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Identifying the 216 / 235 / 261

By Barry Weeks and Jim Merritt

Quick and easy 216, 235, 261 spotting

    You've dragged home the truck of your dreams only to open the hood to a rat's nest. Under the seat wadding, sticks and dead leaves lurks an engine ... Ahhhh, but what engine is it, you wonder? Good question -- the sheetmetal, frame and axles on these old Stovebolts were able to labor on much longer than their babbitted 216 motors. Thus, many have been re-engined at some point with later 235's and 261's. How to you tell which is which?

    The 216's and early 235's have a valve cover held down by two studs running up through the center of it, and a tall side cover that the spark plugs go through.

    Later ('54-'62) 235's and 261's have four screws around the outer edge of the valve cover to hold it down, and a short side cover that doesn't go as high as the spark plugs. The 261 has a raised set of "captain's bars" (casting marks) in the block just forward of the starter.

    The best way to identify your engine is to check the casting numbers on the head and block. Our good friends over at Inliners have a great listing of casting numbers that will help you definitively identify your mill. They have very good information on block and head casting numbers as their whole site just deals with engines.

From Jim Merritt, a tip to help identify early babbitted 235's (optional motors in the pre-'54 Big Bolts):

    Here's a Chevy motor question that comes up all the time -- 216 or early 235? Guys are always posting this question. How to identify this early 235 High Torque, digging for numbers and measuring stuff.

    Attached is a photo of my 1946 High Torque 235 pan which plainly has the number '235' stamped on the right side, big as day. These motors all have the tall side plate and different casting number appear all the time, this photo should help.

    Now I can't say this number is on ALL High Torques as I personally have not seen every Chevy motor that was ever built.

(Editor's Note: I have a '49 babbitted 235 big truck motor in my '49 1-ton and although the pan has the raised pad as in Jim's photos, it does not have any numbers stamped in it. Of course, I can't guarantee that my pan is original to the motor. This is an interesting possibility, though, and more study is warranted. If you have a pre-'54 babbited 235, please check for this stamping on your oil pan and let us know if you have anything there or not.)

From Barry Weeks: I think you should add the following to help others to get the big picture.

Per my 1942 Chevy Parts Manual:

Oil Pan group # 1.426

    So this must be the 216 pan. I'm sure the 216 pan has no such number on the side. Also to further confuse or maybe clarify the issue, my 1951 Chevy truck shop manual states that all pans are the same, but lists different pan targeting gauges. So quite possibly these pans could be adjusted via the pan gauge to fit either motor?

v. December 2005

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