MCHinson

1938 Buick Century Model 61 - Four Door Touring Sedan - Trunk Back

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Your trim rings look great polished. I'm currently polishing the stainless trim for my car and even down to the finest "white" compound on the softest wheel (both from Eastwood) I'm still ending up with a slight pattern on the metal when the light hits it right. Do you have this problem? Am I missing something. I have been enjoying your thread and troubleshooting skills. Thank you for sharing.

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zipdang,

 

I am just an amateur. I am not great at polishing, but it seems to be getting easier as I do more of it. I think that the trim lprobably ooks better in photos than in person. It is far from perfect. I am sure I will have to go back and do some more polishing to make it look closer to perfect later but I think it looks good enough for the moment.  

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Thank you. I'm new at it, too and at a similar place. It looks amazingly better than before and in normal lighting, almost perfect. But put it up just right to the light, and those faint buffing marks show up.

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I've been working a long time on a 1959 Fiat 1200 Granluce (life keeps getting in the way). I delivered the body tub to a gentlemen up the road who does fantastic work so I won't take credit for that. Engine machining was also farmed out, but I've done all the rest. A real learning process and my slow pace helps with that aspect of the project. This summer should have the suspension and drive line reinstalled. I guess that's why watching another "back yard mechanic" restore a car resonates with me. Keep it going!

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zipdang,
 

Keep at it. The best advice I can give you is to do something on the project each day that you can. I typically spend some time on the project 6 days a week. Occasionally I am away from home and can't work on it, but otherwise, I do something on it each day that I can. That is the secret to making progress on a project. 

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This morning, I decided to complete the exhaust system installation. The entire exhaust system is nice and solid, but the muffler and tail pipe have been together long enough that  I am sure I would have destroyed the muffler attempting to get them apart.  When I removed the exhaust system from the car, I cut the tail pipe just behind the muffler so that I could get the exhaust system off of the chassis. Recently I installed the front of the exhaust system but had not re-attached the rear section. To be able to weld the cut section of the tailpipe I had to lower the exhaust system a bit to get enough clearance to weld it. This required removal of the left engine splash pan, dropping the front section of the exhaust system, matching up the two sections of the tail pipe and welding it together. This sounds a lot easier and faster than it really was. Even with the front of the exhaust system lowered, the tail pipe runs very near the chassis. This welding job would have been quite a bit easier before installing the body. I was then able to reinstall the front of the exhaust system and attach the rear tail pipe hanger at the rear of the car.   

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Yesterday, I did not have any time to work on my 1938 Buick. I did at least help a friend get his 1923 Buick running again. It had been sidelined for a few months and after a few days of work between he, I, and another of his friends, we finally sorted out the gremlins and it is back in running condition.

 

This morning, I decided to try out a borrowed stud welder and slide hammer to see if I could get rid of the worst dents in the air cleaner. The stud welder worked well on a few of the dents and not so well on a few others. Some of the time, the stud welded perfectly and I was able to easily pull out the dents and a couple of times, it burned through and I then used another tool to pull out the dent and then use my welder to weld up the hole. My welding is still not as nice as I would like it to be, but my grinder still works to reduce the excess weld. I still need to do a little bit more work on smoothing everything out and repainting it, but I am much happier with its appearance now.

 

In the interest of helping someone avoid my mistake in the future, I am going to tell a story about today's horn button wire work.

 

A few days ago, I noticed that the horn would occasionally blow when I turned the steering wheel. It was apparent that there was a problem with the horn button wire insulation in the steering column. A gentle tug on the wire actually broke the apparent remaining single strand of the wire near the bottom of the steering column and the majority of the wire pulled out of the steering column. I discovered that there was only about an inch of wire remaining soldered to the collar near the bottom of the steering column. I spliced a new short section of wire into the wire and used some silicone sealant around the soldered joint to make sure it was well insulated. Today, I decided to reinstall the horn button wire. When I pulled it out of the column, I did not notice that the insulating washer at the top of the column near the horn button had apparently fallen off or fell apart. I inserted the wire back into the column and started feeding it towards the bottom of the column. Without the missing insulated washer that would have kept the horn button contact from going into the column, the wire and contact button slid down inside the column. After looking at the service manual to attempt to try to figure out how many hours it was going to take to remove and disassemble the steering column and steering gear, I decided to try another way. I took a stiff multistrand wire and cut it to leave one strand sticking out of the end a few inches. I formed that wire into a hook. I slid the hooked end of the wire down into the steering column, snagged the horn button contact and pulled it out of the steering column. I was very relieved to get the wire out. I then went to my local hardware store and purchased a nylon washer to install on the horn button wire beneath the horn button contact to prevent that from ever happening again. I then fed the horn wire back down the column. I Then used a similar strand of wire to form a hook to pull the wire out of the steering column so that I could solder the wire to the contact near the bottom of the steering column. 

