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History of my 1937 Century


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Hi, I'm trying to find out more about the history of my car and have noticed that there are some very clever people on here who appear to be able to decipher some of the numbers to be found on a Buick. I have listed three numbers that I have found which are as follows :

Car Serial number (on a tag on the right rail behind the front wheel) - 3209272

Motor number (the term used in the 37 handbook) - 6 3473 910

Engine number(as above, from the handbook, found on the engine block) - GM 1297591-2

Can anyone enlighten me as to what these numbers can tell me ?

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Frame serial number:

3209272 = sequential number, range for 1937 was 2,999,497 to 3,219,843

Is there a letter at the beginning of the frame serial number? (a C at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at South Gate, CA; an L at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at Linden, NJ; and no letter at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at Flint, MI)

Engine serial number:

63473910

6 = Series 60 (Century)

3473910 = sequential number, range for 1938 was 3,396,937 to 3,572,651

The body tag on the cowl contains more information, so post that if you can.

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Frame serial number:

3209272 = sequential number, range for 1937 was 2,999,497 to 3,219,843

Is there a letter at the beginning of the frame serial number? (a C at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at South Gate, CA; an L at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at Linden, NJ; and no letter at the beginning of the frame serial number means the car was built at Flint, MI)

Engine serial number:

63473910

6 = Series 60 (Century)

3473910 = sequential number, range for 1938 was 3,396,937 to 3,572,651

The body tag on the cowl contains more information, so post that if you can.

The frame serial number has the letters 'SER' preceding it but no actual letter in front of the number itself. Forgive my ignorance but can you give me a bit more info on where to locate the body tag ?

I should have explained that I am researching this history because the car was sold to me as a McLaughlin Buick and I have always been suspicious that it was a USA built car converted to right hand drive. The guys in Canada have not recognised any of the numbers, and you have, so that confirms it. They also said to count the number of nuts on the wheels - 5 meaning USA and 6 meaning Canada - there are 5. I will send you the extra information as soon as I can. Thanks for you help.

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Definitely not a Canadian built car. Going by '39's they have a different frame & engine number sequence. For '39 Canadian Buick’s have 922xxxxx frame & W4xxxx engine numbers. As a guess W = Walkerville Ontario.

The body data plate is about 150 mm x 100 mm and above the (RHD) steering column on the firewall.

Flint did build RHD cars & RHD components. Other RHD drive markets were Argentina (RHD at that time), India, New Zealand, Australia, Rhodesia & South Africa. In Australia locally designed & manufactured bodies were put imported frames. 1939 Flint/Fisher Buick’s assembled in New Zealand from components do not have a body data plate.

There is a German guy in Christchurch, New Zealand who has a business exporting cars to UK & Europe. Very slight chance your car may be 1 of those. There are also private imports into UK. Due to the political-financial situation in South Africa exporting cars has been a way to get money out. Several ex RSA cars here in Australia/NZ

Edited by 1939_buick
formatting (see edit history)
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I've attached some pictures of US frame serial number plates and body tags from US and Canadian cars. As indicated, the body tag should be on the firewall under the hood. The frame serial number plate should not have the letters SER on it. It should have the Buick logo and then be followed by a C, L, or a 3. On LHD cars, the frame serial number plate is riveted to the side of the frame behind the front passenger side tire, don't know about RHD cars. Post pictures of both tags if you can.

For 1935-1964 Canadian serial numbers, the first digit is the last digit of the model year (7 for 1937), the second digit is the division (4=Buick), the third digit is the car series (4=Series 40/Special, 6=Series 60/Century, ect.), the forth and fifth digits indicate the body style, and the remainder of the digits vary by model year and build plant but are a sequential number or the number of engine cylinders (1955-1957 only, and all 8 cylinder) and a sequential number. 1965-1966 are similar and 1967 and later use the same format as in the US.

post-44481-143142457743_thumb.jpg

post-44481-143142457745_thumb.jpg

post-44481-143142457746_thumb.jpg

post-44481-143142457749_thumb.jpg

Edited by sean1997 (see edit history)
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In one of the pictures of the firewall you can see the rivets for the body tag, but the actual tag is missing. The frame serial number tag seems to have been redone. Perhaps all of that is related to the RHD conversion.

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I had this reply from a Buick enthusiast who lives in England. I hope no one takes offence at some of the remarks, but it does seem to explain a lot about my car :

"This is relatively good news for you as US wheels will fit yours and you have more chances in the US in finding some. ONLY the Century had these!

