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‘53 Skylark hood fitment, HELP!!


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I am restoring a 1953 Buick Skylark and everything was going well until we reinstalled the hood.  We sandblasted and painted the  hood springs the correct black and after installation the door/hood gap is not as close as I would like.  In fact, it is far too wide at the top (about 3/8").  But more than that when lifting the hood I hear a clunk and the hood shifts over to one side, or back and forth, sometimes hitting the top corner of the door and it will definitely scratch the paint.  On these cars when opening the front door it goes inside the  front fender, so getting the right cap is not easy.  One thing that I did notice the other day was that the right side of the car has the top hinge bracket raised as high as possible and the left side bracket is set as low as possible.  I have a feeling that this is causing much of the trouble and the clunk, as opening the hood is not a smooth operation.  I did not take pictures of this area, but will do so tomorrow and post them.  I am looking for any ideas on how to obtain a decent gap on between the fenders and the front doors.  I also have a 1954 Buick Riviera Hardtop and as I recall, the spring adjustment was not easy and the springs seemed shaky.  My good friend Mr. Earl suggested that I post on this forum.  Thanks for any advice or ideas  on this.

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Weak springs, worn pivot points in the hinges, as well as body reassembly make those compound curves really hard to match up. I took on a job aligning a similar '53 Cadillac after it took and award at Meadowbrook. Even when I was done I wasn't happy. For a while I had a collection of BOP show cars of that vintage, all with awful fender, hood, and door alignment. You may have to go right back to the cowl and rear body mounts to get it right. I remember that even the door upper and lower adjustment played a big part. We disassembled the hinges, welded up the wear, and hand fit the pins by hand filing them.

Step one would be removing the hinges and checking for wobble in all the hinges. Make them fit tight first. That body shape is a bear to fit.

Bernie

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Remember too, that many of them did not fit up to your/our/today's standards and to that misfit add more than half a century of use/misuse wear.

 

Sitting or standing at the front parts counter of a GM dealership in the late fifties, sixties and early seventies I saw misfits on doors, hoods, trunk lids and fenders and misaligned chrome on perhaps ten percent of the new cars that were in the showroom.  The purchasers were so excited about their new car many/most never noticed the poor fit and finish.

 

You can make it right as 60FlatTop said.

Each time I had my engine out of my Pontiac, and I took pictures, counted shims and spacers and always marked pieces with a center punch it always took a full day or two to align the radiator shell, hood to the cowl.

Good luck to you, I would rather have a root canal done than to try and align body parts.

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If, your radiator support has a center bolt in the bottom and a series of rubber and steel shims, you could be missing some shims there. This would account for the larger gap at the top. There is also enouch wiggle room in that hole that would throw off side to side gap at the doors. 
 

Ask me how I know

 

Matt

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1 hour ago, Tinindian said:

I used the same exact  quote today re: going to Lowe’s on Black Friday or a root canal          Remember too, that many of them did not fit up to your/our/today's standards and to that misfit add more than half a century of uI

se/misuse wear.

 

Sitting or standing at the front parts counter of a GM dealership in the late fifties, sixties and early seventies I saw misfits on doors, hoods, trunk lids and fenders and misaligned chrome on perhaps ten percent of the new cars that were in the showroom.  The purchasers were so excited about their new car many/most never noticed the poor fit and finish.

 

You can make it right as 60FlatTop said.

Each time I had my engine out of my Pontiac, and I took pictures, counted shims and spacers and always marked pieces with a center punch it always took a full day or two to align the radiator shell, hood to the cowl.

Good luck to you, I would rather have a root canal done than to try and align body parts.

 

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Thanks for the advice everyone.  We marked the hinge location with two 1/8" holes for each, but it changed upon reassembly.  I have two old time body men working on this on and off and will pass on your ideas to them next week.  I think we should pull the hinges again and see if the rivets are tight.  At one time there was a guy that rebuilt these hinges.  Does anyone know if he is still around?   We have all the other gaps near perfect, but are not happy campers with the gap between the top front of each door and the hood.  We added 1/8" of metal to the back side of the hood on each side that helped, but if we move it back even a hair it will hit the edge of the hood when it is opened, no matter how carefully.  It is NOT a smooth operation when lifting the hood. Once it gets up over about 6" it smooths out, but by then the damage is done.

 

Fred

P.S. See our car museum in Canfield, Ohio at www.tipcars.us     (About 50 cars, including some nice Buicks, along with others).

