My 1931 Buick project- the saga begins...

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On 11/14/2018 at 10:17 PM, DRF said:



Saw that the outer door handles are not on your car and that your door panels are off.  Do you know how the outer door handles attach to the inner mechanism?  I have a Fisher body 1930 Cadillac and am missing one rear door handle and the one on the front just spins but doesn't open the door.  Luckily I can still get in the passenger's side!  The Fisher body manual isn't too clear on this (at least for me).  Curious what you have learned from your car about this.


Looks like the car is coming together well, have really enjoyed reading your updates.


David Farlow


The 30 Cadillac handles will be a challenge and quite expensive, but absolutely nothing you can do with originals as they turn to junk.    Here are the options: This Australian company has nice castings  // Verdones I believe is out of business // Pete Sounders // The Filling Station for a 1929-1930 Chevrolet handle that will get you by // Bobs Automobile  for a Buick handle that will get you by.    And, periodically someone has recast them and there are their defective castings laying out on a  table at Hershey.   And, I personally would not worry about exact duplication as cars seems to have a host of solutions on them - nice to just have 95% and functional. 

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Hi John;  I answered this question best I could back in November.  The only experience I have is with 31 Buick outside handles and they have a square shaft end that engages the lock mechanism in the door and the end of the square shaft has internal threads to accept a special bolt inside the car that actually goes thru the door panel, I.E. the head of the bolt is visible on the finished door panel inside the car.  I have all the door handles accounted for on my car, right door locking handle is a very good driver quality specimen with a key that works, non locking driver door handle, locking golf door and rumble lid handles are reproductions from Bob's Automobilia.  He doesn't have any locking door handles for the passenger door because the last several he had gotten from his Australian supplier were junk.  He sad the locks pulled out fo the door handle with the key.  He also said historically he got door handles from one of two Australian foundries and that the man that owns it is very old and about ready to call it quits. 



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Hello to all;  I'm working generally toward getting this car ready for installation of a complete reproduction wiring harness.  We had a few weeks of real winter here in Port Huron with temperatures below zero which means the home heating system is taxed enough it doesn't make sense trying to heat a cold 3 car attached garage by opening the kitchen door to the garage.  One of the major projects on my list was resurrecting the instrument panel which was scuffed and scratched and improperly painted red, the faux wood trim panel that spans the width of the panel and the instrument cluster which was loaded with instruments that were not usable.  With the cold weather I thought why not pull the panel and bring it in the house to work on so one cold day I went to the garage and removed it.  Once in my hobby room I removed the cluster and started taking inventory of all that needed attention.  The panel itself needed to be repainted gloss black and needed to be pinstriped.  It was also missing the Fisher VV decals that go on the top corners of the air dam.  The faux wood insert was scratched and had one tiny chip through to the metal.  I removed the cluster assembly and found the chrome surround,   bezel plate, speedometer lamp brow and back pan were all held together with strategically placed pieces of duct tape.  The surround has a perimeter crimp rail that is supposed to hold it all together.  The bezel plate, once wood grained,  was painted red.  The back pan was thoroughly coated in white paint which I suspected was epoxy based, including the instrument lamp socket attachment ears which cannot be painted because they are the ground circuit for the instrument lamps.  All the gauge unit attaching screws were painted white probably while still loosely installed on the back pan.  There was no sign of the instrument lamp sockets and wiring.  Eventually, through pictures of another panel which I eventually bought, I figured out the instrument lamp switch was missing.  The dial glass backing plates on the back of the bezel plate were also taped, the glass backing plates were originally riveted.  One of the toy tabs was broken off the speedometer lamp hood.  Later I discovered the heat control lever was from a later car with a different design.  The speedometer instrument was dirty but intact.  The ammeter gauge face was badly bent and the needle was stuck and missing paint.  The King Seely Tele-gage gas gauge was dirty, the glass column tube was broken off just above the capillary tube joint to the glass, the temp gauge was pegged at 200+ degrees.  Later after adjusting the gauge to read at the cold end of the scale, when tested, turned out to be inoperative.  What I found that was good was gauge dials that were legible, especially the fuel gauge had a nice dial with clean markings, and the bezel surround and instrument dial trim inserts had been re-chromed.  Also the choke and spark cable assemblies were very nice with no major kinks.  Other than that it was what it was.


I wasn't sure where to start with the cluster assembly but eventually started sorting the gauges.  I started with the speedometer by opening it.  I discovered it was really in not too bad shape, just really dirty.  I cleaned the dial drum carefully with warm soap water applied with Q-tips.  I used petroleum based solvent and some artist brushes to remove the old grease, then replaced the grease and oiled the dial drum and other small pivots with synthetic clock oil.  I cleaned the housing, bezel and glass, cannibalized a missing seal  that seals the odometer reset stem to the housing can from another speedometer and carefully crimped it back together.  Next I straightened the sheet metal ammeter dial face and freed the needle which I carefully re-painted.  After an hour of fiddling with needle height and adjustments to the dial face I got an ammeter that read zero at rest and it moved to end of - to + scales without needle bind.  Then there was the gas gauge.  I carefully removed the dial and discovered the glass tube had broken off cleanly with no missing chips and the break was below the line of sight masked by the dial.  I cleaned the tube with vinegar and a clockmaker's pivot cleaning stick, re-attached the broken off tube with industrial epoxy, replaced the white background panel, leak and flow checked and re-assembled.  It turned out nice.  The oil pressure gauge needed next to nothing, I re-painted the red needle tip and brushed the back place clean with a brass bristle wire brush.  I sent the temperature gauge to Bob's Speedometer in Howell, MI and for the princely sum of $225 they replaced the sensing bulb and capillary tube, charged it with formaldehyde and calibrated it and sent it back to me.  I got it back yesterday. 


AACA member Dave39MD has an original 31 Buick 8-66S down in Georgia and as noted in my previous posts has bee a great source of pictures and information from his car.  I told him what I was dealing with regarding the instruments and cluster housing and he wrote that he had a spare cluster in a box somewhere in his shop that he bought for spares.  He found it and sent pictures of the assembly to me and I asked if he would sell it.  He had the complete cluster housing assembly that had never been apart, it still had a part number stamped on the back of it.  He also had the gauges but decided to keep those for his car.  Eventually we struck a deal and I bought the complete housing with all the mounting screws for the gauges and it had the original Delco instrument lamp switch and lamp sockets with toasted wiring that would have to be replaced.  The  original wood grain was still there on the bezel plate but was just bad enough to not be usable.  There was no doubt this housing had never been apart as base pan, bezel and surround were held together by the original crimp job.  I carefully photographed the assembly then disassembled it.  I learned a lot about the original construction and found the assembly I had was also missing  two green acetate lamp filters and their attaching clips for the outboard lamps, a gasket that goes between the speedometer lamp hood and the bezel plate and 2 anti-crush support tubes at the choke and spark cable ports.  I decided not to disturb the rivets that held the  individual gauge bezels, dial glasses and backing plates together because the wood grain was not quite good enough to use. 


As I worked to clean 88yrs worth of rust and dirt off the back pan, instrument lamp sockets and switch of the donor cluster housing I began to formulate a plan of how best to combine parts from the 2 cluster assemblies to get a pretty authentic cluster to put back in the car.  I decided an economical way to have nice woodgrain on the cluster bezel was to veneer it with real rosewood.  I bought a sheet of paper backed 0.040" thick rosewood veneer on E-Bay that was big enough to do at least 3 bezels.  I cut a piece to size using the surround to get an outline of the required piece of veneer and contact cemented it to the red painted bezel plate from the cluster that came with my car, thus preserving the original wood grained part I got from Dave's cluster.  Working carefully with an Exacto knife and a fine 1/2 round miniature file I trimmed out the gauge openings, then gave the veneer 3 coats of clear acrylic lacquer.  It looked really nice in a temporary buildup of the bezel plate, gauge bezels, glass and the chrome bezel surround. 


The next day I started  a careful re-assembly of the cluster housing now consisting of the re-chromed bezel surround, the speedometer lamp hood from donor assembly because the toy tabs were intact, the veneer wood grained bezel plate from the cluster that came with my car and the donor back pan carefully cleaned without disturbing the part number still clearly stamped on the back.  I used brass wire to hold the backing plates that secure gauge glasses and gauge bezels to the bezel plate because original bras tube rivets are not available.  I included the acetate instrument lamp filters, clips, instrument lamp switch, cable support tubes and heat control parts from the donor panel along with the nice original gauge mounting screws.  After carefully crimping the assembly all together with the surround crimp I made new gaskets for each of the gauge units and assembled all except the temperature gauge which didn't come back from repair for a couple of weeks.  I replaced the instrument lamp wiring with correct cloth covered 16ga wire and rewired the sockets to the switch.  I bought NOS Tung Sol #63 bulbs to replace a hodgepodge of old corroded bulbs that came with the donor cluster.  I took the choke and spark cables apart and cleaned and lubed them.  All the knob faces were re-painted.  Now I had a cluster that looked authentic and should be fully functional.


