Sign in to follow this  
Rob McDonald

'57 Buick ball joint question - probably not what you expect.

Recommended Posts

Many years ago at a local swap meet, I was lucky enough to buy a full set of NOS ball joints for my '57 Roadmaster 73A. When I found them, I was almost ready to put the car back on the road, after a major mechanical overhaul.

Unfortunately, the joints didn't come with the composite steel and rubber dust seals and seal covers that protect the inner workings. At the time, I rooted around in the castoff bins of a few front end shops around town but couldn't find any seals that fit. I wasn't planning to drive the car much for a while (little did I suspect that, 25 years later, I still haven't put even a hundred miles on it). So I installed the ball joints anyway. I figured that, by the time I get everything else done and really start driving, I'll have been able to find these seals.

The Buick parts manual shows the seals and covers but they're listed with the same part number as the joints. It seems that they were only sold as an upper or lower unit, all inclusive.

Here's my request: if you're a '57 Buick owner (all series used the same ball joints) and have your front suspension torn to bits, could you please help me match up these parts? Or, if you have a yard full of these beauties as parts cars - all of which probably have shot ball joints - could you sell me a used set of seals and covers?

Thanks for your attention. ~Rob, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rob, I am having a similar problem as you have. I am putting a 59 lower A arm under my 57 Roadmaster and a 57 upper A arm. The main reason I am doing this is the cost and reliability of the 59 parts. The 59 upper A arm will not fit on the 57 frame, so I am keeping the upper A arm and ball joint from the 57. The lower ball joint is the real problem in terms of wearing out. The lower A arm bolts right in and is identical except for the ball joint mounting design.

I have a set of upper ball joints that I bought on Ebay a few years ago, but they are missing the boot that you mention. The upper ball joints from the 59 suspension that I bought (I bought the ball joints before I realized the upper A arm wouldn't fit) have a simple rubber boot. I took the boot off the 59 ball joint and put it on the 57 ball joint. It almost fits. The body of the base of the ball joint on the 59 is 1 9/16 in diameter and the 57 base is 1 3/4 in diameter. I put some soap in the inside of the rubber boot and forced it in place. Since the boot is captured between the joint itself and the top of the spindle, I don't see why that won't work.

Rather than go out and buy a set of 59 ball joints only to use the rubber boot, I would try getting in touch with Rare Parts. I think they are the only rebuilder who makes these things. The ball joints they sell have boots on them. Can't help to ask. I tried calling them earlier and could not get through. You might want to see what they use and see if they would sell you just the boots.

If you do get an answer from them, how about posting the results of your inquiry. Would be a big help to a lot of other guys to know if this way works.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PROF GH, I totally see the point of what you're doing. If the '59 parts are virtually bolt-in, why not take advantage of Buick's later correction of an engineering error?

I never did get a reply from Rare Parts. I'm guessing they've been rarified out of business. I do have measured drawings for the upper and lower seals and the cups. I need to spend a day going to all the bearing supply shops in town to see if I can find a match. Will let you know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DAN, you just keep your naughty pictures to yourself! The bottoms of cars are supposed to be the greasy side, remember? Shiny side up...

Remind me about those finned aluminum brake drums. Did they come later in the year, on Roadmaster 75s only? Do you think they make any difference in stopping these plus-size beauties?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I am not sure, but I think that the Convertible Roadmasters got the finned aluminum drums from the get-go. Then later the 75's. - Dan:confused:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rob and Cab2,

The Master Chassis Parts Manual lists the frame #s of each assembly plant when they

began using the finned drums. They switched over with the intro of the 75s, and made

other changes to the 76C at the same time; the chromed dash fascia (rather than "engine-

turned") and lower chromed dash that was padded on all models with the Safety Group.

I probably should do my ball joints, so I look forward to this thread's conclusions.

TG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It finally warmed up a bit yesterday, although we're a long way from spring around here. I spent a sunny afternoon roaming among local parts suppliers, bearing shops and industrial seal distributors. I was looking for something like the '57 Buick ball joint seals. Hydraulic ram U-cups are similar but none were found that had the right inside radius. Anyway, they wouldn't be flexible enough to move with the suspension. One firm could fabricate a chunky version of the seals but, again, the available material would be too stiff.

Dan (CABALLERO2) said that some vintage tractor steering joints had similar seals, so I've sent him a PM, asking what year, make and model. That could be a good lead because the tractor restoration hobby has really taken off, over the last ten years or so. Go figure.

Jim (57BUICKJIM) has some ideas about getting these seals reproduced. He and I will talk some more about that.

PROFESSOR GEARHEAD, I saw that you asked MARTINOS1 to send you, for research purposes, the ball joints out of the Roadmaster that he's parting out. If that works out, please be sure that he also sends you the seals and metal covers. You might then help Jim and me with our manufacturing project, if it comes to be.

Edited by Rob McDonald (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DAN, the ball joint is rolling indeed! This website lacks an illustration with which I can check the dimensions that you've provided. I've sent them an email to get more information. Crossing our fingers...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fabricast hub & brake drum - front, Group 6.306 - 1179428 (12 inch)

Tomorrow, Wednesday is to be my 'Buick day' so I will varify the diameter and get the casting number from just the drum without the hub. I will edit this reply to update.

Hope this helps;

Dan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I could not find the casting number. I only have one extra drum however I have seen them on ebay recently. The '58 is the same as the '57. The diameter is 12".

