Sign in to follow this  
kansheib

1957 Buick Special Convertible

Recommended Posts

A '57 Chevy may be an icon car, but when new the Buick was a few steps up the food chain, more power, size, equipment, etc. Seems well bought at $12,500 - congrats. Totally worth a full correct restoration, done right it will be a difficult car to keep the miles down on!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congrats on your new purchase!

As a long-time pwner of a '57 Buick, I know you'll be happy with your new toy; just know from the get-go that I only care about original (or restored to original), unmodified cars. My Roadmistress has been all over the country (as a driver in the DPC Class) in all road conditions with no mods, on bias-ply tires, with the only "mod" being a recored radiator that doesn't show.

Even in its least powerful guise (the Special 250HP). I can't think of any situation you'll encounter that requires brake mods, except for pulling an Airstream trailer behind it at highway speeds. And therein lies the problem. Buick's brakes went from the industry's worst in 1957 to the best in 1958 with the Spring intro of the Roadmaster 75s and their larger finned aluminum drums, which were adopted full-line for '58. Although there were towing packages for them, until you decide which results you prefer (restore versus mod), perhaps the first decision is where do you plan on showing the car.

Class judging in the Buick Club (BCA) and AACA will deduct points for any mods, period; Cruise-Ins and other local shows could care less about them. You could update brakes by fitting a '58 system (and the trailer package) to the car without the obvious visuals of discs. Even with those mods you still couldn't qualify for DPC or Class Judging because of them. If you want to play the AACA game (negative connotations not implied), you'll have to forego any mods, but the BCA does have a Modified Class.

Enough on that. I've copied text from another of the many threads to which I've contributed here on the '57 Buick. If you click on TGRoadmaster to "see other posts by," then refine that search to "1957 Buick," you'll find scads of '57 info. Look for posts by 57wagon & 57Roadmaster75, among others.

All '57 Buicks tended to overheat, and Product Service Bulletins were released later during production to remedy that problem. One stated that the cars ran and cooled fine, but that the temperature gauge needle should be bent back to better reflect actual temps. Mine ran consistently too hot, so I had the radiator re-cored, adding another row of cooling tubes, and she's run cool as a cucumber ever since. The brakes aren't the best, so stay away from mountaintops. That issue was corrected when the 75's came out with finned drums, adopted by all Buicks for '58. One writer noted at the time that Buick brakes went from the worst in '57 to the best in '58.

I reiterate what has been said by others about getting all Shop Manuals (Body & Chassis), Parts Book (covers several years, with great illustrations and interchanges), and anything else you can lay your hands on. Remember that RM's (70-series) and Supers (50-series) are on GM's larger C-Body, while Specials (40) & Century's (60) use the smaller B-Body, shared with Olds 88 & 98's. Bodies on 50 & 70's are almost three inches wider, much longer and totally different than 40 & 60-series bodies. All glass on 50-70 cars interchanges with '57 Cadillacs, model for model (2-doors, 4-doors).

Don't buy anything from a Special or Century unless you're certain it will work.

Things like bumper ends work on all '57's, but the bumper centers and grilles are too narrow. If you need to buy a grille, 40-60 cars have 96 vertical "electric-shaver" vertical bars; 50-70's have an even 100 vertical bars. If you find a grille, it's not that hard to count the bars to make sure.

Please for give the loopiness of this reply today (just got home from hip surgery on Monday), but I know you'll love your new project. You'll find plentey of support here (especially on the Buick Forum), as long as you keep it stock...

Happy Motoring,

TG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will weigh in only a little on this. I would love to have a 50's Buick convertible, but with everything else on my plate it is not in the realm of possibility. As to the parts car, when you get it to a point that you think everything you need is off, do not, DO NOT scrap it. Rahter find somebody who needs a parts car and sell it to him cheap. There will be parts on the car that you cannot use that someone else can. I tell you this from experience. No car should ever go to the crusher something can always be used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the comments today. I will take the parts car and sell it cheap after utilizing what I can from it. I suspect that I will not need a whole lot as the convertible is actually complete.

I am quite concerned about the braking comments I am seeing. I live in Alberta and have family in British Columbia that I visit often. One plan is to have the convertible each summer to go out to BC. There are many mountains to cross (starting with the restoration) and ending with the Rockies. LOL.

Would a complete new set of brakes help in this area? I hope so.

The intent of the car is to enjoy and drive. The restoration will be a frame off, and I am fortumate enough to be able to do it right. I may show it a little and attend shows, but it will mainly be for use as a pleasure vehicle. Part of that will be a trip across the US and Canada. So safety will be the main concern, not points at shows, Everyones enthusiasm for origional cars has convinced me that this is the way to go and that this oarticular car deserves it.

My question is how much a slight modification to a better braking system will afect the car and its value/hostory.

Again, fully origional is important and I am dedicated to that but if everything else is true to the way it rolled off the assembly line except brakes, will it affect anything overal?

I have decided that the origional 2 tone red is the paint of chioice, and the car had black and white leather/vynal interior.

I have bought an origional radio that seems to be in excellent working condition. With the exception of a number of dents the car seems to be in excellent condition. Little rust and solid repairable chrome.