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Last night, I applied a little bit of body filler to smooth out the repaired areas of the air cleaner. This morning, I sanded the body filler, cleaned up and primed the air cleaner. Later, I applied a first coat of paint to the air cleaner and after lunch, I applied a second coat. A short time ago, I installed the air cleaner. It looks much better than it did. 

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This morning, I decided to look at the two 1938 Buick clocks that I have and choose the best one to clean up and install. One of them has apparently been worked on in the past as it had later wiring on it. It appeared to be in fairly good mechanical condition although the mechanical switch for the glove box light had been replaced with a mercury switch. I decided to use that clock, but to use the original mechanical glove box light switch from the other clock. I disassembled the clock to enable me to check the clock mechanism. It appears to be in good working condition so I cleaned up the exterior of the clock and reassembled it. If it does not keep good time, it will be simple enough to open it back up, clean, the mechanism, take it to my local clock repairman to have it oiled, and then reassemble it. I buffed the outside of the case to clean it up. The silver finish on the case buffed off on the back of the clock to expose the underlying brass material but that is only visible when you open the glove compartment, and actually looks nice. The chrome bezel ring buffed up nicely. I repainted the red center of the clock's minute hand with a small paint touch up stick. About 95% of the minute markings on the clock's glass face were missing so I simply wiped the back side of the glass, removing the remaining residue. Most people would probably not notice that those numbers are missing, but if I can find a better glass face, I can replace it later. 

 

The most interesting part of this job was the gravity operated glove box light switch. I took it apart and cleaned up everything and reassembled it. This is difficult to explain so hopefully the text along with the photos will help others understand how to do this job. The switch is made up of a small metal cylinder shaped "can" with one end open. This "can" is inside a small cardboard tube. The tube is inserted into the metal cylinder that actually holds the bulb on the other end. The wire for this light is connected to a brass tab with a spring to hold pressure on the contact, which is flat on that side, and cone shaped on the other side. Five small metal ball bearings drop into the open can, the cone shaped contact is then dropped into the open side of the can. The spring pressure on the wire connector pushes the cone up tightly to the open end of the "can" so that the metal balls roll into position to complete the circuit and light the bulb when the glove box door is opened. The clock wiring harness has two terminals that attach to the clock with two nuts. The clock light, and the glove box light wires simply require soldering a small tabs onto the wires. After completing the cleaning and reassembly, I installed the clock into the dash assembly and cleaned up the original wiring clip and secured the clock wiring harness using the original clip.

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In the past, the body from the body donor car had a radio antenna mounted on the right cowl. This would not have been original equipment for a 1938 Buick as the car should have had a running board mounted antenna system. Despite the fact that the running board antenna was probably not the best antenna ever designed, I do not intend to have a visible aftermarket antenna on the car. This morning, I used a magnet underneath the hole to hold a washer in the hole. I then welded the washer in place and welded up the hole in the center of the washer. I then ground down the weld to match the contour of the body in that area. I then sanded the area first with 80 grit sandpaper and then 120 grit sandpaper. I then applied some primer to the patched area. 

 

Having a few minutes left after the repair. I painted the rod for the jack with galvanizing paint. I attempted to find the correct grabber green paint for the green parts of the jack yesterday at my local Lowes, not finding it in stock, I ordered a can online today. 

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This afternoon, I rolled the car around to be able to back it out of the garage. I took it off of the wheel dollies, started it up and backed out of the garage. I drove it around the block, a distance of .8 miles. I was not totally happy with my guestimate about timing so I stopped back at the house and pulled out my timing light and got the timing right. I then drove it around the block two more times. I am going to have to do a little bit of minor brake adjustment and I have a little bit of a scraping noise coming from one of the wheels that I need to figure out and fix. The worst problems are the speedometer appears to be quite a bit slow and I need to do some troubleshooting of the starter circuit. From a slow idle, when accelerating quickly, the starter drive is able to briefly engage. This should not happen. There are electrical circuits and a vacuum switch that are supposed to prevent this, but something is not adjusted quite right. 

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This evening, I drove our 1937 Century to dinner. After dinner, when I put the 1937 Century in the garage, I just could not leave the 1938 project alone. I jacked it up, put it on jack stands and determined that the noise was coming from the left front and right rear wheels. I pulled the drums off of those wheels and determined that the noise was coming from slightly raised rivet like portions of  the inside of the drums slightly scraping the brake shoes. Slightly tapping the shoes with a hammer managed to get them reseated corrrectly against the backing plates so that the drums can now rotate without making any noise.  

