Matt Harwood

1941 Buick Limited Limousine

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I guess this is as good a place as any to post updates to the Limited. I bought it four years ago to sell, but when it arrived, it was in poor condition with a lot of needs. It was BADLY misrepresented by the seller. So I shoved it in the corner and forgot about it for about a year. Then I started chipping away at a few projects and tweaking things and discovered that underneath the neglect there was one hell of a great-running car. The paint is just OK, but the interior is gorgeous and the thing runs like a freight train. I rebuilt the carbs, replaced the cracked exhaust manifolds (with another set that cracked), and did a lot of tuning to get it just right. My goal is to make it a bulletproof high-speed tour car that will go anywhere in any weather. With radial tires, new shocks, and a fresh alignment, it's just a joy to drive now.

 

Planned upgrades include either yet another set of manifolds or (more likely) having a set of tubular exhaust headers made to cure the exhaust leak permanently. The other advantage to headers would be getting the exhaust decoupled from the intake (they are bolted together) and removing a LOT of heat from the carburetors. That's really appealing to me, even though this car has exactly zero heat or vapor lock issues. I also have a pair of 2-barrel Rochester carbs that I am considering installing with a fixed linkage so they're both working at all times rather than the stock progressive setup. There are some who say the car will idle better, get better fuel economy, and make more power with that upgrade. I don't care about show-quality or 100% authenticity (although I don't want to go too far astray, either), but I do want this thing to be reliable and comfortable. It runs so well now with the Strombergs, however, that I'm loathe to take it apart. Last summer it chased down a '41 Packard 160 convertible coupe with overdrive without apparent effort, and that guy was VERY surprised (well, not surprised--dismayed, actually). He's used to being able to walk away from just about any pre-war car and frequently boasts about his car's performance. The fact that the limo weighs about 600 pounds more than his convertible was not lost on him. This big guy is impressive as hell. I am starting to suspect that the engine is not entirely stock.

 

Anyway, some of you may remember that the big guy was sidelined last spring when I took the rear differential cover off to change the oil, had an issue with correct cover orientation, and ended up doing it twice. But while I was in there, I was advised to take some things apart like the main bearing caps "just to see how they look." Sadly, I dropped one and broke it, so the car has been out of commission all summer, much to my dismay. I've found a machine shop willing to make me a new set and they should be done this coming week, so hopefully it will go back together and not blow up when I put some power through it. I'm also over my anger at being goaded into doing something I knew I didn't have to do. I lost a summer with my car because of it, but what the hell? It's only time and money, right?

 

 

In the meantime, I've been doing some upgrades in preparation for having it back on the road, perhaps for the fall colors tour after Hershey. First there was the LED brake and tail light upgrade:

 

 

When I finished the LED brake light upgrade, I noted that it took quite a bit of muscle to get the brake lights to come on. It was possibly the switch, but most pressure switches are go/no-go and not directly related to the amount of pressure, so I figured the master cylinder was going bad. The pedal was rock hard and the car stopped OK, but the brake lights taking that much pushing was a tip-off. So I ordered a new master cylinder from Bob's and it showed up a few days later This afternoon, my son, Riley (age 9) and I installed it. It took me, my wife, and both boys to push that Limited across the shop and every bit of muscle we could spare to get it up the ramps and onto the lift, but once it was up there, it was all good. I taught Riley how brakes work, how to pull the master, and why we use flare wrenches on hydraulic fittings. It came out without a fight and the new one went in just as easily. I grabbed son #2, Cody (age 11), and had him push the pedal while we bled the brakes underneath. Result? MUCH improved pedal feel and brake lights that come on with a light touch instead of a heavy stomp. No leaks, no issues, no problems. It's a bit of a pain to bleed brakes on these cars simply because the reservoir on the master is so small so you have to keep refilling it after every push, but not a big deal. All buttoned up and ready to go.

 

A few months ago, I bought a correct battery hold-down bracket with heat shield for my Century but since the Limited doesn't have one and just uses a hokey homemade hold down the previous owner invented, I decided to use it there instead. A quick coat of black paint and a trip to the hardware store to get some J-bolts, and it will be ready to install tomorrow. The engine bay on the Limited isn't show-quality, but it's not bad, either, and this should be a nice upgrade that will tidy things up and hopefully eliminate a CLUNK up front when I hit big bumps.

 

I'll post some photos of the battery when I go back to the shop tomorrow and finish the job.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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I am very interested to know how you upgraded your lights to LED.  I want to do the same with my car, interior and exterior.  Thank you.

