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Archaeologist Needs Help Identifying Early Buick Car


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Hello everyone,

I'm new to these forums so please bear with me. I'm an archaeologist working in Northern Ontario and I've recently located an old Buick (or at least the engine is a Buick) in a swamp (photos below). Since I'm not knowledgeable with cars, I'm reaching out to this community in hope that I can draw on your knowledge of old Buick engines and cars in order to identify the make/model and year to help us better understand the archaeological heritage site where we're working. Any information (literally ANY information) about the car and the car's history would help us out greatly.

A little back story before I get to the specifics about the car:

Along a river in Northern Ontario (sorry I can't get more specific, but the nature of our work requires a degree of discretion for the time being), there used to be a large set of rapids spanning nearly 6 miles. As you may or may not know, First Nations people and other folks travelling along rivers could not canoe safely down rapids, thus necessitating portaging around them. The travellers would then pack up all their gear, grab their canoes, and walk down a side trail along the river until they bypassed the rapids. On this particular river, the Hudson's Bay Company had set up a trading post or storehouse where they could keep their goods temporarily and trade them with the native people up and down the river. However, hauling large amounts of gear such as barrels, furs, trade objects, foods, tools, bottles, and whatever else would have been traded would have been very difficult for a 6 mile distance. To make the portaging of the supplies faster and easier, horses would have been used to pull carts along the portage. We located the now-overgrown trail and followed it to the trading post, then down towards a swamp where the goods would have been unloaded from the carts, loaded into canoes, and subsequently paddled down the river towards Hudson's Bay. Here's an example of what I'm talking about (map is not exact):

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We thought we were dealing only with a horse cart path, but when we got down to the swamp, we found some metal sticking out of the water. We cleared away some vegetation and it turns out we had a car frame! The engine was still sticking out of the water along with some other car parts. There was a corduroy road leading to the spot where the goods would have been loaded into the canoes and brought up down river. This car had been used to haul goods up and down the portage and had gotten stuck in the swamp. Here are some photos:

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The car is submerged in at least a foot of water.

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Some rubber tire material still remains next to that metal loop (spare tire?)

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Notice the car jack that was presumably used to try to get the car out of the swamp.

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A few metal panels are still submerged or off to the side.

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Interestingly (to me, at least) there are still some well-preserved wooden parts. I had no idea wood was used in car manufacturing until now.

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The parts number on the side of the engine. The top part says " 8(?)-8 ", the part number is 37858-9 and it has the Buick logo beneath it.

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I'm not too certain what this says, but it was found to the front right of the engine.

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Right here.

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Perhaps it says "LYDITE"? I'm fairly certain the first three letters are LYD but the next three are difficult to make out.

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The spark plugs are made by a company called Champion. The plugs say "CHAMPION" and "MADE IN CANADA".

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And the underside says "6 S" and "MADE IN CANADA".

So, what can you tell me about the car? I can tell you that it was used to haul supplies and trade goods along the portage in a time where the area had no roads (and still has nearly non-existent road access). I suspect that the Hudson's Bay Company or whoever was there brought in an old car they could use to transport goods some time in the early 1930s as this is when the nearest roads and nearby hydro dams were built. Either that or there's always the chance that this was brought in on a sled or driven in over the ice during the winter at an earlier date. However, I doubt that the HBC would ship in a new car to do limited grunt work (the car's only job would have been to haul stuff; everywhere else is thick forest for hundreds of kilometres) and they would instead bring an old beater to the site. Also, I can guarantee that there's more preserved stuff just under the water but the water would need to be pumped out.

I have more photos and much higher resolution versions of these ones that I can attach if anyone requires them. Feel free to ask questions about the car or about the local history. I'll be checking back occasionally to see the replies.

Thanks so much everyone!

- ArchaeoDave

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Hang in there Dave, someone will chime in on this- I'm a 1933 Buick guy, so can't help. Love seeing stuff like this- I'll be watching- Be interesting to pull it out of the muck, probably a hard task. Wood spoke wheels, not uncommon at all, the early years. I'm taking a stab at early to mid 1920s. ( guess)

Good luck -

OCM

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Hello ArchaeoDave

Fascinating find. Buick used wood in there car construction up until 1938. The wooden spokes on the wheels were discontinued by Buick in 1932. The "Standard Cataloge of Buick 1903 to 2003" edited by Ron Kowalke ISBN 0-87341-576-0 states that new for 1933, Buick in the USA discontinued the use of wood spoked wheels on all models.

