marcnoni

1937 Buick Special Series 40 manual to automatic transmission conversion

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I am thinking strongly of converting my 37 buick special series 40 transmission from manual to automatic transmission. I am getting older and the clutch is just getting to darn hard to work. Can anyone give me any advice out there and where to look for parts. Please keep in mind I love old classic cars and have one but I am not to savvy when it comes to technical stuff. I will have someone do it for me but I realize I may have to do some of the homework for them.

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This would be an expensive task and a major undertaking with modifications to the chassis as well as a custom made bell housing and a different rear axle. It would actually be easier to start with a different engine that was made for automatic transmissions. How about a hydraulic clutch assist, much easier to design and fabricate.

Edited by LAS VEGAS DAVE (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, marcnoni said:

I am thinking strongly of converting my 37 buick special series 40 transmission from manual to automatic transmission. I am getting older and the clutch is just getting to darn hard to work. Can anyone give me any advice out there and where to look for parts.

 

The big issue is the torque tube drive line. With $$$$$ and engineering skill its probably/may be possible to keep a toque tube,

 

These guys make adapters, but will be based on an open drive line to the diff.  The torque tube keeps the diff located

http://www.transmissionadapters.com/Pricing.htm

http://www.transmissionadapters.com/buick_straight_8installkit.htm

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7 hours ago, marcnoni said:

I am thinking strongly of converting my 37 buick special series 40 transmission from manual to automatic transmission. I am getting older and the clutch is just getting to darn hard to work. Can anyone give me any advice out there and where to look for parts. Please keep in mind I love old classic cars and have one but I am not to savvy when it comes to technical stuff. I will have someone do it for me but I realize I may have to do some of the homework for them.

 

 There is a guy over in east Texas has a '37 he has done that with. He is on the forums, just not often.  Evan Ritter is his name. I thought I knew his forum name, but can not find it. Something like mcdarrant.  If you find him, I'll bet he can get you going.

 

  Ben

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Anything can be done with money or work. In this case the rear axle ratio is terrible for any automatic trans. The torque tube would have to be discarded and a driveshaft fabricated. The suspension which is designed around a torque tube would need to be modified. The engine would need a custom bell housing. The chassis would need another mount for the automatic. There would have to be new shift linkage made for the set up. All in all very labor intensive as well as expensive parts and in the end not a great conversion, 

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The idea of a hydraulic operation for the clutch sounds great but the simplest modification (and also the easiest to reverse) would be to install and manual control that mounts to the outside of the mast jacket and operates the existing clutch pedal.  Exactly the same way as used to be done for handicapped people without the use of their left foot.  The operator simply pushes down to disengage the clutch and eases the handle up to engage.   Simple to do. I could manufacture one in my shop in a single day.

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49 minutes ago, marcnoni said:

What do you guys consider expensive?

 

Enough that you should seriously consider buying a car that has an automatic transmission already installed.

 

The conversion you propose will cost a significant fraction of the car's value, which will go down quite a bit once you're done. The job you propose is not easy, not a bolt-in, and there area no "kits" available for it. You're talking about re-engineering the entire driveline of an ancient car, and what's worse, you chose one with a torque tube, so exactly nothing between the flywheel and the brake drums will be usable with the automatic transmission. I'm not even sure if the straight-8 can be made to work with an automatic transmission, considering the flywheel and the way the crankshaft is built. Anything is possible with time and money, but...

 

If you like the look of the '37, maybe look for one of the ultra-rare '38 "Self Shifter" cars or buy a hot-rod '37 Buick already done with an automatic. You'll come out money ahead by buying someone else's finished car rather than doing your own.

 

Just some thoughts. This is a big hill to climb.

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2 hours ago, marcnoni said:

What do you guys consider expensive?

 

 There are adapters for the straight eight to a later Automatic. Somewhere in the 700s, I believe. Evan fitted , I believe, a Pontiac rear end.  The '37 is leaf springs, so that was easy. He did have to anchor the front of the springs, as the '37 Buick springs use shackles at both ends. He has driven his for 17 + years. Has AC as well.

  Message me if your are interested in contacting him. He is not on the forums often.

 

  I say go for it.

 

  Ben

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Total cost: about a grand. Got a Buick straight 8 to 1963 and newer Chevy bell housing/auto trans adapter from Bengstens in Minnesota for $800 special show price at Back to the 50's. Turbo 350 trans, 1970 El Camino 2.75 rear end, driveshaft, etc I had in my storage shed and lot. Shortened driveshaft shaft to fit, ground coil spring mounts off El Camino rear and welded on leaf spring pads, used two tie rods for trailing arms to open rear end since a 37 Special has shackle arms at BOTH ends of the rear springs. Upgraded to tube shocks front and rear. Re-drilled axle flanges from Chevy 4.75" to Buick 5" so 37 wheels would fit rear end. I don't like floor shifts so used a 47-59 Chevy PU standard trans column shift with selector welded into the low/reverse position to shift the auto trans. The column shift is the only thing that hints at anything but a factory stock 37 Special. You would have to figure a dollar amount for what I have laying around and also labor/machine costs if you don't have the abilities and equipment. The car has traveled many miles all over the U.S. and never broke down.