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Matt, I am not 100 percent knowledgeable with the '38. I think all years are similar. In which case the vacuum switch COULD engage at heavy throttle/low vacuum conditions. The back up electrically is a ground from the generator to the starter solenoid that breaks ground when the generator starts charging, thereby rendering the solenoid inoperative.

 

  You are doing a great job. 

 

  Ben

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Thanks. I have to do some research to figure out exactly how to fix it, but it seems that the generator is not starting to charge quite as soon as it should to avoid the problem. I think it is an adjustment in the voltage regulator that needs to be tweaked, but I have not studied the service manual enough to be sure quite yet. I understand why most people simply bypass the accelerator pedal starting circuit, but I really would like to restore it as it was when new. 

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This morning, I rolled the rear end of the Buick around on the two wheel dollies so that I could back it out of the garage. I took it off of the wheel dollies, started it up and backed it out of the garage. I cleaned the windshield and back window so I can see the road a bit better. The windows were really dirty. I let it run in the driveway for a little while and adjusted the idle to about 650 RPM. At that level, the generator will be slightly charging at idle. At that idle setting, accelerating the car from idle will not engage the starter. I think this is the easiest way to avoid problems with the accelerator pedal starter circuit accidentally engaging the starter while the engine is already running. I drove it around the block another couple of times and the scraping noise is gone and the brakes appear to be adjusted fine. The temperature is still fine. Oil pressure is great, and the generator charges fine. I did find one slight problem. There is a slight water leak from the bottom of the top radiator hose. I will slightly adjust the hose and clamp and see if I can stop the leak. After that, I drove the car back in the garage, using about a 6 point turn, I have gotten good at pulling the front end of the car in so that I can just jack up the rear, insert the 2 wheel dollies under the rear tires, lower the car onto the wheel dollies and then roll the car into its normal position in the back of the garage.  

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It was way too long when it arrived. I cut it off but I may need to cut it a bit shorter. The bottom clamp is almost bottomed out. I might need a slightly smaller clamp on the bottom of that hose. I had a large engraving order come in today so I spent the afternoon working and need to finish that job tomorrow morning. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon, I will have some time to work on the Buick and resolve the leak. The good news is that, anticipating the possibility of leaks, I filled the cooling system with just water to start with, knowing that after I was sure there were no leaks, I could drain it and refill it with a water and antifreeze mix.

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1 hour ago, Spinneyhill said:

Hose a bit long?

Looks to me like the hose is too large of a diameter.

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7 minutes ago, keiser31 said:

Looks to me like the hose is too large of a diameter.

Yes, probably both. Been there, it did the same thing!

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It's really coming together nicely!

 

A question regarding your seats. Are you buying an upholstery kit from some place like Lebaron Bonney, or sending it to an upholstery shop to have them recovered? Unfortunately, my century didn't come with seats, though  I've found a split back bench seat out of a late 30's GM coupe that appears to be about what I am looking for. they are in about the same shape as yours are now, fabric and cushioning completely stripped out off of them, but the springs, sheet metal backings and the wood supports and track seems to all be there. Metal, body, paint, mechanicals I can do, but upholstery is something I don't know much about and have no experience in, and have been talking myself in and out of buying the stripped seats and have them covered or keep searching for complete, usable seats which im not too optimistic about.

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Thanks. I held off on the most expensive things too long, as I am paying as I go. I just recently ordered a kit from LeBaron Bonney. That really seems like the logical way to address the upholstery issue to me. I think I am going to be able to do the interior with that kit after having followed Gary Wheeler's restoration thread. If I run into trouble, I do know some people with a local auto upholstery shop that can bail me out.

 

If I did not have the correct seat cushions, I would check with Dave Tachney and see if he had some. If those seat frames are not correct, possibly he has the correct ones. If you don't know exactly what they came out of, I don't know how you could get LeBaron Bonney to make a kit for them. I guess a local upholstery shop could probably do something wtih them, but I am not sure I would trust that option myself.  

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I have been absolutely kicking myself for missing out on a split bench seat in great condition out of a 38 buick that i had seen online about a day after i got my car home. The seat i found is supposedly from a '39 chevy coupe, it appears they have multiple ads for the same thing wth slightly different wording. Although the ad has been up for a few weeks that i know of, they still are asking a fairly pretty penny for it, but after reading your posts disassembling the seat, i can atleast be relieved there wont be any surprise rodents in it and with the exception of the fabric, seems fairly complete. I know it is not absolutely correct for my car, but is atleast the correct style, which is more of a concern.

They are asking $600, although i havent contacted them to see how firm they are on that price. There are other pictures of the underside, track, etc but to get the idea

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Edited by Stooge (see edit history)

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I would really suggest you call Dave Tacheny. If he has the correct seats, or even something close that would work,  I would be very surprised if they were not cheaper than that. He is the probably the most reasonably priced parts guy that I have ever dealt wtih.  

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