.

Canadian Buicks were made under license from GM USA and may have had different model variants. Canadian Buick experts here may be able to add more.

The engine looks like a six cylinder which would fit with pre 1933 as from 1934 Buick used straight 8 cylinder engines until 1953. The number on the engine block may be a casting number rather than the engine number itself which may be located lower down on the engine block/crankcase.. The book I quote from above lists engine numbers that are all 8 digit numbers for engine numbers pre-1939. An engine number would allow us to ID the year of manufacture more closely. assuming that the car had not had an engine swap/parts swap out prior to its taking in to your site.

I am unsure if Buick in Canada cast there own engine blocks in Canada (in which case they may have used a different numbering system) or if they imported them from the USA.

You have posted at the right forum there are many knowledgeable early Buick guys and gals here

regards

Andrew

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As ArchaeoDave will be looking for a not-before year, the clue might be the spark plug. I guess AC will have been the original and Champion fitted some time later during servicing. Amazing how it has all survived in the bog.

Spark plug experts need to chime in.

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Very interesting stuff!

The car is late teens/early twenties.

The jack you have recovered is from a later period - 40's, 50's.

If you think the jack was being used in an attempt to recover the vehicle ( and there is no other reason it would be there ) it would probably put the vehicles loss post WW2.

Hope the original recovery crew aren't still under the car!!

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And studying the photos further you're not the first to the car. Parts have been removed which wouldn't just fall off. For instance the intake and exhaust manifolds have been unbolted, the studs in the head remain so someone had to take off the nuts and pull the manifolds.

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To correct AnzacBuick64 the last six cylinder Buick was 1930. From 1931 they were all straight eights until the change to the V8.

For the information of the archaeologist wood was used in the bodywork of many cars into the later 1930s more so with GM Fisher bodies because Fisher had forestry investments and it was in their interest to keep using wood in the bodies as long as possible. I think the last Buick with wood in it was the Series 90 in 1938.

Only the engine number will date this one for sure though I think there might also be a casting date somewhere.

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1923 or older based on jugged head

Dig a little deeper on the left front corner of the aluminum block. There will be a stamped # just shy of 1,000,000

That will get us to the year

Unfortunately I can't get back there until next spring. The number is likely under water right now, explaining why I couldn't get a photo of it. Would it be worth bringing machinery to lift the car out of the water? That way, we could see the parts which haven't been cannibalized and we could get photos of additional parts numbers.

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Dave,

It seems these guys have narrowed it down for you. I agree that this was most probably an older car when it was used at the site. Therefore it should not be that important to know exactly when it was made because the later jack indicates it got stuck several years later than it's manufacture date.

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And studying the photos further you're not the first to the car. Parts have been removed which wouldn't just fall off. For instance the intake and exhaust manifolds have been unbolted, the studs in the head remain so someone had to take off the nuts and pull the manifolds.

also possible that they were cannibalised to make one good vehicle at the time it was dumped

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The car appears to have wheels with wooden felloes ...21 and 22 were metal.... I would guess between 16 to 18

Very neat find! Wood preserves very well if completely submerged. It's when it gets wet and dry repeatedly that makes it rot. Note how trees in man-made lakes break off at the water line.
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I scanned from my parts book 1919-1920 H and K models and they seems to have wooden felloes.I don`t have any 1921-1922 parts books to look at.

Leif in Sweden.