Let me give you a little Buick history. Buick bought out McLaughlins factory in Oshawa for the very purpose of sending cars to Commonwealth county's and avoiding import tax's

They built the standard small and large series cars there in right hand drive and only sedans for Africa. Aus and anywhere else that drove on the left. Generally speaking they built these cars from the rubbish that Flint no longer needed. When Buick produced a new model with new mechanics all the old stuff went up to Oshawa for them to carry on putting it in Commonwealth cars that they didnt really care about (We would put up with anything)

Now we come to the complicated bit, as they were only building the small and big series sedans they still had to offer to the British the cars in the middle series and those with non sedan bodies. To get around the import duties whole cars were shipped up to Oshawa, converted to right hand drive, had some badges stuck on and sold around the Commonwealth.

Yours is NOT a car converted afterwards but converted in Oshawa before sale. Centurys were not made there so this is what they had to do. Had it been built there it would have still had 35/6 running gear and six lug wheels with reverse threads."

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The car may have been converted to RHD at Oshawa, but I think the part about the Century not being built in Canada is incorrect because here are a few serial numbers of 1937 Century's built at:

746110256

746110509

746190110

746190161

746190380

746190414

746190616

746670313

746671647

These frame serial numbers use the standard GM of Canada format rather than the US format like your car.

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I had this reply from a Buick enthusiast who lives in England. I hope no one takes offence at some of the remarks, but it does seem to explain a lot about my car :

"This is relatively good news for you as US wheels will fit yours and you have more chances in the US in finding some. ONLY the Century had these!

Let me give you a little Buick history. Buick bought out McLaughlins factory in Oshawa for the very purpose of sending cars to Commonwealth county's and avoiding import tax's

They built the standard small and large series cars there in right hand drive and only sedans for Africa. Aus and anywhere else that drove on the left. Generally speaking they built these cars from the rubbish that Flint no longer needed. When Buick produced a new model with new mechanics all the old stuff went up to Oshawa for them to carry on putting it in Commonwealth cars that they didnt really care about (We would put up with anything)

Now we come to the complicated bit, as they were only building the small and big series sedans they still had to offer to the British the cars in the middle series and those with non sedan bodies. To get around the import duties whole cars were shipped up to Oshawa, converted to right hand drive, had some badges stuck on and sold around the Commonwealth.

Yours is NOT a car converted afterwards but converted in Oshawa before sale. Centurys were not made there so this is what they had to do. Had it been built there it would have still had 35/6 running gear and six lug wheels with reverse threads."

Wow! Great info Jon.

Explains why our Canadian made, New Zealand assembled 1939 Chevrolets had heaps of 37-38 parts in them, not counting the local content percentage required by NZ law at the time.

Cheers

Grant

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The car may have been converted to RHD at Oshawa, but I think the part about the Century not being built in Canada is incorrect because here are a few serial numbers of 1937 Century's built at:

746110256

< snip >

I have doubts on the accuracy of this story. Agree the car in question was not built Canada or converted LHD/RHD in Canada. Conversion is a big task involving the steering, brakes, wiring, dash and very significantly the clutch/bell housing. The GM Flint parts books list RHD parts.

I have inspected RHD Buick’s in Australia, New Zealand, England and Southern African. England has imported McLaughlin. For others they seem to use the Flint numbering system and 5 studs (not 6 studs). In some countries locally assembled. If the components were shipped via Canada to minimise taxes or if parts only direct from USA had lesser taxes in unknown. In general complete cars from non commonwealth had a higher import tax into Aust/NZ and probably South Africa. I know of 1 only 1930's McLaughlin Buick in NZ. None in Australia where, contrary to above, Buick’s local bodies were made and are different to Flint. In Australia Martin & King (and others?) built bodies for some senior series but some senior series were probably imported Carryover of some parts – engine to the next model year do doubt occurred in the local assembly operations.

746110256. My decoding is 7=1937, 4611=model type as USA, 0256=guess this is a sequential serial number.

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I had this reply from a Buick enthusiast who lives in England. I hope no one takes offence at some of the remarks, but it does seem to explain a lot about my car :

...They built the standard small and large series cars there in right hand drive and only sedans for Africa. Aus and anywhere else that drove on the left. Generally speaking they built these cars from the rubbish that Flint no longer needed. ...."

I'd take Flint rubbish anytime over the Empire's Lucas poor excuse for electricals.