The other part of the project that was going on it the background was re-painting the instrument panel in the correct for 31 gloss black.  I found reproduction Fisher VV Windshield decals at Bob's Automobilia and installed them in the original locations on the brow of the panel air dam.  The hardest part was coming up with a pattern for pinstriping the left and right ends of the panel.  I looked at a million pictures on the internet of other people's 31 Buick instrument  panel pinstriping schemes.  The layout and colors varied.  I decided to make an overlay of geographic locating points on my panel and mailed it to Dave who agreed to trace the outline of the pinstriping on his car and mail it back to me.  Eventually I made a stencil template of the layout.  I couldn't decide if I should just attach the template to the panel with magnets and spray the pattern or tape the panel, trace the template pattern onto the tape, cut the openings in the tape with a hobby knife and paint the stripes on with a brush.  I finally chose the hand-paint method which came out ok, but not great.  I almost sanded the hand striping off to do it over by the spray method but came to the conclusion that this is an amateur restoration  and will probably have a few signs of such so I left the striping as is. The panel was clear coated after pinstriping and installation of the decals.  I used a clear lacquer touchup bottle sponge brush to fill in the scratches on the faux wood grained trim panel, then polished it up with 3M Finesse It polishing glaze and save for the fact it should really have a pinstripe around the perimeter (don't look at me for this job) the trim panel turned out pretty nice. 


I don't expect the instrument panel to go back in the car anytime soon as it's easier to work under the dash without it.  The next big milestone is to re-paint the outside of the firewall black.  It is currently incorrectly painted in the red paint the rest of the body wears.  Then I will work from the inside of the car out.  I just took a million #6 sheet metal screws out of the cowl lacing and replaced them with split rivets which look correct under the hood and don't stick into space the firewall insulator will occupy.  I will install firewall tags, insulator and under dash pieces of the new wire harness before the instrument panel goes back in.  I'll cover that in another post.


Best regards...



Picture 1:  This is an old picture of my car as I got it and shows the starting point for the instrument panel.  The instrument panel was painted red and was scuffed, missing pinstripes and Fisher VV windshield decals , the faux wood trim panel was scratched and the bezel plate on the cluster was painted red instead of wood grained.  The ammeter and temperature gauges were pegged at the high end of their scales.  The fuel gauge glass tube was stained and later turned out to be broken off.  The oil pressure gauge looked pretty good, the speedometer was dirty and the painted bezel was scratched.


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Picture 2:  A picture of the cluster housing that came with the car.  It came apart easily because it was taped together.  The wood grain on the bezel was replaced by red paint and the back pan was painted white inside and out including instrument lamp socket receptacles through which the lamp sockets are supposed to be grounded.  There were lots of missing internal parts and the instrument lamp switch and sockets were missing.


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Picture 3:  These are the instruments plus an extra ammeter I got with the car and minus the temperature gauge which I sent for repair.  This picture was taken after numerous repairs to gauges described in the main body of my post above.  Most of the gauges have pretty decent dials, the ammeter I settled on is the upper one and has the worst dial paint but the dial is not as bent up and it has the most legible scale.  The ugly paint is not as noticeable in the cluster.  Also in the picture are the new gaskets I made.


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Pictures 4, 5:  The donor cluster housing doesn't look that impressive at first blush but had never been apart and was complete with all the parts my housing was missing.  Note the wood grain on the front, part number stamped on the back, original lamp sockets in unpainted receptacles for grounding with toasted wiring which is connected to the Delco instrument lamp switch on the left that my housing did not have. 


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Picture 6:  First time apart for the donor panel, note the inside of the back pan IS painted white but the back of the pan is bare steel. The round green things in the top picture are the instrument lamp color filters missing from my back pan.  The sheet metal pieces on the back of the bezel plate hold the individual instrument bezel trims and dial glass in place and were riveted to the bezel plate.  The back of the speedometer lamp hood has a gasket also absent from the cluster housing I got with my car. 


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Picture 7:  The original wood grain on the donor bezel plate was not salvageable.  The little tubes are support tubes the prevent the bezel surround, bezel plate and back pan from collapsing from clamping force produced by tightening the attaching nuts on the backs of the choke and spark cable housings.  The speedometer lamp hood from the donor panel wasn't as shiny as the re-chromed one that came with my car but the donor hood had both attaching toy tabs intact where one was broken off the re-chromed piece.  The heat control lever from the donor panel is correct for 31 so I used it in place of the shinier but incorrect later model re-chromed lever that came with the car.


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Pictures 8, 9, 10:  The original bezel plate now has wood grain courtesy of a piece of real rosewood veneer.  In picture 8 the veneer has not been clear lacquered, and is shown with the bezel plate  temporarily installed behind the chrome surround.  Picture 9 shows the bezel plate after lacquer and heat control labelling.  The brass wire was used to hold the sheet metal plates that attach the individual gauge bezels and dial glass.  The attaching plates are visible in picture 10.


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Pictures 11, 12:  Pictures of the now assembled and crimped cluster housing without the gauges.


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Pictures 13, 14:  Pictures of the cluster with all gauges installed except the temperature gauge.  The oil pressure gauge is installed in the wrong opening in picture 14, it later moved one slot left in car and the temperature gauge was correctly installed in place of the errantly place oil pressure gauge.


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Picture 15:  Now the lamp sockets have been re-wired and installed with NOS Tung-Sol bulbs made in America.


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Picture 16  I made a translucent  parchment paper overlay of the right end of the instrument panel that indexed to cluster opening on the left and panel mounting holes on the right and mailed it to Dave39MD in Georgia.  He then indexed the overlay on his instrument panel, traced his pinstriping onto the paper and mailed it back to me.  By indexing to features on the panel I not only got the pattern of the pinstripes, I got the location the pinstripes occupy.


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Picture 17:  The re-painted black panel awaiting pinstriping and cluster installation.


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Picture 18:  I made a template of the pinstripe layout which was used to trace the pattern onto masking tape applied to left and right ends of the panel.  The tape was then cut out with a hobby knife.  The openings in the tape were brushed with 3 coats of white acrylic lacquer touch up paint.


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Picture 19:  The result of the pinstriping effort is shown in picture 20.  The pinstriping is far from perfect but hey, I'm a card carrying amateur, never did this before.


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Picture 20: One of the  reproductions of the original Fisher Body VV Windshield decals, patent numbers on the left, VV trademark on the right ends of the air dam brow. 


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Pictures 21, 22:  The finally completed cluster assembly now has a temperature gauge and it and the oil pressure gauge are now installed in the correct original locations.


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Picture 23:  This is the final product shown with the faux wood grain trim panel installed temporarily.  The trim panel is missing a pinstripe around it's perimeter but if that ever gets added someone who knows how to pinstripe will get the job.


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Picture 24:  This is the instrument panel in Dave39MD's original 31 8-66S.


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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So I recently was reminded that the road draft tube is supposed to be secured by a clamp that attaches the lower tube to the top of the oil pan rail on the left side of the block.  I didn't even know there was a second clamp that attaches the fuel overflow drain tube from the air cleaner to the road draft tube.  There was a restored road draft tube and the clamp that attaches it to the block listed on E-Bay and it had been there for awhile so I asked if the seller would just sell me the clamp which he would not.  So then I posted in the Buick Buy/Sell forum and got a response from another member that he probably had the clamp.  That's when I discovered the second clamp for the fuel drain tube.  I bought the clamps and a hard to find oil line fitting.  The parts arrived lightly sand blasted and some of the rust pits were pretty deep.  I was going to just make new clamps from the original pieces but didn't have the right thickness sheet metal.  Instead I traced the formed bends, flattened the clamps on a bench anvil and massaged them on a belt sander.  Then using the tracings I bent the clamps back to their original configurations, primed and painted them and cleaned up the original screws.  They were so pretty I decided I should remove the road draft tube, which extends down through a hole in the splash pan too small to pass the clamps through,  and slide the clamps up from the bottom. of the road draft tube.  That was easier said than done, I wound up removing the air cleaner, disconnecting the carburetor fuel line, then separating the carburetor from the heat riser to get enough clearance to get the road draft tube off it's mounting stud on the engine and fish it out of the car.  The other item was I had to replace one of the oil pan bolts with a long bolt that extends above the oil pan rail to attach the road draft tube clamp to the engine.  This sounds like minutia but I'm still interested in having a complete car representative of the original.  Included in the pictures below are pictures of the clamp installation on Dave39MD's original 8-66S car down in Georgia...