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Love those BIG Buicks, how about more pictures, so us the inside.

I purchased some LED  tail lights for my '39 and could not get them to work.

With some experimentation I discovered the tail light would work.....until the bulb made contact with the brake light terminal, then nothing.

Since the LEDS need so little current to work, I figure there is either a bad ground or some feed back somewhere in my wiring.

I gave up because I already have too many projects and did not need to add another to the ever growing list of things to do.

Edited by Barney Eaton (see edit history)
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You know how sometimes the hard jobs turn out easy and the easy jobs are enough to kill you? Today I had that. Installing that battery bracket should have been a 10-minute job. It wasn't.

 

I painted the bracket yesterday so it was ready. I degreased it but didn't make it perfect since I figured it would stand out in the imperfect engine bay, so I think the final result has a pretty consistent look.

 

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Then I pulled the battery and found evidence of leakage in the past--some surface rust and a lot of efflourescent dust, so I cleaned all that up. In hopes of preventing it in the future, I cut a rubber mat and put it on the tray under the battery, then reinstalled the battery.

 

I went to the parts store and bought some J-hooks for the hold down but found that the 'J' part was too narrow to fit the original tray's openings. Rather than drilling holes in the car, I modified the J-hooks so they'd have a wider hook (modified on top, original on the bottom):

 

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The problem is, the modified J-hook shortened the overall length by just enough that there were only one or two threads showing above the hold-down bracket. Lots of tweaking, some thinner washers, and finally I managed to get the wing nuts to grab and tightened everything into place:

 

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Not such a huge difference, but at least the battery won't move around. Engine bay looks decent although this particular task made no real difference in the way things look.

 

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Barney, here are some photos of the interior. I believe the rear seat area is original with replacement carpets, while the front seat area has been restored at some point. The color combination is similar to the catalog illustration, blue with gray.

 

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I've discovered that sitting on a small cushion that raises me up a bit makes driving it a lot easier. The seat isn't very adjustable and it's rather close to the steering wheel, but by elevating myself on a black leather cushion that's about 4-inches tall, it gives me not only a better view (the lower cushion is pretty low) but more legroom and easier access to the pedals, particularly the clutch. It looks silly when you look in and see the driver sitting on a booster cushion, but it's far more comfortable and easier to drive that way. At some point, I may have the lower seat cushion reworked to be about four inches taller and see how that works. For now, though, it's a nice place to spend some time, both as driver and passenger. My wife, Melanie, refuses to ride up front, she likes the back seat much better--who can blame her?

 

So hopefully my rear bearing caps will be ready this week and I can drive it again. I sure miss it...

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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The dividers have always made the front seats uncomfortable right up to today.  Beautiful limo though.

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Matt, I hope you bearing cap solves yor problem. Your car looks beautiful.  I appreciate you very informative LED upgrade, I am gong to upgrade my '47, as I have always felt the current ones are very dim.  Keep posting as I find you car captivating, and I learn much from your technical posts regarding your trials and tribulations.

 

Best wishes, 

 

Jack

 

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6 hours ago, Jack56C said:

 I appreciate you very informative LED upgrade, I am gong to upgrade my '47, as I have always felt the current ones are very dim.

 

LEDs can be a definite upgrade.  However, my experience is that many a dim light is at least partially due to dicey electrical connections.  Did you check the voltage and ground at the sockets?

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For those who asked about 6-volt LEDs and what I used on my Buick, I just updated the LED FTW! post linked in the first post of this thread. It includes where to buy the LEDs, how much, part numbers, and other details. Hope this helps!

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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17 hours ago, KongaMan said:

LEDs can be a definite upgrade.  However, my experience is that many a dim light is at least partially due to dicey electrical connections.  Did you check the voltage and ground at the sockets?

 

Yes, cars electrics are top notch with all proper voltages at all of the lights. All grounds are cleaned and made shiny on a regular basis. I just find that although the tai lights are bright by 6volt standards, I don't feel they are adequate to be among modern traffic at night.  

 

Jack

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 Great looking car, Matt.  I just wish my '41 Roadmaster coupe had that kind of space in the back seat.

 I saw LED bulbs on the 'net, and wondered about how well they would work, so that is something that I will look into for my car.

 Keith

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I've seen this car in person and it is really a beautiful car.  I like it as well as any 41 Limited I've ever seen, I think.