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My post should have read that I had a collection of pictures of poor fits while doing that Cadillac. But that particular body is a hard one to fit. The only one harder, that I was involved in, was a two seater T-Bird. My '64 Riviera body has been off the frame a couple of times. The hood is still a little high in the rear, maybe 1/16", but I notice it. And I have to give the hood and extra little push to latch it. Even that didn't come easy.

 

Brings back memories of being at a friend's garage while he was welding thin metal strips to the doors of his car to get the gap right.

 

I like the museum. Has the dentist been helping align the hood?

 

Hardly a day goes by when I don't have a good thought about T-P. Over 25 years ago I bought one of your very flexible, ribbed, yellow air hoses at Hershey. I couple it the the air for everything. Best hose I ever bought!

Bernie

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I checked the two springs today and one spring had 31 coils and the other had 32 coils.  I am not sure if this means anything, but it could. Over the weekend we soaked the pivot points with 3 in 1 oil, but it made no difference.  Today we removed one of the springs and attached it to another slot, but it got worse.  We are still tinkering with it, but getting a little frustrated.  Does anyone know a source to buy a new set of hood springs, or a source to rebuild our existing springs? 

Thanks,

 

Fred

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Are you using parts (hood, fenders, doors) from the original car?  A friend built a 53 'lark using parts from 3 different cars...what a mess!  He did finally get it straightened out, but it appears that each of those cars are a one-off customs.

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I  have and am using what I believe are the original hinges, hood and fenders, as car was complete at time of purchase.   In the meantime, I just received a message from Fireball V8 (Steve) referring me to a source in California that rebuilds the hinges.  I tried to respond to Fireball V8 but was unable to do so - problem with my password or something.  I will try again later.  I called the nice man in  Burbank, CA and made arrangements to send the hinges to him for rebuilding and will be shipping them to him tomorrow.  I will advise the status of this after the hinges are rebuilt,  but am hoping that this will solve the problem.  Thanks to everyone for all of the comments and advice.

Fred

Edited by FRED TIP
typo (see edit history)
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Fred:

 

You may want to see if you can source the '53 Buick Service Bulletin book. There was a "campaign" (as recalls were styled in the language of the day) to replace the hood locking mechanism with a longer guide pin (and some interior bracing was built into the latch), and the roller guide on the firewall was also changed (had a convex shape). These helped to align the hood a bit better when lowering it into position, and minimizing the little paint dings and chips along the hood line that all '53 Buick owners know (and bear with quiet and noble stoicism...). Your Skylark may already have these newer components, but if you haven't checked, it's worth a look.

 

Josh 

Edited by JBP (see edit history)
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On ‎11‎/‎28‎/‎2019 at 8:10 PM, FRED TIP said:

. . . I am looking for any ideas on how to obtain a decent gap on between the fenders and the front doors . . . 

 

More information would be helpful before I submit my opinions as to why you’re having problems putting the parts back together like they were before the ‘Lark was disassembled down to the bare body tub sitting on the frame. Answers would be appreciated.

 

(1)  Were all the gaps, hood alignment and hood operation (raising and lowering) satisfactory (not perfect) to you before the car was disassembled?

(2)  Why and when was the metal added to the back edges of the hood, before or after disassembly?

(3)  What changed after your two old-timers added sheet metal to the back edges of the hood, marked the hinge locations with 1/8” pilot holes and when reassembling, the pilot holes don’t line up?

(4)  Your pictures show that the rocker panels might have been replaced. Is this a correct assumption?

(5)  Did the two old-timers now trying to reassemble the parts strip the car apart or are we talking about two different guys?

(6)  What was used to prep the top and underside of the hood (± 40 square feet) for the new paint? Was it sandblasted?

 

Thanks.

 

1551772262_1953factoryhoodfit.thumb.jpg.90d15acbdf7f5b312c4f12380bfcc1cd.jpg 

▲  This is a Buick factory photo. Notice the gaps and alignment.

 

1232923370_1953Larkhoodfit.jpg.8d4a2e411ec49a4fc41fbddcfaf08a2b.jpg

▲  This is not a Buick factory photo.

 

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▲  Neither is this one.

 

Al Malachowski

BCA #8965

“500 Miles West of Flint”

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for all of the help.  I sent the hinges to Rowland Hall in Burbank, CA and he said they were in very bad shape.  He rebuilt them, adding new springs and fixing everything else.  They are do in Ohio by this Friday and next week we will see if any improvement. In answer to your questions (thanks for being so thorough):

1) No - hood did not operate smoothly at all and the gaps were not what I would have liked, but seemed to have gotten worse.

