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1920's Valve Cage Project (and Tune-up)


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There were several Tour posts from last year where I had burnt, leaking valves.  First time I had the hood up on my '23 on a Tour (knock on wood) in 20 years.  Thought I would start a new thread and cover what I did to solve the issue.  Thanks to Dandy Dave and Larry Schramm for capturing the 'event' forever on digital camera, and for stopping and helping too.  We did get back on the road and my Buick did finish the week.

 

Issue is worn valve cage stem bores allowing the valve to wander around and not seat which leads to leaking which leads to burnt exhaust valves.  The intakes stay lubed since they run cooler and were worn but not badly.  The exhaust valves were burned to ~0.020 inch gap/burn path/missing head material.  1923 is the last year for the jugged head and the use of caged valves on Buicks.

 

So, what to do?  I have a set of NOS Buick valves I bought off eBay years ago for $3/valve.  Still have them.  Going this way would require having the worn cage bores further oversized and grey cast iron rod pressed in and then drilled, reamed and honed back to stock dia. to accept the NOS valves.

 

The other option is to find 'modern' valves with stem diameters just a tad larger than stock, hone the cage stem bores out to fit and also machine the modern valves to correct length, head dia. and re-grind head, add the keeper slot hole to the end of the valve and grind the cage seats to match.  Since going this way, saved the NOS valves for another day and left the cages capable of being sleeved in the future, I went this way.

 

Turns out the larger diameter Buick intake valves are close to (very cheap cost wise) big block Chevy valves and the Chevy valve stem diameters were just a bit larger that we guessed correctly that the worn cages would clean up to fit them nicely and they did, so they were bought, cut and ground to correct length and keeper slot added.  The head diameter had to be trimmed down too which caused the head seat surface to be re-ground to a smaller diameter.  Note these valves are long enough to lop off the Chevy keeper groove end and still have enough length to put the Buick keeper slot in.  Cage stem bores were honed to size and cage seat ground to match the new valve.  I think we removed ~0.006 inch of cage stem bore dia. or 0.003 on the stem wall to remove the wear hour glass shape and fit the stock Chevy BB stem diameter with proper clearance.  Again, the intakes were not that bad compared to the exhausts.

 

The exhaust cages were really worn, so a 'large' stem diameter, small headed valve with enough length to allow for the keeper slot had to be found.  A (not so cheap this time) Caterpillar exhaust valve was found to fit the bill for $20 each and given the same treatment as the intake valves and the cages honed (a bunch) to fit and the cage seat ground to match.  Sounds easy since I didn't do any of the work.

 

At this point I need to put a plug in for Denny Newman in Clio, Michigan and his machine shop.  Most of Denny's work is on Brass cars and he does it all from paint to line boring an 4 cylinder EMF block to fit half shell bearings that are babbitted to his design which was todays project when I stopped at lunch.  A huge Packard block was on its way out after being machined.  My valve work was a 'fill-in' job.

 

I almost have enough additional exhaust cages to go the second route with them and have these cages sleeved and use the NOS valves.  Mark Shaw has been a big help finding used, rebuild-able cages.  Thank you Brother Shaw!

 

Now my issue is painting.  Not the Buick, but a dining room, a back hall and a 1/2 bath.  If Mamma aint happy, aint n-o-o-o-o-o body happy as the old saying goes.  A reassembly project in the garage would not be in my best interest at this time.

 

Edit/correction to the actual valves used, see post below.  Thx  BTH.

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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As additional information, I got my micrometer out and measured the NOS valve stems and the modern stems.  I guess I needed to know just how big did the cages have to get honed to fit the new stems.

 

Interesting the NOS stems measure 0.370 on the exhausts and 0.371 on the intakes.  Guessing that Buick used a common reamer to make both cages and ran the exhaust valve/cages a little looser as you should.  The valves stems were ground so that diameter could be adjusted easily.