 

Deep snow 011.jpg

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Read closely, Matt,

  You will notice I had, in my junk collection, a driveshaft, a rear end, an auto transmission, etc. The last sentence in the post states this. Have had a restoration/street rod shop for many years ( I'm 80 in January
) and have collected two warehouses and five acres of treasures or junk depending on one's outlook. Example: the 350 trans came from someone switching to an overdrive automatic, the El Camino rear from a hot rod going to a 9" Ford, etc. Customers leave running gear, tires/wheels, shifters and everything imaginable behind for us to dispose of when their new ride is completed. Need a Studebaker flathead 6 or  Hudson 3sp overdrive?---got em. When Ben (First Born) needed a 263 Straight 8 I gave him 3 to choose from or parts from any of them. I also stated one needed abilities and equipment to do the needed tasks to meet that price. We have some skills and machine capabilities. Pic of pull tractor billet aluminum block fresh out of the Haas 5 axis mill. Also make the hemi heads, crank, rods, cams, and multi disc clutch assemblies for tractor. We DO NOT do outside machine work---reserved for our toys only.

dan's 49 034.jpg

dan's 49 036.jpg

Model A and pull truck 014.jpg

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Apologies, I guess I misunderstood, but my statement isn't wrong. I took your comment to mean that you had little misc. parts laying around in your junk pile (nuts, brackets, U-joints, etc.), not 80% of the major conversion parts required including the transmission, torque converter, driveshaft, brakes, shocks, shifter, linkage, axles, and rear end. You did indeed get everything other than the bellhousing for $200 because you had it laying around. Not really accurate to tell the original poster that it "only" costs a grand to do what he proposes...

 

Nobody said it was impossible, as your car proves, but I don't think it's accurate to say it's cheap unless you have a junk pile full of useful parts laying around and the expertise to make the modifications--both of which you obviously have. I wasn't calling your credentials or your talent into question, but it would be unfortunate if our friend up above started taking his car apart thinking, "Hell, I can afford a thousand bucks for this!" and ended up $6 or 7000 in the hole on a $12,000 car to get the job finished.

 

It's all good bro, let's just make sure that people without your talent and resources are getting the full picture.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Matt, I  agree with you on most things.  You are in business to make money. Most of us are in the "hobby" to enjoy our cars.  I believe marcnoni can do the modification for less than your estimate. Though if he must spend that much but enjoys driving the car more, so what?   I like to repeat a conversation with one of my brothers when starting on my car. " Why would you want to spend that kind of money on that old car?" I answered , same reason you spend the money you do on your fishing boat and gear. And then need a truck to two it.  Enjoyment.!   I am still enjoying my car, eight years later. He has been through three boats, with resulting depreciation of much more than the total cost of my project.  Priorities I guess .

 

  Ben

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21 hours ago, marcnoni said:

What do you guys consider expensive?

$10K.  perhaps more.

 

You will need to find a shop that does hot rod/ street rod fabrication.....or get lucky to find a guy that does that fab work from a moonlighting position at home based shop. But he needs to have the fab skills, and has built dependable street rods before.

 

Let's do some guessing math to get a start:  Is the old 800 price still there for the adapter or is it a 1000-1200 now?

- rebuilt TH350 with rebuilt convertor from a local trans repair shop..?  $1800?

-new custom driveshaft 300-?

-used rear end with at least all new seals, brakes, etc   500

-small pile of new parts like trans mounting brackets/rubber mount, trans cooler. brake lines, E-brake cables, trans lines...fluids and bolts etc 500 min

-column shift?  maybe adapting 40s-50s external exposed shift rod down the side of the 37 column? 100 for the used parts?

 

-floor modifications might be needed/  $?

 

-Labor?  the big unknown... A rod fabrication shop is likely $75 hour at a lower priced shop.  I doubt any shop will say it is only 100 hours for all this fab.  ( I have done my share of rod builds, and I always get shorted by giving an "hour estimate".  I could not do all that in 100 hours).  So let's say it is closer to 200 hours for a dependable quality build, and you find a home guy at $35 hr?

 

 

 

and....an A/T won't help slow the car when you let off the gas...yes, you will have newer modern rear brakes, but do we now need to make the front brakes better?, or at least add a brake booster?