2) Added 3/32" of metal to rear sides of hood (not 1/8") after we realized the gap was so big when trying to reassemble (we can remove this metal if necessary).

3) Not sure of this.

4) Rocker panels were repaired but not replaced (minor dents and a very small amount of rust).

5) Same two body men disassembled and worked on the reassembly.  (All of us are getting frustrated - hoping things change next week when the rebuilt/new springs are installed).

6) Hood was stripped to bare metal - not sandblasted.

I will report our findings in about a week after reinstalling the springs.

Thanks everyone for so much help.

Fred

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On ‎12‎/‎25‎/‎2019 at 9:46 AM, FRED TIP said:

Thanks for all of the help.  I sent the hinges to Rowland Hall in Burbank, CA and he said they were in very bad shape.  He rebuilt them, adding new springs and fixing everything else . . .

 

Thanks for your response to my six questions.

 

Here’s what Buick documents have to say . . .

-  Don’t expect perfect gaps. Sheet metal parts stamped in a given set of dies will vary in dimension and form due to uncontrollable variations in the hardness of different batches of sheet metal causing stampings to spring in varying amounts when released from the dies. (In 1953, Buick stamped-out over a quarter-of-a-million hoods that are interchangeable with your Skylark.)

-  Before deciding upon any adjustment to correct hood or fender misalignment, it is advisable to check for tightness of all attaching screws and bolts and inspect door and hood operations before performing any adjustments or disassembly of the front-end sheet-metal assembly.  Buick had problems in 1953, their first year for the front-opening hood, that were addressed in their Service Bulletins to correct operational issues by replacing parts. (Your descriptive and pictures say you did the opposite of what Buick advises.)

-  Be satisfied with adjustments that produce the best overall alignment (read: not perfect) of the hood and fenders at all points.

 

IMHO . . .

-  If you cannot achieve satisfactory gaps, alignment and operation of the hood with the cowl FIRST, you will be wasting your time fighting this problem continuously when moving-on to fitting of the doors, inner and outer-front fenders. The cowl lacing also needs to be installed or accounted-for prior to aligning and gapping the hood. 

-  Automotive body work in high-end restoration shops include a pre-fit of trunk, doors, hood, inner and outer-fenders before a complete tear-down and final painting. In some cases, adding and subtracting metal is necessary to achieve almost-perfect results.

-  The numbered areas in the following picture raised red flags in my book:

 

1480270178_1-Fred3.jpg.48529fc8366198fddd022916e26a21e9.jpg 

 

Area #1: Indicates that the hood is riding higher than the cowl at the upper-left corner even though you mention that the driver-side hinge was set as low as possible. You might want to look for problems with a worn or compressed rubber/metal body-to-frame mount under the cowl, roughly behind area #2, making the body tub to sit low . . . or . . . the composite mounts under the front sheet metal assembly, roughly behind area #3, making the fenders sit too high.

 

Areas #4 and #5: Indicate that the rocker panel might have been replaced, projecting further-out than it should be, causing the door and lower fender not being flush with the face of the rocker panel.         

 

I doubt that worn hinges contributed to your hood alignment problem . . . hood operation, yes.

Good luck.

 

Al Malachowski

BCA #8965

“500 Miles West of Flint”  

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you  Al,  What a great analysis and greatly appreciated.  We have had some prior experience with a similar hood on our 1954 Buick 2dr HT, but nothing like this.  I also admit that frustration has made it a lot rougher.

 

Tomorrow, we are going to start from scratch more or less and will remove the front fenders again.  We installed them as a preliminary check to get everything all aligned prior to painting. The fenders will later be removed for painting, so this was what we hoped to be a final fit with a few adjustments required.  We have tinkered with this  off and on for several weeks and are losing ground..

 

We removed the deck lid and rear fenders and all of those areas are in near-perfect alignment and fit based on a realignment installation and check. They will be removed for painting.  Luckily we didn't paint the hood and front fenders and discover this later.  The two doors were not removed, nor adjusted, as they fit well and we didn't want to have to remove all of the hydraulic lines, wiring, etc.   All of the windows are now in good working order, so we prefer to leave the doors as they are.  We emoved the deck lid, rear fenders and front fenders, radiator support, inner fenders, etc. for paint and undercoating removal . They are all in primer.  Engine was removed and has been rebuilt and ready to reinstall at a later date.