Pictures 1, 2:  These are pictures of the road draft tube clamp on the bottom of the tube and fuel overflow clamp above.  The road draft tube clamp  is installed upside down and incorrectly below the fuel overflow clamp in these pictures  compared to the next pictures of the clamp installation on Dave39MD's car. 






Pictures 3-5:  These are pictures of the clamp installation on Dave39MD's original car in Georgia.


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Pictures 6-8:  Pictures of the restored clamps installed on my car.


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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You can do your own pinstripe even if a beginner (it takes a lot of practice to freehand and get nice - I started when I was about 7 years old) - for a first timer, try 3M fine line tape and One Shot sign painters enamel - you may be able to thin the paint a touch to allow for a better line - tape, then stripe, then remove tape after a few minutes, then wait a couple hours and clean up any edges with a fine cloth wrapped over a knife edge with goo gone or mineral spirits (caution - you need to know how th woodgrainer did their work so as to not damage it with anything you are doing stripe wise - ie will mineral spirits damage their work).  As plan B, most large cities have a hot rod guy who pinstripes.

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)

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Hi John and thanks for the tips on the pinstriping.  If you saw the next to last picture in my post you know the stripes are already on the instrument panel.  They aren't perfect but for a first try and no experience they are passable.  I won't try to redo them now but will probably use the fine line tape and Sign Painter's paint if I have occasion to do any more.  Again, appreciate your comments...



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Hello to all;  I've gotten a couple of things done on the car since the February 23 installment so thought I would post an update.  Item 5 in the list includes installation of a correct Buick oil supply branch fitting that screws into an oil supply fitting at the right rear crankcase and connects the inlet side of the oil filter and the oil pressure gauge.  At first I thought this was mostly cosmetic but that fitting is a metering device that restricts oil flow to the rocker arms and generator front bearing to 1qt./min. at 25 mph according to the spec's and adjustments manual.  This flow  restriction preserves oil pressure at low rpm which is intended to assure main and rod bearings get what they need to stay healthy.  The "Buick" logo is cast on the fitting.  I also salvaged the original oil pressure gauge line which I found corroded on the outside, plugged on the inside and rolled up in a ball in a box that came with the car. 


Rather than do a long writeup I will list what has been done then post some pictures...


1:  Added a top seal to the windshield.  I found some soft fuzzy seal on a stiff self adhesive substrate that is 1/2" thick, adds very little friction to the windshield, is effective and easy to install and even available in a light tan material that makes it really difficult to know it is there. 

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2:  Replaced sheet metal screws that attach the cowl lacing with correct split rivets.  Haven't done the radiator shell lacing yet but will get to that soon.  


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3: Painted the firewall matte black, installed Buick body tags.


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4: Pre-wired current limit relay with left/right main cowl wiring harnesses then installed cowl insulator, relay and cowl harnesses.  Note that the long insulator bolts will be cut off with a bolt cutter as they did in the factory but not until I'm sure I'm done having to pull the insulator away from the firewall to attach something I missed.   


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5:  Replaced incorrect oil filter cannister and plumbing with correct filter brackets, repro horizontal filter (hides spin on filter) and original clamp bands. Installed correct Buick branch fitting, fabricated brass lines,  routed original oil pressure gauge line and KS Telegage fuel gauge line into passenger compartment. 


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6:  Repainted ignition coil, wired coil and generator cutout relay, installed starter terminal cover.


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7: Wired headlight switch including headlight harnesses and reconnecting rear near perfect original rear body wire harness, added restored tail light connecter to rear harness, installed tail light.  


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8. Corrected horn and Klaxon equipment tag orientation on mounting bracket.  Fabricated my own 3 hole oval firewall grommet since both Bob's and Steele Rubber grommets listed in their catalogs are totally incorrect (too tall/ too narrow to even fit the hole in the 31 Buick firewall), wired horn.  Fabricated manifold vacuum line for wipers and connected to wiper tube inside the car


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9:  Installed cowl lamps and wired. 


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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May I suggest you paint the cover on the voltage regulator on top of the generator - black. 


Also, 1931 Cadillac's have the roll up windshields and the rubber to seal such is generally available via Steele Rubber - all be it looks like you found a good solution. 

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Also, do not worry about the alignment of the hood molding to cowl (aka my guess is that it is close enough), as when you latch the hood for a while the welting will take a set.

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So Steele doesn't have the top seal either, they have sides and base seal which are same as what Bob's has because he Bob gets his seals from Steele.  I'm not real sure there actually is a top seal, Dave39MD has one of these cars that has never been apart and his doesn't have a top seal, except I sent him a piece of the 3m whisker seal I found.  The paint on my car is new so installing the top seal was a snap because there is a nice smooth surface for the adhesive backing on the 3m seal to adhere to.  The seal also features a 1/2" wide by 1/8" thick plastic substrate which bends across the 1/8" thickness but is very stiff across the 1/2" width.  I basically threaded the seal over top of the wiper blades, peeled back an inch of the release tape on the adhesive and pushed the seal up into place at the starting end, then just shoved it up into place as I went across the windshield pulling the release tape off as I went.  When I was about a foot from the other A-pillar I cut the seal to it's final length, shoved the last foot up into place between the windshield and the sheet metal header and pulled the tape off.  I inserted  a soft vinyl body filler squeegee in at the start of the seal between the whiskers and glass and pulled that across the length of the seal to finish setting the adhesive and that was it.  10 minutes tops.  What I really like is it has such low friction on the glass you can't perceive any change in crank effort to raise the glass. 


I'm not too worried about the fit of the hood to the cowl lace, it will look fine when I get some hood latches on the car.  I will get around to painting the hood feature line moldings black to match the rest of the car. 


I just painted the radiator shutter black on the car and then figured out the guys that put the radiator assembly back in the car have the shutter return spring installed backward, it opens the shutters wide open when the thermostat link pin is removed.  The spring is supposed to close the shutters all the way when water temp  drops.  It is intended to put a 14lb preload on the thermostat bellows to collapse them back down in an orderly fashion as the water cools. I just pulled the radiator and shell off the car and have it on the bench to fix a myriad of things that are either not serviceable or not correct.   That will be another post when I'm done. 


As for the silver cutout relay, I'm hoping to replace it with an original Delco Remy cutout which were painted black. 







Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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Thanks for the compliment Mark;  I'm already a Buick Club member and will likely join the pre-war section soon.



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Hello to all;  Well, it's been a busy few weeks.  First I attempted to repaint the radiator front shutters from the red body color that adorned the shutters when I got the car to correct gloss black without removing the radiator and shell.  That turned out to be a mistake because in the process I discovered hidden behind the chrome shell the previous custodians of this car decided to overcome a dead thermostat by reversing the shutter spring to hold the shutters open instead of closing them as Buick intended.  The project that developed will be covered in my next post.  The main subject of this post is reinstallation of the restored instrument panel, it's wiring and plumbing and the resultant completion of the left side of the engine compartment. 


The instrument panel restoration from removal from the car spans months, starting with removal January 31, 2019 to completion today, April 12, 2019.  I took a panel out of the car that was incorrectly painted red, had 3 of the 5 gauges in unusable condition, was missing woodgrain on the cluster and many parts such as instrument lamp switch, lamp masks inside the cluster, instrument lamps and wiring.  As of today's writing all of those items have been corrected.  I did a pretty good post of the restoration of the panel and cluster, this post is more about reinstallation, wiring and plumbing. 


The panel went back in the car this past Tuesday with my wife's help. Earlier in the day I partially removed the right side dash insulator to facilitate installation of an accessory wire harness to support a nice set of Trippe Junior driving lights I bought from Steve Moskowitz who is CEO of the AACA.  Wednesday I laid under the panel and connected ammeter and  instrument panel lights and wired the switch for the Trippes.  I had filled the fuel gauge reservoir with red oil appropriate for KS Telegage fuel gauges (if you get this stuff on your fingers, don't touch any painted surfaces, I learned the hard way it eats paint!) and connected the spark control cable, choke cable, fuel gauge line, the oil pressure gauge line and hooked up the dash heat control.  Thursday I drained about 2 gallons of coolant from the car so I could remove some ad-hoc parts that came on the car to facilitate and accessory heater installation which I doubt I will ever do.  I removed the horn to gain access, removed the unscheduled parts, then installed the sensing bulb for the restored temperature gauge.  I made the 3 hole firewall grommet for the car having had no success buying a correct one and was able to successfully finish installing it in the firewall hole.  Later Thursday I fabricated a speedometer cable routing clamp that resides near the bottom of the steering column tube.  Earlier in the week I bought a good complete speedometer cable with correct transmission adapter and correct for model 8-66S 24 tooth speedometer gear from Dave39MD and it showed up in the afternoon mail.  I spent a little time and elbow grease cleaning the cable up and getting it ready to install.  Today I installed the speedometer cable at the speedo head and was able to verify the speedo will work by spinning the gear on the transmission end of the cable and then went on to route the cable thru my homemade steering column clip, thru a routing clip riveted to the side of the frame behind the left engine mount and installed the adapter and trans gear in the tail shaft housing of the transmission.   Below are pictures of the results.


