Hudsy Wudsy

1939 Century Cpe $2000 C/L MO

Recommended Posts

Wow -- those are some pretty scary numbers, suggesting that no ordinary car in poor shape is worth restoring.  And the list apparently does not include re-plating, for which costs have risen dramatically in recent years.

 

But surely there are ways to save money -- most notably by acquiring parts through the purchase of a parts car, as opposed to buying parts piecemeal.  And lots of DIY can help as well.  I'm not sure about how common a bill of $50-$100k for body/paint might be, but I'm happy to report that my DIY expense for putting a mess of a '41 Cadillac (which didn't have a straight body panel on it -- not even the roof!) into a beautiful paint job came to less than $1000.00 in materials -- plus, of course, many hands-on hours.

 

And, then, rare is the car that lacks at least a few usable components (transmissions; rear ends, etc.).

 

Still, it's good to be cautious in projecting expenses.  Trouble is, bandying about apocalyptic numbers concerning restoration costs tends to play into the hands of profiteering sellers who think they've hit the lottery just because they have a decent car for sale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I have $16,000 in my car, but my methods and spending techniques are not the norm.  I took 10 years.  I had no labor expense other than paint.  I replaced half my floors.  I found a totaled donor car for $4500 with new interior and over $3000 in other parts I did not have to plate and/or replace.  I have sold over $5000 in extra parts over the past 8 years that I had 2 of, keeping the better ones for my car (I ended up making the donor car free with extra parts I sold).  I have, on many occasions, bought a part on eBay that was better than the one I had, and then sold the one I had for more.   I have bought already nicely plated parts on eBay way cheaper than I would have been charged to plate what I have.   I have literally nickled and dimed my way to a very nice restored car that is a #2-close to a #3 car now.

 

None of this could happen if I was paying a shop to do the work.  They aren't going to search for parts daily and swap them individually.  They aren't going to meticulously remove an entire interior from a wrecked car and reinstall it in another one.  They are going to buy everything they need new first, used second, and plate the parts that need it. 

 

The value is not in the price of doing it, it's in the enjoyment of the process.  Only 1% of cars are worth restoring in terms of money.  The rest are done for the experience and enjoyment.

 

If I paid a shop to do what I did, it would be well over $100,000. 

 

At least this car is fairly desirable :)

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hear, hear!  How refreshing to read an endorsement of this caliber for what the old-car hobby should be all about -- as opposed to the cost-accountant's approach, which cynically dismisses meritorious restorative effort in favor of simply whipping out one's checkbook for something already accomplished.  Reminds me of Oscar Wilde's famous definition of a cynic as someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot depends on what I see tomorrow.   Completeness is important.  I know - I stupidly purchased 2 1930's cars based on emotion - both 1936's, one a Buick Roadmaster, now with Joel Wilson who purchased it as a parts car, and the other a 1936 Chrysler Airflow.  

 

When I tried to get those needed parts, the parts hoarders knew it and the cost was too high.  What would you pay for front and rear seat cores?  $1500 for the Roadmaster. More than I paid for the whole car!  I don't begrudge anyone for making a little money on parts but that's the deal breaker.  

 

The reason a person sees so many passable but non original interiors in cars is cost of materials and workmanship.  I think the common phrase 'it takes a village' is a good idea.  

 

Very few cars getting restored because of the high standards of the trailer queen class.  Blank check restorations and then a normal quite presentable restoration comes in and looks shabby.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, B Jake Moran said:

Very few cars getting restored because of the high standards of the trailer queen class.  Blank check restorations and then a normal quite presentable restoration comes in and looks shabby.  

jeez.jpg.c5d531b073e80accc7e9aeb08fe50803.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every restoration takes time and money.  With enough of one, you don’t need as much of the other.  Skills can be acquired.  So, the example of a $16,000 restoration comes from spending more time on it.

 

In project management, there is a triple constraint of time, resources (or money), and quality.  At best you can get two.  If you want quality in a shorter time frame, it will cost more.  

 

In 2005-6, I put a lot of money into my 1966 Wildcat that some of you here have seen.  Some people had told me it was too rusty to restore.  At that time, $15,000 covered the body and paint, replaced the windshield, replaced the vinyl top, and straightened the bumpers (I don’t recall if a rechrome was involved or not...possibly, but uncertain).  When all was said and done, it received a Bronze award in 2009, just short of a Silver.  It’s far from perfect.  The mechanical work, engine rebuild, etc, was in the range of $10,000.  There was also some interior work.  I now have about $30k into a car the market would likely value at 1/2-2/3 of that cost.  I certainly didn’t do it for the money.

