Stefan from Germany

Parts availability 1950's Buick vs. Oldsmobile

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Hello all,

 

My first post hear so I hope this is in the right section. I'm Stefan from Heidelberg, Germany. I have had many classic VWs and currently own a T2 bay window camper but it's time for my first American classic. I am looking at a couple of 1955 Buicks (2 door Special and 4 door hard top Century) and a 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Sedan) here in Germany. I think I already know that parts availability for either of them isn't going to be as good as for the tri-five Chevys , for example. But which one would be easier to get essential parts for? I'm looking at complete, rust free cars in good working order that don't need body panels, bumpers, lights etc. So I'm not looking at a restoration but am mostly concerned about mechanical parts (steering, suspension, brakes, engine, transmission) and rubber seals (windows, doors, trunk etc) to address normal wear and tear. I get the impression that 1957 Oldsmobile parts would be easier to find and perhaps less expensive than 1955 Buick parts but I am not sure. Any pointers including links would be most welcome.

 

On a related note: Which of the two cars would be less likely to cause trouble? I'm thinking automatic transmission for example. It seems the Buick transmission is a bit unusual compared to the Olds and others. Are there parts available and are people out there that can still fix one?

 

I am mechanically inclined and have worked on late models Olds and Cadillacs but that was years ago and the cars were from the 70s to the 90s so the whole 50s car scene is all new to me.

 

Generally, any dos and don'ts for a first time buyer of a 1950s American Classic would be most welcome.

 

Looking forward to many replies.

 

Stefan

 

 

 

 

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The olds is easier to work on drive line components as you don't have the torque tube to deal with.  

I believe Mechanical parts for Buick and Olds in this era Including engine , suspension and brake parts are all readily available from what I have seen in my searches for parts in general for my 56 Olds.  Buick used the Dynaflow and Olds used a Hydramatic I believe.  The Hydramatic has a little better performance. 

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Thanks auburn seeker. I do appreciate the input. I had read about the torque tube and also about the Dynaflow not being the best in terms of performance. Apparently it also has a different characteristic as it is more like a "hydraulic CVT". I'm wondering if it's also more difficult to get fixed should something ever go wrong with it. Good to know that most essential parts should be readily available. I haven't yet found anything that looks like a one stop shop with a good, easy to use online parts catalog and a full range of parts at reasonable prices. I'm probably spoiled by the air-cooled VW world (although reproduction parts are often poor quality). 

 

Any further input will be most appreciated.

 

 

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About the transmissions. They had 2 completely different approaches to making a transmission. The Oldsmobile used a Hydramatic which was quite complicated. It had 2 fluid couplings and a 4 speed planetary gearbox.

 

The Buick Dynaflow was much simpler, a torque converter backed up by a 2 speed planetary gearbox, which was meant to be in direct drive all the time with a low gear for emergencies.

 

So the Buick Dynaflow has the advantage of smoothness and simplicity. But it was exclusive to Buick. The Hydramatic was much more widely used, not only by Oldsmobile but Pontiac and Cadillac in the GM line, and was sold to Lincoln, Kaiser, Frazer, Hudson, Nash, and Willys. This extra demand may mean better parts availability, I will leave it to the transmission experts to comment.

 

Both were medium priced cars of good quality capable of long reliable service if properly maintained. The Olds was more ruggedly built but this is of minor concern as you will not be using it hard. Given the age of the cars, condition, mileage and service history are more important. Personally I lean towards the Oldsmobile partly because I like its looks.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Don't let a little ol torque tube scare you away from the Buick's. There have been new type seals that have taken away a lot of the frustration of the leaking torque ball. There is a wealth of information and lots of friendly folks to help you on down the page in the Buick Forum. Check them out http://forums.aaca.org/forum/2-buick-clubs/

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I am a real Buick fan. But you cannot deny that doing anything to the driveline of a Buick with a torque tube is a royal pain.  Many mechanics will not work on them.

 

I had two '57 Oldsmobiles back when they were relatively new. The '57's had the bad habbit of flattening the cam at about 60,000 miles. I thenk they revised the valve springs as a cure.

