JBP

1953 Special - spark plugs (and other matters)

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The 263 has blind head bolt holes, so the head bolts shouldn't need sealer.  You can double check by sticking a pick (or maybe an air attachment hooked to your air compressor) down in the bolt holes just to verify (and who knows if the engine is original?).  At any rate, when I reinstalled the head on mine back when I first got it, I did some research and found that 248s and 320s have open head bolt holes on the driver's side, but 263s did not.  

 

On another note, Permatex #2 and #3 (which is the bottle you show) are my go to sealers for all kinds of jobs.  Either will work fine on threads going into oil or water.

Edited by Aaron65 (see edit history)

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Very good info to have, Aaron. Thanks for that. I was going by what the ‘52 shop manual outlines (which is the one us 1953 Special owners are to utilize), and it recommends that for the left side, the threads on the head bolts should be covered in sealing compound as they are open to the water jacket. 

 

Actually, I’ve not researched my engine serial number to see where it falls in terms of production. Hmmmm. 

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Accomplished a lot today, which was great. A friend came over to help me hoist the head back onto the block and the operation went well. I found a NOS head gasket unopened in the original packaging, unbent and in perfect condition. It was almost too nice to use......almost. Head went back on fairly easily. New lifters oiled up and inserted into place, and the push rod cover installed. 

 

 

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I have been running Autolite #175 spark plugs in my '54 '55 and '56 Buicks for years and have had no problems with them.

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Had my window frames blasted and powder coated, so I bought a new length of window channel “fuzzy” material and spent a few hours today cutting, shaping, and installing them. As the staples were trashed when I pulled the old strips off before sending the frames to be powder coated, I used stainless steel aviation wire, twisted the ends, snipped them short and tucked the ends under the frame. Worked really well. Kept the strip tight to the frame and looks like a staple. 

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Installed the window frames today, and did some finishing assembly on some of the last pieces to go back on the block and head (water pump, new upper and lower rad hoses, copper manifold gaskets, new tappet cover gasket being torqued down a bit by the cover in the second photo, etc.). Aiming to light her up tomorrow morning. 

 

Anyone have any tips or advice on what to do or expect? Will have to adjust the lash tomorrow, but while I know (and hope) the engine will sound and behave differently now, not certain if there are any other hidden landmines to be avoided before I press the pedal on the mighty Fireball 8. 

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Changed the oil this morning, refilled the coolant, checked all the lines and made sure the bolts were all cinched. Engaged the starter, and after a few cranks, the engine fired and ran! Was really happy to hear that sound! 

 

Valves were clattery, but let her run for about 20 minutes and made sure everything was warmed up and adjusted the lash. It quieted down quite a lot, but think I need to give it some more attention. Took the car for a short drive for a few blocks; the difference in power was quite noticeable, and I was amazed to see how cool the car runs now. Even after warming up and the drive, the temp needle was well below the “N” and angled down closer to the bottom of the gauge. Thinking that the flushing of the block and the cleaning of the head must have opened things up substantially.

I’ll continue to tune the car this week. 

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Spent a few hours today with a friend dialling in the valve lash, and we got it running smoothly and quietly (funny how the manual is so casual in the description of how to do it, not really mentioning that you’ll be tightening and loosening set screws on a piece of rapidly moving machinery). Engine went from sounding like a muffled typewriter to a quiet sewing machine, very responsive to the throttle and running strongly. Will do some minor carb adjustments and fine tune my distributor, but overall very happy with how it’s performing. 

 

It’s a great feeling (that people on this forum can relate to) when you’ve worked toward something with your car, and you see the end result has made a vast improvement. Makes all the minor annoyances and setbacks fade away. 

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Found a fully rebuilt correct Stromberg carburetor for the Special and installed it on Friday. It was like the car woke up! Very responsive, lots of power, smooth and quiet. Considering I live at an altitude that’s 3400 feet above sea level, the Buick now pulls a steady 15 inches of vacuum, which is great. The new carb was the last large piece needed to complete the puzzle. 

 

While I was road testing, I ended up behind a guy who was towing a small trailer loaded with grass clippings and small bits of lawn debris. After a few minutes of getting this stuff blown onto my car, I had enough. Passed him, while going up a long hill and pulled away, holding 65 with ease (which I could not do before on an uphill grade). The expression of surprise on his face was terrific. I foresee many, many tanks of gas this summer......

 

 

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You'll use many tanks of gas no matter how much you drive it, because if it's anything like mine, the gas mileage is nothing to crow about.  :)

 

It's worth it though.  Like I tell people when they want to talk about the car (which is always), it's slow but at least it gets 10 miles to the gallon.  None of that matters, however, because it looks great and smells great and is great.  Congratulations on getting it going.

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Thanks Aaron. This is my 5th summer since I bought the car, and it’s nice to see the repair list get shorter each year (until there’s new things on it to fix). While my car is just the basic sedan, and there are things about it that aren’t correct, it’s been great to work on and I love to drive it. 

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I pulled the speedometer this weekend, as I’ve had enough of the faint grinding noise and watching the needle bounce up and down as if the car were cresting 8 foot swells at sea. The cable’s been replaced and greased, so I ruled that out as the likely cause. 

 

Took it into the shop that services instruments of this vintage, and waiting to see what the estimate will be. Had a quick scout around the Internet, and don’t see a repair kit being offered for these instruments. Is there a good kit offered that I missed?

 

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Edited by JBP (see edit history)

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The repair place estimated about $400 to repair my speedometer, citing rarity of parts, etc., as the reason for the price. I said “no thank you,” and reinstalled it. Strangely enough, the bit of cleaning and light lubrication he did has quieted it down significantly. I have a clockmaker who cleans and repairs my railway regulator clocks, and I had him rebuild the clock for the Buick a few years ago. He did a great job. I’ll have him rebuild the speedo this winter, as I’m certain he can track down gear trains and springs that will be able to work as replacement parts.  

 

On another note, since having the head redone, the cork valve cover gasket no longer really bonds well to the engine surface, and there’s some more oil leaking out under the gasket. I’ve tried roughing the surface up a bit before applying the adhesive, but it doesn’t seem to have worked well enough. 

 

Anyone have a sure-fire trick for getting the valve cover gaskets to sit and seal?

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Glue it to the valve cover with gasket sealer (I usuallyuse permatex black) then, once attached, either torque it down or use permatex weatherstrip sealer on gasket to head surface. You can also try coating the sides, but I've never had to. 

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I coat both sides of the gasket with wheel bearing grease so I can remove it if I have to.  It seems to work pretty well.

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Thanks, Aaron! I know most old cars have some leakage, but this is a bit too much (not only from an environmental standpoint, but also a cost perspective). I use a product called CAM oil (made by the Collector Automobile Motor oil company), which is a great oil. However, it’s not cheap, and as our cars are a bit oil-thirsty anyway, I hate to see the extra drips on the ground as it’s such a waste. 

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