Best regards



Pictues 1, 3:  The panel as it appeared when removed January 31, 2019 and the way it looked when my wife and I put it back in the car Tuesday, April 9, 2019, note the hanging wiring.


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Pictures 4-6:  The organized insanity under the panel after I connected wiring, fuel gauge and oil pressure gauge.


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Pictures 7-8:  I removed the plumbing for the accessory heater from the water manifold preferring the simple installation of the water temp gauge sensing bulb and having no desire to install a heater.  I made the 3-hole firewall grommet from laminations of trim rubber contact cemented together.  I wasn't sure it would survive installation but it turned out better than expected


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Pictures 9-15:  After about 2 months of searching I finally bought a correct speedometer cable from Dave39MD who has one of these cars that has never been apart.  Dave's support thru pictures, correspondence and parts have been a huge help in my effort to restore my car.  These pictures show routing from speedometer head, thru the firewall, to my home-brew steering column routing clamp, back over the rear engine mount, thru a routing clip riveted to the frame and finally to the tail shaft housing of the transmission. 


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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Hello to all;  This post will be about what appeared to be the worst case of incorrect assembly by a previous custodian of the car and how that probably turned out for the best.  I was taking a short cut of sorts by trying to paint the incorrect red radiator front shutters black without taking the radiator and shell out of the car.  At some point during the painting I removed a clevis pin on the thermostat linkage to allow me to move the shutters to gain paint access to surfaces behind the closed shutters.  I say closed, but the shutters hadn't been full closed by the thermostat since I brought the car home, I expected to just have to perform a linkage adjustment.  To my surprise, when I removed the clevis pin, the shutters snapped fully open.  I didn't think that was right and after some investigation and careful reading of the 1931 Buick Specifications and Adjustments I became convinced that the shutter spring was somehow incorrectly installed to make the shutters open, rather than close as Buick intended.  I really hated the thought of taking the radiator and shell out of the car but I finally did remove it.  The collateral work involved included removing the front bumper, loosening front fenders, removing hood sills and lower radiator stone shield.  I'm an old geezer, not in the best shape and it was a struggle for me to just lift the radiator and shell out of the car and put it on a work table but with no help around somehow I managed.  Once I got the assembly on my work table I took it completely apart.  The first to come out was the thermostat which was not functional having lost it's charge.  This job was the first inkling I had that the best thing that could have happened was removing the radiator and shell, the thermostat cover screws were frozen in the brass cover retaining ring.  I had to drill every one of them out which would have been an awful job in the car, then tapped the retainer ring 1/4-20, up one screw size from the original 12-24, then replaced the original screws with stainless items. 


There is a caution notice cast on the thermostat cover that warns the shutter link must be removed before attempting to remove the radiator from the shell in the car. The attachment to the shutter control pin is physically located in front of the radiator but behind the shutter and is not accessible.  According to the Buick drawings the shutter link is supposed to have a sliding lock arrangement to lock it to the shutter pin.  The link that came with the car was cotter pinned to the shutter control which would have made removal of the link, then the radiator from the shell in the car, impossible.  On my work table I was able to lift the radiator straight out of the shell, not possible in the car.  I made and added a slide lock to the shutter link as shown on the Buick drawing so the link pin can now be installed or removed from the shutter control pin in the car.  This was another dividend of removing the radiator and shell from the car. 


The next concern was the viability of the thermostat.  I put it in a stovetop water bath with a thermometer and heated the water to 150 degrees F and it never moved.  It should have started at 135 degrees per the manual.  I called Jim Otto in Knoxville TN.  Jim is a retired engineer who worked for Sylphon who made most of the thermostats used to operate radiator front shutters and services them.  He agreed to look at mine and called to say he couldn't service that style because there was no replacement bellows available.  The brass bellows in these old stats work harden and fracture after so many cycles allowing the reactive liquid, methyl alcohol or acetone, to leak out.  Jim told me easiest way to know the health of one of these thermostats is you should not be able to move the bellows pin by hand.  If you can move it by hand the thermostat has leaked and has air in it.  I was able to easily push the shutters open and closed by hand before I took the linkage apart.  Jim opened my thermostat and it was dry.  He suggested replacing it with a different style he had which is similar to the replacement unit Bill Hirsch sells for $399.  Jim overhauled the core he had, replacing the bellows with new, charged it with acetone and water mixture cause the thermostat to start opening at 140 degrees F.  Jim shipped it to me along with my old stat for $260. 


Finally I removed the radiator from the shell and saw the jury rigged spring arrangement the previous folks had installed, probably to hold the shutters open because the thermostat was no good.    During this time I also removed the shutters from the radiator shell to give them a proper black paint job, not possible without having the radiator and shell out of the car.  Also while the radiator shell was out of the chassis I cleaned up the front of the frame, removed a dent in the crankshaft pully that caused the fan belt to rise partly out of the sheaves and installed the right side headlight harness on the crossmember using the Buick wiring drawings to locate routing clips and wiring harness correctly another item that would have been very difficult to take care of with the radiator and shell out of the car.. 


After painting the shutters and getting a thermostat back from Jim Otto I started the reassembly process, installing the thermostat with a new gasket, leak testing the radiator, then installing shutters and radiator back into the shell with some new hardware.  The Buick drawings barely address the spring, no specifications,  only a part number which is pretty meaningless today.   According to the Specifications and Adjustments manual the thermostat must be capable of lifting 14lbs at 145 degrees.  I began looking for a spring that was around 5.5" long to stretch between the bell crank on the shutter assembly and the stationary end retainer pin.  Once I found a spring that met this criteria I wanted it to produce a starting force with the shutters just beginning to open around 4-8lbs and then not to exceed a force of 14lbs to open the shutters wide.  I used a 0-20lb range Chatillon force gauge to test some springs and settled on one made by Associated Spring that produced a starting force to just open the shutters of 5lbs and then a force of 10lbs to open the shutters wide. 


Finally the day came to put the radiator and shell back in the car.  I had my wife help me guide the studs on the bottom of the shell back into the holes in the crossmember.  While the hood sills and gravel shield were off the car I touched up many stone chips in the paint sustained when the previous restorer test ran the car on gravel road.  I decided to do the paint work only on the hood latches, they will have to come apart again for plating later.  I also installed new rubber hood bumpers on the latches and installed them on the hood sills.  I then reinstalled the hood sills which allowed me to do final headlight and engine compartment wiring attachment as the harness are held by wiring clips installed under the frame hood sill screws.  With headlight build and installation in mind as the next major project  I tracked down an original set of headlight stanchion screw plates that go on the underside of the hood sills at the attachments for the stanchion bases.  About this time I selected the best of 3 headlight bars I had, cleaned and painted it black, then installed it tying the front fender supports together.  I spent a couple of days getting hood sills, gravel shield, hand crank support bracket and fender attachment hardware all installed to my satisfaction.  I learned the hard way the gravel pan and hand crank support should have gone in before I decked the radiator and shell but after a struggle I got those items installed.    The one thing Jim Otto cautioned me about is that the thermostat he was sending had a substantially shorter bellows stud and I might have to do something to the linkage to allow it to hook up and adjust.  The difference turned out to be 0.750".  I toyed with extending the bellows adjustment nut but after looking at the original Buick radiator drawings that MidMan sent me I decided the link that attaches to the shutters should be lengthened.  I completed that task today and installed the new link.  The rest of the linkage now appears to rest in the cold thermostat position just like it looks on the Buick drawing.  I'll let the pictures tell the resto of the story for this installment.  The headlight build and installation will be documented in the next post.




Picture 1:  The paint job that started the process of correctly restoring the cooling package.  You can see the red paint I thought I would have to prop the shutters open to access, instead, when I removed the shutter linkage  pin the shutters sprung open as seen here.


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Picture 2:  It was March 15th, 2019 that  I lifted the radiator out of the chassis. 


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Pictures 3-5:  Getting the thermostat cover off the radiator required drilling out all the 12-24 screws which were frozen into the brass screw ring on the thermostat opening.  Eventually I got the cover off and removed an ugly thermostat.  Chances of doing this operation in the car- not good.


