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Opinions re. Condition II


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I do not understand.  If I wanted a certain car I would look at a proven tour ready car which has been photographed in the AACA magazine on tour or at a show.  Ask around at a meeting of your peers and let it be known you are ready to purchase.  Who you buy from is important.  

I bought a '39 Century last year from local fellow who had it for over twenty years.  Nice car, running, few issues like it needs running board covers, should have a wiring harness, and has sealed beams, radio doesn't work,  In black with side mounts, reupholstered nicely, $7500.00 seller was happy his car was going to a car guy he knew and I got a reasonable deal an hour away.  Pretty easy. I have four antique cars and all come from people I know.  My advise Phillip, happy hunting.  Gary

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Hello Gary,

 

I am completely new to the group and Buicks, and sure would hope to find something (a 38 Century) for 7,500.00 such as the one you describe in the U.S.. Maybe 5 years ago that would have been the case... The closest I have gotten to that is non running (10 year storage) Century for 10K that will need some touch up paint, tires, brakes, all glass/rubber, exhaust/intake manifolds, carb work, etc... The list goes on for a vehicle sitting for that long. Another good candidate here is a 37 Century in need of a clutch and some other work for 12K... So, no bargains here per say- yet the one good thing is that most cars are from club members which make me feel better... I would certainly be more cautious buying from someone outside of this circle.

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The value is in the eye of the beholder.  I've paid way too much for two cars I really, really wanted since 2005.  After over  60 years in the Buick hobby I still make mistakes.  Back in 1998 I bought a Buick for $800 which suited me, but was probably way too little, even with the rust.  Also since 2005 I paid way too much for a Wildcat that wasn't what the dealer represented it to be.  Soon it'll be closer to that mark, but with way to much money in it.  Things have changed.  In 1959 you could buy a fine, 30,000 mile 1936 Buick Century for $300 and a junker for $25-50.  Those days are over.  Now the prices are so high they stun a person like me who has been there and done that.  When I try to go with the time and step up to the day, I think my steps are way too long.

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This has been a very interesting discussion!  My advice echoes that of others--buy the best car that you can. Figure in transport costs and other roadworthy issues into your acquisition budget.  Your hope is that you don't go upside down.

 

I purchased my 1949 Super 51 in 1978 for $1,200.  It was an original unrestored car with 50,000 miles.  No significant outlays until a partial engine rebuild and a clutch five years ago.  I am still above board.

 

My 1939 Roadmaster 81 is a three-year-old purchase.  I wasn't getting any younger and I wanted a late 1930s Buick.  I am glad that I took the plunge and purchased the car.  It has an engine rebuild, new Hampton Coach interior, re-grained dash, rewire job, and rechromed bumpers. It is a big car that handles freeway speeds at ease.

 

I am sorting out other issues on the 39, but the car is very good.  It is no way perfect, but it is a lot of fun, and no wood, except for the seat frames.

 

I can carry out some work on both cars, but I also rely on two very seasoned mechanics who can take care of work that requires their knowledge and their tools. They happen to be very good friends! 

 

In addition to joining the BCA, you should seriously consider joining the nearest BCA chapter. Chapter members are an excellent source for the names of local mechanics!  They are also often great support groups and are fun folks to be with!

 

The biggest gulp for me with the 39 Roadmaster was sending that cashier's check to the seller for the purchase. I haven't looked back! Have fun with whatever car you purchase!

 

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There are thousands of cars for sale all of the time.  It may be my imagination though it seems I hear of good deals all the time.  For Instance there is a '40 Century sedan near me which I think could be had for $7500.  Around the corner from my house a widow has half a dozen 60's English sports cars, all done up and ready for the road. I know of a Model F Buick sitting for over thirty years and a single cal Cadillac which is not for sale actively but I think I could be bought under the right scenario.  Good luck, Gary 

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Hello Gary, God knows there are thousands of vehicles out there, but how many good 1938 Century's near me? I will be lucky to see one soon, that is my predicament here!.. All I have found nearby are vehicles that (for lack of a better word) have been bastardized with modern V8 engines even Buick Century's! I find that just criminal... Maybe I should offer a finder's fee and treated like a vehicle inspection... As mentioned earlier, I have 2 good leads that I hope to close in soon...