Check this if you are made of money:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1958-NOS-BUICK-FINNED-ALUMINUM-BRAKE-DRUMS-hot-rod-_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQhashZitem43a57ca2feQQitemZ290539217662QQptZVintageQ5fCarQ5fTruckQ5fPartsQ5fAccessories

Dan

Edited by Caballero2 (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Offline, Dan told me that he'd seen some tractor tie rod boots that look a lot like our famous ball joint seals. It was on a John Deere model 3010, so I went online to see what's out there. I found an antique tractor parts supplier (who knew?) and ordered a shoe box-full of pairs of various rubber cuppy-things. When they get here, I will apply wrench to Buick for the first time in 20 years and see what fits. Probably none of them, I fear, but if it gets me back out to the garage, that will be a good thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rob:

Did you ever find a satisfactory boot from the antique tractor assortment?

Dan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

lower ball joint seals 1957 Buick part group 6.169 #1175517 1 pair only on hand one of the rarest items you will find. they are made of like clear plastic. still sealed in the original GM package

John hanson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i never did send the ball joints out. as i am selling the whole upper part on ebay...i did not even check to see about boots [ duh ], i did not realize the hassle of getting them....i figured in this day and age they would make them in a heart beat...but i have the uppers and lowers, i just cleaned up the uppers and listed them..like i keep saying if you people need any parts ask me and i will try to help you out..beats making ebay rich.....i did not send them out earlier because i had not taken them out and cleaned them up yet..sorry my bad,....i refuse to ship out a box of greased up items. you guys pay big bucks for some of these items you deserve to save time and money when getting them....thanks my friends.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MARTINOS1, eww, that's kind of gruesome, like the stuff you see on Bones and CSI. I can get these boots made up in polyurethane in a heartbeat but the tooling and first-run costs are well over $1200. I don't believe that there are ever going to be enough '57 Buick front suspensions restored and needing these parts to recover that kind of money. Besides, it sounds like Professor Gearhead is close to a solution, whereby the '57s can be modified to take readily available 1959 Buick-type ball joints.

Dan (CABALLERO2) has found a pretty good match with Ford tractor tie rod boots and I've got a bunch of similar pieces from John Deere to try this weekend. Dan's also playing around with making the concave steel washers. I'm trying to get around using these washers by using boots that are long enough to seal both ends of the joint.

Like medical research, these things take time - although, happily, not much money. Stay tuned, patient Buick friends.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not finished this investigation - the car's front suspension is scattered all over the garage - but I do have in interim report:

Tie rod end boots for some kind of John Deere tractor fit both the upper and lower ball joints of a 1957 Buick, all series. These boots are available from Kuhn's Antique Parts - call Maggie at 888-839-5778. They're part number ABC369, $2.95 each - have a look at Antique John Deere Tractor Parts - Tie Rods Bars - Tie Rod Ends - Tie Rod Boots - Bottom Oil Cap - Steering Shaft - Power Steering - Repair - Char-Lynn - Pivot Bolster - Antiquetractorsrus

I am baffled though by the cupped, galvanized steel washers in the original Buick installation. They're placed against the female body of the ball joint, effecting a metal-to-metal seal to keep the grease in. The rubber boots provide pressure to hold the washers tight to the housing. They also seal around the tapered stud of the male part of the joint.

The boots from Kuhn's can be used in the same arrangement - I've tried it and they seem to fit. However, I think I'll get a better seal if the rubber boot contacts the housing directly, as well as sealing the stud. I'm going to try using the washer between the boot and the steering knuckle, to ensure that joint is free to turn.

Maybe once I pump the joint full of grease, it'll just blow out around the lip of the rubber boot. I don't think so because the fit between the male and female parts are fairly tight and they'll snug up even more when the joint is packed with grease.

Photos will follow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well done super sleuth. I am looking forward to the pictures of your installation and the components. If you want, I do have a set of NOS, one with the metal seal you speak of. I can provide a photo of it, if you like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gee.... so how is the Professor doing with the 59 Adpato project? Have not heard anything for awhile and the front office is calling wondering what is up.:P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I finally got around to working on one solution to the ball joint seals. I have sucessfully found an acceptible rubber portion to the lower ball joint for the '57 Buicks. First, I obtained reproduction tie rod seals for 8N Ford tractors. I then made the steel shield that fit the sphere of the tie rod. In order to do this, I found an old 1 7/8 inch trailer ball, I drilled and tapped the top for a 1/4-28UNF cap screw. At the hardware store I bought a couple of fender washers, 1/4 x 2". I then attached a fender washer to the trailer ball, then heated the washer to a cherry red and peened the washer to a good mate to the trailer ball. After cooling, I turned the inner diameter of the shield to the 1" diameter to clear the ball joint stud. I finished by deburing and polishing the scale from the shield. The attached thumbnails depict this operation. The thumbnail with the red background shows the fender washer the fabricated shield and a factory original shield. One thumbnail is a close-up of the assembly. Note: The object of this photo is to show the mating of the seal to the ball joint and spindle. The photo shown has a right lower ball joint mated to a left side spindle. Also the Ball joint should feature a castellated nut with cotter pin attaching it to the spindle.

Dan

'57 - 76C

'57 - 56R

post-54279-143138520459_thumb.jpg

post-54279-143138520477_thumb.jpg

post-54279-143138520496_thumb.jpg

post-54279-143138520515_thumb.jpg

post-54279-143138520531_thumb.jpg

Edited by Caballero2 (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this