Jump to content

A Buick Question


Hudsy Wudsy
 Share

Recommended Posts

Gentlemen, I've been watching for a '37 or '38 Century, or Roadmaster at a price that I can afford for a while now. Often many of the ads for unrestored Buicks neglect to identify which model the seller is offering. Only rarely is the hood name plate visible in the pictures. If the cars have side mounts I can usually tell the difference between Specials and the other models by eyeballing the distance between the  back of the side mount and the door. There are probably other indicators that I'm not aware of, so I'd appreciate any hints that you could share. For example, I'm including a link to an ad for a tired, but reasonably priced '38 Mclaughlin Buick for sale in Kijiji in Ontario. It looks complete and has a radio and clock and is priced at $2,500 Canadian, which is $1,944 US. I'm not interested in one that needs this much work, so if any of you have an interest, please feel free to pursue it. Can any of you tell me how to tell at a glance if this is a Special or a larger model?

 

http://www.kijiji.ca/v-classic-cars/cambridge/1938-mclaughlin-buick/1142450912?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

 

 

1938 buick.jpg

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Comparing the length of the hood to the length of the doors, it is a Special. I don't know exactly what the ratio of hood length to door length is but looking at photos of my Century, the hood is longer than that one. The best rule of thumb that I have is that every advertised 1937 or 1938 Buick that I have ever seen when the model was not mentioned, it was a Special. Those who have Centurys or Roadmasters for sale know the difference and are sure to mention it in the ad. The much larger production numbers of the Specials also make it almost certain that anything you see advertised will be a Special. I guess I was lucky that the first one that I found when I was looking was a Century and I bought it without really realizing quite how hard they are to find. I have a couple of local friends who have Specials. They seem to be happy with their cars.  I really need to drive one of their cars to see how much differently they perform. Attached is a photo of my 1937 Century.

DSC_0345.JPG

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your response, MC. I was hoping for something precise, but I'm not surprised. The obvious question you might ask is why don't I ask the seller? Often times they are difficult to contact with any ease and they don't know with out going out and checking or having to get back to me. An email asking sellers which model they are selling results in a simple terse, "I don't know".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wrote the seller last evening and, to my surprise, he responded to my inquiry in the time that I was writing my most recent post, above. Interestingly, it does turn out to be a Century! I thought that the hood on this one looked longer than a Special, but so many times the camera angle or the tight confines of a garage make it impossible make a determination. I'm in the early part of the process of moving, so I won't be considering this purchase. Anyone reading this may pursue this Buick, if they wish. It would be a very ambitious restoration or, perhaps, best seen as a parts car. It's unfortunate that it doesn't have side mounts, but it at least has a radio and clock. I would imagine that the seller would consider an offer, but I don't know. The car is located approximately 178 miles NE of Detroit. Here's the seller's response and contact info:

 

Hello! The following is a reply to your conversation regarding "1938 Buick McLaughlin" on Kijiji:
 

From: Jarrod
Hi there, Its a 38 buick McLaughlin century model. My cell is 519-573-5763. I'm home tonight between 5-6pm, tomorrow all day if you want to call, and Thursday before 7pm. Thanks a lot!

 

 

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The McLaughlin body may very well be enough different from the American Buick that I can't tell from the photo but I would not personally trust that it is actually a Century until I saw the body plate or measured the wheelbase.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How many eBay ads have we all seen showing a "Roadmaster Special" or a "Special Century" for sale? I suppose there are some guys who just don't know what they own, but I think there are a lot more who like to muddy the waters hoping to catch a sucker and who can later respond to complaints with a shrug.