 

I, too, prefer the l;ooks of the Olds of that era.

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Gentlemen, many thanks for your input. Much appreciated. I will do a bit more research on the torque tube. Also, it's good to know the differences between the transmissions. 

 

About the cam of that Rocket Engine: I guess it's very likely that the issue has been addressed in the 60 year since the car was new. I doubt the car I'm interest in comes with detailed service records for covering its entire life. Will find out, though.

 

I must say I really like the looks of the 57 Olds, both inside and out. The Buicks are beautiful cars, too, though. Hmmm. decisions, decisions.....

Edited by Stefan from Germany (see edit history)

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3 hours ago, Stefan from Germany said:

About the cam of that Rocket Engine: I guess it's very likely that the issue has been addressed in the 60 year since the car was new. I doubt the car I'm interest in comes with detailed service records for covering its entire life.

 

I agree Stefan, that should not be much of a problem today.  I am a 1957 Pontiac owner (uses the same Hydramatic, rear axle, power steering and brakes) and I can confirm that Hydramatic parts are easy to order at www.autotran.us and reasonably priced.  That generation Hydramatic is pretty durable IMO as is the rear axle (www.fabcraftmetalworks.com) .  You might also look at www.fusickautomotiveproducts.com  for other Olds parts availability.  As you mentioned in your original post finding body and trim parts is difficult compared to a Chevy but actually mail order mechanical parts are not bad and you would enjoy having something much more interesting than a TriFive Chevy.  Good luck to you, Todd C 

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That's some great info Todd. Thank you so much. The 1957 Pontiacs are very nice, too. Between the 55 Buick and the 57 Oldsmobile I'm considering,  I am now leaning more towards the Olds. In my opinion it's even prettier, and I like the that the drive train is easier to work on and it sounds like I would enjoy the Hydramatic more than the the Dynaflow transmission. 

 

 

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One minor point no one has mentioned. Buick used 2 completely different bodies for their 1955 line. The Special, Super and Century used the General Motors B body, the big Roadmaster shared its C body with Cadillac. This means windows, doors, and some other parts interchange among the lesser models but not the Roadmaster. I mention this because it is important when buying used parts, I know of one European Buick owner who bought a windshield for a Roadmaster and found it was no where near fitting his Buick Super.

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GM transmissions of that era had three basic mounting bolt patterns. Chevrolet had Powerglides, Buick had Dynaflow and the others had what's known as C-O-P for Hydramatics used in Chevys, Chevy trucks, Olds, Cadillacs and GMC's although the hydraulic "programming" was different".  Many parts may interchange and a transmission parts supplier will know which.  One big exception is that for few months when the Hydramatic plant burned down in 1954(?), Powerglides were used in Pontiacs and possibly other applications.

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I have both a 55  Olds and Buick. They are both about the same for parts availability.  Mechanical parts are readily available. The Buick trans is a bit harder to remove for repairs but is stone boat simple and it's well within the capabilities of a competent mechanic to tear down and rebuild. The Hydramatic not so much, but it is a more fun trans to drive. Buy the one you like the best or is the best buy. You won't be disappointed.............Bob

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Just wanted to let everyone know that I ended up buying a 1957 Oldsmobile Sedan. It's in good shape. Body needs no work. Has been repainted once years ago but never welded. No bondo on the car. Very nice interior (blue fabric). Drives, shifts and brakes well. Vacuum wipers don't work properly. Have ordered a New Port Engineering electric conversion. Some play in idler arm. Have ordered that plus bracket and bushing. Trunk weather strip was bad. Already have the replacement. Fuel gauge doesn't work. Already have new sender unit. It looks like that's all the work it currently needs. I have been impressed with the pretty good availability of most parts for this car. I found that between USA Parts Supply, Fusick Automotive Products, RockAuto and a few specialist shops and dealers (found mostly on eBay) most parts (engine, trannny, suspension, steering, brakes etc) are available and most times the prices are not outrageous. Not cheap but that's to be expected. Thanks to everyone for their input here. Stefan

Olds2.jpg

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Looks like as nice driver.  

I have a 56 Olds.  