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Canadian law requires documentation be kept on all cars built or sold new in Canada, so you can get documentation from GM of Canada for a fee (production numbers only for 1939 and earlier):

http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/shopping/parts/vintage

Attached are some reference materials.

1939-1942 Parts for GM of Canada Vehicles.pdf

1928-1936 Canadian Data Book.pdf

1937-1952 Sanford Evans Data Book.pdf

Catalog of Canadian Car ID Numbers.pdf

MBCC Accelerator March-April 1982 Volume 11 Issue 5.pdf

MBCC Accelerator May-June 1985 Volume 14 Issue 6.pdf

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I'd take Flint rubbish anytime over the Empire's Lucas poor excuse for electricals.
All Buick's I have seen, no matter what country, have USA Delco (*) electrics: not the prince of darkness electric's.

[ * = IIRC pre war Buicks made in Australia used Bosch electric wipers (not vacuum) ]

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Well I do seem to have rattled a few cages with that last post, although I claim no responsibility for it ! I'm certainly not suggesting any sense of superiority one way or the other. After all, I am a great Buick fan otherwise I wouldn't be here. However, I'm not too sure what conclusions I can draw from all the contributions so far - looks like my car is a Flint manufactured one. I have found the registration document and that states that the first date of registration was 13-08-1937 so I think the RHD conversion was definitely done prior to import here. I'll try the links to GM of Canada in case they can throw any more light on the matter. Thanks to all for the responses to date.

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. I have found the registration document and that states that the first date of registration was 13-08-1937 so I think the RHD conversion was definitely done prior to import here..
In my view your car (and 1000's of others) was made RHD from new and not converted. Converting a car LHD to RHD is a massive amount of work with many new RHD parts needed. Look at the clutch - pedal assembly.

Was your car registered from new in UK? August is very late in the model year.

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All Buick's I have seen, no matter what country, have USA Delco (*) electrics: not the prince of darkness electric's.

[ * = IIRC pre war Buicks made in Australia used Bosch electric wipers (not vacuum) ]

I know that Delco was used in every GM product and even some non GM products. If what Flint makes is rubbish, what you would call Lucas?

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I know that Delco was used in every GM product and even some non GM products. If what Flint makes is rubbish, what you would call Lucas?

:confused: :confused: :confused: Who is saying Flint makes rubbish?

But on all the cars I have had with Lucas electrics (aka Prince of Darkness) never had any issues.

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Hi,

This thread seems to be getting somewhat off topic. Lest it continues into a downhill slide I think the whole Flint rubbish began in post number 9 by an anonymous Buick fan in England reposted by Jon Barker. Neither Delco nor Lucas were mentioned. References to the Prince of Darkness was introduced later.

Carl

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Hi,

This thread seems to be getting somewhat off topic. Lest it continues into a downhill slide I think the whole Flint rubbish began in post number 9 by an anonymous Buick fan in England reposted by Jon Barker. Neither Delco nor Lucas were mentioned. References to the Prince of Darkness was introduced later.

Carl

There is now a sad update to all this. The car has been taken to the Buick expert who posted the contentious note a while back. The car is definitely not Canadian and was not converted to RHD before it got here. It has been bodged in an almighty fashion e.g. there is some weird arrangement with the clutch which was not altered during conversion, the upholstery and interior generally are all wrong, the steering column isn't even a Buick column and the wiring is downright dangerous. It would cost me more than it is worth to get it put right. A salutory lesson to anyone like me who loves these cars but doesn't have any idea about them. I cannot sell the car as I couldn't lie to a prospective buyer as I was lied to. It will be scrapped on its return and that, I'm afraid, is the end of my association with old cars and with this site. Needless to say my savings are wiped out so there's no chance of getting another (and I wouldn't dare to). Thanks for all the help from people out there who, unlike me, know what they're talking about.

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Hi Jon,

THAT'S TERRIBLE. I'm very sorry to hear about the car being "bodged" up. I hope you don't rush to have the car scrapped out. I understand it is devastating to get that kind of news, but all might not be lost. If the clutch and steering function you should be able to enjoy the car as a driver. Wiring could probably be done in sections. Just because the upholstery and interior "isn't right" doesn't mean you can't enjoy the car by driving it. Many of us in the hobby don't have deep enough pockets to restore a car, but that doesn't stop us from driving them and enjoying them even if they might be a little funky. From the little bit that can be viewed from the pictures, the car looks salvageable. Please take time and weigh options before making any decisions.

