started using harder and more reliable valves and seats for their engine heads which let them do away with the “reverse flow” cooling method. For more information on “reverse flow” and why Pontiac stopped using it check out this interesting site.

The 389 was also the first engine by Pontiac to come with the S.D. (Super Duty) option. If you are lucky enough to find a 389 S.D. engine then you will have quite an impressive setup such as a four bolt main engine block and a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. These Super Duty 389 engines were mainly used for NASCAR racing but a small amount of them offered for sale to the public in order to meet NASCAR standards.

Another impressive version of the 389 introduced in 1959 was the Tempest model. The Tempest 389 engines were also known as “420-A” motors and came with higher compression as well as better performance options. These engines were available up through 1962 and produced up to 348 horsepower which was the highest power output a factory 389 engine would ever see with the Tri-Power carb setup.

The 389 Pontiac motor also has the coveted award as being the first engine used in one of the most famous muscle cars of all times, the Pontiac GTO. The GTO is considered by many automotive enthusiasts to be first real muscle car on the block even though it’s a discussion that could be debated. By the end of 1966 the last of 389 engines rolled off the assembly line to be replaced by the Pontiac 400 but it didn’t leave without leaving a lasting legacy on the automotive world that will never be forgotten.

Today, engine parts for the 389 are in abudant supply especially if you are looking to push up the factory horsepower. Most any performance auto part stores will have quite a nice inventory of carburetors, headers, cams and many other engine parts that can really give your 389 quite an increase in power and performance.

Comment Script

Comments

Torque Specs
hey! Im in a high school automotive class and we began working with engines a few weeks ago. Today we began putting our engine back together but we need the torque specs for the entire engine. The problem is it is a 66 pontiac 389 v8 motor and it seems i cant find information anywhere! any help would be greatly appreciated.
#10 - meema - 04/10/2014 - 08:28
goat herder
I have a 1964 G.T.O. that I ordered from the dealership in Feb. 1964 recieved it April 18, 1964 It has every Option available at that time except Power Windows, which cam available two months later.
The Chev. motor talked about here is a 388 c.i. engine built aftermarket, in shops. It is a very powerful motor, but has no resemblance to a true pontiac motor.G.M. put some small Chev. engines in late pontiacs ( A TERRIBLE THING TO DO !!!! )to a great car !!! If you have a Pontiac with a Chev. engine,, put a 388 in it... DON'T PAINT IT ORANGE !!! Paint it light Pontiac Blue ( 1964 - 1965 )year,,,People have not seen a 389 in so long, they won't know the difference !!! LOL,,,
#9 - maurice wood - 12/11/2013 - 13:41
catalina
hello, I hear the 61-64 389 engines were slightly changed during this time, I hear a turbo 400 transmission can mount up to the 1963 Pontiac catalina 389 engine, is this true? and if not, what transmission will work besides the straight drive for this car? please send me an answer to my email address, thank you, Ken
#8 - ken echols - 10/10/2013 - 14:03
Mr
I know this may sound elementary but.......I can't find any 389 valve configuration diagrams, I need to adjust my valves but need to know which are intake and exhaust. Is there a diagram or site on this?
Thanks, Joe
#7 - Joseph Prince - 09/26/2012 - 14:02
I know you cannot answer my question with any certainty, but if you could give me a good guess I would appreciate it. Growing up in the 60's I had a 1963 Pontiac Star Chief with a 389 engine. I used to drag race a lot on Woodward Ave in the Detroit suburbs and won a lot of (but not all)of the races. Did that Star Chief have it's own 389 engine type? I am trying to figure out how much horsepower was in that engine. Someone took a guess once and said 300 HP. Any ideas or just too many options?
Thanks,
Jim Lyle
#6 - Jim Lyle - 07/02/2012 - 23:53
389 Chevy vs. Pontiac
In reply to william, it is possible to make a 389 cubic inch engine based on the 350 Chevrolet smallblock, but this is not the same engine as Pontiac's 389. The 350 SB based engine uses 0.060 over pistons plus the 3.75 inch crank from the 400 smallblock.
#5 - Alfred - 03/21/2012 - 12:26
Hi Jeff,
Oddly enough I used to make a living working on Pontiac engines in those years. Couple questions for you. Does it still have the original distributor? If so you can install an advance kit in the distributor that will allow the timing to advance quicker which will help the power some. How Much power do you want to increase?
#4 - Gary - 02/14/2012 - 11:46
Typo?
The 348 HP 389 CI engine was the highest RPO engine and it did have tri-power. Starting in '59 Pontiac was not only the first factory to offer 4 bolt mains but they were first to use the windage tray as well.
#3 - Seamus McGowan - 02/04/2012 - 02:47
1966 lemans
Have a 66 lemans convertablie the 326 was swapped out for a 389 but my question is what do I need to do to get some real power and where do I find it
#2 - Jeff - 12/27/2011 - 21:06
389 - The Magic Numbers
I own a 1965 Catalina with a 389. This Engine is (Compared with Chevys and Mopars) the best engine a classic muscle car can have!