 

Tomorrow a good friend of mine who has years of experience with total body-off restorations of 1940 Packard Darrins owned by another of my friends is going to take a look.  The other day while looking at the gaps, I noticed one thing of importance:  As the hood is in the closed position, the rear hood gap (across the entire rear edge of the hood) on the driver's side is about 5/16" from edge of hood to the cowl.  However the same area of the  hood on the passenger side is about a 3/32" gap.  This means that that the front of the hood (looking towards the windshield) needs to be adjusted slightly to the right, so that the gaps are even. This seems like the best place to start, and we will use all of your suggestions in that regard.

 

The spring assemblies were nicely restored with new rivets and springs and seem like brand new.  I will report our results next week and am hoping for some good news.

 

Fred

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After reading all the posts I realize that I created a monster converting my side opening hood (51 Super convert) using 53 hinges to front opening. It fits and functions ok but I would like it to be “perfect” but realize that isn’t possible especially when you drive it regularly as everything moves.

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37 minutes ago, FRED TIP said:

Engine was removed and has been rebuilt and ready to reinstall at a later date.

Consider installing the engine and transmission before adjusting?

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On 11/29/2019 at 4:59 PM, jackofalltrades70 said:

If, your radiator support has a center bolt in the bottom and a series of rubber and steel shims, you could be missing some shims there. This would account for the larger gap at the top. There is also enouch wiggle room in that hole that would throw off side to side gap at the doors. 
 

Ask me how I know

 

Matt


 

The other day while looking at the gaps, I noticed one thing of importance:  As the hood is in the closed position, the rear hood gap (across the entire rear edge of the hood) on the driver's side is about 5/16" from edge of hood to the cowl.  However the same area of the  hood on the passenger side is about a 3/32" gap.  This means that that the front of the hood (looking towards the windshield) needs to be adjusted slightly to the right, so that the gaps are even. This seems like the best place to start, 

 

 

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1 hour ago, old-tank said:

Consider installing the engine and transmission before adjusting?

I thought of this many times, but several "experts" said it didn't matter, so I am not sure.  I appreciate this suggestion.  This might end up being "Plan B" after we explore all other options.  In the meantime, we are progressing with the deck lid - see picture.

Thanks, Fred

Underside2.jpg

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7 hours ago, FRED TIP said:

Tomorrow, we are going to start from scratch more or less and will remove the front fenders again

 

A long time ago I remembered a friend's quote: "The level of perfection one can achieve is directly proportional to the number of times one is willing to do it over".

 

By choosing the word "willing" frustration is taken into account.

 

In the Buick Riviera section the idea of assembling and aligning off the car and installing a '64 Riviera front click was brought up. I am looking forward to doing that on the Riviera I reassembled in the mid-1990's. And was never completely happy with. 25 years later a hope springs again!

Bernie

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5 hours ago, FRED TIP said:
6 hours ago, old-tank said:

Consider installing the engine and transmission before adjusting?

I thought of this many times, but several "experts" said it didn't matter, so I am not sure.

I adjusted my 55 Century convertible without the drivetrain...real easy to crawl into that space.  Got to do it all over again when 800+lbs were added.  Maybe the Skylark frame is more robust...

Then after aligned you can change it again by just jacking up by the frame behind the front wheels.

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25 minutes ago, old-tank said:

Then after aligned you can change it again by just jacking up by the frame behind the front wheels.

 

Most RWD body on frame cars will drop 3 to 4" in front with jackstands under the cowl mount area. I usually leave the floor jack under the crossmember while working and never leave them hanging overnight.

 

Shops I go to always use a four post lift unless something real special is being done. Cars are very flexible things. Support with the A-frames if you need to raise it.

 

Bernie

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20 hours ago, FRED TIP said:

. . . The other day while looking at the gaps, I noticed one thing of importance:  As the hood is in the closed position, the rear hood gap (across the entire rear edge of the hood) on the driver's side is about 5/16" from edge of hood to the cowl.  However the same area of the  hood on the passenger side is about a 3/32" gap.  This means that that the front of the hood (looking towards the windshield) needs to be adjusted slightly to the right, so that the gaps are even. This seems like the best place to start . . .

 

I don't agree. You need to start by determining and marking the centerlines of the cowl and the hood . . . 90-degrees from the face of the cowl . . . as noted by the vertical red line in the picture below . . . and use those lines as a reference point throughout.