Carl

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Don't do anything drastic! Things may not be as grim as you think. First, attend to the safety issues. See what needs to be done with the wiring. It's not really very complicated on these old machines. Get a 37 shop manual and the parts books and run thru it and see what is different. Do not worry about your interior at this point. I have a Naugahyde interior and at this point I am fine with it. Then break the work down into tasks and prioritize. Do as much as you can yourself. You have a great resource here in this forum, we are here to help as we can.

Cheers Dave

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Another update now that I have calmed down and come to my senses. I have discovered a great guy over here who knows these cars inside out and is now working on all the essential repairs to make the car roadworthy. Our conclusion is that this is a Flint car, imported to England at an unknown time but as a left hand-drive. Someone did a rather patchy RHD conversion leaving the clutch mechanism as it was but incorporating a weird set of levers from the pedal to enable the clutch to still work. We have decided that the car is definitely worth saving so it is currently undergoing a total rewire, brake overhaul and a load of other things which need attention. At the end of this I will have a useable if not totally authentic Buick. It has cost me more than it should have but really that's my fault and I wouldn't make the same mistake again. I'm glad so many people talked sense into me as I would hate to part with the car. Hopefully my rash outburst is understandable to other members - I will post some more photos of the car when it's back on the road and any more we can find out about its rather mysterious history. The dealer who would know some of these details has vanished !

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Jon:

Outstanding! Things always look better after you sleep on them some. I almost gave up on mine a while back but the encouragement on this forum kept me going. And look at it this way - you will have a very unique car and one heckuva conversation starter at car shows.

Cheers, Dave

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Jon we could all understand the frustration in your earlier post. Although it might not be totally "authentic" I hope the two of you have many enjoyable miles together. After all they were made to be driven. Looking forward to seeing those pictures and good luck.

Carl

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The forum has been invaluable both for technical know-how and the encouragement I have received. Never thought I'd find some Buick fanatics in this country as well ! Many thanks to all who supplied the support - I would have been devastated not to have got it right. Will provide more when I get it back.

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Another update now that I have calmed down and come to my senses. I have discovered a great guy over here who knows these cars inside out and is now working on all the essential repairs to make the car roadworthy. Our conclusion is that this is a Flint car, imported to England at an unknown time but as a left hand-drive. Someone did a rather patchy RHD conversion leaving the clutch mechanism as it was but incorporating a weird set of levers from the pedal to enable the clutch to still work. We have decided that the car is definitely worth saving so it is currently undergoing a total rewire, brake overhaul and a load of other things which need attention. At the end of this I will have a useable if not totally authentic Buick. It has cost me more than it should have but really that's my fault and I wouldn't make the same mistake again. I'm glad so many people talked sense into me as I would hate to part with the car. Hopefully my rash outburst is understandable to other members - I will post some more photos of the car when it's back on the road and any more we can find out about its rather mysterious history. The dealer who would know some of these details has vanished !

Considering the circumstances it may well be worth your while ( not to mention safer ) to return the vehicle to its original LHD configuration.

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  • 6 months later...

A later update to the saga of this car, but a more upbeat one. The rewiring and brake overhaul is complete along with other alterations such as removing the ugly semaphores and the mirrors on the spare wheel covers. A new battery also was required. It is now awaiting a new exhaust manifold, which has just arrived here from the US, as the existing one is leaking badly and has been patched up in the past. Hopefully that will make a big difference. I have taken the car to three shows this summer and, as you can imagine, it attracts a lot of attention as these Buicks are not too common in England, especially in the far south west where I am. I also drove it down to Lands End and got some good photos, one of which is now in my member gallery. Thanks again for all the help and encouragement as it has really paid off and I can look forward to more fun driving next year.

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Hi Jon,

Thanks for the update. I'm glad you have taken on the challenge to keep the old girl on the road and are enjoying the attention and joy of driving her. You have joined the ranks of many of us who enjoy the cars and accept the fact work and money need to be invested, but the joy is the car and the hobby.

Carl

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Hi Jon,

Thanks for the update. I'm glad you have taken on the challenge to keep the old girl on the road and are enjoying the attention and joy of driving her. You have joined the ranks of many of us who enjoy the cars and accept the fact work and money need to be invested, but the joy is the car and the hobby.

Carl

Carl, I couldn't agree more. In fact, although I have little experience of addiction, I think that may be the word I would use to describe my relationship with the Buick! But I have learnt (and spent) a lot in the last year and it has only served to encourage me. There is simply no substitute for these type of cars.

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