philipj

Opinions re. Condition II

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Phillip,

 

Matt Harwood is right. Buy the best car that you can afford. 

 

I still don't know the price of John's car. If you can afford it, buy it. If you can't you could buy Mr Price's car and have a nice drivable car with probably another $1,000 worth of additional work. That would be a Century well under your stated price range, even with having to pay for shipping. The headlights can be converted back to original. That is not that bad a job. There are a few different ways to do it. My 1937 Century came with a sealed beam conversion kit. I converted it back to the original lens with hidden sealed beam bulbs behind original lenses. My 1938 project will have the original headlight system.  Everything else that is wrong with Mr Price's car can be resolved with minor mechanical skill and a little bit of money. The worst thing about his car is how far away from you it is. 

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

This gets interesting... I am not trying to be unrealistic or be a bargain hunter by any means, I just would like (ONE) good solid car... Unfortunately, I only have so much at my disposal today for it... My idea, perhaps unrealistic in this sense is this: Can I purchase a turn key vehicle for say 19K/20K? If I must scrape everything I have now, or perhaps after tax season 22K..

 

I don't recall stating that the finished Century was way too much, (the Roadmaster is in my view/and still say poorly maintained) but just "untouchable" out of my monetary reach today... And believe me, my wife is learning alongside and agrees that a completely finished car is the best way to go in the long run, but is also aware of the much higher cost...

 

But let's just work with 20K for the sake of argument.. Frankly, I would love to get the finished Century for that amount (it has been for sale for a while, and you must ask yourself why? ) If the clutch issue is not as simple as adjustment or lubrication (as stated by Suchan, then I'm up the creek probably with 2K in repairs) and I have not fixed the speedometer, fuel gauge (Another thing I remember) or anything else...

 

On the other hand, considering an original vehicle in good order, let's say 16K (just to have a figure) would that be a really poor choice if the car is intact and driveable without issues?  If we talk about a torque ball reseal? How expensive a repair is that? So, not trying to be harsh or dismissive, but wondering about the

4K or 5K making a world of difference in purchasing a "Better" car; yet still finding that they're not all completely right!  Where should I place myself not to be set up for disappointment? I am struggling with it thinking, gee.. I have to wait even more for a "perfect" car which will be probably much more than 22K..

 

On a better/happier note, I am officially in the Buick Club as of today!... Maybe the only member without wheels, but still hopeful...:)

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With all due respect I also cannot agree with the comment that all Buicks need overdrive. Might be nice on a 248 model but to be fair the Buick engineers knew a bit about the issues of sustained engine rpm from racing and aviation motors. In my lead footed youth ferrying cars for money I have driven all manner of vintage vehicles pre and post war straight through coast to coast across the old Rt 66. Sometimes pulling a trailer and in spite of a couple burning vast amounts of oil and blowing water pumps and maybe brakes issues I only ever spun a main bearing one time on a knocking for years worn out 39 Dodge 1 ton overloaded and overheated somehow thinking that the Wynns engine rebuild in a can I added would carry the day. Anybody here blown up a Buick eight from sustained speedy cruising?  I drive my  41 Century at 65/70 in summer heat and it never feels over taxed or over revved and will go a lot faster without blowing up I'm sure.  Really would love to hear about Buick engine failures on otherwise well maintained cars showing normal cooling and oil pressure readings from 65/75 cruising. And in the spirit of this theme.. BUY A CENTURY!  The seller of a car that the owner has restored properly is losing money and so will you if you buy a money pit. Only reason to buy a project is it is so rare a model you have no choice if you really want one. 