 

 

Can I ask a very sensitive question to a person who has said "clutch pedal is getting tougher to use" ?   How long will it be, before your arms start lacking the strength to steer that 37 into normal tighter spaces?  I'm not being sarcastic, I am 65, and at some point, I will be "lacking" myself.

 

 

If that exact car is a "must keep", then I guess you need to spend.   However, I understand what Matt said about getting a street rodded old car instead.  Most all have A/T, P/S, P/B(disc), A/C and more.

 

.

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Nobody has chimed in on a hydraulic clutch assist, wouldn't that be a relatively easy option? Another option would be if an OVERDRIVE was installed, a clutch would then not be needed to shift gears, this was a main advantage according to the original overdrive advertisements.  A clutch is only mandatory when moving from a dead stop. As most on here know I am an OVERDRIVE fan and it would be a lot less work than an automatic transmission and actually RAISE the value of the car instead of decreasing it. It would also keep the feel and the era of the old car as these overdrives were installed by independent shops into that year Buick back in those days.

Edited by LAS VEGAS DAVE (see edit history)

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On 12/13/2016 at 11:29 AM, marcnoni said:

I am thinking strongly of converting my 37 buick special series 40 transmission from manual to automatic transmission. I am getting older and the clutch is just getting to darn hard to work. Can anyone give me any advice out there and where to look for parts. Please keep in mind I love old classic cars and have one but I am not to savvy when it comes to technical stuff. I will have someone do it for me but I realize I may have to do some of the homework for them.

It may be the clutch itself that makes it hard to push. When my friend changed out the old "waffle" pressure plate and disc for the modern style clutch from a1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6 cyl. The difference was dramatic and he now enjoys his car again. Parts available most discount houses(OReily's etc) approx 125.00 for kit. Use pressure plate and disc that bolt right in, give your Jeep friends the box with spare parts. Just an inexpensive thought.

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If the number crunchers keep pushing the price up in the 10-12K range I'll sell you my set up with the rest of the 37 Buick Special still attached to it for that price.

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19 hours ago, mcdarrunt said:

If the number crunchers keep pushing the price up in the 10-12K range I'll sell you my set up with the rest of the 37 Buick Special still attached to it for that price.

You might want to walk very softly around  this thought.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a '37, and I THINK with a little effort we could make room in the garage for this beauty.

And of course there are several others out there that could fly down tomorrow and write you a check, if the word gets out.

 

Mike in Colorado

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Mike,

  I don't make statements I won't back up but I am also at a stage in my life where I don't HAVE to sell anything. I cannot be deceitful or dishonest so must say the picture in the snow is of the old girl when she was a young fresh filly and is now a mare with a lot of miles and wear. The a/c, alternator, 12v system, both radials and wide white bias tires, auto conversion, power assist on factory drum brakes, 52 263 with about 15 K since complete rebuild, 3 point seat belts, etc. probably make a 12K price very reasonable but one will need to spend close to 5K to bring it back to her fresh filly condition again. No dents or rust but definitely flaws in her complexion.

 

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4241.jpg.html

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4236.jpg.html

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4234.jpg.html

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4237.jpg.html

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4238.jpg.html

http://s32.photobucket.com/user/coilover/media/IMG_4239.jpg.html

 

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On ‎12‎/‎24‎/‎2016 at 2:28 AM, mcdarrunt said:

If the number crunchers keep pushing the price up in the 10-12K range

The reason I was saying the modifications are right up there, is that the car owner said point blank, that he would need to have a shop do the work.

 

You did it much cheaper as an owner/builder/fabricator, but the owner is not.  There would be no honor in telling him that a shop could do this swap for a couple of Grand. 

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Hey guys 

I need some help on my 1937 Buick special 40 I rebuilt my 248 engine and manual transmission on to my luck i lost the bolts that go from the center of the rear motor mounts to the transmission I tried several bolts that seem to fit but when I tighten them down it just spins it takes 2 bolts on each side and they all do the same can anyone tell me what size they are I would appreciate your help.

Edited by Dino37buick40 (see edit history)

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Dino37buick40,

 

Welcome to the AACA Discusion Forum. The best source for any part like that for your car would be Dave Tacheny. He specialized in 1936-1941 Buick parts. I am sure he would know what you need and would have them. He would also sell them to you at a reasonable price. He is old school. You can best reach him by calling him at 763-427-3460 between 4 and 7 pm Central. 

 

I would also suggest you check out the 36-38 Buick Club. You may wish to join the club. I suspect one of the club's technical advisors could probably also tell you what bolts you need, in case you can find them locally. You can learn more about the club at the club website: http://www.3638buickclub.org/

 

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