Gary W

1937 Buick Model 48: RESTORATION HAS BEGUN! (Photo)

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1937 Buick Model "48"  (Two-Door "trunkback" Sedan)


A  Step - By - Step   "Frame - Off"  Restoration  Thread


Wednesday January 11, 2017:


Today is the day the restoration starts.  The Holidays are over, the tree cleaned up and my buddy Mike has graciously offered his vacant garage to store my Model "A" Fords for three months.  This allows the Buick to take most of the garage, and puts me on an aggressive timeline so I'm not paying for monthly storage.  So, with the Fords out of the garage, I parked the Buick perpendicular and began the assessment and started work.  


The Assessment:



Here she sits all ready for restoration.  Although the photo looks like the car is in great shape, I will post some photos of the issues I face:





All four fenders have chipping, cracking and "alligator" paint.



Cowl paint is down to metal



Trunk lid and rear deck is also worn down to the bare metal and flaking off.



The roof paint is badly worn, and there is rust under the window rubber trim.


2. Mechanical Issues:



All the body mounts, transmission mount and all four motor mounts are hopelessly dry-rotted and petrified.



Every inch of wiring from the headlamps right on through the dash to the tail lamps is brittle, crumbling and exposed.



Left rear leaf spring is cracked and the main leaf is protruding through the tin spring covers.


3. Interior / Upholstery Issues:



Steering wheel rim is cracked all around, the plating is worn off.  There is a distinct "clunk" and a heavy spot in the steering gearbox that needs to be addressed.  The rug is worn out and rotted from water leaking in through the cowl gutter.  The wood grain is sprouting rust blossoms.



The upholstery is torn, stained and completely inhabited by mice.  The smell is overwhelming.  The headliner is also stained from mice living inside it.




So today, Wednesday January 11, 2017 the restoration begins:




  After the car was situated, I started the restoration by removing the license plates and the Trippe Lamps.  (They were strictly ornamental...never wired)





Then the bumpers were removed by removing the medallions and the outer bumper bolts





I had to use tons of PB Blaster to loosen all the rust and a breaker bar to get the nut to give up!





Front bumpers off, then under the fenders to remove the bumper support irons from the chassis.





Once the irons are removed, you can see some more of the chassis.  I photograph everything as I go to make the build go easier.





End of the day.  Front and rear bumpers removed.

 I keep a notebook running with every part removed, bag and tag all fasteners and mark parts for location for easier reassembly.




January 13, 2017:



It took four of us to lift the hood off the car after removing the nut under the dash and the forward nut above the radiator.



Then removed all the radiator and hood support irons



Then off came the headlamps



Next I removed the running boards entirely by removing the bolts that affix the support irons to the frame and the boards dropped right off into my head.



Saturday January 14, 2017:



I got a few hours in the garage today and got the front disassembled.  I removed the fender lamps, the Front fenders, the lower radiator shield (or wind deflector), the grille halves, the front clip and the horns.  I'm taking stock of parts that need rebuilding or replacing.  I carefully labelled and photographed every step of the way.  All nuts, bolts, washers are tagged and bagged in ziplock bags.  I think I may have to replace some of the 80-year old bolts, as they are quite rusty and brittle.


Here's the end result of today's work:




Edited by Gary W
I wanted to make the beginning complete. (see edit history)
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I cannot imagine working on a car in a carpeted garage...... replacing the carpet would be the first job after the car was complete.

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1 hour ago, Barney Eaton said:

I cannot imagine working on a car in a carpeted garage



I worked on cold cement today.  My feet are still frozen.   I did have a movable piece of carpet that really was nice to stand on in winter, but my son threw it away.



the garage above, it is so clean, I'd take a nice nap under the car.  A woodstove would be heaven.



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Friday January 20, 2017:



Last night I prepped the running boards for re-vulcanization by removing all the brackets, hardware and trim.     



Here's the dry-rotted running board.  I am going to send these out for re-vulcanization instead of just recovering them.



