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Thread: 1956 Buick Special

  1. #1

    1956 Buick Special

    Hello all.. I'm new here but I need some advice. I just purchased a 1956 4 door buick special, but I am wondering if I should modernize it, or keep it the way it is. The engine and transmission are fine, but if I were to replace them with a modern engine, does anyone have any suggestions on what type I should use for both the engine and transmission. I'm trying to find one that would be compatible with the current drive train set up, or else that could be a pain. One thing I would like to do though, even if th engine stays the same, is to modernize the brakes. Does anyone by chance know of a modern system that would work so that I could put front disc brakes on the car. Replacing other parts is not a problem, but I am at a loss for what size rotors would fit, as well as the other brake parts. Thanks to all who read this, I really need the advice. I have only worked on modern cars/show cars, and working on a project like this just leaves me at a loss. Once again, thanks a million.
    SV

  2. #2
    Senior Member John Chapman's Avatar
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    Re: 1956 Buick Special

    Welcome to the Buick world...

    Easy part first; Brake Conversion... see this link
    Disc Brake Conversions

    Second part, not so easy. The pre-'59 Buicks have a torque tube power train. None of the more modern automatics will mate up... and none of the newer engines will mate up to the '56 trans. Replacement of the entire driveline is the only reasonable way to get it to work and that is a MAJOR undertaking. The good news is that these are fine engines and transmissions and there is a lot of parts support for them. Search the Buick Forums for specific info.

    Cheers,
    JMC
    John Chapman
    BCA 35894 -- 1965 Skylark Convertible
    ...government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have Thomas Jefferson.

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    Re: 1956 Buick Special

    John is right about the drivetrain (actually the torque tube ran through 1960) being a major change. This is especially true when having to re-configure the rear suspension to withstand the thrust of acceleration (which is handled by the tube in stock form). However the the good news is it's high level of service support and the better news is it's capacity. V8 Buicks were never slow cars, and frankly I'm at a loss when people insist on dumping a perfectly good drivetrain for another just because it's more familiar to readers of Popular Hotrodding. This isn't a flathead 6 we're talking about!

    John, isn't there another thread or link somewhere about upgrading the brakes to 1959/60 specs? They were the best in the industry by then and my (heavier) 1960 can stop far better than it's (radial) tires will let it stop anyway. It also will appear stock, may be an easier conversion (?), and could require less work and fewer mods (?).
    "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."--Issac Asimov

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  4. #4
    Senior Member John Chapman's Avatar
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    Re: 1956 Buick Special

    Dave,

    I think I recall the upgrade thread... but...
    It's still drum brake technology at it's best.

    The guy selling the disc conversion kit has them set up to use standard, off-the-shelf GM parts. I think it's hard to beat that for safety, utility, and maintenance. The only thing that I'd have a question about is whether the stock '56 wheels will work with the disc brakes.

    JMC
    John Chapman
    BCA 35894 -- 1965 Skylark Convertible
    ...government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have Thomas Jefferson.

  5. #5
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    Re: 1956 Buick Special

    The only changes I?d make to the motor would be putting in an electronic ignition, electric fuel pump, and an electric wiper motor would be good too. This car is as solid as you can get; they run when they shouldn?t.
    I put carbon fiber shoes on mine and it stops like you hit a brick wall; the hotter they get, the better they stop; 1,100 degrees F, blue hot. This way you can keep the original set up.
    Superior Friction
    1610 Old Bayshore Hwy
    408-436-1101
    You?ll find that a lot of what?s on the 1956?s are unique to this car, just be patient and you?ll figure it out with a lot of swearing and cursing at times!
    Hope this was some help,
    Jaybird

  6. #6
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    Re: 1956 Buick Special

    I am happy to agree with Jaybird! My 56 runs well and stops sufficiently well. Of course I keep it under 70 on the highway and subscribe to the theory that nothing is safer than one car length gap between me and the car in front of me for each 10 MPH.

    I really can't understand how people today each ride on the others rear bumper.
    But if you keep the brakes properly adjusted, these cars stop very well.

    I also think these cars run very well, when they are put in proper running condition. Back in 78 I can recall thinking that dynaflow was a real pig. I'd drop it into low to take off with any assurance, and although I could get it up to highway speeds I was never really happy with it. Then I started having carb problems so I had it rebuilt. At that point I found I had a leaky carb base gasket.

    The new one seemed to help some but it was still rough. Then in 85 one head gasket started to leak coolant. When I pulled it down I found I had two bad exhaust valves. After the valve job, I was amazed. Besides running smoother, the tranny actually had some pull without shifting it into low.

    Unfortunately I still didn't drive it enough and I had other problems along the way. I could never get it timed right, and then I couldn't get it to idle right, and then last year I found out I had a bad harmonic balancer. I put in a new timing chain and gear set and had a rebuilt balancer and now, I could time it right and what a change. I also got a replacement carb because my choke was giving me problems. I had it rebuilt and right now this thing runs as nice as my newer cars. Plenty of pickup, smooth and feeling very strong.
    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757

    56 Super 56R: Purchased September 1974
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