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55 Special - runner


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Got this delivered about a month ago. Took a couple more weeks to get the paperwork in order, but it worked out. Will be a bunch of fixes and improvements, but the idea was to have something to drive. Not for the purist, but someday I hope to have Buick power back on board...

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350 Chevy with T350 trans from an early 70's van. Reading the forums on here has already given me the bad idea that I need to look for a 455...

Lived most of its life around Chattanooga, TN, was transferred from the original buyer to a relative after 30-40 years, then sold to a guy SE of Cincinnati in Kentucky in 2002 or so. I think he did most of the customization. He sold it to a "flipper" guy who I bought it from. The flipper had it for about 2 months and just shipped it from KY to near Rockford, Il.

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I kept waiting for the upshift but you made it all the way 'round town in first gear. Oh, right, a T350 is an automatic. That big ol' shifter had me fooled. Hey, unless you're going all the way back to a nailhead, just leave the SBC where it is and enjoy the ride. Very, very nice.

"Southern Culture on The Skids" - that'd be music, right? Don't think I've heard it on CBC Radio Two.

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Yes, it will be a while before there's any serious changes like an engine. I've had some light fix-up hobby cars before, but this gives me a whole new appreciation and respect for those frame-off complete restorations - especially the did-it-yourself jobs. Oh - and tons more respect for anything that makes it to cruise night under its own power...

Even though this car was a "driver" since I got it I have already...

-ordered shop manual on CD

-removed funky plastic/chrome screw head covers from all over the interior

-removed a collection of red lights from under the dash - interesting effect, but not my style

-changed up the under-dash gauge mount bracket (if they'd have done it this way, would have saved 4 extra holes in the speaker grille and used the existing fasteners)

-made a front speaker mount bracket and moved speaker from way up under the dash

-safety wired the unconnected parking brake cable to keep it from bouncing off the ground (rear axle isn't stock, so parking brake isn't connected)

-fixed gas tank strap that was falling off

-replaced reverse light lenses (it had red lenses cut down from a larger circular lens)

-removed extra wiring under rear bumper (possibly more little red lights - didn't look like for a trailer)

-replaced radiator cap

-cleaned steering wheel

-made a battery hold-down bracket (battery was just sitting on the tray)

-attempted fix on LH mirror - the glass is all floppy on the arm - these little hotrod mirrors don't cost all that much anyway

-replaced the shift knob (the one it came with was held on by - gravity)

-figured out how to pull out the back seat

-dug out the existing seat belts. determined they're probably not all that safe - single bolt for each set; 2 fronts - 1 rear.

-I need at least 4 sets of seat belts, so installed some new ones from Juliano's (seatbeltstore.com)

-set radio presets (determined radio is functional, even if the speakers are hooked up all wrong)

-checked rear suspension with non-stock rear axle at least looks kinda safe. found rear is lowered w/ u-bolts on the springs

-added gas to confirm - gas gauge works

-got a jack

-tracked down the special socket for the lug nuts (it was not with the car - found a tire shop that had one)

-tire shop showed me the date code on the tires - many year-old tires not safe. ordered tires.

-and I have a list about 4x longer than the above of more stuff that needs doing.

Oh - and I don't really know yet if the engine & trans are any good or if they're just hanging together. The trans is pretty drippy, so that's next after the tires... I figured it would give me something to do, and look good while getting it done...

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Rob, try these on for size:

<iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KUP5rwVNJko" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

<iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/5iy8pf42gC0?list=PLB1179C6A4CEE5A97" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

<iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/72j7Ars1r5g?list=PL81533E650CC925B5" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

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While it was up on the lift, got some more photos from down below...

post-92541-143141880945_thumb.jpgBump stop was gone on this corner only.

post-92541-143141880951_thumb.jpgI know, that's not the back of a Buick engine...

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Next photo - that's what's left of the column shift. Below and behind that (to the left in the photo) - is that the parking brake?

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  • 1 month later...

Reading these forums has me motivated to go beyond just fixing the obvious, known things on the car (won't relay that list in this posting), but here's a couple of for-fun things I got done recently:

Scrape ~5lbs of accumulation off each front suspension...

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Replacing the handles on the dashboard ash trays (find a source for parts, get the parts, determine what's usuable, PB blast, let it sit, disassemble, soak the screws in vinegar (1 hour, scrub with toothbrush, 1 more hour, 1 more scrub, rinse, dry overnight), disassemble the existing to transfer the parts to be used)...

post-92541-14314193566_thumb.jpg - The Before.

post-92541-143141935663_thumb.jpg - Replacement parts as received.

post-92541-143141935666_thumb.jpg - The After. Ok, you know those aren't the correct fan switches. One thing at a time...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Eric. Curious about the seat belt arrangement for the front as I am thinking about getting some put in for my 55 soon, but wasn't sure where to begin as there is no pillar to mount them onto. Looks good mate.

