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1979 Buick Estate Wagon Limited - Southern Belle


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After researching for several months the possibility of using my '54 Roadmaster to pull a travel traile and coming to the realization that anything weight wise that I could do that with would be too small for comfort for my wife Rita, my dog Elvis and I, I had set about looking for a 1970's  Estate Wagon with a towing capacity of at least 4,000 lbs.

 

About 5 months ago a special email was sent out to the Dixie Chapter club members advising that a friend of a member was wanting to sell a 1979 Estate Wagon that he bought new for his wife when they lived in California, before moving to Georgia. He included a brief description of the car stating he wanted it sold within the month or he will donate it  :o and included a couple of pictures. Upon seeing the pictures of the car there was no doubt in my mind that if there was any donating to be done I certainly wouldn't mind being the donatee. :D  I immediately emailed the owner only to learn that  my friend Bruce Kile had already inquired and set up a time to look at the car. I called Bruce and let him know that if after looking at it, he did not want to purchase it I would like a shot at it. Long story short, Bruce bought the car and set about cleaning it up and taking care of a few minor issues such as having a couple of seals replaced in the transmission and replacing the catalytic converter with a "test tube". I continued to follow up with him on how it was doing and learned he and his wife Shar had made a couple trips in it to Tennessee and Alabama and it was running out very nicely. He assured me that since I was only a few minutes behind him in inquiring about it that if they ever decided to sell I would be given first shot. Doubting that that would ever happen I continued my search for a nice 70's Wagon. I located a beautiful one in Canada but determined that it would need a lower gear rear end to make it suitable for towing which I was willing to do. Before dropping the hammer on it however, I decided to make one last call to Bruce with an offer that I hoped he couldn't refuse. After a couple days he called me back and  accepted my offer at a bit less than I had actually offered.

 

It has 134,000 original owner miles and about 400 2nd owner (Bruce and Shar) miles on it. With exception of a couple of tears in the driver seat the exterior and interior are in excellent condition. The only thing  needed mechanically is replacement of the AC compressor, drier and condenser and a leaking rocker cover. The car was always serviced well and came with every receipt for service including all major and minor repairs.

 

The car literally has everything I would have ordered had I ordered a 1979 Estate Wagon from a dealership, from the exterior color to the interior seats and upholstery to the engine size and a factory towing package including posi-traction rear end. The factory specs for the car show it capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds.

 

Included also was the original window sticker including the scary Fuel Economy Rating. The gas guzzling  Oldsmobile 403 cu. in. engine gave it an estimated miles per gallon of 13. I expect that to drop to below 10 with a 4,500 lb trailer (loaded) behind it. Our intentions are to use Rita's new Tahoe for long distance and mountainous travel and the Wagon for closer to home southern driving. Hence her new name "Southern Belle" 

 

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The first picture is of me attempting to pry the keys from Bruces hands.

 

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I had to enlist the help of his wife Shar to convince him that a deal is a deal so she handed me the keys. Folks these two are nicest, most hospitable and most generous relocated northerners I have ever met. It's almost like they were born in the south or somethin. (tha's a joke y'all, a joke I say)

 

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Then it was home to Buick Gardens. Heading down I-85 onto 316 , I was reminded of the lyrics of  Robert Earl Keens song "Daddy had a Buick" ....  "three blocks long and 2 lanes wide" IMG_8191.JPG

 

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and then a couple days of photo taking... many of which you will have to look at again in JD's Autumn Buicks thread. 

 

I know, I know.... BLACK WALLS!!! While they are actually starting to grow on me and could be said to actually look rather good with the chrome wheels, my intentions are to replace them someday with the correct narrow whites.

 

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Thanks Joe, I really love the color of the exterior and the interior, especially the rear seat. SO GLAD she didn't come with a 3rd seat, I can haul a lot of shine, uh I mean luggage in the compartment under the back floor. 

 

The listed options match the called for options as listed in the '79 Trailer-Towing Guide  for being able to tow up to 6000 lbs but I don't plan on exceeding 4,500 at the most.

 

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Thanks my friend!!!  :lol:   I got a chuckle out of the name of the paint color, nothing dramatic or anything, just  "Light Yellow". Is that the same color as yours?

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Yes, my car shares the very same color combination.  The only difference I see is my rear seat is cloth while yours is vinyl (which of course is perfect for Elvis!)

 

By the way, thanks for the pics in the Bugle... my kids got a kick out of seeing themselves in the magazine!

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I believe Bruce and Shar sold me my Buick floor mats for the Electra and I recall it was a very fair deal. Small world!

 

and speaking of Limited wagons...https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/d/rare-1979-buick-estate-wagon/6399516618.html

 

JD, feel like a road trip?  Some issues as it should have wood grain and chrome wheels plus some damage on passenger side. 

Edited by dmfconsult (see edit history)
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15 minutes ago, dmfconsult said:

I believe Bruce and Shar sold me my Buick floor mats for the Electra and I recall it was a very fair deal. Small world!