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Pictures 6,7:  I re-tapped the brass screw ring on the radiator to accept 1/4-20 screws which are the same style slotted round heads Buick used and stainless.


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Picture 8:  This is the complete shutter linkage that that screws onto the bellows stud of the thermostat, center link attaches with a clevis pin to the thermostat cover and the long link with the brass sliding lock I added applies the output force of the expanding thermostat to open the radiator front shutters.  The brass slide lock was a part I made off the Buick radiator drawing that facilitates attachment of the shutter end of the link and removal of same with the radiator mounted in the shell.  there is a warning cast on the thermostat cover stating the link must be removed before the radiator core can be removed from the chrome shell while mounted in the car.


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Picture 9:  This is the thermostat that was in the radiator when I took it apart.  I cleaned it up before sending it to Jim Otto for service.  Ultimately it had to be replaced with a different style thermostat which actually appears to be the style shown on the Buick radiator drawing because a replacement bellows was not available of this thermostat.


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Picture 10:  The incorrectly installed spring pulled the shutter rack the wrong direction causing the shutters to fail open.


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Picture 11:  This is the shutter link sans slide lock feature.  Note that it is cotter pinned to the shutter link pin which makes it impossible to remove or install with the radiator in the shell.  You can remove the radiator core from the shell on the bench with this arrangement but you can't remove the radiator core from the shell in the car without the slide lock feature.


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Picture 12:  The radiator front shutter looked a lot better after getting painted out of the shell.


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Picture 13:  With the radiator and shell I was able to remove a dent in the crank shaft pulley that might have caused the fan belt to come off and it made attaching and routing the right headlight harness branch of the new Harnesses Unlimited reproduction wire harness much simpler.


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Pictures 14-16:  Here we have a correctly installed spring.  I tested the amount of force required to start opening the radiator shutter with a Chatillon force gauge.  Note the force required to start opening the shutter is 5lbs.  The thermostat produces enough force at 145 degrees to lift 14lbs.


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Pictures 17,18:  A force of 10lbs was required to open the shutters fully, still below the 14lb minimum force capability of the thermostat.


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Pictures 19, 20:  This is the reassembled radiator and shell ready to go back in the car.


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Picture 21:  The radiator went back in the car April 6, 2019.  This is how the car looked with the radiator back in, hood sills reinstalled and a correctly painted black headlight bar.


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Pictures 22, 23:  The thermostat I got from Jim Otto had a bellows stud that the linkage nut attaches to that is 0.750" shorter that the thermostat I took out of the car.  I made and installed a shutter link that is 0.750" longer to allow the linkage to be hooked up.  These pictures show the slide lock feature on the shutter link more clearly. 


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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Hello to all;  As promised in my last post, this post is all about unique for 1931, series 8-60/8-80/8-90 Tilt Ray Guiide 11" fixed focus headlamps, complete assembly part numbers 605F left, 605E right,  umm, "headlights" I think is the word I used in the last post....  A natural part of the reinstallation of the radiator, hood sills and fender attachments was installation of the headlight stands on the hood sills and a headlight bar which is an important structural support for the fenders.  At the end of the process I had routed the headlight wires from the new wire harness up through the headlight stands and the headlight bar.  Up to this point I had wired and tested every circuit on the car including the harness by means of either operating or voltage testing with a Fluke volt ohm meter and everything worked but I knew having headlights on the front of the car would make a huge difference in the appearance and compete the wiring task.  When I got the car it had an incorrect chrome light bar with a license plate bracket that was improperly welded to the bar so the bottom of the front license plate would have been angled back about 30 degrees from vertical and 2 re-chromed headlamp shells set on the bar with nuts finger tight and bezels taped on with duct tape.  There were no headlight stands, lenses or badge bar and the reflectors looked awful.  Since buying the car last April and taking some inventory of parts it became apparent that headlight parts were not nearly all present.  I tracked down an ugly but complete set of headlights on another headlight bar at French Lake Auto Parts in Minnesota and bought them.  Later I bought another set of nearly complete headlights that had been re-chromed years ago on E-Bay at a reasonable price. 


At 5:30 AM April 13 I delivered my wife and one steamer trunk to the local Amtrak station to go to Chicago to visit her daughter and son-in-law for 4 days.  The next day I hauled all the headlight parts in the house and started cherry-picking the best parts from the lot to try to come up with 2 reasonable driver quality headlights.  All the re-plated shells had been polished and copper filled to the point the Tilt Ray Headlamp- Guide trademark located on the back of the lamps was nearly obliterated.  The French Lake shells were badly dented, ripped in places and filthy.  I selected the shells I got with the car, they had best chrome, most legible trademark and least dents.  They do have cracks but most would not be visible after assembly.  The mounting pedestals on the headlights were originally riveted to the shells.  The shells were sandwiched between a pedestal socket cup assembled inside the shell and a sheet metal support ring assembled to the outside of the shell.  Apparently the folks that worked on my car before I got it must have lost the support rings as they assembled the pedestal socket cups incorrectly on the outside of the shells with rivet screws which badly distorted the bottom of the lamp shells.  I wound up grinding the brass rivets off the French Lake headlights to get a set of support rings.  The car came with a pair of re-silvered reflectors but they were for 32 or later cars with smaller reflectors.  Of the 6 correct for 31 reflectors, 3 were missing their mounting tabs that allow them to be screwed to the shells and all needed to be re-silvered.  Out of the remaining 3 reflectors that were intact I picked the cleanest 2.  I had no less than 8 lenses to choose from and picked out 2 that were not missing glass at their locating tabs or severely scratched and washed them thoroughly.  I had one badge bar socket with perfect chrome and 3 that needed plating from which I picked the best one and rounded up the spring clips that hold them in place.     I decided to use one of the bezels that came with the car, it only had one crack in the brass where it would not show and I picked another that will need plating at some point but it had presentable chrome and was crack free with some minor dents.  I also rounded up a complete set of original wire harness connecters, lamp connecters and bulb sockets and replaced the wiring that connects the lamp connecter to the bulb socket.  I rounded up the bezel clamp brackets and screws, socket springs, lens clips and had just enough rivet screws that more closely approximated the appearance of the original rivets.    I also had a set of foam reflector gaskets to replace the cork originals and a pair of badge bar socket grommets.   After cleaning up and re-painting the support rings I got from the Fox Lake headlights I finally had all the parts needed to assemble a couple of headlights.  I will again let the pictures tell the story.  I assembled the first headlight without taking any pictures but the next day I laid out all the parts and photographed each step of the assembly...


Best regards...



Picture 1:  This picture was taken by the seller in his shop before I picked the car up.  Note the red radiator shutters partially open, incorrect chrome headlight bar, no headlight stands and the lamps with bezels and reflectors held in place with duct tape. 




Picture 2:  The car after the radiator project was completed has correct black radiator front shutters, a good headlight bar I bought from thehandleman, driver quality headlight stands from Roger Fields in Ohio and the ends of the Harnesses Unlimited wire harness sticking up through the stands and headlight bar.


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Picture 3:  The French Lake headlights were taken from a 60 series car years ago and hung up in their headlight barn.  The headlights were ugly but were very complete, the seller removed the bezel in this picture to show the reflector.  I harvested a good bezel, one reflector, the bezel attachment brackets and screws and the support rings from these lamps.  I was able to trace the wire connections from the lamp connecters in the mounting pedestals to the lamp sockets to use for my rewire of the lights I assembled. 


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Picture 4:  The left and center lamps were an E-Bay buy, they were re-chromed years ago and the chrome was failing, the support rings at the bottom were incorrectly chromed, the shells had dents and the Tilt Ray Guide trademark was not legible.  The 3rd light on the right is one of the ones that came from my car which had the best shells and chrome but the pedestal mount cup is incorrectly assembled outside the shell on the bottom which put a lot of stress on the brass shell. 


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Picture 5:  This is a layout of all the parts required to build one headlight including the connector that will be soldered onto the wire harness in the car. Pictures 6-22 will take you step by step through a lamp build. 


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Pictures 6, 7:  I built the bezel and lens assembly first, having picked a crack free bezel, a good lens which was washed clean and the 3 spring clips that hold the lens to the bezel.  Lenses are marked TOP and have some locating tabs in the glass to assure proper orientation in the bezel.  The inner support ring in the bezel is rusty and will have to be removed, cleaned and repainted when the bezel is sent for re-plating.  I elected not to remove the inner ring until I'm ready to send the bezel out for plating because removing and reinstalling that steel inner ring often results in a cracked brass bezel.  The fewer times it is taken apart and reassembled the better.  The inner ring has the spring clip holes in it and holds the front bezel clamp bracket in place and stabilizes the fragile brass bezel outer.