The underside is very rusty and needed a good soaking of PB Blaster to loosen up those mounting bolts and related parts.



Everything soaking in PB Blaster.



Once all the chassis support irons and the smaller support parts were removed, I removed the mud shields under there.



Then off came the running board trim.



The trim is rusty on the underside so what I'm going to do is use a small wire wheel with a dremel tool, try to remove as much rust as possible, and then paint the underside with a rust-proofing paint like POR-15.  I think that will prevent further rust under there.



I measured the vulcanized lip that rises above the edge of the running board.  This actually fits under the doors when installed.  The vulcanized rubber should replicate this when they return complete.



Once the running boards were completely disassembled, I had the underside of the boards sand blasted clean before shipping them out to the re-vulcanizer.  All other parts under there, all the supporting irons, the metal risers, mud flaps are all getting blasted and powder coated "mirror black".  I have to replace all the carriage bolts under there, as there is not one that is re-usable.  All are rusted beyond repair.



Then I removed all the trim from the front clip, and continued removing "stuff" from the engine (Water pump, fuel pump, distributor.....)  All coming along nicely!



Here is the latest photo.  Coming along!

Edited by Gary W
Updating photos with the text. (see edit history)
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UPDATE:  Motor is ready to be pulled, dash is out, trunk is stripped, rear fenders off, Front and rear glass and all garnish moldings out.  Getting close to media blasting!







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Gary, that's good progress.  Your workspace is bright, clean and looks very comfortable.  What kind of restoration are you planning?  Frame off? Rechrome everything?  Also, what do you mean by media blasting?  Will you use sand or plastic or soda?  What are your plans for the engine?


I've often struggled with what restoration level makes the best sense.  While I know it's a personal choice, for me I have to face the economic reality of getting these cars back on the road.  So, I will live with removing some rod shims and re-ringing instead of spending $4-5K as long as it brings things back or close to spec.


I'd like to hear about your thoughts and plans.  I look forward to following your work and thank you for sharing it with us.



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Hello Joel:


It's always a struggle to find the level of restoration that you are comfortable with.  It seems one thing always leads to another and the the old "....while I'm here I may as well go ahead and..........(fill in the blank!)"  I am pulling the body off for two reasons: 1. All the rubber mounts are hopelessly dry rotted and need to be replaced and 2. I want to have the underside of the body blasted free of rust so I can paint a good coat of POR-15 under before mounting it back to the frame.  While the body is out getting blasted, I'll treat the chassis to a degreasing, power wash and paint with the same POR-15.  I Brush this on all the interior surfaces of the body as well, before any interior panels get installed to help preserve the car.  


Being the motor runs, the plan is to drop the pan, clean the oil pump and sludge.   Remove the head to give the block a through cleaning, as the water channels are muddy.  Then, a new set of rings and valves hoping the pistons, rods, babbit...are good.  A basic go-through just to check specs on the mains, rods, wrist pins.


I have to change the clutch throw-out bearing and the flywheel ring gear, and I may as well change the clutch plate while I'm in it, so the decision to pull the motor was kinda made for me.  


I constantly keep in mind the cost of the restoration, which is why I like to use local blasters, powdercoaters...  But the woodgraining I will send out.  The bumpers look fine, and I polished them up nice.  The front grille is going out to be re-chromed, as that is a centerpiece of the car, but the door handles...will be chromed locally.  Much, much cheaper.  I've chosen Le Barron Bonney for the interior kit, but I'll do the install myself.  Money, money, money....but I'm having a BLAST!!  This is a great experience, and to work with my two boys  (12 & 16), just busting' knuckles and getting greasy makes it all worth it.


You want to have a car that you are proud of, but not bankrupt over.  I understand your dilemma and I really try to keep the cost in mind with every decision.  I'll keep posting as the restoration continues.   Great bunch of guys here.


