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Newbie with a 1957 Buick Super


COMPRESSION
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Hello Buick owners! I am very new to American classic cars and thought I would jump in here. I recently happened upon a 1957 Buick Super 4-door hardtop for a smokin' deal and decided to enter into this realm of automobile history that I have never been in before.

I have posted a bunch of pictures on my Flickr account here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/31536204@N00/sets/72157644211511872/

Anyway, I have lots of automotive experience restoring/modifying import cars, the oldest car I have ever restored being from the early 70's and also Japanese.

The condition of the Buick is very good (in my opinion) it was running/driving as recently as 1988. We poured a small amount of gas into the carb and it fired up INSTANTLY and ran for about 1 second.

I am not interested in a full 10-point restoration. My goal is to make an as-is cruiser and nit-pick at it over time as free time allows.

I have full welding capability (TIG and MIG), machine shop access, etc. So I should have the tools needed to do just about anything.

Phase one of the project is to get the engine running. It is a stock 364 Nailhead V8, 2-barrel carb, electric choke, automatic trans, torque tube.

I recently pulled out the fuel tank and I am in the process of cleaning it inside and out and resealing it. Once the fuel system is squared away with all new parts/hoses, I will move on to the engine oil system and cooling system.

With Fuel/oil/Coolant systems refreshed and primed, I will fire it up.

Phase two will be drivetrain function. Transmission/driveline/rear end/etc.

Phase three will be suspension/brakes/steering/wheel ends/wheels & tires with end goal being road worthy and driving.

Do you guys(and gals) have any potential pitfalls to watch out when dealing with a 50's Buick?

What are some things a newbie like me should know?

Any tips in general?

THANKS!!

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Compression, you've found a '57 Buick in my favorite color scheme for these cars! Congratulations on your purchase.

Are those Washington plates on the car? I'm asking, in part, because I test drove a '57 Super 4-door hardtop in this exact color scheme probably 25 or more years ago in Bellingham, Washington. I'm wondering, of course, whether this might possibly be the same car, and I have often been curious regarding the fate of that particular car.

If you are located here in Washington, there is a very strong Buick community, and we can help point you to some excellent resources.

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Brian,

The map on flicker indicates just outside Vancouver, WA. Car also has a BCA decal.

Compression, you should join the BCA and check elsewhere on the BCA website. The National is coming to Portland in July. Hope we se you there (now you have some pressure to get in running well.)

John

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Looks like you found a nice original car!!

Change the engine oil and filter frequently for the first few times. And add a quart of ATF 100 miles before each change.

Drain, clean with brake-cleaner, and refill the rear end. If the oil looks red, you have a problem that can ruin the ring and pinion quickly and expensively.

Are brakes self-adjusting in '57? If not, follow the factory service manual to the letter for adjusting the brakes.

Have fun, and welcome!

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Note that the valve guides and seats are already hardened at the factory and generally do not need to be replaced. Replacing them can be tricky due to thin construction between head and coolant passages in this area.

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Hello COMPRESSION and welcome to the Forums!

I really had to look twice at your car as I thought my friend had finally sold his Super!

Then I realized yours has the yellow bottom but.... otherwise his has the identical all body colour and interior like yours (way back here in the east).

Hope you will take in the Nationals being so close to you this year (too far for me) and meet this gang who most will be more than willing to guide you along.

Get her running, drive her and ENJOY!

50`S BUICKS ARE FANTASTIC ROAD CARS!

Here is a shot of my friend's Super back in 1983.

post-36036-143142479761_thumb.jpg

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Compression: Great find. Get a Shop Manual. When you get to the front suspension work, don't get too concerned if the ball joints feel "loose". This is Buick's first ball joint suspension. Pay attention to the tolerances specified in the Shop Manual. Subsequent Service Bulletins reminded mechanics about what was considered normal. The ball joints are unique to 1957, hard to find and expensive when found. Many joints have been needlessly replaced as they just don't seem to feel as tight as later designs. Enjoy your car.

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Thanks for all the welcome messages!

The car is from the SW Washington state area. I live in the Portland area.

Please note that I am writing down all the tips you guys have already generously offered.

I do have a service manual that came with the car, it's an old musty book, but I will look to it for info.

Where can I find more info on "The National"?

It would be nothing short of a miracle if it was running/driving my July. That will depend on my finances and free time (I dont have enough of either!).

Anyone have a good source for window and door rubber seals or a universal weatherstrip material that works? They are all pretty much gone on this car.

Thanks again!

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Hey Compression,

Welcome aboard.

You really ought to try and get to this years National even if you drive your wife's Honda. It is very rarely as close as a few hours. With that said, new weatherstrip won't make too much of a difference in driveability. That may sound snarky, but get the car stopping first. THEN running. After that, you can worry about solid weatherstripping.

But...