 

That just doesn't look like a large series car to me. Everything from the firewall back is identical between series, all the added length is all up front, and that's a pretty stubby hood. If that's a Century, imagine how short a Special would look being 6 or 8 inches shorter. If someone wanted to get technical with the photo, they could probably extrapolate the wheelbase using the 16-inch wheels as a reference measurement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

 

Thank you all for your thoughts. I've come to believe that this car is a Special, after all.  After scrutinizing a lot of pictures of '38 Specials and Centurys I found a small, but useful "tell". There is, as you all know, a vent-like ornament inserted into the hoods running nearly the length of the hood sides. It's on these inserts, towards the front that the name of the model (Special, Century, etc) can be found. Of course knowing that the name is there and being able to see it on photos are two different things. I've noticed that the back edge of the insert comes noticeably closer to the trailing edge of the hood on Specials, while the gap between the end of this insert and the back edge of the hoods on Centurys appears to be as much as four, or so, inches. I'll include a couple of pictures that you can compare for yourselves. This little hint won't be of any use, however, on the many Buicks with side mounts.

 

Here's a blue Special. Note that the vent-like insert in the hood comes a bit closer to the trailing edge of the hood than on the black Century:

 

 

 

1938 Special.jpg

1938 Century.jpg

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Buicks of 1937-38, I think, look good with the side-mounted spares;

but I think they look better, more streamlined, without.

Cars of some other makes in this era actually look bad with side-mounts, as

some sidemounts protrude even above the hood and really interrupt the body lines.

If we could ask the designers of that era what THEY thought, I'll bet

many were happy to be rid of them to get a more modern and streamlined look.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The more you study photos of the different models, the more convinced I am that you can never tell for sure without looking at the data plate, or frame number, or enging serial number, or measuring the wheelbase. Different photos with different cameras, different lenses, and different angles make the different models difficult to distinguish. While it looks like you do have a good method to distinguish the non-side mounted cars,  it is really tough on the side mounted cars.

 

While I agree that they look good without sidemounts, I have to admit that I really prefer these cars with side mounts. Maybe it is because the first one that I first saw and fell in love with back in the early 1980s was side mounted. 

 

This Saturday we are having a gathering of our local Buick Group. Hopefully I will get a chance to take some measurements and photos of a Special and my Century side by side for some comparision. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

MC, I'll be curious to learn the results of your measurements. I know that it's all rather academic because of the side mounts issue, but it's of interest to me, nevertheless. To my aged eyeballs, I'm guessing that the back of this molding is about two inches from the back edge of the hood on Specials, and, perhaps four inches on Centurys. Thank you for taking an interest in the matter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The four inches is about right for the Century. I don't yet know about the Special. If one of the two local 1937 Specials is there on Saturday, I will let you know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave, thank you for taking that measurement and sharing it with us. I hope that you don't mind my appropriating the picture of your beauty from Google. I couldn't recall if the vent on the hood was functional or ornamental as it's been too long since I've been that close to a Buick. I could have made my case without addressing the matter, I guess.

James Sheehan

Minneapolis

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 That car is only located about an hour's drive from where I live, so if anyone wanted, I could take a trip out to see it and take some more pictures.

 My knowledge of these 30's car is not exhaustive, but I am pretty sure that by then all of the McLaughlin's had identical bodies to the US cars. There were differences much earlier though.

 Keith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Hudsy Wudsy said:

Dave, thank you for taking that measurement and sharing it with us. I hope that you don't mind my appropriating the picture of your beauty from Google. I couldn't recall if the vent on the hood was functional or ornamental as it's been too long since I've been that close to a Buick. I could have made my case without addressing the matter, I guess.

James Sheehan

Minneapolis

 

James I don't mind at all and I hope the measurement helps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some sellers say they have a large car intentionally in order to deceive the buyer.  Those guys, when called out, act surprised and often backtrack.  Some say they have a large car because they were told so and they really think they do.  Those guys often get defensive because they are embarrassed that they didn't know what they had.  Either way, you have to do more research than simply asking.  That first car, if I was a betting man, is a Special.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neither of the 1937 Specials showed up at the Buick Group meeting this morning, so I don't have any comparision measurements or photos. I guess it really does not matter as Dave has already answered that question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For what it is worth, the dimension from the end of the stainless trim to the back edge of that side panel is 3-3/4" on a Roadmaster.

While the side panels for the Century and Roadmaster are probably not identical, I'd expect that dimension to be the same on the Centurys and Roadmasters.

 

Also, this is how the Special side panel looks without the stainless vent trim

DSC_4888.JPG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...