head gasket question

I am looking for a car which needs engine work to buy for cheap and then fix and re-sell, thereby making some money for my labor. I encounter a fair amount of cars which are said to "need head
gasket(s)". Pretty much always, these cars have had at least one signicicant overheating incident -- either before, or after the "head gasket" diagnosis was made. Tell me if I'm right about this: I don't think an overheat would damage the head gaskets -- as likely as it would warp or crack the head itself. In other words it becomes a "the chicken or the egg' scenario: Did the head gasket go bad and cause the overheating? Or, did the engine overheat for whatever reason, and damage the head(s) in the process , and thus the damaged head displays symptoms like a blown head gasket?
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On Tue, 13 Sep 2011 17:46:40 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@msn.com (blowout preventer) wrote:

Unless an engine is known for bad head gaskets, you don't want to mess with them expecting to make money. I only had one car with a bad head gasket - a '55 Plymouth Belvedere. That one had never overheated. All kinds of stuff can be bad on a car with a blown head gasket, and you won't know until you get it running again, or tear it down in the first place. If I was to look at making money fixing and reselling cars, I'd look for good runners with body damage (not bent frames) and available boneyard parts. Maybe electrical issues too. As an example, I bought a '97 Lumina 6 years ago for $2500, about $2500 below Blue Book "good" condition. It had a creased right fender, a crumpled trunk, taped up rear lenses, turn signals not working right, and the door locks clicking off and on at random times. In 2 weekends my kid fixed all that with $200 of boneyard parts and a $90 switch assembly from GM. It was now in good to excellent condition. He found the locks clicking on and off was caused by the badly wired alarm. He smashed up his 93 Corsica and the insurance company totaled it. Insurance paid 600 bucks, less the 50 they charged me to keep it. He had that back in shape for about $400. Two new (boneyard) fenders and hood for about $200, and a new radiator for $200. He liked the car and wanted to keep it. Didn't even have to paint, as the boneyard parts were a color match. But he loves going to boneyards and doing that work.
--Vic
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Vic wrote, "Unless an engine is known for bad head gaskets, you don't want to mess with them expecting to make money. I only had one car with a bad head gasket - a '55 Plymouth Belvedere. That one had never overheated. All kinds of stuff can be bad on a car with a blown head gasket, and you won't know until you get it running again, or tear it down in the first place. If I was to look at making money fixing and reselling cars, I'd look for good runners with body damage (not bent frames) and available boneyard parts. Maybe electrical issues too..." ********************* That's kind of what I thought -- you don't know what you have until you get it running, and then it smokes, knocks, etc. And simply swapping a different engine into something nowadays is a lot more scary than the old days. It would be a miracle if everything bolted up/ plugged in. And then when it doesn't -- what do you do? I don't know what cars are "known" to have head / gasket issues (know of a comprehensive list?) Good idea about the cars with cosmetic damage.
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On Tue, 13 Sep 2011 19:59:19 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@msn.com (blowout preventer) wrote:

I don't think there is a list. I did a quick look and found this. http://www.aa1car.com/library/2005/ic010532.htm
I remember certain Toyotas, straight six I think, and AMC Gremlins were known for head gasket failure. But you know, unless you know exactly how long it was driven after a failure, and whether it overheated, it's a big risk thinking a new gasket will set it right. The seller will likely lie about everything. That Belvedere was a flathead six. Only exhaust escaped the head. When it got bad enough there wasn't enough compression power to move it well down the street. With OHV you got water passages in the heads and the coolant can get down the cylinders to the bearings and the heads can overheat. Just something I don't want to deal with. Too risky.
--Vic
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making money fixing and reselling cars, I'd look

Depends, I think, on what the body and electrical are. I would dodge a rustbucket like the plague. They can be hard - almost impossible - to fix so that they will hold up. You dont want to get a reputation as selling junkers.
The GM models with the 3800 V6 made in some years in the 1990's and early 2000's can be expected to be a pita. The 2800 and 3200 engines also have some issues, IIRC.
Some electrical issues will take a lot of time and some money to fix. Occasionally you will get one that seems to defy repair.
My only recommendation to the op is to be rather selective at first...until he learns to pick out the "dogs".
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