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Actually I know of a lovely '38 Century which I have been in many times.  A fellow who has since passed on and the car resides with a son.  That is the car I would go after if I had to have one and is likely the reason I settled on my '39.  I love the ride, appearance, comfort and power of the Century.  Contrary to public opinion the '39 is prettier with the waterfall grill and larger glass area IMO.  Gary Van Dyken, signing off.  All the best.

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I've found when you narrow it down to a particular car of a particular year, other than maybe a 57 chevy or 65 mustang etc., you rarely find them in your neighborhood and have to come to the reality that a long distance purchase may be necessary.  When looking for a 58-60 Corvette I was pretty open to most colors and options but realized the better car I could find,  the better off I would be.  I ended up buying a fuel injected 60 in beautiful condition for maybe 10 percent more than a 4 Bbl so so car that was close to me.  The 60 I bought was in Washington. state and I'm in upstate NY.   I'm glad I never settled for the close car/ cars.  They couldn't hold a candle to what I bought. 

Bought a project 36 Cord phaeton the same way. 

This is especially true if you are trying to find a bargain on top of that.  

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Mac, actually I do have a good idea about what I am talking about even if you don't agree. The gearing and MPH determines rpm's. I am not comfortable with anything over 3000 rpms for any extended period with a long stroke torque motor and that is what these engines are. You may be able to spin them up faster then I like but that does not mean that its good for them. These motors had pressure lube to the bearings unlike Chevrolets so they will take more of a beating. When they were made many roads were still dirt and 45 mph was considered FAST, at that speed the motor was where it was good for long periods. Bursts of speed to 60 or 70 were easy enough but the motor was not designed to go 100 miles at that speed.  The only thing the Century has is a better power to weight ratio but its gearing at 65 or 70 has the rpms in a range I don't like. I posted a chart at one time on here with all the different rpms with the two ratios that came stock with 37 and 38 Buicks and even different tire sizes. The Centurys were fast but for freeway use today they are beating up the motor "in my opinion." I drove a 37 Century coupe in 1956 and thought it was pretty fast but not compared to a 56 Chevy V8. The later Buicks with the Dynaflows could roll along all day at 70 but their rpms were lower.

 

 

 

Edited by LAS VEGAS DAVE (see edit history)
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I understand Mr. Hinson is correct... The vehicle was named so because it was able to perform well (hit the mark)  upto that speed, though not sure how long it was sustained for the test. It was quite an achievement for a vehicle of that era to reach such high speeds, regardless...

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8 hours ago, philipj said:

I understand Mr. Hinson is correct... The vehicle was named so because it was able to perform well (hit the mark)  upto that speed, though not sure how long it was sustained for the test. It was quite an achievement for a vehicle of that era to reach such high speeds, regardless...

 

Yes indeed.

 

The attached table consists of comparisons taken from reputable testing sources in the day.

The Buick used for test purposes was a 1936 Century sedan with the earliest 320 motor and it achieved a top speed of 95.6 mph. Improvements to this engine as early as 1937 and 1938 had it achieving a true 100mph.

 

In Australia we have an upper legal speed limit of 60mph. A Century has no need for overdrive.  

 

 

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And a table from the Buick 1936 SHOP MANUAL which indicates a 1936 Century will sustain 75mph at a comfortable 3426rpm.

 

If you wished to cruise at a higher speed than that I would suggest other factors come into play rather than excessive engine revolutions!

 

 

 

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Edited by 50jetback (see edit history)
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Well, I am very happy to have the information right off the book! Thank you for submitting it, it definitively answers a question I had before... It also answers the same question for the Special requiring 3,953 rpm @ 75mph... Quite a difference!