Peter

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Lap belt only. From Julianos / seatbeltstore.com. The under-the-floor photo in the April 28th posting is the left side outboard attach point. Notice there's a little rib stamped into the floor - I put the attach point as close to that as I could. Same thing on the right side outboard point. The inboard points are as close to the driveshaft hump as I could get them and still be in the flat floor. On the right side, this was up against a little rubber drain plug. The left side, the drain plug was in a different place, so I cut the plug off to get the seatbelt point to be fairly well symmetrical with what was done on the right side. I thought I put in a link of where I posted more detail. Here it is: 1955 Buick Special Custom - 04

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Took a little spin around the neighborhood last night. Thursdays there's a pretty good cruise night (50+ cars in the 100+F heat, 3x that or more in the winter time) about 7 miles from here, but the family just wasn't up for that this week (105F around dinner time). Just cruising around the neighborhood, I was followed. Don't think the follower had any bad intentions, and after the 3rd or 4th intersection where I turned to avoid the main streets, he'd had enough and went back along his way. Ever get followed?

Those ashtray pulls really brighten up the dash. Still on the list are the vent slider knobs, the fan switches, and the parking brake knob...

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Follow-on to being followed, today had the garage door open for a minute. Literally, a minute or less, just pulling up in the daily driver. An older gentleman appears in my driveway. Since I was getting out of the car, I didn't see him walk up, so it seemed he just appeared. He says, that's a nice '55 Buick, is it a Special? So far, most people are doing well to know it's a Buick, but nobody's pinned the year, much less the model.

Anyway, he goes on to tell me about a '55 he had way back when - he had the 3-on-the-tree standard shift. He said he drove it from Nogales, AZ, to Vancouver & back, and got 22mpg. He mentioned a relative of his had the same car w/ the Dynaflow & it got maybe half that, usually less. I didn't realize the automatics were so inefficient. He asked about what engine I had (SBC), and what was done to the suspension. He got down on the ground behind the car and noticed that the shocks were converted (from lever to tube).

He was from the Geek Squad, there to do some work at the house across the street, and just happened to still be in his van right when I pulled up. A minute either way, and I'd have never heard his story and he wouldn't have seen the car...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Eric, Dennis here. I recently bought a special. the century was my first car years and years ago. I was happy to get it until there was no title coming as promised. In Indiana I can apply for a title but need to find the vin numbers on the chassis, etc.other than the missing plate. In your investigation of your car, did you locate the id numbers? Would appreciate some direction-hints where they can be found. Thanks, Dennis

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Body number is inside the driver's door frame, front side. I believe it's just above the hinge on a small plate that is riveted on. My car doesn't have the original engine, so I can't tell you where an engine number is. Good luck.

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  • 3 months later...

Ok, it's been a while since any update on this thread, and in case y'all think it's all about the '51, I have been having my fair share of fun with the '55. Might take a couple of posts, but here goes...

After quite a few little things, and one biggie (trans rebuild), it’s been a very reliable cruise season. I’m writing this as cruise season is really just getting started here (fall in the desert). Though most of the cruise nights were 7 miles down the road and 7 miles back (and then, after we moved, 5 miles each way).</SPAN>

So, here’s where the car’s been so far:</SPAN>

April 18 (first) Cruise night:</SPAN>

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April 25, May 2 – we were there, but no photos. 4/27 – my favorite tire shop gave me the bad news about the date codes on the tires, thus, a new set of tires. May 2 – took the daily driver to the cruise night – the ‘55 was getting the trans rebuilt. Got the ‘55 back on 5/3, just in time to do a few last little fix-up items for a pretty big car show on May 4th</SPAN>. Made out & back to the car show (about 25 miles each way) with the tire shop having removed the spacers from the wheels. Fronts are ok with no spacers, but on the rears the wheels themselves bottomed out on the axles, leaving the brake drums loose and rattling.

</SPAN>

May 4 “big time” car show:</SPAN>

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May 9 cruise night:

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May 11 Cars & Coffee (an early morning thing, about 12 miles across town):</SPAN>

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May 16 cruise night:

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June 6 cruise night (found a '56 at this one):

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More in another post...

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Continuing...

June 8 Cars & Coffee:

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June 13 cruise night - from here on, we didn't attend as often as the weather heated up. Parked near the '56:

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July 18 cruise night:

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(July 29 - "Mater" arrives, but that's another story)

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August 29 Cruise night: Yes, the kids get to try the front seat until they can’t control the horn…

post-92541-143142244769_thumb.jpg</SPAN>

Sept 5 - my parents were in town, so all 6 of us rode in the '55 to the cruise night (no photos).

Sept 12 cruise night - not really a car photo, but the clouds were pretty unusual:

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Sept 19 cruise night - extreme flames on the next car over...

