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Since the 3.8 in this modern series started in the late 70s I located a dirt cheap late 70s Buick with the 231. Now the question is will later 3.8 parts bolt up so I can upgrade the carbureted 231 with newer connecting rods, crank, heads, etc?

Its the same basic engine just ancillary, mounting, and machining differences I believe isn't it?
 

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First instinct is "nope" with a follow-up instinct response of "just swap in the full Series II/III setup" in that car.

Second, I did a quick check to see how different these engines are inside, because I've never opened one of the older 3.8's up. Here's the head gaskets from each, just to show how fundamentally different they'd be, and why you should just pick either engine to focus your efforts on:

1978 3.8L:


1998 3.8L:


While the bore and some coolant/bolt holes may closely align, the overall configuration and mating surfaces are different enough that you're better off either tinkering with the 70's engine, or dropping the $500-$1k-ish for a Series II/III of your choice, N/A or S/C, to adapt to the car.

Good luck, and post photos as it happens.
 
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