 

When I bought that car, I had way more time than money, but didn’t get much done aside from a few odds and ends.  By the time we got around to restoration work, we had more money than time.  The 1961 Invicta will be a more extensive project (at least the Wildcat ran).  Aside from it, I don’t foresee taking on as extensive a project again.  Well, I’ve still got the body / cosmetic stuff to deal with on the 1929.  

 

All that said, I’d hope one could turn a car like this into a decent runner for far less than the suggested $1-200k.  If not, I fear the death-knell for the hobby is sounding.  

 

It’s also much easier to bring a car a notch up in condition than 2-4 notches.  The better an example you have to start with, the easier it is to take it to the next level.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was able to stop by and see the car on Saturday.   The seller was just the kind of seller you hope to find - friendly, helpful and no hesitation to show the car.  After meeting at the local Walmart I followed him out to the car.    I always like the back stories on cars.   This one was local - given to him 15 years ago because locals knew he was into old cars.    The problem was he was into 30's Fords, typically Model A's.  The Century was placed in a Morton building where it sat for 15 years.

 

It was pulled out because the Morton building was being set up to use as a Sawmill.  So the Buick has to come out.  Wayne was I estimate 60 years old, and has no interest in the Buick. 

 

This is not hillbilly country for sure.  The family has an estate more or less, very nice home, lots of road equipment.  The car has shredded decades old tires.  Wayne set he could rustle up a set of 15 inch tires to put on it.  It's a roller because it was just placed in the field a little while back.  It's been rained on mercilessly in the past 2 weeks. 

 

It is painted purple, or has faded paint.  I'll try to attach photos of the data plate, but there is not much information there.  Perhaps the paint code and other codes are stamped on the plate and don't come off in the photo. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, old-tank said:

jeez.jpg.c5d531b073e80accc7e9aeb08fe50803.jpg

Willie

You are correct, that was an unfortunate way to make a point.   I thought about it, and what I did years ago was rebuild motors myself, suspension and so on, but my engine rebuilds were on poorly running engines and I would replace wear components such as rings, bearings and so on.  If I could avoid honing and replacement of pistons, and the heads could just be freshened I would be in for $2000 or less.  I would come out of it with a well running motor that should be able to go another 40,000 miles, maybe not pushed super hard.  Because it would be pulled, a person could freshen up the engine bay, more easily replace hoses and wiring - restoring appearance.

 

What I meant to say had to do with the idea that all engines require a $10,000 rebuild. Maybe, maybe not. 

 

Interiors are similar. I try not bash those guys that try to sell a car with a Non original interior as "interior redone".   On the Cadillac forum I recently saw a 56 Eldorado Seville with 100% correct interior, probably fabric sourced from SMS, and it was stunning.  I think in the case of this Century, a person could redo the interior with non original materials, in a close to original pattern or method, and do it for $2000 or so.  Maybe a tad more.  The key here on a car like this is plan on doing it over 5-6 years, stay on schedule but spread those costs out. 

 

The biggest issue is that body which will require a lot of work. A person can still do most of the work themselves.  But I see some body skim plastic, and rust.  It will require some welding, which I can not do.  I would say, guesstimate, $3000 in metal prep work, a lot of sanding and prepping by the restorer-owner.  You can buy superior painting equipment from what they had years ago - I am talking about HVLP paint guns.  But I have no clue how to mix or add or actually spray. 

 

A person could practice that on the frame, and areas of the body not seen so that by the time they build up some confidence, you could spray it in a manner which was probably superior to 1939.  Then sand, repaint, sand, clear coat.  I have no idea what paint costs but anecdotally I have an idea it's a lot. 

 

Like others, if you do most of the mechanical, etc and hand it over to a body shape, they will want ? $20,000 to $30,000 to fix, shape, prime and paint. 

 

If a person does it themselves, it is unlikely it will match what a person pays to have it done.  That is my point which is erroneously stated as a typical trailer queen comment. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the way, I am not anti hot rod, and this 39 Century coupe with those big fat fenders would make a phenomenal Hot Rod.  These coupes make some of the neatest rods because the shape of the rears with that sloping trunk down.   If I could figure out how to do it, which is probably not possible, I would pull that rare rear end and sell it to someone who needed it, ditto any other mechanical parts not to be reused.   The body could be kept stock in appearance, no need to do anything. Keep the interior simple and tasteful, but put a 70's posi rear end in it, open driveshaft, and I would think a Nailhead would do it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The phrase, "not for the faint of heart" doesn't begin to cover it. I can honestly say that there never was a point in my life when I felt that ambitious.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I can’t imagine restoring that to a nice,safe 1939 Century.  It will likely end up as sheet metal on a hot rod, which is better than where it is now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should add that I'm sure we all appreciate your checking it out, though. I'll try to post better quality leads in the future.