I do a search on eBay each night for parts.   I don't really need anything in particular but have picked up some nice stuff cosmetically for it,  sometimes cheap, if you catch your competitors sleeping.

I have bought lots of service parts as well that were just too good to pass up,  like switches and stuff, that are specific to these Oldsmobiles. 

I have found with Olds there are 4 ways to search that will yield different results.  

try

57 olds

     1957 Olds

    57 Oldsmobile

and

1957 Oldsmobile 

You can eliminate words by following that with key words to eliminate so try copy and pasting this in your search block.

1957 Oldsmobile -Suzuki -Honda -Kawasaki -Harley -Volvo -Patch -Decal -omc -evinrude -johnson -mercruiser -sign -watch -watches -nardi -wood

 

It will filter out a lot of junk.  Some of these words may not pertain as much to your searches,  but I use it as a general filter and gets rid of most of the repo overseas crap that doesn't fit your car.  

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The second Hydramatic transmissions generation began with the 1956 model year, 1957 on cheaper Pontiac and Olds. The first year had some  problems; 1957 saw some changes to improve the reliability. I overhauled about 20 such transmissions, mainly from Cadillac cars; they are very similar from 1956 to 1964. Some parts are interchangeable, other not. As somebody wrote, those transmissions are rather complex, most parts are available either as repro or NOS.

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Looks like you have a beautiful car there, congratulations. If I may make one suggestion. Put on a new set of quality shock absorbers. You should be able to buy a set locally, made by Koni, Bilstein, or other European maker. The original type are shot after 20,000 miles even though they are not leaking and look ok. They should not be expensive and they will transform the ride and handling. While it is in the shop get an alignment and the wheels balanced, you will feel like you are driving a Rolls Royce.

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11 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

Looks like you have a beautiful car there, congratulations. If I may make one suggestion. Put on a new set of quality shock absorbers. You should be able to buy a set locally, made by Koni, Bilstein, or other European maker. The original type are shot after 20,000 miles even though they are not leaking and look ok. They should not be expensive and they will transform the ride and handling. While it is in the shop get an alignment and the wheels balanced, you will feel like you are driving a Rolls Royce.

 Thanks Rusty. Just had a quick look at the websites of both Bilstein and Koni but could not find anything for my car from either manufacturer, unfortunately. 

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14 hours ago, Roger Zimmermann said:

The second Hydramatic transmissions generation began with the 1956 model year, 1957 on cheaper Pontiac and Olds. The first year had some  problems; 1957 saw some changes to improve the reliability. I overhauled about 20 such transmissions, mainly from Cadillac cars; they are very similar from 1956 to 1964. Some parts are interchangeable, other not. As somebody wrote, those transmissions are rather complex, most parts are available either as repro or NOS.

Thanks Roger, your location shows as Switzerland. So I guess we are practically neighbors. I might be in touch regarding my transition. It doesn't need anything right now but I'd like to learn as much as I can about them. Do you still work on these things? Stefan

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18 hours ago, auburnseeker said:

Looks like as nice driver.  

I have a 56 Olds.  

I do a search on eBay each night for parts.   I don't really need anything in particular but have picked up some nice stuff cosmetically for it,  sometimes cheap, if you catch your competitors sleeping.

I have bought lots of service parts as well that were just too good to pass up,  like switches and stuff, that are specific to these Oldsmobiles. 

I have found with Olds there are 4 ways to search that will yield different results.  

try

57 olds

     1957 Olds

    57 Oldsmobile

and

1957 Oldsmobile 

You can eliminate words by following that with key words to eliminate so try copy and pasting this in your search block.

1957 Oldsmobile -Suzuki -Honda -Kawasaki -Harley -Volvo -Patch -Decal -omc -evinrude -johnson -mercruiser -sign -watch -watches -nardi -wood

 

It will filter out a lot of junk.  Some of these words may not pertain as much to your searches,  but I use it as a general filter and gets rid of most of the repo overseas crap that doesn't fit your car.  

 

Thank you. Much appreciated. Stefan

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Happy to help.  Ebay is a bit frustrating until you learn the tricks.  

It's still frustrating then,  but you tend to spend less time and yield better results.  

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