Check out www.bobsautomobilia.com if you need weatherstripping. :)

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Thank you all very much for the information!! Like stated earlier, I am new to this realm, but I absorb this information like a sponge.

Its kind of funny that in the same evening I am working on a 2006 Lotus Elise with an aftermarket turbocharger kit and stand-alone programmable engine management system, and then a few hours later I am totally stumped figuring out how vacuum-powered wipers work on a 57 year old car. I love the diversity!

The buick service manual was a great read the other evening, I was amused to learn how the crankcase venitlation system works, I was wondering what that metal pipe on the front of the motor was for!

I guess this is many years before the PCV valve was invented. So cool!

Should I remove the flapper valve in the passenger side exhaust manifold? I read in the manual that it forces exhaust to cross over the engine and warm up the intake manifold. Then opens up as the manifold heats up. But I am going to guess that the flapper is non operational at this time, based on how it looks.....any negatives for removing it?

I am finding that selecting the "right" wheels for this car is going to be a challenge.... Wheel Vintiques makes some good options...anyway more shopping and research to do!

I will keep working away at it and will post more photos to the Flickr site as I make progress.

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Compression,

Welcome to the world of 1957 Buickville! and Just plain old Buickville! The guys on the forum are great, and a ton of help. Trust me there, I started with a project like yours - 1957 Buick Special, and in 3 years turned it into a Senior Gold at the 2012 Buick Nationals - All with the help of these guys right here.

If you have specific questions on the 1957, there are a number of us here that can assist you with some deep dives on subject regarding the car that are not apparent in the shop or product manuals, but have been borne out of our experiences working on these babies.

As for the "flapper" valve - spray it diligently with PB Blaster daily for a month or so, and every so often, tap the shaft with a hammer to attempt to loosen it up. Mine was frozen like that, seemed solid, but after a while, it finally broke free and is working well today. Just need patience and a big can of PB Blaster.

Also, if you are interested, I had a running post of how I restored my car in my driveway. http://forums.aaca.org/showthread.php?t=294509. It does go through a pretty thorough process on what I did to my car.

Congrats on owning a Buick Beauty! You will love her, but treat her well. Feel free to ask any question at any time. We're all here to help.

Also, you really should join the BCA. Great group of guys, and this year, the Buick Nationals are in Portland Oregon, right in your back yard! You should attend. Hope to hear from you soon and Congrats again!

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COMP, many years ago I had a '57 Roadmaster in the same colours - Garnet Red over Antique Ivory, with a similar salmon pink and white interior. Excellent combination. Good luck with your project. You've come to the right place for advice and encouragement.

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Welcome to the club! There are plenty of Buick 57 folks on here to help out. Join the BCA, Buick Club of America. Nice find! I like your side view mirrors. I haven't seen those before. I wonder if they are a factory accessory? Anyone know if they are? Mine are attached to the doors and the right side mirror isn't worth a pinch of poop! The 57 is a stylish year that my wife, I, and the kids love to just jump in and enjoy the ride to the park, ice cream, or whatever.

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Hello Compression;

Welcome to Buick World. Glad to see you are taking care of this beautiful Super.! I spent the winter working on my '57 Century. Like you, work started on the fuel system, resealing gas tank, new sending unit, new fuel line and painting of tank. Before the new dual exhaust was put on, the underside was wire brushed,painted with POR15 and undercoated. The previous owner had painted the solid floor pan with rust proofing before installing new carpet. I also had the master brake cylinder rebuilt and the 4bbl carburetor rebuilt too. The carb starter switch is hard to find if your is broken like mine was. A starter switch was then placed under the dash for convenience. The bakelite ones on the carb itself just don't last. I am going to paint my headliner this weekend (weather permitting) and I will post the outcome of that on the forum. Someone recommended SEM brand vinyl paints would work. I have cleaned the headliner with the SEM brand prep-cleaner and have got the paint. I hope to cover the stains on my otherwise perfect headliner.

My Century runs well with 72,000 miles on it. The transmission works great and does not leak. The next project is the suspension. I have purchased new coils, tie- rod ends and want to put on new shocks. As already mentioned, watch out for the ball-joints. First year for these and only year for this model. This forum has lots of information on them in past posts.

I have studied the procedure for replacing the A-arms from a 58-60 Buick to replace the '57ones. Cheaper ball joints for 58-60. If you want to get rebuilt ball joints for the '57 it will set you back about $1400-$1600. That is my next project. I have no idea how old mine are and the condition seems ok for now. I am also going to work on the horn this weekend. Another good place to find parts is "fusick.com". Looks like your chrome is good with the extra rear bumper. Hope I have helped in some way. We are all anxious to hear of your progress. JR.

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UPDATE: Fuel tank is installed and new fuel hose is run. I used a Classic Instruments universal GM fuel level sender. It is adjustable and I got to mount in the tank just fine. It was about $40 off Summit Racing. It has the correct resistance range for the gauge.

