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Late 40s touring car?


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I'm looking at acquiring a '47 Buick sedanette which I would use to do some long distance touring (month long trips, thousands of miles each). I know the nailhead eights are renown for their reliability, but wonder what kind of gas mileage they get? And are their any routine issues one might expect to encounter in such circumstances that I should be aware of (overheating, vapor lock, etc.)? Thanks for any advice offered.

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The first thing to look at is what series are you considering? A Special/Super will have a small 248 cubic inch straight-8, while a Roadmaster will have a 320 cubic inch straight-8. If you look around in the forum, you'll find a lot of discussions about making the small series cars a little more comfortable on today's highways, and that remains true for the late-40s cars as well, although to a slightly lesser degree. A late-40s Roadmaster will be a far more roadworthy car in today's climate and a more comfortable traveling partner if you're going long distances at higher speeds. A small series car will be just as reliable, just with slightly lesser capabilities and maybe better suited to secondary roads rather than the interstate. But neither car is a liability and both are big, comfortable, and capable.

 

Secondly, the straight-8s aren't Nailheads, that's the V8 that followed. However, your comment about reliability stands. Fuel economy will be merely bad with the small series cars and awful with a big series car.


Some are prone to temperature issues, which most of us agree stem from debris settling in the back of the block. These long straight-8s are angled up at the front and over the years, as the block corrodes and the cooling system fills with gunk, it tends to settle back there. It not only makes hot spots in the back of the block, but hinders flow throughout. It varies from car to car and depending how carefully it was cleaned out when (if) it was rebuilt, but if you have an issue, it never hurts to open up the freeze plugs and dig in there with a variety of tools and blow out as much gunk as possible. Guys have reported here that they've removed as much as a large coffee can full of rust and sludge.

 

The torque tube on Buicks tends to leak but fixing it is a job. If you find one that only leaks a little, maybe leave it alone and keep an eye on fluids as you drive.

 

The rest is reliable stuff that's readily available. You should make sure it's all in top condition and spend a few weeks driving the car daily (you know why your daily driver is reliable? Because you drive it every day) to sort out any bugs. Carry spares for the usual stuff but be prepared for the unexpected. The cars don't have any weak points per se, but any old car with haphazard maintenance can have many weak points. You need to eliminate as many of those as possible.

 

There's no reason not to do this and it would be an awesome trip. Let us know what car you are looking at and maybe we can give you some better guidance. Have fun!

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I like your comment about daily driver's.?

 

The issue of going long distances brings up a question.  Set the scene. One day in the mid 50s, Dad came home from work and said he'd spent a good part of his day gathering parts for someone who was planning to drive to Alaska.  One thing I specifically remember was a rear axle; apparently the roads in 55 or 56 aren't what they are today.  I think that he also said that he was gathering parts based on a bulletin from Buick. Here's my question. Is anyone familiar with any kind of publication/bulletin like this?

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Maybe a related question.  How many members here consider gas mileage when buying an old car?  I can honestly say I Never have. I don't even know what the mileage of any of my cars is.   The gas cost is the most  minimal part of the ownership unless you are touring coast to coast. 

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My best guess it that my '41 Limited gets about 12 or 13 MPG on the open road at 55-60 MPH. Better than I expected, but certainly not great. I would think a late-40s Roadmaster should do about the same, maybe a tick better since it will have a taller gear ratio for cruising.

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27 minutes ago, auburnseeker said:

Maybe a related question.  How many members here consider gas mileage when buying an old car?  I can honestly say I Never have. I don't even know what the mileage of any of my cars is.   The gas cost is the most  minimal part of the ownership unless you are touring coast to coast. 

Gas mileage is part of the the performance of the car.  Set it up to get the best mileage and rest is for sure dialed in.  Example:  a sudden decrease may indicate a non functional vacuum advance.  I check every tank fill up.

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44 minutes ago, BUICK RACER said:

Some people think I'm crazy for checking fuel mileage at every fill up, but Willie is right! Best way to know if you have an issue!

 

Plus for me it is part of the economic equation for attending Nationals that are long distance when one factors in the Host Hotel room rates... 

Hopefully dependability travel is not an issue... A trouble free trip is always the best! :)

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I am with Willie. Almost.  Always when out of town.  One way it helps is to know the DIFFERENCE in modern and old.   The Park Avenue gets 30 mpg Hwy.  The '50 Not BELOW 16mpg.  Say I am going to MO.  Probably 1000 mi round trip. PA will use 34 gal.  '50 will use 62 gal, maybe less.  Gas today  $2.25 .   PA uses $76.    "50 $139.00 .  Difference is what it cost to use the OLD car.  So $76.  Is the satisfaction worth $76? Yep.

 

  Ben

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On ‎2‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 11:09 AM, rgshafto said:

I'm looking at acquiring a '47 Buick sedanette which I would use to do some long distance touring (month long trips, thousands of miles each). I know the nailhead eights are renown for their reliability, but wonder what kind of gas mileage they get? And are their any routine issues one might expect to encounter in such circumstances that I should be aware of (overheating, vapor lock, etc.)? Thanks for any advice offered.

 

In case you are new to the Buicks,  I suggest:  It would seem that the straight 8 exhaust manifolds are consumables after all these years.  These attach to the intake manifolds, and can be costly repairs.  Chances are a deteriorated unit would add to the engine compartment heat and related vapor lock issues.  Also, if not modified, the cars are 6 volt negative ground.  I think novices will replace the battery cables with 12 volt system cables which will not be sufficient.  So check that you have the fatter battery cables if it is still a 6 volt system.  By the way, 6 volt systems in good condition are adequate for a stock car, but do not expect bright headlights like todays cars. 

One other thing to look for is deteriorated wiring harnesses.  The original wiring harness is prone to deterioration of the insulation, as evidenced by exposed wire at the terminals.  I have heard that the deterioration only occurs where the ends of the wire are exposed outside the wiring loam, but I do not know that for a fact.  

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On 2/12/2018 at 6:35 PM, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

The Park Avenue gets 30 mpg Hwy. 

I wish my 95 Park Avenue Ultra got 30 MPG. I guess I need to keep my foot out of the supercharger?:D

 

On an unrelated note, there is a 95 PA with just under 33k miles for sale in Maryland. Not garaged kept, though. I have details if anyone is interested.

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