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Our new 1955 Special


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Yesterday I picked up a 1955 Special 4 door sedan, that is actually for my son. I had bought a car for his sister, who is about 9 years older, at about his age (she still has it, an '05 Sebring convert), so I had promised to buy him one, when he was old enough. Instead of a modern car, he wanted a vintage car. His desires, lke so many of us here are varied, for the "Doc" Hudson Hornets, '65 Rivs, 46-48 Sendanettes and the second gen Skylarks, from 61-63, plus Corvettes, and other performance cars. We considered many, lots that were way too expensive, as I had a specific price range to stick to. Importing a car to Canada from the US these days is so expensive, by the time the exchange, taxes, duties, and transport are paid for, it nearly doubles the purchase price of the car. Then whatever needs to be done to it is more.

 This car was quite local to us, about an hour's drive, and is a running driving car, and was licensed and driven last year. Canadian built, and I think that the only option it has is a Dynaflow, no radio, no PS or Brakes either. The Dynaflow leaks like any good Buick should. We'll see if it can get to an acceptable level or if it has come out sooner rather than later.

 This is resonably solid car, and shows 57,000+ miles and might be correct, by the obvious wear and tear signs, pedals, floor mats, etc. The floor mats are interesting, rubber up front, and a very short loop pile in the back seat, and it appears original. The has damage, like something fell on it, but it was painted over, not straightened very well at all. So this is for sure a 20 to 30 footer.

 Plan is to chack things out, fix it and get it certified, hopefully this Spring. We shall see.

 The picture shows the seller on the left, and my son Graham on the right with the on the car trailer, just after we loaded it up. More to come later.

 Keith

 

 

DanGrah.jpg

Edited by Buicknutty
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  Here are a few more pictures of the '55. I took a shot of the floor beside the front seat and you can see the rubber mat and the rear carpet coming together. This sure looks it is original.

  The chrome is fair, and the pot metal has pitting in it, but it is still bright. Left front bumper arm is the worst chromed part of car. The front driver's seat has a tear in it, but haven't had a chance to look at the back seat. Otherwise the interior is quite presentable, and still serviceable. The covers are a bit ugly, but they do work. we'll see what the origianl stuff is like later in the week.

 Sometime in its' past it had a quick paint job, and hasn't much gloss to it. It looks like one of those cheapies where not even the chips were fixed. Including where it looks like something heavy fell on the hood, and only quickly straightened, but really fixed, and then painted.

 Of course 70's{?} wheels, but decent radials.

 You can see the patch on the gas pedal, but the other pedals work, and the emerg brake too. Pedal feel is very good, but I'll pull the drums to check everything out. Steering had a little play in it, and I did a steering box adjustment today, now its' down to about 1/2in., which is pretty good. Haven't checked kingpins, etc., yet.

 Keith

 

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55Pedals.jpg

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  • 5 months later...

 Well, we have been doing some small things to the '55. The signal lights were one thing it needed sorting out, and it turned out that a previous person had mixed up the wire connections. Once we got the wiring all going to where it was supposed to be, low and behold, everything worked!

 Another item we have been looking into, are the back up lights. This feature was, I believe optional, though when we took the lenses off, the wires where just hanging, with bare connectors near the housings. No sockets, or other apparatus are evident. So, is this the way it would of left the factory, if it had not had back up lights factory, or perhaps dealer installed? This is a low optioned car, so I'm not sure that it would of had this or not.

 It is equipped with windshield washers, which do not work. However we did determine that the issue is with the pump, as I put a known good on it, and it worked, though this is the wrong pump.

 I've posted some pictures of the pump, and is this typical of a '55 washer pump? This is a Canadian built car, so I'm just wondering if there is any difference. I believe that this pump is original to the car, though of course I cannot be sure.

 A few places sell rebuild kits for early 50's washer pumps, has anyone rebuilt these things with success?

 Thanks, folks.

 Keith

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  • 5 months later...

 Well folks, we have got back to seriously working on the '55 in the last few weeks. The Dynaflow leaks are pretty bad, so decided that it might as come out now. A few interesting things are being discovered along the way. The transmission oil cooler, which is at the back seems to be completely MIA. Which explains why the previous owner ran lines to an external cooler in front of the rad. We want to return it to stock, so will now need one of those babies. The other very odd thing is, I suppose his lines were too long, so he simply wrapped them around the back of the trans, near the torque ball to use up the extra.