Here is a picture of the fuel level sender:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/31536204@N00/13940928979/

Oil and filter are changed (oil looked somewhat descent shape). I added some Sea Foam for some cleansing action. I will change the oil again after initial firing. I chose a Castrol high mileage oil that has boosted ZDDP content (zinc). The inside of the rocker covers look fairly clean as well, I saw no signs of things worth worrying about.

I plan to test fire it in a week or so. Can someone please tell me how to start the car? How does the accelerator starter interlock work? I have no idea....

Do I need to put an additive in with the new gasoline?

I have started a side project of restoring the tail lights. Can anyone direct me to new gaskets for the lenses? See picture:

auhx8w.jpg

Also, any other hints/tips/tricks on restoring these lights? the bulb sockets need to be replaced for sure. The lenses themselves are in good shape.

THANK YOU FOR ALL THE NOTES AND INFO!!

post-100443-143142517181_thumb.jpg

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For Gasoline(methanol blend) I add 4 ounces of Marvel Mystery Oil, to a full tank. Others complain of vapor lock... Mine hasn't vapor locked with Marvel Mystery Oil.

For new tail light gaskets ; try

CARS old Buick parts

FUSIK auto parts

Rock Auto parts

I got sockets and bulbs at NAPA ... my original were pressed in brass pieces. I was able to make do with some steel sockets that slipped into place. They're working well after ten years.

For the reflectors, white paint seems to reflect better than silver paint....

Edited by bhambulldog (see edit history)
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Hello Newbie;

Buick cars with the "carburetor vacuum starter switch" often have problems. Mine was cracked and a replacement impossible to find for my rebuilt Rochester carb.on my '57. I had a dash mounted switch installed. Fifthaveinternetgarage.com has technical tips for everything including" Buicks with vacuum starter switches" mounted on the throttle body of the carb. Also there have been posts here in the past about a- '60 LeSabre carburetor piece". My favorite article was also from ..southernwheels.com. April 06. A whole page on the accelorator vacuum switch. Check out their archives!! Hope these articles help you get yours started. JR

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regards the carb mounted starter switch, note that this switch is mechanical, not vacuum, for the starting process. Within the switch there is a ball bearing that rides on a "cam" on the throttle shaft. That ball bearing pushes a "plunger" which has an electrical conductor attached. The electrical conductor makes contact with two "points" in the cap of the switch to complete the electrical circuit that activates the starter.

The vacuum comes into play after the car is started. Vacuum in the carb pulls that ball bearing into a passage in the base of the switch and that holds the ball away from the cam on the throttle shaft as long as the engine is running. This is one fail safe so that the plunger does not complete the electrical circuit to the starter.

There is a second fail safe to prevent starter activation while the engine is running. I can't explain the parts or theory but in practical application, as long as the generator is producing output, the wiring system is set up so that even if the plunger completed the circuit, the starter will not engage while the generator is running. This is fully explained in the manual, but I am not well versed enough to write it here from memory.

At any rate, both systems are VERY reliable. And were in use for numerous years. My 56's is still performing with it's original switch. Problems may be caused on 56 models by removing the switch for cleaning and then two things: Installing the switch upside down, and attempts to lubricate the plunger. The manual for 56 says contact grease for the points at the cap, not for the shaft where the plunger rides. I cannot vouch for what the 57 manual states.

The switches are "timed" by the use of shims between the plunger and the contact attached.

If it were me, I would not remove that switch until I tried it, and verified it was not completing the circuit. It should complete the circuit and activate the starter when you push the gas pedal about 3/4 the way down.

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Thanks for the info guys.

Regarding the tail light gaskets, I think I found a complete set from the www.taillightking.com

Side note: It is amazing how E-commerce has not really caught on for a lot of the companies that I am encountering with this project. Mail a check? Heck, I dont even have a checkbook! Request a catalog to be mailed to me? Why can I not see the products online?

Amusing, and kind of a pain in the butt.

Anyway, thanks for the info on the carb and starting. I have some research to do.

Here are pictures of the carb on the car. Can anyone offer insights to what I am looking at?

dwrnh1.jpg

1zoi63l.jpg

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post-54279-143142518836_thumb.jpgThe throttle return springs are wrong. There should be only one and it should be shorter than the one shown connected at the correct hole on the vertical throttle rod. A shorter spring should connect from there to a small hole in the coil holder bracket.

Dan

1957 Roadmaster

Edited by Caballero2 (see edit history)
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I am surprised at the mount for that starter switch. Please keep in mind that the operation I described above pertains to the 56. It may pertain to the 57 but I cannot say for certain, and with the switch on that angle, I would recommend reviewing that section of your manual.

I might also suggest that without the choke stove pipe, vacuum may be reduced and cause problems.