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Philip, I am finding these discussions very interesting, but I wonder whether you are overthinking this thing a bit.  You seem to be searching for a formula that will guarantee that you will get a great car at a great price that you are happy with.  I don't think there is any such formula.  Just for starters, I see two different schools of thought reflected in the advice you are getting.  One school says always buy a "finished car," i.e., let someone else pay for the expensive stuff.  Another school says always buy an untouched original and beware of the "restored" car because you never know if the work has been done right.  The reality is that both things can be true -- it depends completely on the quality of the work that has been done.  And although it obviously helps if the seller is someone who has a good reputation, the only way to really come to an accurate conclusion about the quality of work that has been done is to thoroughly inspect the actual car, not just look at pictures and read the seller's description.  So it's not easy.  The value of an old car is highly subjective, but the one thing we know for sure is that the actual cost of restoration is constantly going up.  So I agree that you are better off with a car where the big ticket items have already been paid for, but in the end you are going to have to compromise in some way.  I know from my own search that you are not going to find the "perfect" car, and you are going to be taking some degree of risk no matter what you end up buying.

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1 hour ago, Lawrence Helfand said:

With all due respect I also cannot agree with the comment that all Buicks need overdrive. Might be nice on a 248 model but to be fair the Buick engineers knew a bit about the issues of sustained engine rpm from racing and aviation motors. In my lead footed youth ferrying cars for money I have driven all manner of vintage vehicles pre and post war straight through coast to coast across the old Rt 66. Sometimes pulling a trailer and in spite of a couple burning vast amounts of oil and blowing water pumps and maybe brakes issues I only ever spun a main bearing one time on a knocking for years worn out 39 Dodge 1 ton overloaded and overheated somehow thinking that the Wynns engine rebuild in a can I added would carry the day. Anybody here blown up a Buick eight from sustained speedy cruising?  I drive my  41 Century at 65/70 in summer heat and it never feels over taxed or over revved and will go a lot faster without blowing up I'm sure.  Really would love to hear about Buick engine failures on otherwise well maintained cars showing normal cooling and oil pressure readings from 65/75 cruising. And in the spirit of this theme.. BUY A CENTURY!  The seller of a car that the owner has restored properly is losing money and so will you if you buy a money pit. Only reason to buy a project is it is so rare a model you have no choice if you really want one. 

 

   Thanks, Lawrence.  My sentiments as well.  They will run all day at speed.  Lower rpm pleases the driver. Car does not need it. 

 

  Ben

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1 hour ago, philipj said:

And believe me, my wife is learning alongside and agrees that a completely finished car is the best way to go in the long run, but is also aware of the much higher cost...

 

I think that folks are suggesting the opposite: the finished car may well be the lower cost.  It may be higher up front, but by the time you've got your bargain project up and running, you paid more for the cheap car -- not to mention the time and enjoyment you've lost in the process.

 

9 minutes ago, neil morse said:

Just for starters, I see two different schools of thought reflected in the advice you are getting.  One school says always buy a "finished car," i.e., let someone else pay for the expensive stuff.  Another school says always buy an untouched original and beware of the "restored" car because you never know if the work has been done right.

 

IMHO, there's merit to both approaches.  The real risk is in buying someone else's uncompleted project.  If it were that cheap or easy or fast to finish, it would be finished.  You also have less confidence in work that was done by a fellow who couldn't finish the job; it brings into question everything that he says he fixed before running out of steam.

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1 hour ago, philipj said:

The clutch on the $22K car, if it needs replacing, isn't that expensive, just a pain. You have to pull the rear end due to the torque tube. Ditto for the torque ball. If 'you can do the work yourself, no problem, and not expensive at all. It's unfortunate you're  getting stressed by all this, and all of  us. The $22K car at a slightly better price is good.  The '37 Century in Sonora is good. The John Young car is good. If you have some mechanical skills, all would be good choices. If you're going to hire the work, the $22K car is probably the best bet. Congrats on your BCA membership!

 

This gets interesting... I am not trying to be unrealistic or be a bargain hunter by any means, I just would like (ONE) good solid car... Unfortunately, I only have so much at my disposal today for it... My idea, perhaps unrealistic in this sense is this: Can I purchase a turn key vehicle for say 19K/20K? If I must scrape everything I have now, or perhaps after tax season 22K..

 

I don't recall stating that the finished Century was way too much, (the Roadmaster is in my view/and still say poorly maintained) but just "untouchable" out of my monetary reach today... And believe me, my wife is learning alongside and agrees that a completely finished car is the best way to go in the long run, but is also aware of the much higher cost...