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Picture 8,9:  The badge bar socket is inserted into the shell and the retaining spring is attached.  A rubber grommet for the badge bar is inserted into the socket on the outside of the lamp.


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Pictures 10, 11:  I pre-wired the lamp connecter to the bulb socket, green wire is high beam, black wire goes to low beam filament of the bulb.  The lamp connecters on 60/80/90 series lamps are installed in the mounting pedestals.  The final wiring connection to the car wiring of the lamps is accomplished by a plug on the end of the wire harness which bayonets onto the connecter in the base of the lamp pedestal with a 1/4 turn twist.  The wiring then all neatly hides inside the light stands.  The lamp connecter is held in place in the mounting pedestal with a brass set screw.  The wire spring in the second picture retains the lamp socket in the reflector.


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Picture 12:  Now the pedestal, pedestal cup and pedestal retainer are loosely assembled with the lamp socket wiring routed through the retainer.


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Picture 13:  The rear bezel clamp is "L" shaped in a side view.  It inserts into a slot in the bottom of the lamp shell and the leg gets trapped under a recess in the pedestal cup.


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Pictures 14, 15:  The bezel cup and pedestal retainer are assembled inside the shell, trapping the rear bezel clamp in place while the support ring is installed, narrow end to the front of the lamp shell.  The stack of parts is all secured by 6 rivet screws that pass from the bottom thru the support ring, then the brass lamp shell, then the pedestal cup and at 2 locations the pedestal retainer bracket.


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Pictures 16,-18:  The lamp socket now is inserted into the reflector aligning a slot on the lamp socket with a slot on the reflector.  The leg of the retainer spring inserts through the socket and reflector slots to lock the lamp socket to the reflector.   The last step for the spring is to hook it over the end of the socket.



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Picture 19:  The reflector has a tab on the bottom of it that inserts into a slot on the front rim of the lamp shell to correctly orient it.


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Picture 20:  The reflector is then screwed through the tabs at the left and right to the front rim of the shell and a headlight bulb is installed.. 


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Picture 21: These headlights had cork seals that sealed the reflector to the lens.  Today the seals are made of foam rubber and are probably more effective.  The foam rubber seals are installed in a channel that runs around the circumference of the reflector.  


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Picture 22:  Finally the bezel and lens assembly are installed by inserting a tab at the top of the bezel into a slot on the lamp shell, then carefully squeezing the front and rear bezel retainer brackets at the bottom of the bezel and lamp shell together, then installing the retaining screw.  Note that both front and rear bezel retainer brackets are threaded which is intended to lock the bezel onto the lamp but not allow the front and rear brackets to be compressed together by overtightening the screw which would cause catastrophic damage to the fragile brass bezel outer and or the lamp shell.


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Picture 23:  A rear view of the completed lamps.  There should be lock washers on both pedestals but I'm short one, it's coming in the mail soon.  The connectors seen at the bottom of the pedestals were soldered to the wire harness in the car after this picture was taken.


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Picture 24-27:  Pictures of the car with headlights and a yet to be restored front bumper.  There is a set of Trippe Jr. driving lights in the car's future.


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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Thanks John, I wonder though if there isn't supposed to be covers, like furniture plugs or similar to cover the bolt heads?

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On 4/21/2019 at 2:40 PM, Str8-8-Dave said:

Thanks John, I wonder though if there isn't supposed to be covers, like furniture plugs or similar to cover the bolt heads?

No covers, but they may have used a special bolt with a serrated edge that matches the original nut style of the lamp to bracket (takes a special wrench though).  That being said, perhaps get some stainless bolts and remove the SAE head markings.

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Hello to all, hope you all are ready for a good summer.  All the engine detail work and other projects on the car have finally culminated in a "running car", not a driving car but just getting the engine running correctly decked out in original support systems such as heat riser, exhaust, radiator thermostat and linkage, complete re-wiring, instrument panel restoration and ignition have paid off with a car that really runs pretty well.  Once the wiring was done and checked out using a 4 amp 6 volt battery charger I reported to the local NAPA store to acquire the heaviest duty 6 volt NAPA conventional lead acid battery I could find that would fit the battery carrier in the car.   I installed the battery and every electrical circuit works correctly.  The only hiccup was an anemic Klaxon horn which I disassembled and discovered a couple of dirty wiring connections and the armature clearance to the field coils was way off, 1/4" clearance on one side. nil clearance on the other.  I adjusted the air gap to 0.023" all around, put it back together and voila- a horn that works!.  A couple of days later I went thru the distributor point gaps and found the timing marks on the flywheel (11-1/2 degrees BTDC for #1 cylinder and forward points, then the Syn. # 6 mark for the rear points), carefully set the points to just break on the marks with a Fluke ohm meter.  For fuel I commandeered an outboard motor tank and hose with a primer bulb and connected it to the fuel pump inlet.  After pumping the fuel pump bowl I set the throttle to a fast idle setting, pulled the choke, turned on the ignition and hit the starter.  It sputtered and quit once, so I pushed the choke part way in and hit it again and away it went!  Oil pressure went immediately to 35 PSI, ammeter bounced around a bit at first then settled between 15 and 20 amps.  After the car ran for a few minutes it stumbled and I had fuel coming out of the carburetor bowl vent so I shut it off, took the bowl cover off and wiggled the float, set the cover back on and re-started it.  The car settled to a steady fast idle and I let it run that way.  Radiator shutters started to open right about 145 degrees and were open wide at 155 degrees.   The car is still on jack stands and the rear tires were spinning and the speedometer was reading between 5-10mph so that worked.  Not having put fuel in the car's tank I could not see if the KS Tele-gage gas gauge worked and the vacuum wipers do not work.  The car was a bit noisy between a few under-hood exhaust leaks and a non-original bus muffler of some sort the previous owner installed.  A few days later I started the car and ran it for about 45 minutes, shut it off and lashed the valves at 0.010" for now since the overhaul of the engine is pretty recent, I thought I would allow the head gasket to settle a little before going any closer on valve clearance.  I found most of the valves were around 0.012-0-015" so they weren't way off but the engine is quieter with all at 0.010".  I worked on the idle stop screw and got the car idled down and made a pass at mixture adjustment.  The engine is responsive to mixture change and after I settled on a setting it takes the throttle without complaint then returns to a nice idle reliably. 


In the days that followed I bought another Delco Remy model 660E distributor for a number of reasons, one of the cam screws that adjusts the movable point set was MIA in the distributor that came with the car.  Original hardware had been replaced with modern stuff that didn't look right.  The rotor was awful looking with a big spring under the center cap contact, points were cheapies with no post retainers, condenser on the outside of the distributor was a single screw short condenser mounted horizontally VS the long style 2 screw condenser of the day that is mounted vertically.  The breaker cam oil wick was missing. I rounded up as much NOS Delco Remy ignition parts I could find including NOS breaker arms, rotor and early style brown cap.  Point bases and condenser are Blue Streak parts. 


 I took the distributor I bought completely apart, cleaned everything, painted it lubed it up and reassembled it with my good parts.  The original mechanical advance springs looked excellent, rotor shaft and plate cleaned up like new.  The breaker plate in this distributor had all cam screws, original lock screws, original copper strip connector for the 2 point sets, perfect thru body coil/condenser connecter with original screws and terminal cover.   The oil wick was present under the rotor.


My grand daughter and her dad and his mom and dad came to Michigan from their Austin TX home to visit a couple of days ago while my daughter was on a business trip to Germany.   They had never seen a 1931 Buick so of course everybody came to the garage to see it.  I started it for them but it didn't run long before it began to flood again so I shut it off and we left it for the day in favor of grilled burgers and dogs, beer and good family chatter. 


The next day I took the float and float valve out of the carburetor.  The float was an original cork item.  The float valve really looked excellent, I believe it had been replaced recently.  I posted on the AACA technical forum and looked online to see if I could source, first choice, a brass float, second choice a new repro cork float but discovered the only floats being made are nitrophyl plastic which I'm not a big fan of, having had several get saturated and sink and one caused an under hood fire in my first new car, a 1969 Pontiac GTO Ram Air IV automatic car which really made a mess of that rare and now very valuable muscle car.  Bob's has the plastic float available ala-carte and The Carburetor Shop supplies it in a complete Marvel TD overhaul kit.  Jon, who owns The Carburetor Shop stated he could not buy virgin cork in quantities required to make floats from and warned me to make sure if I bought cork to make my own to not used the re-constituted common cork which is made of bits of cork glued back together.  Jon warned the stuff DOES NOT FLOAT!  He suggested balsa as an alternative.  I did some comparisons of the properties of balsa and properties of cork and balsa actually has a lower specific gravity than cork which relates to better buoyancy.  In raw form balsa would become saturated with fuel and lose it's buoyancy but sealed with POR or butyrate model airplane fuel proof dope it can be made impervious to fuel.  I had blocks of balsa left over from model building and finally decided to make a copy of the original cork item out of balsa.   Yesterday I sealed it with butyrate dope and let it dry overnight. 