 

The Chevy BB valve stem used for the intake mic's at 0.379 and Mr. Chubby, the Caterpillar is 0.402 

 

Here are some pics as I'm sure there are several folks who have never seen a valve cage.  NOS valves are to the left of each of the modern valves.  And yes, you have to make certain you line up that 'bird hole' in the cage with the runner cast in the head and make certain it does not rotate as you lock down the jam nut and seal ring.

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Hello Brian,  

I'm the Pierce Arrow guy from Holly, you came to an old car event at my place a few years ago.  

I've done the same operation with modern valves on several engines..  I look for a modern SS valve, with the valve stem enough larger that the wear in the original valve guide can be reamed out and honed to size.   I don't like putting the stress of pressing out and pressing in new valve guides in old iron cylinder blocks.  If an inconell exhaust valve can be found, the valve will outlast the car and engine.  

 

What Caterpillar valve did you find to use?  .402 is an odd size, most common is .375" which is 3/8", next up is 7/16" which is .437".. So that .402 stem is somewhere around 10.5mm.   Some late teens engines used a valve with that stem diameter too.   The valve length is pretty long:  7.5" long, with a 1-5/8" head diameter.   Where did you find you could purchase the Diesel valves?  

 

Glad you 'only' have the reassembly of the engine to do now.  Good warm weather for driving an open car is still a month or two away..  

 

Take care,

Greg Long

 

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Brian, good to visit with you a while ago.  I see something in your photos here that really concerns me.  You say that the 'original' or NOS valves are to the left of the new ones in the photos.  In my humble opinion I believe that what you have is NORS (New Old Replacement Stock).  The reason I am saying that is because those valves are two-piece units.  Buick NEVER used a two-piece valve in their engines.  When I rebuilt the cages for my '16 I used that Dura-Bar extruded ductile material for the guides and I am using stainless one-piece valves along with the new springs.  I am not trying to rain on your parade here - I am just saying that for me, those old two-piece valves scare the daylights out of me.  I will post some photos of my cages on here tomorrow and then you can see what I am talking about.  And, by the way, I rebuilt the whole valve train for the Experimental V-12 that Paul Marr has.  I runs beautifully.

 

Terry Wiegand

Out Doo Dah Way

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I am going to go ahead and post these photos before I call it a night.  The photo of the 12 assembled cages are for my 1916 D-45.  Notice that the intake and exhaust cages are of the same diameter.  That changed for 1918 when the intake was increased in diameter.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

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10 hours ago, Terry Wiegand said:

Brian, good to visit with you a while ago.  I see something in your photos here that really concerns me.  You say that the 'original' or NOS valves are to the left of the new ones in the photos.  In my humble opinion I believe that what you have is NORS (New Old Replacement Stock).  The reason I am saying that is because those valves are two-piece units.  Buick NEVER used a two-piece valve in their engines.  When I rebuilt the cages for my '16 I used that Dura-Bar extruded ductile material for the guides and I am using stainless one-piece valves along with the new springs.  I am not trying to rain on your parade here - I am just saying that for me, those old two-piece valves scare the daylights out of me.  I will post some photos of my cages on here tomorrow and then you can see what I am talking about.  And, by the way, I rebuilt the whole valve train for the Experimental V-12 that Paul Marr has.  I runs beautifully.

 

Terry Wiegand

Out Doo Dah Way

 

Heavens to Betsy, someone on eBay lied to me! 

 

I agree Terry, these are NORS.  Real Buick valves have the trade mark Buick script stamped in the head too and these do not.

 

Note to self, don't mess with Kansas.

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10 hours ago, GLong said:

Hello Brian,  

I'm the Pierce Arrow guy from Holly, you came to an old car event at my place a few years ago.  

I've done the same operation with modern valves on several engines..  I look for a modern SS valve, with the valve stem enough larger that the wear in the original valve guide can be reamed out and honed to size.   I don't like putting the stress of pressing out and pressing in new valve guides in old iron cylinder blocks.  If an inconell exhaust valve can be found, the valve will outlast the car and engine.  