And William, it's impossible to convert a 350 into a 389 ;)
#1 - Robert - 03/28/2011 - 18:01
how hard would it be to transform a chevy 350 into a pontiac 389?
#0 - william - 12/21/2010 - 13:54
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Engine Specifications

1959 - 1963 with 2 Barrel Carb
(Econo Model)

Max Brake Horsepower - 215 @ 3600 rpm
Max Torque - 390 @ 2000 rpm
Stroke - 3.750
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 8.6
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 with 2 Barrel Carb
(Straight Drive Transmission)

Max Brake Horsepower - 245 @ 4200 rpm
Max Torque - 392 @ 2000 rpm
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 8.6
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 1964 with 4 Barrel Carb
(Straight Drive Transmission)

Max Brake Horsepower - 260 @ 4200 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 281 @ 4400 rpm - 60
Max Brake Horsepower - 235 @ 3600 rpm - 61-64
Max Torque - 400 @ 2800 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 413 @ 2800 rpm - 60
Max Torque - 402 @ 2000 rpm - 61-63
Max Torque - 386 @ 2000 rpm - 64
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 8.6
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 1962 with 2 Barrel Carb
(Automatic Transmission)

Max Brake Horsepower - 280 @ 4400 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 283 @ 3600 rpm 60-62
Max Torque - 408 @ 2800 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 413 @ 2800 rpm - 60-62
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.0 - 59
Compression - 10.25 - 60-62
Firing Order - 18436572

1961 - 1966 with 2 Barrel Carb
(Low Compression With Automatic Trans.)
(Engine Code - 04L,05L,08R,09R for 61-64)
(Engine Code - WA,WB,YA,YB for 65-66)

Max Brake Horsepower - 230 @ 4000 rpm - 61-64
Max Brake Horsepower - 256 @ 4600 rpm - 65-66
Max Torque - 380 @ 2000 rpm - 61-63
Max Torque - 386 @ 2000 rpm - 64
Max Torque - 388 @ 2400 rpm - 65-66
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 8.6
Firing Order - 18436572

1963 - 1964 with 4 Barrel Carb
(High Compression With Straightdrive Trans.)
(Engine Code - 10A)

Max Brake Horsepower - 283 @ 3600 rpm
Max Torque - 413 @ 2800 rpm - 63
Max Torque - 418 @ 2800 rpm - 64
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.25 - 63
Compression - 10.5 - 64
Firing Order - 18436572

1961 - 1964 with 2 Barrel Carb
(High Compression With Automatic Trans.)
(Engine Code - 11H or 12H)

Max Brake Horsepower - 267 @ 4200 rpm - 61-64
Max Brake Horsepower - 283 @ 3600 rpm - 61-62
Max Torque - 405 @ 2400 rpm - 61-63
Max Torque - 413 @ 2800 rpm - 61-62
Max Torque - 410 @ 2800 rpm - 64
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.25
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 1964 with 4 Barrel Carb
(High Compression With Automatic Trans.)
(Engine Code - 25K,26K,27P,28P)

Max Brake Horsepower - 300 @ 4600 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 303 @ 4600 rpm - 60-64
Max Torque - 420 @ 2800 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 425 @ 2800 rpm - 60-63
Max Torque - 430 @ 2800 rpm - 64
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.0 - 59
Compression - 10.25 - 60-63
Compression - 10.5 - 64
Firing Order - 18436572

1964 with 4 Barrel Carb
(Engine Code 23B or 29N)

Max Brake Horsepower - 306 @ 4600 rpm
Max Torque - 420 @ 3200 rpm
Stroke - 3.750
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.5
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 1963 with 3 x 2 Barrel Carbs
(Tri-Power Option)

Max Brake Horsepower - 315 @ 4600 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 318 @ 4600 rpm - 60-62
Max Brake Horsepower - 313 @ 4600 rpm - 63
Max Torque - 425 @ 3200 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 430 @ 3200 rpm - 60-63
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.5 - 59
Compression - 10.75 - 60-62
Compression - 10.25 - 63
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 62 with 4 Barrel Carb
(420-A Tempest Model)

Max Brake Horsepower - 330 @ 4800 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 333 @ 4800 rpm - 60-62
Max Torque - 420 @ 2800 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 425 @ 2800 rpm - 60-62
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.5 - 59
Compression - 10.75 - 60-62
Firing Order - 18436572

1959 - 1962 with 3 X 2 Barrel Carbs
(420-A Tri-Power Tempest Model)
(Engine Code 76X or 77J)

Max Brake Horsepower - 345 @ 4800 rpm - 59
Max Brake Horsepower - 348 @ 4800 rpm - 60-62
Max Torque - 425 @ 3200 rpm - 59
Max Torque - 430 @ 3200 rpm - 60-62
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.5 - 59
Compression - 10.75 - 60-62
Firing Order - 18436572

1965 - 1966 with 4 Barrel Carb
(Depends on the Engine Code Number)

Max Brake Horsepower - 325 @ 5200 rpm - 78X or 79J
Max Brake Horsepower - 333 @ 5000 rpm - WE
Max Brake Horsepower - 335 @ 5000 rpm - WT or YS
Max Torque - 429 @ 2800 rpm - 78X or 79J
Max Torque - 429 @ 3200 rpm - WE
Max Torque - 431 @ 3200 rpm - WT or YS
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.5
Firing Order - 18436572

1965 - 1966 with 3 x 2 Barrel Carbs
(Tri-Power Option)

Max Brake Horsepower - 360 @ 5200 rpm
Max Torque - 424 @ 3600 rpm
Stroke - 3.75
Bore - 4.0625
Compression - 10.75
Firing Order - 18436572