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I have always used 2600 rpms to be the HIGHEST rpms for these motors for extended periods and will continue to do so. That is the rpm that the engine likes. Buick like every manufacturer back then and today gives figures under ideal conditions. The cars could possibly hit 100 mph but were not meant to stay there. Also the car might cruise all day at 3500 rpms but for how many days. These cars (SPECIALS) like to cruise at 50 or 55 tops for hundred mile trips with stock gearing. The Centurys with more power could pull slightly higher gear ratios and so could cruise 60 to 65 mph all day. In 1938 there were very few roads where that kind of speed could be used. In 1960 the speeds on freeways were usually less than 65 mph but today most cars drive 70 to 80 mph on freeways and in many places out west where I live they drive even faster. I realize most of you disagree with my opinion, its just my opinion nothing more. My opinion is no more valid than anyone else as its only an opinion gained from my personal experiences. I am enclosing my speed and rpm charts for your general interest. These charts were made calculating 7.50 X 16 tires with a 31 inch diameter if I remember correctly. The rpms will be slightly higher with stock tires.5a7d1a8d00e2a_STOCK3.90SPEEDANDRPM.png.dbea4a0d3858719a7d128590536aaf0d.png5a7d1ad517f91_OVERDRIVEGEARRATIOS.thumb.png.0c87d45d9caf707c494581bc089ee8fe.png

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My Limited has 4.20 gears (actually 4.18323) with 7.50R16 tires and I try to keep it around 60 MPH where it seems pretty happy. However, it easily creeps beyond that and if I'm not paying attention, I'm running at 70 or 72 without much effort. With the big tires, its overall gear ratio is about the same as a Century with 3.90 gears and a 7.00-15 tire. The big guy likes the highway, no two ways about it. The only real telltale sign that it might be working a little bit is an ever-so-slight vibration that's almost imperceptible and which I believe is the U-joint in the torque tube spinning just a touch faster than it likes. It's more like a distant hum. Nobody but me notices it, however. It might be in my head; I'm a hypochondriac when I'm driving my cars.

 

Specials are 50-55 MPH cars but they still sound very busy at those speeds. You probably won't hurt it, but it still feels like you are. My '41 Super convertible seems quite busy at 50 MPH, too, but I remember my father driving his '41 Super 56S to work every day for many years in the 1970s and 1980s and I don't think he was timid about running with traffic on the highway. We drove it to Flint in 1978 at highway speeds and made it in a reasonable amount of time so we must have been going at least 60 most of the time. That car never broke down, although it was eventually killed by a drunk driver. Engine was still healthy enough to transplant into a '41 44C convertible he found, although we never finished that project.

 

I don't know what my point is. Maybe that big series cars are more comfortable at higher speeds than small series cars, but going fast in a small series car isn't necessarily hurting it. I'm already a fan of overdrives and made my point about that elsewhere and I think they make a huge difference not just in speed, but comfort and peace of mind for today's hobbyist. The Special, if you're going to run it in today's world and not feel like you're abusing it, will benefit greatly from an overdrive. The big series cars probably have a sense of diminishing returns when it comes to overdrives, although I'm seriously considering adding them to both my Century and my Limited at some point.

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Regarding the cost of a Special with OD as opposed to a Century, it depends on the sales price of each, but based on the price guides I have, the Special with OD would likely be more expensive. As has been mentioned, buy what you want, don't lower your sights with plans to upgrade later; it always costs more.

'38's didn't have any sound insulation to speak of. You hear every sound the engine makes, and at striking volume compared to more modern cars. It sounds busy at 40 mph, 45, 50, 60, etc. I had a 38-41 that the previous owner drove long distance (e.g., trips of thousands of miles), at 60-65 mph, without issue. If the engine noise is a distraction, try doing some insulating and  get an overdrive if you want to carefully drive at 65-70.

 

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9 hours ago, suchan said:

Regarding the cost of a Special with OD as opposed to a Century, it depends on the sales price of each, but based on the price guides I have, the Special with OD would likely be more expensive. As has been mentioned, buy what you want, don't lower your sights with plans to upgrade later; it always costs more.

 

That's always been my perception as well.  Paying more for something that's worth less is a peculiar investment strategy.

 

There's nothing wrong with a Special, but it's not a Century.  If you want a car that drives like a Century, buy a Century.  You'll be happier, richer, and have more time to enjoy the car.