 

What Caterpillar valve did you find to use?  .402 is an odd size, most common is .375" which is 3/8", next up is 7/16" which is .437".. So that .402 stem is somewhere around 10.5mm.   Some late teens engines used a valve with that stem diameter too.   The valve length is pretty long:  7.5" long, with a 1-5/8" head diameter.   Where did you find you could purchase the Diesel valves?  

 

Glad you 'only' have the reassembly of the engine to do now.  Good warm weather for driving an open car is still a month or two away..  

 

Take care,

Greg Long

 

 

Greg,

 

Good to hear from you Brother!  Ready to jump ship and buy a Buick?

 

I edited my original post with a footnote to see this post since I did the on-line detective work with the box labels Denny gave me with the new valves and the dimensions match up so my error on the BB Chevy and Caterpillar info..  Believe that must have been early guess talking on the BB and Caterpillar from Denny on another project of his.  I'm running Cummins and Case Diesel exhausts.  They should last. LOL.

 

The intakes are Engine Pro # 01-01847S  Cummins Diesel Exhaust  https://www.enginepro.com/downloads/EPG_OEM.ValveCatalog.pdf 

 

The exhaust valves used are SBI #02084  Case Diesel Exhaust

http://www.sbi-e-catalog.com/PartDetail.aspx?PartNumber=02084&PartType=Valves

 

Let's chat about the event this Spring at the Gilmore Museum.  Maybe drive over together? 

 

Got a Pierce that will keep up with a Buick with a fresh valve job? :P

 

 

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18 hours ago, Brian_Heil said:

I almost have enough additional exhaust cages to go the second route with them and have these cages sleeved and use the NOS valves.  Mark Shaw has been a big help finding used, rebuild-able cages.  Thank you Brother Shaw!

 

Brian,

    I removed the rest of the salvageable cages.  Let me know if you need more.  My 13 Model 31 Buick was rebuilt with Mercedes diesel valves.

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John,

 

I was going to ask the same thing.  Is that felt down between the head and the cage on the lower stem as viewed thru the bird hole?  I don't think the felt would last there especially in the exhaust gas stream.

 

Here is what I went with so far:

 

https://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/123/3265/=16urtmc   3/4" O.D. x 1/4" I.D. by 1/4" thick.  955571A550

 

These are about as big as a life saver and stretch to fit over the stem, I might have room for two, I have not measured my lift yet to see if two will fit.  I plan to install them on the stem on the top of the cage were I can get oil to them.  I think this is where they should go.

 

I'm open to suggestions if someone has a better idea.  I believe the felt washers (to retain oil on the stem) were new for 1923.  I have never seen a real set.

 

It will be interesting to see how long these hold up.

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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5 hours ago, Mark Shaw said:

 

Brian,

    I removed the rest of the salvageable cages.  Let me know if you need more.  My 13 Model 31 Buick was rebuilt with Mercedes diesel valves.

 

No rush as I mentioned in my email to you today.  Thx!

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John, my rebuilt cages are not quite what Mr. Marr had in mind back in 1915.  I drilled a .070" diameter hole on a 45 degree angle every 90 degrees in the guide area and machined a brass cup to press over the top of the guide inside the valve spring to effectively create an oil cup to lubricate the valve stem.  Barbara found a small square of felt material at Hobby Lobby for me.  I cut that into about 3/8" wide strips and laid that inside the brass cup to act as my oil wick.  Keep in mind that what I did here is not factory kosher, but, it is my car, and I can improve it in areas that will help make it more mechanical dependable.  I got a mean looking hypodermic syringe used to vaccinate cattle and horses from our veterinarian and when this is filled with Marvel Mystery Oil I can then inject it into the brass cups through the springs and no muss no fuss and we're ready to rock and roll down the Buick highway.  Is the Kid From Kansas cool or what!

 

Terry Wiegand

Doo Dah America

 

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John and Brian,  what you are looking at through the 'bird hole' on the valve stem is LubriPlate White assembly grease.  I really smeared the valve stems good before I put every thing together.  When I fire this engine up the first time after the rebuild someone in our neighborhood is gonna call the fire department.  That's OK, I want everything protected on that initial start-up.  Hope that answers your question.

