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How to Indentify a Century


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Not a Buick expert here, but when looking at a 1940 car, how can you identify that it's a Century and not a Special or Super or whatever? 

I'm sure the dash data plate says it all, but I don't know what it means.  And a data plate can be changed.  I've also included a couple shots of the engine.  Looking at that, how do you tell if this is really the bigger Century 320 cu in engine?

And any way to tell what the gear ratio is in the rear axle?  A Century is supposed to be 3.9:1, right?

 

Thanks much !

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I see two things that tell me it is a Special........... The style line shows 40-4619    the first 40 is the year.........46 = Special 2 dr business coupe (12,372 made)

The other thing is the engine.......it has the small 248 ci inline 8 only the Special used that engine

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From MoToR's Manual 1947:

 

1940 Special Eight = 40-40. Engine numbers have 4- prefix.

 

Super Eight = 40-50. Both 40 and 50 had the 248 cid engine and 121" wheelbase. Engine numbers have 5- prefix. Engine numbers in the same range after the prefix.

 

Century Eight = 40-60. 320 cid, 126" wheelbase. Engine nos. have 6- prefix.

 

Roadmaster Eight = 40-70. 320 cid, 126" wheelbase. Engine no. have 7- prefix.

 

Limited Eight = 40-80. 320 cid, 133" wheelbase. Engine no. have 8- prefix.

 

Limited Eight = 40-90. 140" wheelbase, 320 cid. Engine nos. have 9- prefix. The number after the prefix is in the same range for 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-.

 

The top plate should have the model number on the line after "1940 MOD." - can't read it here.

 

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All I really know is about 1937 and 1938s,  and while I am not an expert on 1940 Buicks at all,  it looks like Fisher body style 40-4619 to me. If so, that would be a Model 61, a Century four door touring sedan.

 

I also think I see the engine number near the rear, which would indicate a 320 engine to me. I can't tell in the photos, but if it has a 3 piece exhaust manifold, it would be a 320 engine. The air cleaner looks like the large series engine air cleaner rather than the small series air cleaner to me.

 

Please post the engine number, that will help identify it. You could also measure the length of the engine. That will also identify it.  

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Scott, an easy way to tell the 320, which would be in a 

Century, is the crankcase ventilation intake.  A 4 in by 2 in opening covered with a cover on the driver side of the engine down low.  This is near the front on a 320, near the back on a 248.

 

 Have a picture of the whole car?

 

  Ben

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BUICK MOTOR DIVISION
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION
FLINT MI

1940 MOD. 61
STYLE No 40-4619
BODY No 5481
TRIM No 809
PAINT No 541
MO.  DAY   YEAR
BODY BY FISHER


MOD. 61 = Buick model number = Century 4-door touring sedan, 5-passenger


40-4619
40 = 1940 model year

 

4619 = Fisher body style number
4 = Buick (GM div. number, 1 = Chevy, 2 = Pontiac, 3 = Olds)
6 = Series 60/Century (4=Series 40/Special, 5=Series 50/Super, etc.)
19 = body style code = 4-door touring sedan, 5-passenger


BODY No 5481
lack of a plant code means the body was built at Flint MI
5481 = sequential body number, 5481st 4619 built at Flint MI


TRIM No 809 = Tan Bedford Cord, available on models 61, 61A only


PAINT No 541 = solid Carlsbad Black

Edited by sean1997 (see edit history)
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I've attached a photo of the engine serial number.

It's curious --- if this is a Century 320 engine, I find it odd that the "six" prefix is a letter I with a small circle on the lower right to make it look like a "6", and the "one's" are letter I's.  Is this just the way it was done? Isn't it odd that a big GM company like Buick wouldn't have any sixes or ones in the stamping box?

 

As for photos of the whole car, it's on Hemmings at:

https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/buick/century/2041308.html

 

Any thoughts or advice is welcome. As I mentioned, for me it's hard to tell what model this is since it appears not to say anywhere on the car.  Just want to make an intelligent informed purchase, if it comes to that.

 

Thanks again, guys -- Scott

IMG_2948.jpg

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23 hours ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

Scott, an easy way to tell the 320, which would be in a 

Century, is the crankcase ventilation intake.  A 4 in by 2 in opening covered with a cover on the driver side of the engine down low.  This is near the front on a 320, near the back on a 248.

 

Are you sure that's driver's side?

I do see a crankcase ventilation pipe on the front on the passenger side. . .

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I doubt they did it because they didnt have the right stamps. I think they used special characters so the numbers couldnt be altered or messed up because many cars were titled by the engine number. It probly was also part of warranty tracking even tho the warrantys werent very long back then. Also using I means that there is no confusion when you look at the number. It is always a 1. 

 

That looks like a nice car at a good price if its a century. Theres alot more in the restoration then the asking price.

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Yes, those are the correct stamps for a Buick engine of the era. Probably those types of odd stamps were used as a security measure. I don't think that members of the general public would have had ready access to those types of stamps to restamp an engine number to obscure a stolen vehicle. 

 

As previously stated by at least two of us, That is a 1940 Century Model 61 four door sedan. The engine number also confirms that it is a Century 320 ci engine.  It is difficult to make out in the hemmings photos but the only place on a car that would have "Century" spelled out is on the front end of the hood side louvers. 

 

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40 minutes ago, scott12180 said:

Are you sure that's driver's side?

I do see a crankcase ventilation pipe on the front on the passenger side. . .

 

He was talking about the rectangular crankcase ventilation inlet on the left front side of the engine. The crankcase ventilation outlet is the road draft tube that you see on the right side front of the engine. On the 320 the inlet is near the front left of the engine and on the 248 it is on the left rear of the engine.

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38 minutes ago, scott12180 said:

Are you sure that's driver's side?

I do see a crankcase ventilation pipe on the front on the passenger side. . .

 

 Yes. What you see is the draft tube, sucking air, hopefully, from the engine. That is the "outlet" to the "inlet" I mentioned. 

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The black color of the engine suggests that it is a factory replacement engine to the original grey engine that was in the car when new.  I understand there was a 40 Buick judged at Nationals this year that had a black engine and the owner provided some level of proof to the judges satisfaction that the car was still authentic with that configuration.  

 

Further confirmation that it is a 320 is that the serial number is at the dipstick at the rear of the engine, the 248 serial number was forward of the distributor.  It is a correct 1940 engine as determined by starting serial numbers for both 1940 (3786214) and 1941 (4074859), which this number is within that range.

 

The engine bay also seems to have the lower splash shields, that's a fairly rare sight.

 

It is a beautiful car,  I've talked to the seller who is a low volume reseller but seemed knowledgeable of this vintage era of car and straight forward.  I don't have any information on the car as my conversation was about other spare parts that he had.  If you buy the car you ought to hurry as any weekend past the 4th of July in VT could have you snowbound up there.

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