 

But let's just work with 20K for the sake of argument.. Frankly, I would love to get the finished Century for that amount (it has been for sale for a while, and you must ask yourself why? ) If the clutch issue is not as simple as adjustment or lubrication (as stated by Suchan, then I'm up the creek probably with 2K in repairs) and I have not fixed the speedometer, fuel gauge (Another thing I remember) or anything else...

 

On the other hand, considering an original vehicle in good order, let's say 16K (just to have a figure) would that be a really poor choice if the car is intact and driveable without issues?  If we talk about a torque ball reseal? How expensive a repair is that? So, not trying to be harsh or dismissive, but wondering about the

4K or 5K making a world of difference in purchasing a "Better" car; yet still finding that they're not all completely right!  Where should I place myself not to be set up for disappointment? I am struggling with it thinking, gee.. I have to wait even more for a "perfect" car which will be probably much more than 22K..

 

On a better/happier note, I am officially in the Buick Club as of today!... Maybe the only member without wheels, but still hopeful...:)

 

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Hello Neil,

I'm afraid you really nailed it here... There are two schools of thought, but they're are valid points to be considered. I understand the degree of risk involved and there is no magic answer; short of me seeing and driving any of these vehicles... I will hopefully drive the finished Century in about a week, but my favorite continues to be Mr. Young's car... As soon as I have all the information I will make the best decision possible and live with it. Regarding a "perfect example" I believe they exist in the 30K range, but that will not happen for me unless I win the lotto! .:)

On a separate note, does anyone know of any trusted/qualified shop in So. Florida that can work and really knows these cars? Thank you.

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I should have finished the statement with the words UP FRONT... as correctly pointed out by KongaMan..  

"And believe me, my wife is learning alongside and agrees that a completely finished car is the best way to go in the long run, but is also aware of the

much higher cost.."  He also brings up a valid point about any unfinished project.. Just as me avoiding obvious shoddy repairs on any listings... 

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14 minutes ago, philipj said:

Hello Neil,

I'm afraid you really nailed it here... There are two schools of thought, but they're are valid points to be considered. I understand the degree of risk involved and there is no magic answer; short of me seeing and driving any of these vehicles... I will hopefully drive the finished Century in about a week, but my favorite continues to be Mr. Young's car... As soon as I have all the information I will make the best decision possible and live with it. Regarding a "perfect example" I believe they exist in the 30K range, but that will not happen for me unless I win the lotto! .:)

On a separate note, does anyone know of any trusted/qualified shop in So. Florida that can work and really knows these cars? Thank you.

John Young is a fine gentleman, and he'll sell you an accurately described and reasonably priced car.  Since you're in the same quadrant of the country, why not fly over, meet Mr. Young and his staff,  and drive the car? 

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I promise there will be shoddy repairs on any car you buy, no matter the price or condition.

 

Expect it. It's part of owning an old car. There have been how many dozens of mechanics under the hood of a car built in 1938? How many of them cared about making it the way the factory did it? How many simply put it back together as well as they could just to keep the car running? Most of these cars for a vast majority of their lives were nothing more than low-cost transportation, not collector's items. In 1955, if you had a 1938 Buick Century sedan, it wasn't because you were a collector, it was because it was all you could afford. Do you think the mechanic at work at that time was especially careful or concerned about correctness? Do you think the owner could afford to pay someone to "do it right?" Unlikely.

 

Restored cars are no guarantee, either. I expect that any car I get from an auction house will be 20% worse than advertised. I expect #1 quality cars with top awards will run just well enough to limp on and off the trailer. A trailer queen that runs right is rare, make no mistake. The car was 90% done, it looked like a car, mostly operated like a car, and the owner got sick of writing checks so he called it done and figured he'd take care of the rest later. They never do.