 

Terry Wiegand

Way Out in Doo Dah

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Thx for the information Terry.  I bought a tube of assembly moly at lunch today.  I like how you built a galley.

 

Here are some pix of my felt washers from McMaster Carr.  The one on the stem got oiled and it swelled up some so looking like one per stem is all that will fit.  I use gear oil with EP in my rocker shaft galleys and will fill the upper spring retainer cups with same to leak down and fill the felt when the engine is warm.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mark Shaw said:

Brian,

    It appears that you found new valve springs.  What is your source?

 

No that is one of the springs I have, just cleaned up on a wire wheel.  I thought of the name of the guy working on making springs, Ray Brown.  Not sure if he ever got anywhere with the project.

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Hi Guys.  are the valve spring unique in some dimension or pressure or ??   

I've contacted a few spring companies with issues regarding valve springs, and found a few very helpful people who

knew how to navigate their databases, and found a modern spring that fit the parameters I needed.  

 

The extra long springs used in many of the old engines do usually require having some made to order, but the shorter

springs usually can be found in some form or another, being used or recently used in more modern engines..  

 

Just a thought.. 

 

Greg L

 

 

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Greg, modern valve springs will have much higher pressures than the old springs.  My opinion is this is because of the much higher rpm's.  The valve springs in Brian's engine are 48 - 52 pounds in the compressed length.  A small block Chevrolet will be close to twice that figure.  There is a lot that goes into the engineering for engine valve springs.

 

Terry Wiegand

South Hutchinson, Kansas

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Hi Terry, that is true, but when working with an engineer at one of the spring companies, the pressure @ given installed height, as well as the pressure at top of lift, were all part of the questions asked and used to determine if an available spring was made for or in stock for another more modern engine..  

 

One of the problems is too LOW spring pressure for some 'made for xxx antique car' springs from some common old car parts sources. 

 

Example: the '33 and later Pierce engines had Hydraulic lifters. and their design was such that a higher seated pressure valve spring was needed to prevent high engine oil pressure when cold from pumping up the lifter and un-seating the valves.. 

The listed seated pressure in Motors is 64#..  for the previous year's mechanical lifters, the seated pressure was around 50#.  

I called, checked on specs for a set of new springs. They were stated to be made 'to specification'.   But when I received them, and checked the pressure at the prescribed length, they were only 45# !!  probably would work ok with manual adjusted lifters. but would not work at all with the '33 and later hydraulic lifters..  

When I called to for a Return Authorization Number, we ended up in a 'discussion' [I'm being nice] about the specifications used for the manufacture of the new springs..   The wire size/diameter was significantly smaller for the 'new' springs, and of course this resulted in a much weaker spring.  

Even with 1/8"  !! of shims under the new spring, it did not get to even 55# seated pressure.. they were simply NOT usable for the engine they were sold to 'fit'.  

 

I would certainly not recommend just buying any spring that has the right external dimensions.. the correct springs do have several parameters to be 'correct'..   

 

GregL

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Rest assured that I will be checking spring load at open and closed heights as well as spring rate, diameter of wire and number of coils once I have some springs and compare to what I have.  Back when I had a full head of hair, I designed a number of springs.  My fear is not bending a push rod, but rather, taking out a lobe and/or lifter roller.  I am fortunate to have access to the spring design specs..

 

And, if we really want to hold class, we can talk about the increase in mass of my new valves and the accelerations caused by the ramp profiles on the cam and the new load dynamics along with fresh spring loads Vs. my old tired spring loads.  Is the roller and lobe up to the challenge of the increased valve mass and the fresh spring load and resulting contact stress?  This is what mechanical engineers think about in the shower.  Then I smile because we did it all by hand and understood the calculations and some guy back in the teens in Flint did too.  Now someone plugs information into a program they did not write and they may not understand everything.  Did they get an A in their second semester Dynamics class or a D?  Wish I had a roller and cam drawing to know profile, material, case hardness and depth, finish . . . .then weigh all the parts,  . . . . . what is the rocker ratio . . . .max. engine speed . . . . see, we never rest.