I am taking the 7-8 hour drive next week to trailer both cars home so I will know more then after seeing her in person. The seller is a fine gentleman and seems genuinely interested in having her sold to someone that will care and treat her well.

My son is getting more and more excited to get out there and get started on this project although I am sure we will have some issues with getting him out to the garage on some evenings as I am sure you have all faced. I hope this instills a love of cars in him.

My first "car" was a 35 chevy farmers field car that I bought at 13 years old. It "almost ran" befor I gave it up and sold it to a friend, my next one was a 67 Chevelle SS convertible with 45000 miles on it in perfect condition bought at 15. It was a great car. I wish I had the foresight to keep it. I sold it for $2500 when I was expecting my first child at 19. What a mistake, I just saw one sell for $115,000 at Barrett Jackson a few months ago.

After that kids and life have kept me away from cars with the exception of a 2008 Land Rover LR3 (the wifes ride) and a 2008 Infinity QX56 (mine).

I was a HD mechanic for about 6 years in the oil industry working on 360 ton Haul Trucks. I learned nothing and really have to get back into any mechanical work to see if I am capable.

I left the oil industry 6 years ago and went into commercial real estate.

The real estate is a great career and I love it. Fortunately I do very well and can now begin to get back into my passion for cars. I find the every day vehicles very boring. The 57 Buick I saw made me fall in love.

So I am very excited. Like many others the rods entice me. But the passion I see here is wonderful and I look forward to a true American piece of auto history restored to the way it first rolled out.

I am sure I will be asking plenty of questions of all of you in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bob Beck;

The hotel you had the steak dinner at was likely the Chatesu Lacombe perhaps? If so, it is still there. Was it in downtown Edmonton? There is also the Chateau Louis in the West end (now closed).

One thing we do know how to do is beef. Alberta beef is simply the best in the world. I travel to the USA quite a lot for real estate and notice the difference every time. You have the best and friendliest people I have ever met, we have the best beef. And our beer is better as well.

But I must say the American people are great. We did a week in Miami and a week in New Orleans for real estate recently in April. Had an excellent time when we were there and met some great friends.

I was amazed at New Orleans. Beautiful city, great food, and excellent times.

We just need to ship more beef done that way!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I completely overlooked that you are in the mountains, and I should probably strike my comment on the brakes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello again kanshieb, as you can see there will be plenty of support for you here on the forum.

Regarding the brakes and suspension. 1957 Buicks (and Pontiacs) are often criticized for bad brakes; they originally used cast iron drums with no fins and the use of 14" wheels limited (cooling) air flow to the drums. As TGRoadmaster said, the 1958 Buicks started using finned aluminum drums and that solved the problem (for them, Pontiacs are another story).

Lots of people are interested in aftermarket brakes for two reasons. One is the disc vs drums, the other is the use of a dual master cylinder rather than the original single bore. Like TGRoadmaster I am one to use original features except in rare instances, and like him I think that a properly installed new system is usually adequate. Remember, these cars were sold new to upper middle class family buyers so they were not death traps ready to fail at any moment.

Buick people should chime in, but I would say try to find some 1958 brakes as TGRoadmaster suggested. Used ones are probably hard to find, but these are popular enough that I wonder if they have been reproduced?

Likewise, IMO a properly installed suspension with new parts should be perfectly fine. If you have power steering radial tires probably would be good for you rather than original bias ply; they are now available with the proper wide whitewalls. Look forward to seeing more, Todd C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest BJM

I think Wests original comments regarding drive it like a 1957 vehicle and don't ask it to do modern maneuvers is the key.

These brakes were criticized when new because the 50's was the start of the horsepower race and if you recall hp ratings went up every year, as did poundage of the cars themselves. Brakes stayed the same until enough owners complained about them, then Buick overengineered the brakes and went from worst to first overnight for many years to come.

But if you drive your car in a leisurely manner and allow for safe distances, those brakes will be fine. Let people pass you, take your time slowing down, stop and enjoy the roses.

Most of us have a variety of cars. I have go fast muscle cars for the times I need to blow off some steam, and those cars do have dual master cylinder disc brakes (factory I might add)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:)I think (say again think) you will find the wheel bearings on a 57 are not the same as a 58,least my computer tells me they are not. If that is the case the spindle will be differant so you might change it. I dont know,but theres that can of worms again.:) I still believe with a little common sense,the factory brakes are safe. If you haul a large trl. I assume you are smart enough to have a GOOD tow package Electric brakes and a good hitch. Just my 2 cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'57 Buicks look good no matter how you do them. As this is a convertible, restoration would be my choice. Rick

post-59657-143138290115_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not yet. It looks like the transport company will pick them up next week, likely Wednesday or Thursday. I'm getting anxious to get started. I did get the radio in and it was in excellent condition.

So no car as of yet but I have the radio to remind me that it is coming. Lol.

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking at how fairly original and complete it, I also say to bone stock original while you can still find the right parts. JMHO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is the plan after getting the responses that I received. The car is complete and does not seem to have had anyone messing with it to much in the past. There will be another project vehicle done while we do this one though. Instead of a hotrod we are going to attempt to build a go-kart replica of the 57. My son wants to get involved in racing karts.