 

1-Scan.thumb.jpg.c09400408d2d692e00b39c99de9c18c4.jpg

 

Once you start shifting the front of the hood right or left arbitrarily from your centerline mark, you're asking for problems . . . everything will be cockeyed forward of the cowl. Whatever the gaps between the face of the cowl and the back edge of the hood wind up to be when the centerlines line up the entire length, that's what you have to deal with. Decisions to either add or subtract metal for a more-uniform gap or leave everything as is will have to be made. You mentioned a difference in gaps from 3/32" (right end) and 5/16" (left end). Averaging the two, you come up close to 1/8", the dimension that is found in Buick Shop Manuals as a guide. IMHO, if the 3/32" and 5/16" dimensions are the best you can come up with, that could point to a tweaked front-end as the result of a prior fender- bender.   

 

You should be fine with doing all your alignment and gapping without an installed-engine or transmission. Your 'Lark needs to be sitting level on a surface (not jack stands) with four tires of the same size though.

 

Al Malachowski

BCA #8965

"500 Miles West of Flint"

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Thanks Bernie - We use a 4 post lift, but for now the car is on wheels and sitting level on the ground.  We are taking a good look at everything today and hoping for some progress.   We have done body-off and body-on restorations for years and admittedly expect alignment issues, but nothing like this one.   This was a body-on restoration, as I am always reluctant to remove a convertible body, even with all of the required cross bracing.   Attached are some pictures of the underside of the car after about 300-400 hours to remove the many coats of undercoating.  The undercoating did its job, as the car is rust free, other than a few very small areas around the front lower edge of the rear wheel openings.  The red tire well is as original on a white Skylark, along with the body inside the rear fenders and also the inside fender brackets in front. and rear.  (Also the wheel hubs that show through the wire wheels).  Restoring a Buick Skylark is extremely difficult, even though we did a body-off on our '54 Buick 2dr. HT a few years back (400 points at Charlotte).   For reference, we also have a nice original '56 Roadmaster Convertible and a '57 Super 2dr. HT.  Thanks for the help and encouragement - greatly appreciated.

Fred
 

10.29A.jpg

10.29B.jpg

Center Rear.jpg

LEFT REAR1.jpg

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Thanks Al,

I like your diagram. Centering everything is exactly what we plan to address today, as careful centering seems to be the best plan. The reason the gap from side to side on the hood/cowl is that when we reinstalled the fender supports and radiator bracket, we probably were slightly off center.  A fraction of an inch in front would be a substantial gap at the rear of the hood.  It might also be possible that the radiator support may need raised slightly,  so this will be checked later today. 

 

Thanks to everyone for so much encouragement and helpful ideas. 


Fred

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On Friday, it took all of 6 hours to do so, as we took our time and carefully made some great progress. We determined that the hood towards the front of the car was off center by about 1/4".  (Al was correct in his observation). We dropped a plumb line from the center hood hole where the hood ornament is bolted on (also measured from hood crease to hood crease at that point to be doubly sure that the hole itself was centered.  We then carefully measured the space between the inside frame rails and found dead center. We then moved the hood so that everything lined up on center. The gap along the rear edge of the hood at the cowl was then even, although slightly tighter at each side - however the gap was exactly the same on each side. There is no way to correct this without welding metal most of the way across the rear edge of the hood which is not practical. We also raised the center radiator support (hood latch bolts into this) as hood was sitting a little low and front fenders did not line up until we made this adjustment. We have a little tinkering to do, but are 90% of the way.  This coming week, we will fine tune everything and drill some 1/8" pilot holes under each of the three rubber angle bumpers into the front fenders and into the inner panel below.  Reason: We will  be removing the hood and fenders for painting and don't want to have to waste any more time on this, especially with fresh paint.  In conclusion, want to say that 1953 and 1954 Buick hoods are very difficult to properly line up, as can be seen if closely looking at any cars of that vintage.  Having the springs renewed was a big plus, as they now open smoothly.  Before rebuilding the springs, the hood jerked back when being opened and hit the cowl or top of doors - not good.

 

I greatly appreciate all of the helpful ideas regarding this issue and want to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions, as well as encouragement.

 

Fred 

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We are almost finished with the hood alignment, but waiting  on some rubber bumpers, as the originals are hard as a rock.  We need to do some 'fine tuning' to get the hood/door gap even on both sides.  They are close, but need a little more tinkering after the new rubber bumpers come in from Steele.  Having the hinge and door springs remanufactured was the best thing we could have done. The hood hinge rivets were very loose and sloppy, and the springs were stretched and bent, resulting in a loss of tension.  The hinges were rebuilt and because, there are no new springs available, different new springs were adapted, resulting in smooth working hinges.  The hinges were rebuilt by Rowland Hall, 1901 Jackson Street, Burbank, CA 91504, (818)726-9440, rowlandhall@mindspring.com.

 

Fred

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