 

 

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Back when the National Meet was in Rochester, MN, a nice guy with an early 4 cylinder asked me if I'd look at his car because it 'wouldn't start'.  I assumed he drove to the meet or at least on to the show field.  My first thought when I saw it was, 'I wonder how he got here and is that chicken poop (it was)?'  He led me to a tired little Buick 4 cylinder.  When he raised the hood it was just a dust bowl, rusted exposed valvetrain, not a lick of lube anywhere and half the pushrods were bent.  Every valve was frozen, some open, some closed.  He had towed the vehicle in gear to try and get it started which is how the push rods got bent, but at least now in his mind, it turned over, so he was making progress.  I explained his problem and what he needed to do.  He then asked if I wanted to buy it, as-is, as he did not want to have to push it across the show field and back on the trailer.

 

I thanked him but declined to purchase but suggested he get some help and together we could push it over to the For Sale lot and that was the last I saw of him.

 

Those were the last bent pushrods I have seen, but you are correct Don, they do bend.

 

And I tackle half the World's problems in the shower and while riding the lawn tractor.  :P

 

 

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This is just my thinking here, but, it appears to me that the push rods were purposely designed to be the weak link in the valve train.  If, for whatever reason, a valve would hang up, the push rod would bend and keep from doing serious damage to the roller lifters or the rocker posts and/or arms.  Several bent push rods was how I found out that I had some stuck valves in the '16's engine when I got the car from my Dad.  It had only been setting for about 15 years when I put the crank on it to turn it over.  Oh the fun since that time.

 

Terry Wiegand

Doo Dah America

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The 1922-45 John Fesser and I worked on outside of Baltimore had several bent push rods. As I turned the engine over with the crank John could see nothing moving on top of #s 5 and 6 but the push rods would spring out with every revolution.Took us about 30 minutes to get the valves unstuck and straighten the pushrods on a hardwood block on the concrete floor.DSCF1538.thumb.JPG.8701036432bbdaa82b56a26e4c30b56b.JPGIMG_8487.thumb.JPG.d285199a0b49ad191be4152ed5aaa10e.JPG

Then there was the 1920 K 44 I bid on from a museum in Cumberland MD. All it needed was a little "TLC" according to the description.

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Not a straight one in the bunch. The top end was dry as a bone. Not a trace of oil. Look at the rust on the valve springs.

 

 

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Talked to Wayne Funk today about his Model F since he sent me a short video of him driving around with the body not yet on, first fire and run.  This car was a box of parts at Christmas.  IMG_0818.3gp   We got around to talking about my valve project and he said he had a real good valve spring source in the Utica, MI area.  Short batches were not an issue.  I just mention that in case anyone is having trouble finding springs.  Plus chatting with Wayne is always a good thing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Back from 10 days vacation in the Carolinas.  Met with Tom Getz and Matt Hinson on the way down for lunch.  Always nice to meet Forum Folks face-to-face!

 

New valve springs were waiting when I got home.  All measured 50# at 2.125 height.  Good to go. 

 

Cage/valve assemblies cleaned, lubed with black moly assembly lube and springs installed.  Had to borrow a valve spring compressor tool since these springs are not worn out and weak like the old ones and I needed help compressing the springs.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice weather here today.  

 

Cleaned, lubed and sharpened the lawn tractor in record time.  With 'chores' out of the way i started on the valve cage installation.  All cages installed and rockers back on the pushrods.  Used copper anti seize on  the sealing rings.  Set the lash by sight since I had all the pushrod adjustment run out to max to aid popping the pushrods back under the rockers.  Will lash them tomorrow.  Will go an extra 0.004 initially until things settle in then lash to spec..

 

Could be a ride on Sunday.  :o)  Need to do all the other annual greasing and cleaning first.