PS.......HOW DO YOU GET THE INTERIOR DOOR HANDLES OFF??  I want to strip the remainder of the interior today, cannot figure it out!

Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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Gary, your intentions were very well stated and thanks for taking the time to explain.  The 37 grill indeed is the main attraction, but it does need those mile long headlights as well.


interior door handles are held in place with a wire "horseshoe" shape clip.  Although there is a tool made to help remove it, I've had good success with a very thin flat screwdriver.  You push the handle bezel into the door panel to get as much clearance as possible to see what you are doing.  Then push the wire ends of that little spring loaded clip and it should come off easily.  The tool is a flat thin metal that has a notch in it that pushes the clip ends off.


Good luck with it and keep us posted.



Edited by JoelsBuicks (see edit history)
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The Buick retaining clips are smaller than the usual later GM clips and the typical tool doesnt work. I ended up making my own clip removal tool. I had a spare handle to use as a pattern for the tool.

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Saturday January 28, 2017:  Pulling the Engine:




This weekend I got the steering box, engine and transmission out of the car.  

The steering box had a noticeable "clunking" inside, so I think I'll give the folks at LARES a shot at a rebuild.  

The transmission seems perfectly fine, except the dry-rotted rubber mount.  I knew the flywheel ring gear was destroyed and the pilot bearing was noisy, so I figured a good going through the motor while it was out was a good idea.  Tore it down today to find a broken oil ring on #2 piston, but the motor really looks good inside. Crankshaft is really nice, all inserts look good.  Going to take it to the machine shop this week to have the crankshaft measured and the bores measured to find out if it is standard.  Any hints on installing the new flywheel ring gear would be appreciated.  Also, how does this clutch disc look?  Should I replace while I have the engine apart?


Thanks Guys!





My son Matthew loosening the rocker assembly.




John Torchia.  86 years old and still pulling engines.  My mentor, my teacher, my friend.




Clutch disc removed.  How do the inserts look?




Pistons and rods all out.




Engine out.




Disassembly coming along quickly!

Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, Gary W said:

Any hints on installing the new flywheel ring gear would be appreciated.  Also, how does this clutch disc look?


Disc looks to be recent replacement as it has a magic marker number, and shows very little wear.   Some people prefer a known good part, to replacing with a possible poorly made new part. 


Ring gear will come right off if you go around several times with a flat punch/hammer.  Lay the flywheel flat on wood, keep going around, moving the gear downward a tiny bit in each spot.


New gear goes on with heating up the ring gear.  Takes a while with propane if the gear is beefy, or I've set them in a wood-fire.   It will drop right onto the flywheel step if hot enough.  It can take a couple minutes before it no longer seems loose.  It does not need red heat, nor dull orange.... just enough heat to expand it.  You need no tools if it is hot.




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January 29, 2017:   Condition of the Flywheel Ring Gear




Here's what my flywheel ring gear looks like.  Obviously the vacuum start switch on the intake manifold failed and the starter solenoid was trying to "start" the car everytime the accelerator pedal was depressed.  

I found a 1937 ring gear at Bob's Automobilia so I'll tackle that project soon.  Going to put the new ring gear on the grill out back to expand it.  Thanks for the advice on the clutch.  I wasn't sure how thick the inserts are supposed to be.




Here's the ring gear as it presented when the inspection cover was removed.




Close-up of the gear teeth on the bench.  There's  no "fix" for this!

Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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Usually folks can get away with simply flipping the ring gear. In this case, I think replacement is the right idea. I don't think I have ever seen a photo of a ring gear in worse condition than that one.

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what I want to know is how do you keep the floor so clean. not  a drop of dirt.

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Because this gentleman is the consummate perfectionist - that's how he does it - not that there's anything wrong with that.