 

and speaking of Limited wagons...https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/d/rare-1979-buick-estate-wagon/6399516618.html

 

JD, feel like a road trip?  Some issues as it should have wood grain and chrome wheels plus some damage on passenger side. 

 

But still not bad for the money. If the interior was the color of mine and it was closer I'd consider buying it for a parts car.

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VERY NICE! 

Dad had a '77 Buick wagon first and then an Oldsmobile that originally came with a diesel engine and had been replaced with a gas engine when he got it. That conversion was a pia and eventually sent it on it's way.

Since those bodies were shared between the makers I can advise you to think about oil guarding yours. Both dad's had rust out in the rear / back roof pillars about the top of the tailgate height and saw others that had bubbling going on there too.

I know we are in the rust belt up here but just saying it's an area to watch.

 

So, have you matched a trailer for her yet?

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2 hours ago, dei said:

VERY NICE! 

Dad had a '77 Buick wagon first and then an Oldsmobile that originally came with a diesel engine and had been replaced with a gas engine when he got it. That conversion was a pia and eventually sent it on it's way.

Since those bodies were shared between the makers I can advise you to think about oil guarding yours. Both dad's had rust out in the rear / back roof pillars about the top of the tailgate height and saw others that had bubbling going on there too.

I know we are in the rust belt up here but just saying it's an area to watch.

 

So, have you matched a trailer for her yet?

 

"Oil guarding" ? Must be a northern expression? 

 

Looking at 60s-70s 20-24 ft Airstreams and others etc.  Cant buy til March or so, so taking time to check out and learn. If anybody knows of anything available, will appreciate a heads up. 

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Thanks lance. You're right, we pulled into a Wafflehouse this morning (making all kinds of excuses to drive her) and some pre teens were gawking at it and I just looked over and smiled and said "early SUV" their dad laughed, but mom ...like a deer in the headlights 

 

I'm amazed at all the glass and the 360* view. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, MrEarl said:

"Oil guarding" ? Must be a northern expression? 

 

Yes Sir! Up here in the "Rust Belt" we need all the help we can get to combat the liberal use of salt on the roads.

 

My Cougar was done since new and the body is exceptional compared to ones not treated...

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Mr. Earl. For you and any other GM "long roof" fans, here's a site just for you.  Lots of info.  Large Marge gets the same reaction from different generations.  She's got her winter treads on now.  The 20's and the summer Falkens are on the shelf and the M/S tires are on the ground now.  It's just a matter of time here in the heartland before the white stuff gets here. 

 

A few years ago we had some high performance summer driving tires on a different car and got caught with an early snow storm. Coming home from work, Linda couldn't make it up the hill to the house.  She called me on her cell phone and wondered what we could do.  We finally figured out that if she went way around a few blocks, it would be a gentle enough slope and heavily traveled enough that she could get home the "back way."  Worked well until she started braking at the driveway then slid right past and wound up where she first started.  Once more around the block very slow, no brakes and turn into the drive then hit the brakes.  Luckily we had a set of M/S tires mounted for that car too.  Kinda cold changing four tires in the snow on the driveway be got 'er done.   Tis the season.

 

http://gmlongroof.4umer.com/

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23 hours ago, dmfconsult said:

JD, feel like a road trip?

 

I can't buy one with an Olds engine.  My 2 brothers would taunt me till death if I did. But I originally wanted a 79 LeSabre Wagon cause I love the grill's.  This one appears to have a modified 78 Grill.  And I like how he coyly says the Odometer is "showing" 67000 miles.  Oh, and it's...blue...

 

 

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
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Great find Mr. Earl. I love the full sized wagons. We had a variety of Ford and Oldsmobile wagons in the 60s and 70s.

 

A question for the Buick experts....Did this car come equipped with a velour front seat and a vynal rear seat? I don’t remember seeing this set up before. Either way, as said earlier, this will work great for Elvis?

 

Nice acquisition!

 

 

Kevin

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29 minutes ago, kevin1221 said:

A question for the Buick experts....Did this car come equipped with a velour front seat and a vynal rear seat? I don’t remember seeing this set up before. Either way, as said earlier, this will work great for Elvis

 

 

 

There were several years, across different generations of Buick wagons, wherein the cloth front seat was offered along with a vinyl rear seat(s).

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9 hours ago, Imperial62 said:

It's good to see Bruce and Shar again. I met them off the Ames Iowa meet for the BDE.  

 

That is a nice color combination and the wood grain looks nice. It's hard to believe that's a 134,000 mile car.  I mentioned in another post somewhere the 403 can be tweaked to get another 50 hp, it's real easy to put an alumimum intake on it.  

 

Does the tow package include a transmission cooler?  That would be a + +

 

>> It's hard to believe that's a 134,000 mile car. "<<    In what regard do you mean that Jake? 

She seems to have plenty of power as is and not sure what bolt on items could be had that would justify their cost in providing extra power. If it equated to gas savings I'd be all ears. Other than lessening weight, what benefit would the aluminum intake provide? Smoother ports maybe? 