 

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Just so you know, I have the same gremlins you all do.  Valves are all fine but the mis-fire on #2 and #4 cylinders I put it away with last Fall is still there.  Looking like the 20 year old sparkplug wire set I made is due for a re-do.  Can't touch #2 or #4 wire, well you can, but you end up in the next yard.  You can touch the other ones fine.  Going thru the ignition from top to bottom, all the basics, it's over due.  Certain the cages are not rotated so the easy stuff first plus it had this last Fall on the last trip it took before I did the valve work.  Funny how this stuff does not fix itself over the Winter.  Been idling the engine to break in the valves, check lash and charge the battery.  The miss is above idle and with any load.  Very weak spark at #2 and #4 plug.  Stay tuned.

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Had a chance to look at the Buick tonight.  Cleaned up #2 and #4 plug wires and end fittings.  No change.

 

Took the cap all the way off and to the bench for a good look and cleaning.

 

Bad distributor cap.  Several cracks.  Carbon tracking even, in the cracks inside, post to post.

 

And that makes sense since the car bucks like I have crossed wires when cranking/starting.  Also explains weak spark to 2 and 4.  Wires are just about shot too.

 

So, who has caps for less than the price of a used kidney?  New, not used.  Don't need more grief.

 

 

 

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Hello Brian,  Which distributor do you have?  

Is it the Delco who's  rotor has a flat topped steel contact that slides on the underside of the 

distributor cap on a flat circular surface, the brass contacts for the plug wires flush with the 

flat circular surface?  

If so, I'll be back from the tour I'm on next wednesday or Thursday, and I'll look to see if I have

a new cap.  The cap I described is used on the Series 80 and earlier Pierces 

 

GregL

 

 

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I should mention that I did take the old cap and spent 30 minutes with my dental pick and some Gumout and really cleaned the inside of the cap including the carbon and gunk in the cracks, Cleaned the outside too.  Put it back together and put the battery charger on since with all this cranking, the battery was getting low and was never that charged to begin with after sitting all winter.

 

This morning before heading out I gave the Buick a started and it jumped to life and ran smooth just like it has for years so I have successfully convinced myself that it is in fact the cap.  I have also ordered new spark plugs and also the required materials from Restoration Supply Co. to fabricate a new set of 9mm wires.  Still looking at my options for caps and rotors.  Suggestions like Greg above are welcome.  (I still have both my Kidneys).

 

Funny how if any of you pulled up in my driveway and said your Buick was not running well and I asked, how old is that beat up old cap and rotor?  Oh, 94 years.  And how old are those cracked and stiff wires?  Oh, 20+.  Why I'd laugh at you.  But when it's your own . . . . . . . . .

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Brian, call me or email me next wednesday or thursday, I'll be back in Michigan.  I'll fix ya up, but maybe not with a NOS one, they do come rather 'dear'.  But I have a lot of these caps.. I can recognize them with the big mounting 'ears' very easily, I've been known to see one from about 30 feet, sitting on a table or on a tarp on the ground..  :-)  

I don't even use an NOS one on my cars.. usually a good used one.. 

 

GregL

 

 

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Brian:

 Congratulations on solving your issue. I had gone thru all as you are doing trying to prep for the tour last year. New coil, wires, plugs etc. I picked up a new repro cap on Ebay for $15.00. Used the best of 4 old rotors and points that looked like new. I also did a new condenser. The engine ran like crap. Then I posted about the forked lead on the new style unit shorting to the breaker plate. I fixed that and it still had problems. Replaced the old condenser and it is running OK.    Gremlins you say.....

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Those are the correct parts Larry.

 

Based on my reading, 1923 thru 27 six cylinder Buicks used the same cap.  Prior to 23 they used screw in leads on the cap.

 

Thx also to Greg for his offer.  Heavy rain due here all weekend so hunkering down.

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Larry, in looking at your photo of the inside of the distributor cap, it sure looks like the 'race track' is bone dry.  In the reference manual (owner's manual) for the '16 D-45 they tell the owner to smear petroleum jelly (vaseline) on the rotor button and the rotor track in the distributor cap.  Your rotor track looks really dry in the photo.  Just tryin' to help a fellow Buick enthusiast.

 

Terry Wiegand

Doo Dah America

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