Edited by KongaMan (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I just had the opportunity after a 5 hr road trip (well worth it) to finally drive my first 38 Buick Century! It was exciting and despite some carburetor problems (which I will address separately) I was able to drive it down the road  up to about 45-50 mph... My initial impression, while trying to corner the car, perhaps a bit to fast-I thought it rolled easily and seemed a little bouncy... Since the speedo was not working, I was probably unknowingly pushing the car on tight turns faster than I should have! Steering was smooth, but always required two hands and the wheel quickly returned to the center afterwards.. If anything, for me if the steering wheel was a bit smaller I feel I could handle the car better... Still, by the third and fourth time around the neighborhood the car felt like second nature to me...

 

My other impressions on the car besides sporadic and very small chattering from the clutch, was smooth shifting with decent braking ability and plenty of power out of the 320 Cu motor that run quietly @ 180 F. and with 35-45 lbs of oil pressure. Again, the only major problems was a malfunctioning choke and the L/R brake shoe that was lazy returning  into position which I adjusted and improved, though I told the owner it would still require disassembly and a little never seize on all pivot points to be right...

 

Additional thoughts regarding the condition were: 1947 fireball engine, dented center grill trim, missing body tag, a non working speedometer, incorrect/ improperly adjusted clutch return spring and some engine oil leaking from various points along the pan but not enough (In my mind) to leave a 4x5" stain  on the pavement where we had the car running for probably 20 minutes at idle while revving the engine up-messing with the carburetor... One thing I found very odd though; the fact that the restorer welded the drain hole shut on the bottom flywheel cover!.. Why? Some oil always sweats from the rope seal and needs to come out, unless they tried to hide a problem that goes back quite a few years...

 

On a plus side, for being a 20 year old restoration the car is pretty much pristine underneath, with very good paint (with only a couple of deep scratches on the r/h fender and a few other small ones around the nose) has a very nice interior with good rubber and glass, good tires (No cracks, but are they safe if they are 15 years old? ) It would also would come with a car cover, service manual, a radio (Not installed that needs repair) two headlamps without lenses, a parking brake cable and a few other small parts that I did not inspect that were boxed...

 

So, I really welcome your thoughts here... Please see the few photos taken by my wife, with a phone unfortunately...

 

 

 

 

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Edited by philipj (see edit history)
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It's a bit hard to have thoughts about whether you should buy it without knowing the asking price, but it sure looks like a nice car to me.  The interior and underside, in particular, look outstanding.  There is nothing on your list of problems that seems very serious to me, but again, not knowing what the asking price is, it's a little hard to judge.   (Also, nothing unfortunate about cell phone photos these days -- your wife did great!)

 

Could it be that your search is over?

 

Neil

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It looks like a nice car that will take very little work to make it perfect. What leads you to believe it has a 1947 engine? I can't see enough to be sure, but it looks like the correct engine to me.

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I am thinking that my search should be over for 18,400- Well, being that I am a newbie with little experience with these cars, I'd like to know that I am doing Ok :unsure: despite the very annoying carburetor issue and the other  things... And yes, almost forgot that there is no foot start but a button on the dash... Sure like to bring that back, wonder how much of a pain it is to do it... Thank you for your input again!

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Did you buy it or is this another "not quite perfect or cheap enough for me" situation? That's as close as you're going to get to a running, driving car that's what you want and I presume at a price you're willing to pay. Nothing will be free of problems and at least one of them will be more serious than you expect. Welcome to the world of old cars.

 

The wheel is big to make the steering light. A smaller wheel would make the steering unpleasantly heavy at low speeds. This isn't a sports car. I would replace the tires if I were you. 15 years old is pretty old, regardless of their appearance.

 

If you didn't buy it, why not? That's a long drive to go home empty-handed. I suspect you're falling into the same trap that computer shoppers fall into: don't buy today, there might be something better tomorrow.

 

Don't be that guy.