I am assuming but have not visually verified, that the listed option "V08 - Heavy Duty Cooling System" includes a transmission cooler. While I think the TH350 transmissions would be standard, Bruce said it has the TH400 transmission which is probably due to the bigger engine. Maybe somebody knows more about that? Got a lot to learn about these "new" Buicks.  :D

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3 hours ago, kevin1221 said:

Great find Mr. Earl. I love the full sized wagons. We had a variety of Ford and Oldsmobile wagons in the 60s and 70s.

 

A question for the Buick experts....Did this car come equipped with a velour front seat and a vynal rear seat? I don’t remember seeing this set up before. Either way, as said earlier, this will work great for Elvis?

 

Nice acquisition!

 

 

Kevin

 

Thanks Kevin! Re the seats, I have never been a fan of hot in the summer and cold in the winter vinyl seats and was pleased that the original owner apparently ordered the optional "Trim 766-55/45 seat in tan cloth front-vinyl rear " seats. (see last item on the window sticker above) But gotta admit that tan vinyl is gorgeous. 

As for Elvis riding in the back seat, I have a feeling the back seat may have seen it's last daylight as he really likes the full length floor in the back. 

 

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5 minutes ago, Larry Schramm said:

Cloth front/ vinyl rear seats were a popular option in the day.  I had several wagons as company cars in the 80's and I think all had that trim package.

 

Buick wagons, Larry?

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2 hours ago, MrEarl said:

 

>> It's hard to believe that's a 134,000 mile car. "<<    In what regard do you mean that Jake? 

She seems to have plenty of power as is and not sure what bolt on items could be had that would justify their cost in providing extra power. If it equated to gas savings I'd be all ears. Other than lessening weight, what benefit would the aluminum intake provide? Smoother ports maybe? 

I am assuming but have not visually verified, that the listed option "V08 - Heavy Duty Cooling System" includes a transmission cooler. While I think the TH350 transmissions would be standard, Bruce said it has the TH400 transmission which is probably due to the bigger engine. Maybe somebody knows more about that? Got a lot to learn about these "new" Buicks.  :D

I don't know about the wagons but I do know that the Rivieras equipped with the 403 Olds engine came with the TH400 transmission.  

 

For a ton of information on Oldsmobile engines - making power, reliability, interchanges, type this in your browser (I can't get the link to work)  www.442.com  Under the heading on the home page is a list of  links.  The 2nd one from the right is FAQ.  Click on that for a detailed explanation of everything you'd want to know about Oldsmobile engines.  Good info and good reading.

Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, MrEarl said:

 

I am assuming but have not visually verified, that the listed option "V08 - Heavy Duty Cooling System" includes a transmission cooler. While I think the TH350 transmissions would be standard, Bruce said it has the TH400 transmission which is probably due to the bigger engine. Maybe somebody knows more about that? Got a lot to learn about these "new" Buicks.  :D

I believe I read that the HD cooling option included an integrated transmission cooler in the radiator, at least in 78 anyway. 

 

As for the tranny, it’s weird it’s not called out in the window sticker. Guess you’ll have to check the shape of the pan. If it’s square with a notch off one corner, it’s a TH350. 

 

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Edited by dmfconsult (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, Imperial62 said:

134,000 miles is still a lot, even though the care this car has had has been phenomenal.  Visually though I would expect some wood grain fade, paint fade, more interior wear.  I don't see it, so to me, it looks more like a 55,000 mile car. 

 

Thanks, now I see where you're coming from . You're right, I suppose that relative to -0- , 134,000 is a lot of  miles that, had the car not been garaged all its life and apparently received good care, it could be in much worse condition. Add to this the fact that at on an average of 12,000 miles/year it could potentially have had 450,000 miles and likely not even been on the road,  so I felt very lucky to find what I was looking for with, for the year, what I consider remarkably low miles. (although there are certainly lower mileage examples out there, right Doug ?)  And honestly some of the issues you mention i.e. Wood grain and paint fade and interior wear , while not bad,  are there, just not visible in the pictures. For instance, note that all the pictures are taken of the passenger side of the car... reason for which is forthcoming, stay tuned...?

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During my 2 hour drive home from picking the car up from Bruce's in Marietta, window down, cruising along about 65, I heard what sounded like a balloon pop. When I arrived home, much to my dismay I discovered what the "pop" had been.

Note here, before leaving Bruce’s  a slit in the woodgrain and a bubble just above / behind it.

 

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Apparently the wind had gotten in behind the woodgrain vinyl and literally burst, leaving what you see here.

 

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Needless to say, a bit upsetting. 

 

 

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Thanks Matt.  You're right about the ride. The "Firm Ride and Handling Package " provides just that, and smooth too, Very smooth, comparable to the '93 Riviera I use to have. 

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1 hour ago, Imperial62 said:
15 hours ago, old-tank said:

Nope.  Bore is 0.3" bigger than 350 with same stroke (WIKI).

 

I was guessing. I could not remember if it was bore or stroke but bigger bore is better for torque.  

Not beatin' up on you Jake, but you got it backwards:  STROKE

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