Yesterday I also installed my overhauled distributor.  I did a partial tear down of the distributor that came with the car and got a surprise that made me happy I put an original setup distributor in the car because the one I took out was not that.  The advance springs were very heavy wire and had been stretched to reach between the distributor shaft rotor pins and the cam plate pins.  I suspect you would have had to rev the engine to 4000 rpm to see any mechanical advance from the distributor I removed from the car, it was way too heavy on advance springs. 


This morning I installed my new float, left the bowl cover off and pumped fuel to the carburetor with my outboard hose and tried to flood it and it would not flood.  I had already checked it carefully to make sure the float would not encounter any mechanical interference with the interior of the carburetor bowl and found good clearance all round.  I tried to start the car and it wouldn't hit a lick!  I immediately suspected something was wrong with my distributor installation.  I swapped condensers for the one that came with the car, tried it again, no luck.  I took the valve cover off to make sure I had the 11-1/2 degree mark in the timing window with the engine on TDC #1 (#3 exhaust valve starts to close, then watch for the mark in the window)  That checked out.  The rotor was pointed directly at the #1 terminal on the cap.  I loosened the distributor and did a really good 0.018" point gap adjustment.  Then I disconnected the condenser and coil wire from the distributor and put my Fluke meter across the stationary front point set.  I had had some difficulty getting a continuity reading with the Fluke when I first put the distributor in the car and wondered if there was a coating on the points.  I took a camel hair hobby brush and some lacquer thinner and washed the point contacts which did improve readings on the Fluke.  Once the front stationary points were set to just break for #1 cylinder I locked the distributor down and rotated the engine 90 degrees to bring the Syn #6 mark up in the timing window and carefully adjusted the movable point set to just break, locked the movable point plate in place, put the rotor and cap back on and the car started right up.  I let it run for a good half hour, removed the carburetor bowl cover a couple of times and my new float was steady as a rock. 


Work will slow a bit on the Buick as we head off for some fifth wheel camping and visits to our summer home in Michigan's UP.  I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer...




Pictures 1-4:  This is a 1931 Buick Delco Remy model 660 E used on 60/80/90 series cars that I bought on E-Bay.  While it was missing expendable parts like points, condenser, rotor and cap, it came with a treasure trove of original fasteners, breaker plate with no missing cam or lock screws,  terminal screws, metal condenser and point terminal cover and the oil wick that resides under the rotor, and most important, original advance mechanism springs in excellent condition.


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Pictures 5-8:  The distributor was completely disassembled, given a bath in fuel and all parts were brushed clean with a brass fine bristle wire brush.  The distributor body was de-rusted and painted.  I carefully removed the original copper foil connecter that connects the 2 sets of points to the external connector for the condenser and negative primary coil lead, polished it to a shine and replaced the asphalt sleeve with a new one.  Finally the distributor was lubed and re-assembled with as many Delco Remy NOS period correct expendable parts as I could find.  Breaker point arms,  rotor and period correct brown distributor cap are Delco Remy items.  Breaker point bases and condenser are correct NORS Standard Blue Streak items.


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Picture 9:  I also found and installed a period correct NOS Delco Remy brown cap. 


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Picture 10:  This is the distributor that came with the car.  The rotor is not a correct Buick part.  The cap is an after market item as are the breaker point arms.  There was no oil felt under the rotor.  The condenser is not the correct style and all the original round head screws on the exterior of the distributor were replaced with hex head screws.  The cam screw that is used to synchronize the rear set of points had been broken out of the breaker plate and was lost.  The metal cover for the external coil and condenser wire connections was missing.  It had replacement mechanical advance springs that were way too stiff for an engine that only revs 4,000 rpm wide open throttle which would have affected performance.


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Picture 11:  The 11-1/2 degree timing mark appears in the timing window which is the correct starting advance to fire #1 cylinder.


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Picture 12:  The new distributor is installed in the car with the rotor pointed exactly under the #1 terminal of the distributor cap.


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Picture 13:  After the points are gapped to achieve a clearance of 0.018" I placed a Fluke ohm meter across the points circuit with condenser and negative coil wires removed from the external distributor terminal.  The Fluke indicates the stationary front point set is closed, making a primary coil circuit to ground  which charges the coil.


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Picture 14:  The distributor shaft rotates counter clockwise.  By slowly rotating the distributor clockwise the Fluke reading will suddenly indicate "0L" when the points just break causing the coil to discharge.  High voltage is then fed to the center terminal of the distributor cap and the position of the rotor under number 1 cylinder wire terminal on the distributor cap directs high voltage thru the plug wire to the #1 spark plug.  The distributor body is locked down in this position.  You have actually set the timing for 4 of the cylinders that are fired by the stationary front point as the engine gets to 11-1/2 degrees before top dead center as the rotor passes under cylinders 1/2/8 & 7 (every other cylinder of the firing order).         


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Picture 15:  I'm a weak old geezer so to make it easier to turn the engine by hand I bought a 12" long 1" diameter hex bolt, cross drilled it thru the center about 3/4" from the threaded end and installed a 5/16" hardened pin.  Now I can use my long handles torque wrench wit a 1-1/8" socket to turn the engine.  The added length of  the torque wrench handle relates to easier turning of the crank. 


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Picture 16:  Using my nifty setup from picture 14 the engine has now been rotated 90 degrees to the Syn, #6 timing position mark which is 11-1/2 degrees before top dead center for cylinder #6.  It's not a great picture because of the rust on the flywheel but trust me, the mark is in the center of the window.  At this point the movable plate for the rear breaker point set is rotated with a cam screw built into the main breaker plate so that the Fluke ohm meter again goes to "0L" as  the rear point set just opens firing cylinder #6.  This point set also fires cylinders 5/3 & 7.  Now the point sets are synchronized.


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Pictures 17, 18:  The original old cork float and a picture of the float valve which I believe must have been replaced.  The second close up picture of the valve shows it to be in pretty good shape with minimal scoring. 


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Pictures 19-22:  I made this new float our of balsa and later sealed it with 3 coats of SIG fuel proof butyrate model airplane dope.  Good model airplane fuel is a mixture of alcohol, nitro methane and castor oil usually.  Gasoline shouldn't be a problem.


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Picture 23:  The new float, installed in the carburetor and floating in fuel.


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Edited by Str8-8-Dave
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This one is a quickie to capture a repair to the decorative landau iron installation on my car.  The landau irons themselves were apparently re-plated and look nice but they were floppy loose because the PO just stuck them on the car to get it out the door.  The original stainless escutcheons were present and the original mounting studs were there but could not be screwed into the body due to rust in the threaded brackets attached inside the body of the car.  Also it appeared there were some spacers missing and- what are these grainy looking tubes on the lower studs, they looked like some kind of make-do parts. 


Fortunately my friend Dave39MD's car had the original parts and attachments for the landau bars and sent pictures of his unmolested car's bar details.  Working from those pictures I discovered those make-do parts were original and that all that was missing was the conical spacers for the top bar attachment points and some hard rubber washers with a grain pattern that matched the original spacers.  I cleaned up the threads on the body brackets, repaired a chip in die-cast treaded back of one of the escutcheons and fabricated some similar appearing top spacers from some hard rubber bumpers and then made the missing washers from 1/4" thick black grained PVC plastic sheet stock.  I used my Dremel moto-tool to add some straight line graining to the washers that does not show up well in my pictures but looks pretty good on the car.  These parts are not original parts, no one is reproducing them that I know of and they are otherwise un-obtainable.   It's a case where the hobbyist is forced to improvise...




Pictures 1, 2: These are the original landau bar attachment parts on an un-molested original car.


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Pictures 3, 4:  The landau bar top spacers and the big lower attachment washers are the parts I made.  The tubular spacers are identical to those in the original car picture so they are original.


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Hello to all...

Here is a project that represents a milestone of sorts for my car as it has the effect of closing out the major body closure projects on the car.  Remaining projects are expected to be replacement of the rear window channel runs, installation of the rumble lid handle and latch mechanism and hinge adjustment and installation of cowl vent door seals and actuators.  The subject project in this writing is the golf door.  When I got the car I got one complete golf door hinge pocket, 2 cast iron door hinge arms, both with broken off hinge pins in them, what turned out to be the original door skin, the 4 sheet metal transition plates that attach the door skin to the wood door frame, a broken latch mechanism, a poorly re-chromed golf door handle with no lock and key and 3 pieces of original door frame wood.  Also missing was the top door stop striker plate that mounts in the top rear corner of the door opening.  In short there was a huge hole in the body of the car behind the passenger's door.  I will state here that figuring out how the golf door went together and fit on the car was a big adventure for me as I have never seen a car that had a golf door to examine the assembly details.