It should be tons of fun for both of us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apologies for the lack of updates. The cars arrived on the 8th of September. Unfortunately the driver managed to hit a neighbors car on the way into the driveway. So more excitement than desired.

The cars are in very good condition, well the convertible is anyway. Work began right away and we have managed to spend a bit of time on the tear down. Front end is now off the car, interior is stripped, all chrome is off. We are now removing the convertible top frame and window hardware and the firewall is mostly bare.

The body will be off the frame by next weekend and the frame can then go for dipping. We found rust in the usual places, bottom of fenders, close to the wheelwells at the front and rear of the quarter panels, and the rockers. The rest of the car is rust free with one dime size spot behind the front passenger seat on the floor.

Some concern with the engine as the head was off on the passenger side. All parts are there and we will have to get an opinion from an engine expert.

How strict is the judging as far as the heads are concerned? I see they are stamped with numbers. I have verified that the engine and trans seem origional so are points deducted if we had to use heads and parts off of the parts car?

So far the work has gone very smooth. Most nuts and bolts are coming off nicely. I will likely need a passenger window, winshield, and the chrome for the winshield. We could not get the chrome trim off without significant damage to the top and bottom winshield trim. I will have a glass installer reinstall the trim when we are ready.

Every part has been labled and documented with photos. Ziplock bags are a mans best friend. There are abour 50 baggies labled and boxed so far.

I will have some questions as we go forward. One that is critical at this point is in regards to taking the body off of the frame. When we do this should I weld a brace from front to rear on each side to ensure stability and prevent twisting or bending? Or is the car strong enough? I am concerned that with the doors off something may bend as we lift. Anyone out there with experience in this regard?

Thanks.

I will try to post some pictures of the work so far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a word of encouragement. We have a fellow in our club here on the West Coast of Florida who drives his red 57 Buick Convertible (3 port holes) on all our tours. He bought it new in 1957 and has kept it a family driver all these years. While not a show piece, the fact that it's a running driving survivor indicates old Buicks are tough and capable of regular use in their original stock configuration.

Keep us updated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A. Nobody looks at head numbers, those are part numbers. The engine number is on the block.

B. You need a brace (either welded or bolted) to maintain the door opening. If you are doing any floor or rocker repairs, you should do that before removing the body from the frame.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Kanshieb, glad to hear you got the car and are progressing.

Your head question regards "numbers matching" which is a term you hear a lot. Every GM casting has two important numbers, a casting number and a date code. Your two 1957 Buicks should have heads with the same casting number. To be "numbers matching" these date codes should be close enough to correspond with the build date of the car. Usually it is assumed a date code of 4-6 weeks before the car's build date is acceptable, but certainly not AFTER. So if you deduce that your car was built in late Feb 1957 and you have a head that is coded A317 (A= January, 31st day, 7=1957) then you are OK. This is all nitpicky stuff that will never be an issue at an AACA show or any local show, and is more of interest to a picky buyer.

Regarding the body disassembly, I hope you bought service manuals and Fisher Body manuals to help, you do not need to damage any more trim.

Removing the body from the frame does require bracing, take a look at this link:

Accessible Systems - a manufacturer of an auto rotisserie and accessory tools for vehicle restoration

This is a family company in Tennessee that makes these handy devices. They work and are big time savers. Keep posting and good luck, Todd C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, what I meant to say re: head numbers are more judging related at least in BCA judging.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey guys and gals.

Yes I have ordered the body and service manuals. The issue with the chrome was that the top pieces were bent as well as rusted on and got more damage as they came off. I have the pieces available on the parts car and will be extremely cautious as we take them off.

I assumed that bracing was required and will order the braces. Does anyone have universal door braces that they no longer use and want to sell? I will post on the parts page as well. I will make sure that they are installed prior to proceeding with the body removal. Thanks for the input from everyone.

I have tried to upload pictures but I am not having any luck as an error warning keeps coming up. I will keep trying.

The convertible top hardware and most of the engine is now out of the car so I will run out of things to take off soon until the door braces are purchased.

I will keep everyone posted as much as I can.

Thanks for all of the assistance so far.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest my3buicks
Sorry, what I meant to say re: head numbers are more judging related at least in BCA judging.

Head numbers would never be looked at or an issue in BCA judging

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The issue with the chrome was that the top pieces were bent as well as rusted on and got more damage as they came off. I have the pieces available on the parts car and will be extremely cautious as we take them off.

Just FYI, you probably know already that any parts unique to a convertible such as the top frame, windshield trim, and the snap rail around the back of the top opening are the scarcest, most valuable parts of the car. They are sometimes almost impossible to replace, so be VERY careful. Convertible hydraulic parts like the motor and cylinders are no problem, replacements are probably easy to find, but stampings and trim pieces are to be protected at all costs.

On the engine number, Buick people should chime in, assuming that number is stamped (not cast) does it match your VIN? On a Pontiac the VIN number was stamped (not cast) on the right front of the engine, but Buick may have a different system. Good luck, enjoyed seeing the photos, Todd

PS--how is your son enjoying things so far?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this