 We removed the oil pan, which by the look of the dirt and greasy residue around it and all of the bolts perhaps hasn't been off since they put it on in the factory, and the good news is that the inside of the pan is quite clean, without much accumulation. Bodes well that the internals are good. This appears to be a fairly low mileage car, and this supports that.

 Taking a break for supper now, and hopefully will have it out either tonight, or tomorrow.

 Keith

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  • 1 month later...

 Just an update on the car, I'll try to post a few pictures later.

We have re and re'd the trans, though haven't put the rear axle back in yet. On one of the few nice, dry days we rolled it outside to clean it up a bit. Though we really aren't doing an actual restoration on the car, we will clean things up and give it some paint to help preserve it.

 

 The biggest problem is so far, I haven't found anything on the car that was done right. Wiring was mixed up, so that's why stuff didn't seem to work right, but that's the most of the minor things done wrong.

 The trans lines were all done with compression fittings, instead of flares, and this next is scary, so were the brake lines. Plus a section of copper line had been spliced in, with the same aforementioned fittings. They work, but really aren't suitable for the high pressures in those lines, and can suddenly fail. The master cylinder had been rebuilt, but it was seeping, and my suspicion was correct, it was pitted. Now it has been rebuilt with a stainless sleeve.

 The transmission was interesting as well. Seems someone had been there before me. The access cover at the bottom of the bell housing, as well as everything else there had been sealed up with silicone, including the block to bell housing. I suppose to stop it leaking, but???  When I got the torque converter off there was a new SKF seal, but though the seal was new, and the right size, it wasn't a transmission seal, and not designed for the pressure, so that explains the bad leak. Shaft was quite good actually, as were the other parts, not much wear, which supports the low mileage.

 On one side on the front wheels, the wheel bearing was way over tightened, and has ruined it (I have spares), and I bet the other side is the same.

 So, I must go through every bit of this thing and make things correct and safe.

 I never consider myself the best mechanic out there, but I do try to do the work correctly, with the importance on reliability and safety in particular.

 

 The bodywork so far has been equally bad. I've found bits of cardboard, paper, sprayfoam, and even part of a #80 grit sandpaper sheet behind body filler. The thing is, the body isn't that bad, but the work was so poorly done, I feel that it should be done over. I'm sure there will be more surprises, but not the kind we like.

 This seems to have been done at various points in its' life, not just by the person we bought it off of. He described himself as mechanic, and told me he worked a dealership which sold high end cars, but the work he claimed to have done was the brakes, and I don't know what to think. Except, like I said, I've checking every inch of it.

 

 For the time being, I'm kind of out of the car business, as I recently had an operation on my hand and have to take thing easy on it for a couple of months.

 Keith

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1 hour ago, Buicknutty said:

For the time being, I'm kind of out of the car business, as I recently had an operation on my hand and have to take thing easy on it for a couple of months.

 Keith

 

I didn't know if it would be right to "like" your last post Keith.  Sounds like a whole lot of trouble for you!  And I just wanted to say I hope your hand heals up quickly!  

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 Thanks, John. I know what you mean. I see the doctor (surgeon) tomorrow about my hand, and hopefully it will be good news, it is feeling better than I thought it would after only a few days.

Keith

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  • 1 month later...

Well folks, my operation went well, and I'm back to about 90% now. Plenty good enough to start working on the cars again!

I had last given an update on the sad level of workmanship this poor thing has endured over the years.

 First off, I'm continuing along the left side which is the worst one. Here in the North, the right is generally the worst due to the accumulation of salt and other debris near the curb side of the road.

Our suspicion is that the car sat outside for many years, and there was water leakage down around the back of the rear door. There is a small rubber bumper missing in the upper part of the C pillar. These are small little bumpers to cushion the door frame to the body when closed, but go all the way through of course, and I wonder just how long its' been gone. As it appears that the water has been going down inside from somewhere around the top, and the rear window doesn't seem to be leaking, not much anyway. But it seems as though there has been water coming down the inside of the C pillar and has rusted a lot of that out, from the inside. Someone did a nice job with filler and paint, not too mention spray foam insulation. When I got the paint stripped down it was so badly pin holed there was no choice but to replace most of the metal. 