I like to get the components all squared away before diving into a project so my first move was to post a want-to-buy ad on the AACA website for the missing hinge parts.  Kevin Roner way out in the top left corner of the US contacted me and sent pictures of the parts he had.  For the princely sum of $16 I bought some hinge pockets.  The hinge pockets have 2 L-shaped brackets screwed to them that pick up the ends of the hinge pin from the door lever casting and those were still missing.  After several failed attempts to find originals I wound up making the missing L-brackets.  I drilled the broken hinge pins out of the door arm castings, made a bushing to resize one of the hinge pin holes on one of the arms and made 2 new hinge pins.  Finally I had 2 complete functioning hinge assemblies. 


Next I bought reproduction locking door handles for both the golf door and the rumble lid and one door handle ferrule for the golf door from Bob's Autombilia, Then I found a deal on a couple of latch mechanisms, one for the golf door, one for the rumble lid, at The Filling Station.  Last I bought some 3ft long 1x4 ash pieces from Baird Brothers in Ohio, stainless wood and machine screws from Bolt Depot and paint from Automotive Touchup. 


If there was a silver lining related to the poor pieces of wood I got with the car the best piece was the hinge pillar.  This gave me basic lumber dimensions for the 4 headers of the door frame, hinge locations and helped establish how much overlap there was of the sheet metal transition plates on the wood door frame.   It also bore witness to the fact the door frame headers were mortise and tenon joined at the corners.  The top door header also provided clues as to how Fisher Body sealed the door and channeled water away from the rest of the door frame and the adjacent rumble compartment.  There was just enough of this part left to again establish overlap of the transition plate to the wood door frame.  The last chunk of wood was a piece of the rear header which showed that that the dog leg at the bottom rear of the door would not be a separate piece of door frame, it was integral with the rear header.  This simplified the connecting dog leg mortise and tenon joint to the lower door header.


The start of the build of the door frame was to laminate pieces of the 1x4 ash together to make 2x4 lumber from which the basic header stock could be sawed on my 10" Craftsman table saw.  I made the hinge header first and mortised the hinge pockets and corner joints using a combination of my table saw and an old Craftsman  walking beam scroll saw which had just enough beam clearance that it allowed me to saw the contoured shape that follows the contour of the door skin.  The hinge side of the door skin crimp was mostly already closed which allowed me to attach the transition plate to the hinge header and then attach that assembly alone to the door skin.  I did that and attached the hinge arms temporarily to trial fit the hinges, header and door skin to the car.  The results of the first trial fit were encouraging.  


Next I cut the remainder of the door frame wood pieces, fit them individually to the contour of the door skin, cut in all the corner joints and glued the frame up using Gorilla Glue and corner wedges made from scraps of the contour cuts to tighten up the joints.   I took great care to assure the corners were square and clamped the glued assembly to a drill press table to assure the interior face of the frame would be flat.  Once the frame was glued up I spent a lot of time on my belt sander optimizing the contours of the wood frame to fit the contours of the door skin.  I installed the transition plates and set the door skin over the assembly, located and drilled the door handle hole.  Having the door handle hole located defined the mortise requirements for the latch assembly.   Once the latch was mortised in and attached I removed the door skin, left the transition plates on the wood door frame and trial fit the assembly less the skin to the car.  The fit looked to be close but adding a 1/8" plywood shim between the lower hinge arm casting and the hinge pillar snapped the alignment into near perfect. 


After painting the wood door frame and transition plates I assembled the plates to the wood frame, then crimped the door skin on.  I assembled the latch, hinge castings and door handle and made another trial fitting and adjusted the door latch to hold the door closed.  Eventually I removed the door for filling, priming and paint.  At the same time I had been talking to Dave39MD who sent some pictures of his golf door and we discussed how the door was originally sealed to the body and I found out I needed to make a 1/8" deep 3/8" high cut across the inside edge of the top header of the door to recess in a rubber lip seal and by comparing the top header of his door frame to the scrap of top door header wood I inherited with the car I discovered there was a gutter trench across top of the header.  Cutting the recess for the lip seal was easy on my table saw because I had taken great care to square the door frame.  Therefore getting a nice parallel cut across the length of the top door header while assembled to the door only required careful blade depth setting and use of the T-square to push the door past the running saw blade 3 or 4 times.  Cutting the gutter channel in the top header was done by hand using some 2" x 9" 60 grit sanding drums and that was a project to get a visible trench in the hard ash header but I managed.  I filled the irregularities in the door skin with body filler, primed and painted it, but did not clear coat it yet because the paint I have is not a good color match to the rest of the body.  I will sort that out soon.  For now, here are pictures of what I did...






Picture 1:  I got one rusty hinge pocket with the 2 pivot pin brackets mounted under the 2 screws and 2 of the orange painted door hinge arms.  Some repair has already been done in this picture as this hinge is complete, the broken hinge pin was removed from the door bracket casting and fitted with a functioning hinge pin I made. 


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Picture 2:  These are the missing hinge pin brackets. 


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Picture 3:  I made the 2 inboard hinge pin brackets shown in this picture of the completed functional hinges.


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Picture 4:  here are some of the other parts I got with the car including the door skin, the orange painted door skin to wood frame transition plates and 3 pieces of the original wood door frame.


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Picture 5:  I bought 3ft long pieces of 1in x 4in ash lumber from Baird's Lumber in Ohio to build the door frame.  I had to start by laminating 2 pcs of 1x4 to make 2x4's from which the frame was made.


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Picture 6:  Using the old door hinge header I fabricated a new one, contoured it to fit the door skin, attached it to the door skin and trial fit it to the car. 


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Picture 7:  The door could not be completely closed at this stage because the crimp rails were still open on 3 sides of the door but it appeared gaps between the edges of the door skin and the 4 sides of the opening were fairly even indicating the alignment was pretty good.


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Picture 8:  I made up the rest of the headers and glued them with Gorilla Glue taking care to square the corners and clamping to the flat table of my drill press to assure the frame was flat on the inside.  Note the wedges driven into the corners to tighten up the crude mortise and tenon joints made with a regular blade in my table saw.


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Picture 9:  This is the bare wood frame after contouring on the belt sander.


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Picture 10:  Note the contour of the wood frame fits the contour of the door skin.


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Picture 11:  This is a view of the top of the door skin along the hinge post.  I temporarily installed the transition plates to see how the door skin would fit over the wood frame and transition plates.


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Picture 12:  With the transition plates attached on all 4 sides and installation of the latch and handle I test fit the door without the skin to the car to evaluate how the gaps might look after the skin is crimped on all 4 sides and see if the latch would work.  The gaps looked good but I had to grind the latch plunger to get it to engage the striker.


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Pictures 13, 14:  I painted the door frame and transition plates, then assembled the skin, latch, ferrule and handle.  Note I later realized the handle I installed was the rumble lid handle which oriented vertically instead of horizontally which is correct. 


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Picture 15:  This is a picture of the rubber sweep seal. 


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Picture 16:  If you look closely there is a trench cut into the top edge of the door header to direct water away from the rumble compartment.


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Picture 17:  The completed golf door for now until I get some paint that more closely matches the body color.  It appears dull without the clear coat.  Note the gaps between the edges of the door and the recess in the body are pretty evenly spaced.


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Picture 18:  This is a shot from inside the car.  Note the metal plates in the rear corners of the door opening which are stop plates for some corner bumpers I added later.  The bumpers were used on the original car.  The upper corner stop plate was missing so I fabricated one.


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On 5/6/2018 at 11:16 AM, Buicknutty said:

 Looks like a good project, with a nice head start on it for you.


Nice work. My father would have loved to do the same to his 1931 Buick 87. The car he has was used in the movie "The Cotton Club". It was known as "The Machine Gun Car". He used to take it to local shows on Long Island. He is no longer able to work on it, or drive it.

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@Str8-8-Dave  The golf door project is great!  You are very gifted with handling your woodworking tools.  Recreating the wood framing and assembling it on the the cars looks very challenging.  It must be very gratifying to finish a project like this.  Thanks for the pictures to show the details of your work description.  Helps one to understand the name for the parts one may encounter. 

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At first glance I thought this was a pretty nice car needing very little when you got it.  Unbelievable how many things you've had to fix.  This is a very lucky car to have gotten into your care!  I hope it brings you a ton of joy to finally drive as fully operational!

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