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1953 Buick Super: First Drive Since 1991


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I still cannot believe it, but last Saturday, our 1953 Buick Super added one mile to the odometer for the first time since 1991. Here's the quick version of the story: My grandfather bought the car in 1970. He owned it and maintained it until he passed away in 1985, a year before I was born. Until 1992, my dad was able to make fairly regular trips down to his mother's house to start the Buick up and drive it around for a mile or two. From 1992 to 2005, it sat untouched (except for my curiosity while visiting my grandmother). In 2005, my parents built a garage and we brought the Buick to our house. I did the necessary maintenance to get the Buick started again, but it did not have functioning brakes.

Until recently, I got busy with work and school and had not even started the Buick in a few years. Last month I was determined to get the Buick to the point of being drivable. I rebuilt the master cylinder and wheel cylinders, and decided to resolve the starting issues. It turns out that I somehow had the firing order screwed up, and also had the #1 plug marked 180 degrees out. After that, the Buick fired up beautifully. My friend Bob helped me solve the master cylinder rebuild issue, which was a faulty seal on the new piston (we put the seal from the old piston on the new piston and that fixed the problem). Then we bled the brakes in about 10 minutes.

I took the first drive since 1991, which was up and down the driveway a few times to circulate the fluid, and then Bob and I took turns driving it around the culdesac. I took a quick drive around the development for one mile. I had been waiting to drive this car since I was young...and the years since 2005 have just been torture, but now I really feel that I have accomplished something and made my grandfather proud.

The next project is to get the Mustang drivable again because I am moving away soon and I don't want to leave inoperable cars in the garage for an undetermined amount of time.

Here are a few pictures. Sorry about the lighting, it was right in the middle of the day and there wasn't anything I could do about the sun, especially with it shining off of that chrome and stainless trim. I vacuum the interior and cleaned the glass for the first time, and the Buick looks better than it has in the last 30 years.

By the way, this is a survivor with 41, 617 miles. Almost everything is original. It's not mint, but it is in wonderful condition for being 60 years old. Only necessary components like tune up parts, carburetor internals, battery cables, the fan belt, radiator hoses, thermostat and internal brake parts are new. It desperately needs new tires before any serious driving is done. By the way, what tire would you recommend? It currently has 7.60 x 15 bias plys. Altough new tires may be a few years away, I'm curious as to what is recommended, whether bias ply or radial. Big whitewalls are a must.

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emma can have either the 760-15, or 800-15 tires, i like keeping bias ply tires like the originals were, there are those in the old car hobby who swear by using radial ply tires, but i highly reconmend no to radials. the original wheels and suspension are engineered and set up for bias ply, not radial ply tires. some will say "oh the bias ply will follow every rain groove in the pavement", to that i say "so what", who controls the steering of the car, you or the rain groove ?. radial tuned suspension and wheels made for radials didn't appear untill the mid to late 1960's. emma looks great, have fun driving her. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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I've got to agree with Charles. I would recommend the bias ply tires. I had a set of radials on my '52 and a few days ago I had a set of bias ply 760x15's put on. World of difference! The ride is smoother and softer. The car has no power steering and I can turn it in parking lots a lot easier now. I've put between 300-400 miles on it in the last few days and so far the only negatives I've noticed are minimal. The bias tires make a little more noise than radials while taking curves. They also follow grooves in the road. But as Charles said, you are the one controlling the car. All you have to do is keep your hand on the wheel. Once you get used to it, it's not bad at all. I would never put a set of radials back on my car. It's bias ply's from here on out. By the way, congrats on getting your car drivable. I know the feeling. I've been working on mine for over two years and just got it back on the road a few days ago. Enjoy your beautiful Buick!

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Thanks, I hope to really enjoy it someday, but for a while it won't rack up many miles since I am moving away. I'll go with the bias plys when the time comes. I want to keep this car as original as possible. It's funny that you should mention the smell. It is my favorite smell in the world. I remember it from when I was a kid at my grandmother's house and I'd ask to go to the garage to see the Buick. I'd lift up the sheets that were covering it, open the door and get a huge whiff. Just sitting inside that car as a young kid, I knew it was special. It's a way to connect with my grandfather, even though I never met him. I use the same tools that he used on this car. Here's a shot of the little garage that my grandfather worked in, and where the Buick was kept for almost 35 years.

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Absolutely stunning car! I had almost the same experience with my 57 Roadmaster. My dad bought it in the early 70's and then it sat in storage from mid 70's (before I was born) until I got it out in 2008 and got it running and driving again. I used to admire it from time to time growing up, but didn't get to ride in it until I was 30! Now it stays in my garage and is fully operational again. In fact, taking it to one of the last cruises of the year in a few minutes! Be a good steward of that car and it will bring years of joy.

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Great story on a wonderful car, Justin. I have an original 53 Super Hardtop which is a lovely old thing. Is the colour of yours Verde Green?, it looks like the roof colour of my car. I agree with the crossply tyre recommendation too. Mine is on them, my 48 Cadillac is on radials. The Caddy is a bear to steer at low speeds and all the roadshocks get transferred through the car, although it steers better than the Buick. I will stay with crossplys on my 53.

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