 Not being able to find any replacement parts, I have fabricated everything. Which means it takes lots of time, more welding, and really is not as good as the proper stampings would be. I even tried talking to a couple of Chevy suppliers as I wondered if there might be a Chevy repro that was close, and I sent them pictures, but they told me the Chevy has quite a different curve to it.

 So, most of the outer part is done, and I'm working on the inner fender now. My pics are a bit behind my actual work. One super tough spot is going to be right at the top, inside area. Kind of in back of the striker plate, from the outside its forward and up from the "Special" nameplate on the fender. I haven't figured out how I'm going to get in to fix that part yet. Those sharp eyed readers might see a corner was out of alignment a bit when the pictures were taken, but trust me, it was welded in the right place.

 Like the old saying "How do you eat an elephant?" One bite at a time! I will figure out that as I progress.

 All of the rear part of the outer and inner rocker panel will need replacing, which will likely be next after the inner fender gets done. Those panels I have bought already.

 Here's a few pictures of the work as of a few days ago. With this lockdown there's not much else to do, but I still find I don't work nearly as quickly as I used to.

 Keith

 

Patch3.jpg

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Before1.jpg

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No I didn't. I talked with another friend, also I long time Buick guy, but he's had a few 55's, my experience has been with 56's, and told me that many people don't even use one.

As you can see the car isn't yet roadworthy, and I might keep the aftermarket one someone put on in front of the rad.

Not sure how much use the car will get, but of course I'd want it be ready to go most anywhere. If the car just gets short trips and such you can likely get away without a cooler, but long hot highway trips might be tougher on it.

Keith

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2 hours ago, Buicknutty said:

No I didn't. I talked with another friend, also I long time Buick guy, but he's had a few 55's, my experience has been with 56's, and told me that many people don't even use one.

As you can see the car isn't yet roadworthy, and I might keep the aftermarket one someone put on in front of the rad.

Not sure how much use the car will get, but of course I'd want it be ready to go most anywhere. If the car just gets short trips and such you can likely get away without a cooler, but long hot highway trips might be tougher on it.

Keith

Hey Keith

    Sendin photos of my two 55 parts cars. Ill look as Im pretty sure I have the trans cooler. Lemme know if interested. I think you still have my contIMG_20150807_115257.thumb.jpg.4b7c033650505798daeab8ad246f5a22.jpgIMG_20150131_084212.thumb.jpg.bf8a0ee847c61b6eebb76c38303eca12.jpgIMG_20150131_084158.thumb.jpg.a838904b0206ce481422b2808281981d.jpgact info

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5 hours ago, buick5563 said:

I have a few. If you decide you want one I’ll ship it at cost. 

I would take one, then. I'm in Canada, my Postal Code is N4B 2W5,

Thanks, PM me when you can.

Keith

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8 hours ago, 2carb40 said:

Hey Keith

    Sendin photos of my two 55 parts cars. Ill look as Im pretty sure I have the trans cooler. Lemme know if interested. I think you still have my cont

Is that two different '55s? There's a '56 in one pic as well. I could do with a temp gauge. They seem to be very difficult to get out, so I haven't taken out, there's more important things to worry about on the car, but it doesn't work at all.

Thanks.

Keith

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The 2dr is a 'Frank-N-Stein', former owner liked 56 so put the 56 front clip on it. Its a 55 2dr sedan stick car. I have the complete a/c dash from a 56 Roadmaster, but Im fairly sure the tube to the engine suffered the usual impatient method of cut it off to get it done quick. Ill check and hope Im wrong!

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  • 5 weeks later...

 So I have been slowly working away at the car, and here are a few pictures of the recent work.

 Since I have been getting tired of doing body work, tonight we turned  our attention to the brakes. The left front wheel did not turn smoothly, so I knew something had to amiss there. Plus with all of the rest of the things I've found wrong certainly checking everything else out is a must do.

 So, the mystery continues, with this poor thing. The outer wheel bearing was on backwards, with the inner race jammed in backwards, like it was put on first, and I had to hammer it off!