 

James P Sheehan

Minneapolis

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Actually I am in disagreement with both of you but I doubt anyone will come to my defense.   This is a car for the restoration hobby, not for showing or some intermediate purpose.  It is a parts car for sure, as well. 

 

In my last home, I had a 3 car heated and air conditioned, extremely well lit and comfortable man cave garage.  This car would reside in that garage in a heartbeat, but I no longer have that garage.  I have a dilapidated mess of a 2 car garage with about an inch of water in it after this weekend's rain. 

 

My point is I don't have the right set up. I tore down many cars in that old garage including a body off the frame 1949 Roadmaster Sedanette.   This is a restorable car in a better garage or building.  I judge primarily by what is going on from the cowl back. In this case, I often see smashed in roofs from a tree or kids and body damage. Doors, fenders, front clips most can be replaced. But body perforation or damage I am no good at. 

 

1st thing is in that garage I would clean the old girl down. Get all that debris out of there between sips of beer. (I would probably have my dust mask on) Once that was done I think you would have a pretty good car to work on. 

 

The rust out on this one is primarily in flat areas.  Virtually every non restored project car from the 30's has rust out in that rear splash pan area.  

 

You have two good front fenders here, both specific to the Century as I understand it. The hood seems OK, no dents or damage.  Grills are nice. I did not even see any pitting and I am not sure what a person would do to restore them other than clean them up.  You could send them off for chroming, I guess, to compete for a trophy with someone that has - but as is I am not sure how much worse they are than new - except dirty.

 

All glass is present, and the reason the rear fell into the car is because of movement from it's 15 year slumber.  The front seat top is missing, but a Special can give theirs up, or an Oldsmobile or whatever, and the restorer can restore that. 

 

More important to me is the missing exhaust manifold. Seller said there was still a box of stuff in the Morton building. Let's hope it's mechanical.  No matter what you get this old, new wiring from Rhode Island is likely on your list.  Hubcaps look original.  What would a more restorable car look like? Or cost?  $10,000 to start with? 

 

Just playing devil's advocate here, but that body is pretty straight, it's complete except for it's seat, complete dash. For $1000 or less on a car which is truly rare and a favored body style. 

Edited by B Jake Moran (see edit history)
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like your optimism, but you have to admit it’s going to be ugly under all the stuff inside it.  The frame is probably ok.  They are so thick and strong to begin with.  A person could buy it and treat it like I did with mine over time (except I had all the parts).  It’s just missing so much.  It could cost thousands just to get the engine parts that are missing, not counting rebuilding what is there. That said, it could certainly be worth putting out $1000 just to have it and look at it and contemplate your own plans—if you have a dry place to put it.  It would be a fun car to play with and learn from, for the money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bryan, I've probably made a rush to judgement based on the setting, color, debris, etc. I think that I also felt a little guilt for sending you on a wild goose chase because I posted this lead in the first place. Your unclouded description is cause for optimism. Perhaps someone who is up to the task will step up. It would be a great, classy and speedy Buick and one that anyone would be proud to own when finished. Here's a Century coupe from Google note the goofy sun visor angle. That extra bit of wheelbase goes a long ways toward making this car quite elegant.

 

 

Image result for 1939 buick century coupe

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...and that's not a bad color.  I found a really nice reproduction 1939 Century ad for sale on ebay in a dark maroon, also nice.  I am a big fan of Sequoia Cream or similar Desert Yellows but not so much on this coupe.   the beltline moulding helps on this car to accentuate the length. 126 is about perfect for a "normal" production coupe.

 

I found it interesting to see that jump seat in the mess of the interior. So, I guess there was a jump seat or two back there.  Seeing the rotted wood framing between the trunk and passenger compartment must really scare some folks but that wood is 80 years old or so. 

 

What I am worried about in addition to the missing exhaust manifold is the sill plates.  I remember from the older cars I owned that these sill plates are a nice shiny stamping of soft metal.  These I suppose are either long gone or as often I have seen - corroded on the lips or edge and unusable.  I don't know where a person finds reproduction sill stampings.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Google Images has this Special coupe in a burgundy. I imagine it's an attempt at matching the original factory color, but I don't know:

 

Buick Series 40 Special Sport Coupe, Maroon (1939)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...