The upper jug number for both 1921 and 22 is 40302 which does not match the number visible...I dont have the teens parts books any longer to verify.....1920 had sheet metal on the engine 1919 and earlier did not
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The upper jug number for both 1921 and 22 is 40302 which does not match the number visible...I dont have the teens parts books any longer to verify.....1920 had sheet metal on the engine 1919 and earlier did not

I see the studs on top to hold the valve cover so I would say 1920

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I see the studs on top to hold the valve cover so I would say 1920

I forgot I had John Beatty's 1922 engine here....I see the number on the side of the jug as 37858-1

The number on the mystery vehicle is 37858-9

The part number for 21 and 22 is 40302...my thought would be that it would be the casting number seen on the side and the last number might be the month. Anyone venture a guess. perhaps johns upper jug is from an older vehicle or the number on the side is a casting number not in anyway related to the part. For sure sub merged on the front corner of the cast aluminum block is the serial number and it will be able to refer to the year.

I have 2 other 22 engines with the intake exhaust manifolds still on so I can not see the numbers on the jug

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If I could only get in there with the old Hanson Crane we would have her plucked out in no time. Basically I would say that you would have to wait until winter and find a way the keep the water from freezing around the car. Or get it blocked up above the water level somehow and then pull it out when the ice is thick enough. It would be a fun challenge, and some one out there is looking for a few of the parts that may be salvageable. The only thing that is certain, You wont get rich, but what the hey, you may help save a Buick that needs a few pieces. And that my friends is what it is really all about. Dandy Dave!

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)
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To correct AnzacBuick64 the last six cylinder Buick was 1930. From 1931 they were all straight eights until the change to the V8.

For the information of the archaeologist wood was used in the bodywork of many cars into the later 1930s more so with GM Fisher bodies because Fisher had forestry investments and it was in their interest to keep using wood in the bodies as long as possible. I think the last Buick with wood in it was the Series 90 in 1938.

Only the engine number will date this one for sure though I think there might also be a casting date somewhere.

I have a 1941 buick special still has wood used in the build behind the back seat going to the trunk area it is above the rear coil area in the body tho .... If I might add sweet find .
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Also no lock on transmission shifter (new for 1923) so we've nailed it down to 1919/20/21/22 based on valve cover studs.

The wooden wheel felloe is a bit of a mystery. Believe all were steel felloes by then. Must have been some old spare wheels or an older Buick with a more modern engine.

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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Rod W,

I had no idea.

Well, we now need to know what other year(s) if any had wood felloes.

I would have guessed wood felloes went away in the teens. Shows you what I know.

I will dig out my 75 Years of Buick tonight and see if they cover felloes.

We're getting closer.

OK. Time for a story.

My father worked for Michigan Bell Telephone in Detroit as an Engineer for 38 years. One of the many things he worked on was determining the location for 'switching buildings' These are those rather small windowless buildings the phone company built to hold, well, switching equipment (I guess). He built and determined the equipment required for dozens of these over the years and he would point them out from time to time when we travelled, 'hey, there's your dad's building'. And then my mother would always reply, 'honey, you forgot the windows again'. OK, it was funny when I was 10. MBT bought property in areas of expanding service to build them. Often buying the property before the the real need was present to save on real estate costs. My father's family was from Michigan's Upper Penninsula and a good portion of the U.P. is swamp or marsh or bog. They now call it 'wet lands'. The photos in this post made me think of the property he once was involved with. In the middle of Winter, all the property in the U.P. is solid, with frost 4 feet deep. His boss was all set to buy some property in the U.P. for the company and the seller was very motivated. His boss mentioned the location and my father said, I know that area, its nothing but moss bog. Seems the boss had inspected the property in February and the seller was getting concerned as Spring was around the corner.

A guess would be our Buick here was out and about with the frozen ground, and didn't get moved before the thaw.

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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Corrected my post above to include 1919 as possible (I incorrectly started at 1920).

Nothing in the 75 Years of Buick on Felloe material. So at least 1919 and 1920 have wood felloes and are possible solutions of wood felloe + jugged engine with covers.

Who has a 21/22 parts book like above to see if they are wood felloe also?

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After the 10th look at this, I (finally) figured out, that the body work is the cowl laying down. (Doh). I kept thinking it did not belong to the car.

There should be a metal tag on this cowl with model year and model number. I don't see one. Does anyone see one?

Cowl lights were optional for several years on open cars and then became standard. The lack of cowl lights fits our window but let me look agian in the 75 Years of Buick to see when they became standard on open cars. That info. was in 75 YoB, I just don't recall the years well enough to post here. Stay tuned.

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