 Then I quickly noticed the shoes were on backwards, the leading shoe was on the rear, an easy mistake to make for a novice to make. The part of the spindle where the inner race rides is badly scored, and it looks like the vise grips have been applied to it. So even turned around the inner race won't fit. Then I'm noticing that the drum and shoes look odd. So I get a ruler and the shoes are 2.25 in, and the drums are 2.5 in, which are series 70 drums.

 The more work I do to this car, the more puzzled I am.

 Keith

 

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Nice body work Keith!  

 

I am amazed at the mechanical quirks you are finding. I hope you can source a replacement spindle. 

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Keith, the bearings may even be the wrong part, I have seen that.  You may be able to file down the interference on the spindle if the correct parts don't fit.  The inner race is not tight since it has to creep on the spindle.  Many spindles that have been in service for a long time have groove in the bottom from this creeping.

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Thank you for the tip, I am wondering the same thing. I will check the part numbers, and I have a spare set of bearings as well.

I didn't have a camera, so I didn't take any pictures, but I have never seen bearings put in like this before!

Keith

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I got it sorted out. I had a nice long reply written for it a few days ago, but our internet system went down and I lost it all!

The drum was correct for the car, that's what I get for working when I'm getting tired! Its' machined about .040 over, and the book says the max is .060, so it is good to live again!

I took some very careful measurements of the spindle and determined that enough of a burr had been created at the point where the threaded part ends to stop the inner race from going on properly. Then some extremely careful filing with a small fine diamond file, to remove the burr, and the couple of slight raised bits where it looks like someone used vise grips on the shaft, and then the inner race fits smoothly and cleanly on again.

 Then cleaning, a new grease seal, and reassembly, this time with leading and trailing shoes on in the right place and the bearings adjusted properly.

This was a good first lesson in drum brakes for my son! He did take a year of auto shop in school, but they only covered discs, and he couldn't believe how more complicated drums are!

 So, I am going to let him do the other side, with some supervision from me, of course!

 Keith

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24 minutes ago, Fr. Buick said:

Or, take a cell phone picture.

That's what the guy who did it before needed to do, lol!!!

We have a shop manual, and we do reference it.

Thanks.

Keith

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  • 1 month later...

So it's been a few weeks since I've updated this. I have been working away on it, but also have been distracted by other things.

I got the left rocker panel and wheel well finished and primed, and then some black as a guide coat on the outside. I did have some trouble with fish eye on the black top coat. These are paints I've used before, without problems, and all was cleaned well before painting. Fortunately this isn't the final paint by any means, as I am to have to take the doors off it to do the finishing.

 

 So I started on the right side, and at the moment I only plan to do the wheel well area, as I want to put the rear axle back in, and this work is much easier to do with it still out.

 

LeftInner.jpg

Left1.jpg

RightInner3.jpg

Rightinner2.jpg

RightInner1.jpg

Right1.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Well folks, with the body work completed for the time being, we started putting the rear axle back in and hooking everything back up. As anyone who has done this before knows, it is quite a job, but everything went back in pretty good.

 Just to say, the right side rocker still needs work, but I'm not doing it at the moment. Got to save something to do in the Fall!

 Tonight back at it, hooked up the coolant lines, put the fuel line back in, and started it up! This is the first time since about Feb it has been running. Ran good enough, I mean it has a dead cylinder and is rough when cold, but smooths out amazingly well when warm. Oil pressure is excellent, and charging strong too.

 We had it running about 20 mins or so, and I just put in all the gears, but didn't pull it out of the garage. A few cars were in the way, but they will be moved tomorrow, and we'll double check everything, then put the flywheel cover on and take it for a little cruise. I do mean little, as it isn't yet licensed for the road, but we have a long circle driveway which will give us a max of .15 miles going around the long way.

 The only fly in this ointment is that there seemed to be a bit of wobble on the ring gear, which I've never noticed, but then again I never have looked at it running with the cover off. So it looks like it might be warped, and the starter has always had bit of an uneven sound when cranking. So perhaps I've discovered another issue from previous bad service. I never checked it for being true when it was out.

 

 Either way, it is coming off of the lift for now, as a few other cars are needed attention on the lift.

 Keith

Edited by Buicknutty (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, Fr. Buick said:

That runout could mess up your Dynaflow.  Get it measured, per the shop manual in the engine section.

Yes, that's exactly what I'm worried about. I have the tools needed to measure it, so that's fine, didn't even think to check it when it was out though.

Keith

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