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I, too, was missing the battery hold down piece for my '39 Century.  I bought the bracket from Bob's in Ca but I also bought the matching carriage bolts so installation was a snap.  I did not want the new paint finish so I sprayed the battery box with a black, hard, stone guard from a rattle can which matched the Ziebart undercoating which is in good shape on the rest of the underside of the sedan.  Good looks and secure.  Gary

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omgosh Matt....I Want Want Want this car...!!!  Beautiful, just regal and stunning.  Make no apologies for it..!  You can be very Proud of your Buick.  I would recommend any modern "upgrades" you make, be reversible, in the event you ever sell it. There are many purists out there that enjoy the authentic ride/handling of bias ply tires, original carb, and authentic experience of driving with the light that was originally provided in 1941. No surprise the Buick hunted the Packard, no surprise at all...!!??

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14 minutes ago, 1928Buick said:

omgosh Matt....I Want Want Want this car...!!!  Beautiful, just regal and stunning.  Make no apologies for it..!  You can be very Proud of your Buick.  I would recommend any modern "upgrades" you make, be reversible, in the event you ever sell it. There are many purists out there that enjoy the authentic ride/handling of bias ply tires, original carb, and authentic experience of driving with the light that was originally provided in 1941. No surprise the Buick hunted the Packard, no surprise at all...!!??

 

I happen to have a nicer one for sale if you want it...

 

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http://www.harwoodmotors.com/vehicles/inventory_details.php?id=701

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Got my bearing caps for the rear diff back from the machine shop today. They looked weird but they're heavy-duty and fit well. No pictures because I didn't want to jinx it like last time. They're in there, the cover is on and sealed, just waiting for the sealant to set up so I can fill it with gear lube and take it for a drive. Maybe tomorrow night.

 

Bets on whether it blows up? I give it no better than 50/50 odds of surviving...

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Picked this up at Hershey:

 

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Hopefully the exhaust manifolds aren't cracked and will be usable. Into the blast cabinet this week and we'll find out. Finding a complete setup like this is really rare these days--thanks to a fellow board member for the find!

 

I'll have an update on the rear end later this week, too, don't worry. Hint: it moved around the shop under its own power for the first time in six months and I'm planning on taking it on a tour this weekend...

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Good for  you.  I hope I never need one for my 41 Roadmaster.  But, I do know where there is one and maybe two depending on what the man does with the two parts cars.

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Well, dangit, that dual carb setup is from a small series car. Looking at it last night, it just didn't look big enough to my eye, particularly the exhaust tube from #1 cylinder. Sure enough, I measured it this morning against the Limited and it's three inches shorter. Dang.

 

On the shelf it goes--maybe the guy who ultimately buys my '41 Super convertible will want it to convert that car back to a dual carb setup.

 

Dang. Dangdangdang.

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So far, so good. The new bearing caps in the rear end seem to be holding. I can't tell if it's noisier than it was, but there's definitely some whining. Hard to tell if it's the gears, bearings, tires, or something else. It's not loud, but I can hear it. I may go through it this winter and put all new bearings in and be done with it. Wish it didn't come this far, but better safe than sorry. Getting bearing caps was difficult and expensive--gears are probably impossible.

 

We're going to take it on a long-distance CCCA tour this weekend and see what happens. It seems like its old self again, so I'm confident we won't have any problems. I've done some short runs near the shop and everything seems happy.

 

Here's a short video of a drive to the gas station this afternoon, and I'll upload another video of a high-speed run down the street. Sorry about the camera placement on this one--I moved it for the second one. You can hear how crappy the engine sounds with the cracked manifolds but you can't hear the rear end, so I guess that's good. You'll also note the incredibly poor quality of northeast Ohio's roads. Sorry about that, not even the limo's suspension can absorb that kind of punishment. Also look for the cop in the speed trap waving to me--I was easily going 50 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. They know me, but he's sitting there because the Porsche dealer up the street likes to use that stretch of road for high-speed test runs...

 

Here's hoping the rear end doesn't explode tomorrow!

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Slightly longer video with a high-speed blast down that same stretch of pavement where the cop was sitting earlier and on the streets around my shop. The sucker is STRONG but it sure sounds lousy with those cracked manifolds. That has to be job #1 this winter, I can't take it anymore.

 

 

 
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Matt: Thanks for the ride! I've always wanted to take a spin in a '41 Buick. What a comfortable ride! Just like sitting on my sofa! I am glad that you didn't ask me to help pay for the gas. Zeke

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