 

There are no guarantees with old cars and original doesn't buy you mechanical excellence any more than restored does. I like original cars best because if they're well preserved, they're often better, but many also have needs and deficiencies that you need to address and/or overlook. My 1941 Cadillac 60 Special was voted the best original unrestored car (HPOF) in the country in 2012, but the carpets were shot, the paint had many thin spots, the chrome was pitted, the engine bay was filthy, and when I bought it, it needed a  fuel pump, carburetor, gas tank, wheel cylinders, hoses, lines, shoes, master cylinder, tires, battery, etc., etc., etc. Drove great when I was done, but it was probably $5-6000 worth of work to take it from "decent original " to "drive it anywhere" reliable. And I never fixed the clock or the radio or the antenna or the windshield wipers...

 

Plan for unknowns. Even if a seller is being straight with you, there are likely things that he doesn't know about and/or things that he could live with and you cannot. Expect to spend money on a car after the purchase. How much depends on where you start. Very few of us aren't upside-down on our hobby cars--I'm in the business and I'm grossly upside-down on my '29 Cadillac and '41 Buick (never mind my '41 Century on which I will be RIDICULOUSLY upside-down when it's done). Buying the car is only the first check you'll write, I'm sorry to say.

 

Buy the best possible car that balances the things you want, but keep those wants reasonable--any car you buy is going to need time and money to be what you want it to be. That's why you should make price tag like the third or fourth most important thing on your list, not first.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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24 minutes ago, KongaMan said:

I think that folks are suggesting the opposite: the finished car may well be the lower cost.  It may be higher up front, but by the time you've got your bargain project up and running, you paid more for the cheap car -- not to mention the time and enjoyment you've lost in the process.

 

THIS!^^

 

Yes, any car you buy will need some work, no matter how perfect it looks, but don't buy a project if you want to drive! It is easy to say to yourself "oh I will just fix this little thing and that little thing..." etc. Restoration isn't for everyone. If you want to drive, buy a finished car. Any work that is already done when you buy the car you are getting for about 1/3 the cost (or better!). You wont get everything, but the more you can buy this way the cheaper it is. The difference is huge.

 

Craigslist is full of cars that have "lots of money invested, just need someone to finish it up". Life has way of dropping a piano on your head just as you have the car far enough apart that it wont drive anymore.

 

Fully sorted cars that also look good rarely come up on the market. It is tough to get there even for people with a lot of money. People who made it to that point often are not interested in selling. Sometimes you get extremely lucky and hear about a really well sorted car through a club that the owner became too old to handle the manual steering, or is getting remarried and moving to Bermuda, or died, or something. Otherwise, buy the best car you can possibly get, and start daily driving it around town and see what troubles crop up. If you bought well, in about a year it may very well be good enough to take on long trips. Good luck!

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Thank you all for your insight... I fully understand the fact that this is not a simple 1,2, 3 situation.. I will use my best judgement and experience acquired from restoring (WWII jeeps mostly) but I still feel it is useful when choosing an older car.. If possible, I will fly to a location to look and drive the car... Mind you, at that point I will be 90% sure that that is the vehicle I want...

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49 minutes ago, philipj said:

On a separate note, does anyone know of any trusted/qualified shop in So. Florida that can work and really knows these cars? Thank you.

 

Just to underscore the point that others have made: if you're looking for shops, you're looking at writing checks.

 

15 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

There are no guarantees with old cars and original doesn't buy you mechanical excellence any more than restored does.

 

What it does buy you is not having to redo bad work -- especially because the seller is usually going to bump the price because he sees value in that work. That is, he'll want to charge you for a poor paint job, when your appraisal is that it needs to be redone and you have no idea what's hiding underneath. 

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Almost every old car I have bought,  atleast in the last few years have been more than I was going to spend and even more than I was thinking of spending,  but every one,  I was sure happy I reached as far as I dared,  even borrowing a little money to get what I wanted.  If you can come up with most of the money and only have to borrow say 2 to 4 thousand dollars to make it happen I will guarantee it's worth it.  The field of cars opens up dramatically every step up the ladder you make in price. 

Just like selling.  Every body looks at a $5000 car, half as many people can come up with 10,000, and again half as many or less at 15,000.  Just go up from there with every 5 thousand dollar increment and watch the number of potential buyers half.  This is especially true with more common vintage cars where there is a large market to chose from.  

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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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