Matt Harwood

1931 Buick Model 87 Sedan

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Posted (edited)

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The Model 87 was one of only two 80-Series Buicks in 1931, with the other being a victoria coupe. They built about 15,000 of them, so it's not especially rare, but it's worth noting that it is nonetheless a Full Classic with the CCCA. A few years ago, I owned a 1932 Buick Model 97 sedan that I thought was terrific and this '31 is even better. It's the same engine in a slightly smaller package (124 inch wheelbase vs. 134), so performance is robust, and my first thought after a test drive was that I wished my 1929 Cadillac would drive this well.

 

The restoration was apparently finished in the early 2000s with the intent of using it in the Great Race, but that never happened. Instead, it's a big, handsome tour car that just works like it should and looks great doing it. The two-tone red bodywork is just right on the semi-formal sedan and with dual sidemounts, a trunk, and wide whites, it's unquestionably an imposing machine. I see no signs of haphazard workmanship, just a few signs of age and use that are perfectly OK for a car that wants to run down the road. I think the only thing I would add is a subtle pinstripe, maybe a light gray or taupe to match the interior, right along the beltline--it seems unfinished without it. Not too much, just a single line. I know many here on this forum are not fans of accessories, but I like the big Trippe lights up front and the trunk out back. You'll also note auxiliary lighting for brakes and turn signals, another nice upgrade for touring. Chrome is excellent throughout, and the overall impression is that someone spent a lot of money and then enjoyed the car.

 

The mohair interior is quite handsome and correctly done. The door panels look awesome and the seats are comfortable enough for all-day touring. The driver gets the usual controls, plus extras like an aftermarket fuel level gauge under the dash (which, not surprisingly, is inop) and a row of toggle switches to manage the various other upgrades: fuel pump, Trippe lights, heater, and windshield wiper. The original speedometer, ammeter, oil pressure gauge, and temperature gauge are all fully operational and it runs at about 150 degrees no matter how hot it gets (it was 86 today and I couldn't get it to go any higher, both by running it on the road and sitting still in the parking lot). Seat belts were added, although I'm not sure they're good for anything but keeping kids from moving around, but it sure is comfortable in the back seat. As I said, this car is ideally set up for touring.

 

Of course, this one has been modestly upgraded for just that purpose, so purists might not be pleased but if you're a driver, you're going to love it. The list of upgrades starts with a set of high-speed gears, which gives it legitimate 60 MPH cruising speeds (which I have personally verified). It also sports a later downdraft carburetor on the stock intake manifold, which has been flipped over. Yes, it's obvious to an expert that something has changed, but the general public will never know the difference and I find that it works just fine. Is it faster or more powerful or less prone to vapor lock? I can't say. But it starts almost instantly with just a little choke and the sucker pulls like a freight train at almost any speed. The electric fuel pump is on a momentary switch, so it's mostly for priming and the car runs just fine using the mechanical pump alone. There's big torque that means even with the high-speed gears it doesn't need many downshifts and it has a great 8-cylinder sound from the fresh exhaust system. Someone has also cleverly integrated a 6-volt alternator into the front engine dress, keeping the original generator to run the water pump. It looks almost OEM so I can't really be unhappy with the modification. It's also nice to see a steady 10 amps of charging, even at idle with all the lights on. The 3-speed manual transmission shifts nicely with no need for double-clutching and the mechanical brakes are reasonably effective, although I might adjust them so the pedal is a little higher. It sits on 19-inch wire wheels that have an understated look in black and the 7.50-19 double-sided whitewalls give it a suitably beefy look (most '31 Buicks look like their tires are too small because they wear 6.50-19s like the sidemounts). Those tall tires also help with highway cruising and don't affect the ride or handling one bit.

 

I'm very excited about this car. It's a fantastic Full Classic tour car that's mechanically excellent and really quite handsome. It's as fast as anything else from the period, if not faster, and someone else has already made all the changes you would have made anyway. Asking price is a very reasonable $34,900 and I have confidence that you could get in this car and drive it home. It really is well-sorted. Thanks for looking!

 

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Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Lots of car for the money. Great drivers. I think I would keep the flipped manifold, but install an early Stromberg downdraft just to keep the car period correct. The Stromberg wouldn’t even cost too much......three or four hundred. I agree with a stripe. Someone will have lots of fun for a very small investment.  

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)

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These are fabulous cars to drive.  This one may need some front end work since I see a steering damper was installed. 

I wonder if the oil heat/cooler has also been bypassed.

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We have the '31 87 series that was used as the machine gun car in the mivie The Cotton Club. It was actually not period correct for the movie since the movie was supposed to take place in 1929. Lol

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