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Sept 26 Cruise night: The guy said the kids could get in. So my two and another two jumped right on that.</SPAN>

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Oct 3 Cruise night (nevermind the Volvo - I think they just work there):

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Oct 17 Cruise night - '55 down for a short (that I caused); took a daily driver.

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Edited by Eric W
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In some ways it was easier to buy a car already driving - someone else made the decisions to do that "nosed" "decked" and "shaved" stuff to it. On the other side, I might have left the original drive train especially for the rear suspension. As it is (we know well here), it's a total do-over to change out the Dynaflow+torque tube to any open driveline, and I'm not totally happy with how the open-drive rear end is located. It's got extremely short ladder bars (with the stock lateral link) which give almost no single-side bump capability - but the cornering is ridiculously flat for a car of this size. I think I would prefer a triangulated 4-bar to let the axle rotate more over single-side bumps.

The '56 - I'll have to look again next time I see it. He's got another car (or maybe cars) that he brings - a '55? Oldsmobile, so the Buick isn't always there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Car went in costume to the Halloween Cruise Night:

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What do you think - skirts, no skirts? They came with the car, so I don't feel bad that they're in the garage most all of the time. There are some side pipes as well...

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I agree with both of you - that I like the look better without, and that the wheel/tire style doesn't go as well with skirts as some others. But they came with the car, so I figured I'd try them on. And now that they're on there, they will probably stick around for a while... See who notices (if anyone) at the Cruise Night. At the big show this past weekend (652 cars), the car overall got favorable response. One person said it had their favorite flames of the whole show, and I probably could have sold it to at least one guy... Another guy who has seen it a bunch of times at the cruise night - didn't even realize it had flames, until seeing it during the daytime!

Looking back at the photos here, I should add one that shows the flames on the hood - y'all probably don't see them either...

Edited by Eric W
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Dig the flames not the skirts but thats just me and it aint my car. Put the lake pipes on so I can see if I want to add them too my Special. That smooth hood had to be a bunch of work looks nice. Do you have disc brakes just wondering how those cool wheels are mounted.

Edited by 3 Tone (see edit history)
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No disk brakes. Though I recently discovered Jamco Suspension has kitted up something along the lines of what Scarebird was providing brackets + parts-list for (everything needed for the brakes back to but not including the hard lines on the frame - on the original spindles). From there, a different master cylinder would be needed, and probably new hard lines as well because I've heard disk brakes work better with smaller diameter lines, drum systems are built with larger diameter lines - or was it the other way around. Might also need residual pressure check valves due to the low location of the master, but I'd have to do more research (or depend on experts) to make that call. And wouldn't you also want a vacuum accumulator so the brakes have 1 "push" left in them to hold the car still prior to starting?

For the wheels - this car has been converted to Chevy Small Block (350), T350 trans, open driveshaft, and later-model rear end. I was told it was an early 60's Buick rear end, but I'm not positive. What this means is the studs for the rear wheels are different diameter than the fronts. So what that means is there are 2 different sizes of lug nuts on this car. The rears require small spacers between the brake drum and wheel. I know, mechanically that's not a great option. But without the spacers, the wheel centers bottom out on the ends of the axles, and the brake drum is left rattling between the wheel and axle. On the fronts, the wheels were bored out to accept the larger-diameter stock stud size. So the wheels & tires are the same size front & back, but the wheels themselves can't be rotated front to back. And with radials on there, they can't be rotated side-to-side, so if I ever felt the need to rotate the tires, they would need to be pulled off the rims and swapped. As a 1x/week driver, though, I'm never going to wear out these tires before they "age out".

One other detail - my tire shop was adamant that I shouldn't have spacers on the car, so they actually pulled spacers out at all 4 wheels (in place by prior owners). It took me a little while to figure out why the back brakes were so noisy - brake drums "ring" as they bounce between the axle and wheel rim, but they do still work. On the fronts, when they pulled the spacers out, the wheel center caps bottomed out on the bearing dust caps, so I added spacers between the wheel center caps and the wheel - so as to not have spacers between the brake drum and wheel at the front. End effect - the back end track is about 3/4" wider than the front.

On the lake pipes - ok, maybe I'll hang them on there. The car is 3-4" lower than stock, and I haven't put the pipes on because that makes the already minimal ground clearance even worse. There's a railroad crossing between my house and my usual cruise night - might have to find a different way home... The way the roads are, it's easy to avoid the RR going to the cruise night, but the way back home is over the tracks - sounds weird, but that's just how it works with turn lanes / left turns / routing to avoid stop lights...

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I was wondring about the front conversion to studs and nuts from the stock bolt only setup. I changed my master cyl to a 70 Nova style mounted in the stock locaton and split the system front / rear it works fine and was pretty easy to do.

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I didn't do the change to the front drums. A local brake shop could probably set that up pretty easily. Since you just reminded me that my '55 has none of the stock wheel fasteners, what size thread are they? The fronts on mine are 9/16" thread - relatively large.

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