Terry Wiegand

Doo Dah America 

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These particular '37 GM 2 door sedans , Buick , LaSalle (recently sold one) , Cadillac , look perfect from all elevations and angles and distance. Rare birds , too. Yours , obviously is well preserved. No significant trunk rust. How are the door bottom edges (most rust prone as you probably know) , under the paint ? And speaking of doors and paint : Now that I have got my foot in the door , I will hazard a suggestion. I would not 2 tone it in any way whatsoever. The highly coherent , beautifully integrated design , is being degraded by breaking up the lines with those black fenders. I believe these cars are masterpieces of industrial design , and no beholders eyes can improve their beauty. And how lucky your sons are to have Dad ! 55 years ago I learned to drive a standard transmission in a '39 Cadillac 4 door 61. Some similarity. Teach the kids the technique of double clutching on that synchro floor shift. It is so easy to learn the rhythm if you don't have to do it on a crashbox. Looks favorable that old car addiction will live on in your family ! Just think of all the fascinating cars to come up as the boys grow older ! Gary , thanks for sharing your detailed , interesting  work. You sure know what you are doing ! Good luck !  - Carl

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Someone looks happy to be using a ratchet. Good work on keeping the younger generation interested. :D


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     This is a great series of posts for others to get inspired to restore their cars....  Thanks!


& Keep them coming....

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January 31, 2017:  Steering Box and Flywheel Ring Gear:




Today I got a few hours in the garage and made a little more headway!  First I prepped the steering box for shipment to LARES for a rebuild.  So I drained the fluid into a can, used a puller to get the pitman arm off, and wrapped and shipped it in a bicycle box out to MN.  


Then, using a heavy brass drift, I was able to knock the old, stripped ring gear off the flywheel.  

I set the flywheel outside for a couple hours in the 35 degree air.  Next, I fired up the grill and set the new ring gear on a piece of foil for 20 minutes on high.  And don't you know it, it slipped right on!  It sat beautifully against the flange and looks great!


Then I had to spend a couple of hours cleaning up the garage and getting ready for the engine work.






Using a puller to remove the pitman arm from the steering box.  The steering box is draining into the can it is sitting on.




Using a brass drift, I slowly tapped the ring gear on all sides around the flywheel.  Here you can see it beginning to break loose.




Here you can see the flywheel ring gear dropping off the flywheel a little more.  One more hit and it dropped free from the flywheel.




With the flywheel sitting outside in the cold, and the grill on high, the ring gear expanded enough to be easily slipped into position.  No hammer, just fell into position.




Back in the kitchen to cool off!  Came out very nice.  My first try at this and it worked perfectly!




Her you can see how nicely the ring gear is seated so evenly around the flywheel and the "ADV" and "UDC" timing marks can be seen.




It took over three hours to clean up the mess from pulling the engine, and then organizing all the parts for the engine overhaul.



Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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February 1, 2017:  Interior, Instrument Cluster Removal



Tonight I decided to attack the interior.  I finally figured out how to get those clips out from the door handles, and once the handles were removed, I was able to remove the door skin, the vent window (entire mechanism), the glass.  

(Do I just scrape the original sound deadening material out?  I'm afraid there is rust under it.  Or will the blaster be able to get it out?)  

So now the driver's door down to it's bare bones.


Then I got behind the instrument panel and first labeled the wires.  (Don't really know why as I will re-wire the entire car...but in case I need a reference)

Then I carefully removed the wires, the speedo cable, the oil gauge and pulled the five dash lamps.  Not real complicated, but it helps to keep up with your yoga!  Four nuts removed and the instrument cluster came right out.


Being I broke the temperature gauge in the block when I tried to remove it, I searched eBay and found one.  So be careful when you pull that gauge out of the block. 


Look at the condition of the dash lamp wires!  Still can't believe it didn't catch on fire.  All the wires are so dry rotted and exposed.  


Moving right along!





Driver's door skin removed, vent window mechanism removed and the glass.




Behind the instrument cluster.  I labeled all the wires and gauges.  Then by removing those four nuts, the cluster comes straight out.




Cluster out, dash stripped




Dash lamps with old, dry rotted and splitting wires.



Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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