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38 Opera Coupe progress

Guest locoincolo

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Guest locoincolo

Thanks to some very generous people here I have had a great first few weeks with my new old Buick. The highlight being a great road trip in Jon Kanas' spectacular '37 Century convertible!

Headlights. Under control

I broke my lenses, but Dave T. is sending me a set of lenses,

and I have lightly polished my reflectors and picked up some gaskets from Bobs. Crisis under control

HD Air Cleaner. Under Control

I've come to the conclusion from the few pics I see of an HD air cleaner in the 38 Special that there is no bracket holding the darn thing up in the air. So I'm going with it until I have a problem.

Exhaust leak. Fixed

Between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust pipe was some sort of gasket that leaked like a sieve! I broke, peeled, cut, and scraped it away... seemed like a combination of bondo and asbestos... so I kept it wet to minimize the dust. Installed a new gasket from Bobs and voila! No exhaust leak.

Crankcase vent.

This thing smokes and drips. Is that normal?

Up front Oil Leak.

Looks like I'm dripping somewhere up front on the pass side. I see the drip coming out under the radiator... dripping off the A arm, oddly. Can't see it from above. Was too lazy tonight to lay down and look.

Smoke or steam outa the valve cover rear vent after shutdown.

This doesn't seem normal to me. Smacks of head gasket leak or something.

Other than that I'm takin' it one step at a time. She certainly runs, though I'm stuggling with the tune, but I'm getting there. I have a carb kit, so maybe that will make a nice weekend.

Anyway - hopin to get the headlamps complete and the pass. side running board finished up so at least she looks finished up from the outside. Here's some of my family trapped in a fender...


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Hey Loco,

Congrats on your progress.

Head lights = you fixed.

H D Aircleaner = You can always build a support bracket coming off the manifold bolts.

Exhaust = you fixed.

Crank case vent = This is a sign of "blow by" (read, needs rings) but what the heck, oil is cheap. Run Shell Rotella 15-40 and a can of "nosmoke".

Up front oil leak = I have this one too. Got a hunch it's the front seal, since I did replace the pan gasket when I dropped the pan down and found the oil pick up float broken off and laying in an inch of grey sludge. Now I just consider I'm like a harley and "marking my territory.

Steam from valve cover = Oil mist is comming up from the pan via the pushrod holes (rings again). See "nosmoke" above.

How's your oil presssure ? running AND at idle. When I pulled the pan, (not a big job) and fixed the pump by lapping the housing down to a .002 inch gap w/ the cover (mine had .0045 gap) and stretching the bypass spring from 2 3/4" to 3 1/4" (should have gone to 3 1/2"), I now have 30 psi @ a hot idle and 40 on the road, on an engine I know has never been done, and w/ 86K on the clock.

Mike in Colorado

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Guest locoincolo

Hey Mike, thanks for the info.

Yeah... blow by for sure - cuz I see a bit spluttering out the tailpipe too.

I'm seeing decent oil pressure - but this is all pretty much at idle - since she's not really been on the road much. I'll take notes next time I get out. And by decent I simply mean that the factory gauge goes up reasonably high - and it's dark in my garage. Did you fit a "real" gauge to check your numbers, or are you going on the factory gauges?

Not a big job to pull the pan? Crimony, there's like 20,000 bolts! :)

I'm running *for a good half hour* 10-30 Vr1 Valvoline. I like Rotella, might switch.

Nosmoke, eh? I'll find some.

Seems a little rough running too, I'll double check the timing again. Since she doesn't seem to run hot or crazy I'm going to make a 4 or 5 mile loop in a day or two and I'll certainly learn some things. It's nice to get the air cleaner on and the stinky loud exhaust leak fixed.


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Guest Grant Magrath

I agree with Mike, but you need to consider worn valve guides as well! She's looking good!



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Guest locoincolo

Thanks Grant. Right now, I want her to drive to town (5 miles) in a reasonably controllable fashion. If a little oil drips - well, that's ok.

My typical inclination is to rebuild everything I touch, so I'm sure it won't be long until that engine is in pieces all over my shop.

This is an example of what I mean...


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Yes, there are a lot of pan bolts, but as I said, I found my oil pump float laying in over an inch of mud @ the bottom. And this is after i had driven her from Ft. Lupton clear down to Buena Vista (140+ miles). Can't believe I was that dumb/lucky.

For you, it will give you piece of mind. Who knows you may find the front oil leak we have in common.

Best regards,

Mike in Buena Vista

PS Bardahl nosmoke is available @ Walmart

Edited by FLYER15015
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I have a '38 Special Opera Coupe and a '38 Roadmaster. On your air cleaner - it may be that you have an air cleaner for the larger series. On the Roadmaster there is a bracket that goes from the body of the air cleaner to the intake manifold to support it. Check to see if there is a tapped hole on your air cleaner for that bracket. If there is a hole you probably have the wrong cleaner.

I totally agree about pulling the pan - it is cheap insurance and may clear up some leaks. I bought my Special coupe for $125 in '73 because the previous owner had found it in a garage. He changed the oil and drove it. Turned out the oil pickup was burried in sluge and he toasted the bearings. He didnt want to deal with it and sold it. Other than that the car was perfect.

The Roadmaster had a really bad front end leak when I got it. Rather than replace the rope style seal, I machined the cover to take a modern lip seal. That was a pretty easy job, but I did have the machinery to do it. An easier fix would be to try to get a newer front cover that uses a lip style seal. Dave Tacheny might be able to help on that. In any7 case, replacing the front crank seal is a real pain the rear.

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