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Gentlemen,

I am going to use my holiday weekend wisely...with the Buick. After spending last weekend replacing headgaskets on a Subaru, I think I am rested up enough to tackle the Nailhead.

I plan to attempt to start it this weekend.

I am armed with a case of fresh oil, 3 cans of Sea Foam, new spark plugs (gapped at .033"), starting fluid, and a freshly charged battery.

I will let you know what happens, and hopefully I will take a video of this thing running!

Wish me luck!

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regards the carb mounted starter switch, note that this switch is mechanical, not vacuum, for the starting process. Within the switch there is a ball bearing that rides on a "cam" on the throttle shaft. That ball bearing pushes a "plunger" which has an electrical conductor attached. The electrical conductor makes contact with two "points" in the cap of the switch to complete the electrical circuit that activates the starter.

The vacuum comes into play after the car is started. Vacuum in the carb pulls that ball bearing into a passage in the base of the switch and that holds the ball away from the cam on the throttle shaft as long as the engine is running. This is one fail safe so that the plunger does not complete the electrical circuit to the starter.

There is a second fail safe to prevent starter activation while the engine is running. I can't explain the parts or theory but in practical application, as long as the generator is producing output, the wiring system is set up so that even if the plunger completed the circuit, the starter will not engage while the generator is running. This is fully explained in the manual, but I am not well versed enough to write it here from memory.

At any rate, both systems are VERY reliable. And were in use for numerous years. My 56's is still performing with it's original switch. Problems may be caused on 56 models by removing the switch for cleaning and then two things: Installing the switch upside down, and attempts to lubricate the plunger. The manual for 56 says contact grease for the points at the cap, not for the shaft where the plunger rides. I cannot vouch for what the 57 manual states.

The switches are "timed" by the use of shims between the plunger and the contact attached.

If it were me, I would not remove that switch until I tried it, and verified it was not completing the circuit. It should complete the circuit and activate the starter when you push the gas pedal about 3/4 the way down.

Nice Explanation !!

I would add, when cold starting do not push the pedal further than needed for cranking. Pushing the pedal all the way down will de-activate the choke

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Also, any other hints/tips/tricks on restoring these lights? the bulb sockets need to be replaced for sure. The lenses themselves are in good shape.

THANK YOU FOR ALL THE NOTES AND INFO!!

After watching this video, I was able to get all the lamps on my Riviera working like new again. I can R&R bulbs just like they're designed.

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Well, I was able to spend some time working on the car this last weekend.

After pouring a bit of gas down the carb, I turned the ignition to "on" and pressed the gas pedal.....Nothing!

So, after some time monkey'ing trying to figure out how to get the engine to crank over, I ended up just touching the starter solenoid wire to a +12V hot lead.

After about 5 seconds of cranking, the thing fired to life!!

Oh the glory! Oh wait! what is that puddle on the ground under the engine?

That would be the brand new oil I just poured in.

I shut it off after about 10 seconds of running and there was a huge oil leak in the area of the oil filter housing. Probably put 2 to 3 quarts on to the ground. I must not have put it back on correcty after changing the filter....although cant figure out why. The gasket was in place in the long bolt was tight, so who knows.....

I will get that fixed and fire it up again. So good to hear it run.

I am not a fan of the oil filter housing design.....what mess.

Does anyone have a modern screw-on oil filter conversion they can sell me?

I understand that some other model/years of Buick had a screw-on style filter mount that will bolt on to this 364 nailhead....?

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There are 3 possibilities. The most common is: part of the old gasket in the groove above the housing is still in place.

The next is the gasket between the filter housing and the block is damaged. This is unlikely cause it is a steel stamped gasket.

Third is the seal/gasket at the bottom of the filter housing. Least likey if there was any old oil in the filter housing when you first removed it.

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Also make sure your oil pressure sending tube is installed. It will gush oil if missing.

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Thanks guys. Old oil filter gasket was completely intact when removed. New gasket is seating nicely in the proper location.

I completely cleaned out the filter housing before installing new element. Bottom of filter housing, where bolt head is, is not the leak location, it is coming from up higher.

Oil pressure fitting is in place.

I think I need to put the filter back on (carefully) and then have someone start the car while I poke my head down there and see where it is leaking from.

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Before replacing look at the canister impression in the gasket. They can leak if not centered carefully when tightened. These things are messy even when they don't leak, but they have twice the filtering capacity of a spin on and you have the opportunity to look in the bottom of the canister for foreign material at each oil change.

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Spin on filters were created because they were cheaper for the manufacturer.

Not because they are any better.

For me the canister is much easier to remove. A boxed end wrench is much easier to manipulate than the clumsy filter wrench.

And, the same effort to install.

A spin on filter is not immune to problems...

Changing to spin on,

would be changing for the sake of change

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