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The owner stated the engine is a 47... I have shaken hands on the deal and will be talking to him tomorrow... It is as good as done. Being that this is new to me is just need a little encouragement!  My pride does not get in the way of saying that...

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Personally, I would prefer my cars to have the correct year engine. Some people would prefer a later engine. At that price, no matter which it has it is a good deal. I wonder if he said (or meant to say) that the engine was a 1937 engine.  

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37 minutes ago, philipj said:

I am thinking that my search should be over for 18,400- Well, being that I am a newbie with little experience with these cars, I'd like to know that I am doing Ok :unsure: despite the very annoying carburetor issue and the other  things... And yes, almost forgot that there is no foot start but a button on the dash... Sure like to bring that back, wonder how much of a pain it is to do it... Thank you for your input again!

 

After doing a little poking around in this thread, it appears that this is the Century that you mentioned earlier that was going for $22K.  To get it for $18.4 seems a heck of deal to me.  The "annoying" carburetor issue is nothing, and you should be thankful for the conversion to a starter button on the dash.  Don't even think about changing it back.  The "accelerator starter" was not a good idea, and has caused many problems.  Don't hesitate -- go for it!

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Yes, this is the car for $22K- I am not too concerned about the matching engine, only that it is a good one... This has a oil filter set forward (RH) so someone told him it was a Fireball engine.. I am not getting this car to speculate later on, but to enjoy driving  for as long as I can... Why was the accelerator foot start on these cars such a bad idea? The one on the jeep as in other 30's 40's cars are slightly above and not directly under the accelerator pedal...

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The accelerator start function on the Buick is totally different from what you are used to on Jeeps. The Jeep one is a simple mechanical switch. The Buick starting circuit is a bit more complex. There are at least two different failure conditions that can cause the starter to engage when it is not desired. If the starter engages when the engine is running it damages the flywheel ring gear. Look at the photos of Gary Wheeler's flywheel ring gear in his restoration discussion. That is what a failure in the circuit will do if not repaired promptly. 

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Oh Boy! Well, thank you for shedding light on this issue, despite thinking that the feature is really neat and I just like originality; yet  I do not intend to take this to Pebble Beach so I will leave the push button start alone as it works perfectly! What a relief, that is a nightmare situation indeed if the car is all together...

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I actually repaired the floor starter on my Limited and then disconnected it again and went back to the pushbutton. The thing I didn't like is that when you turn the ignition on and start pumping the throttle to prime, it sometimes kicks the starter. So you have to turn the key off, pump it, turn the key on, floor it, and hope it catches. My Limited also starts better with the throttle closed (which is what the choke is designed to do) so pushing the throttle to the floor makes it tougher to start. That's a tuning thing, I'm sure, but once I had the floor stater working, I quickly found that the car was harder to start and more of a pain, not easier and quicker. So I disabled it again and went back to the button. I've debated hiding the button in the ash tray or something, but meh, it's not a show car and there's a neat little switch panel there with the button and toggle for the electric fuel pump, so it looks tidy.

 

One thing I remember as a kid was watching an old Loony Toons cartoon with Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Porky gets into a car and is CLEARLY pushing the throttle to the floor to start the car. The car is cranking but not starting, but you can see him grab the wheel, lean back, and appear to be pushing the pedal to the floor. You can't see his feet but that's very obviously what he was pantomiming. I bet I was the only 8-year-old in 1978 who knew what he was doing! So Porky Pig drove a Buick (or a Packard, which also used gas pedal starting for a while).

 

But yes, the floor starter is over-rated. If it works, consider keeping it, but if it doesn't, you're not really missing out on anything--if the button is cleanly installed nobody will complain or point out that it's wrong. It's quite common. You can see mine under the dash in this photo and I have no objections to how that looks:

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Hello Matt,

 

Thank you for your input again... Your set-up is nice and neat. The setup on this car is not that obtrusive.. It is installed on the left side of the dash with a skinny push pull switch and the button to the left... I will leave it well alone! Funny you mention porky the pig, and I think I remember the cartoon for I have 2 years over you!..:) Funny as heck! used the song on an earlier post and felt silly, but still think is kind of funny!

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