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1939 Special Convert - On the Road Again

Bob H

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Started this restoration in 2014 with the goals of doing everything possible to preserve the car in the future and to drive it for pleasure. We took the car, which is far from finished, for it's first short shakedown cruise last Sunday. All the basic safety features are working and it is licensed.


The engine performed far beyond all expectations, ran flawlessly, held good oil pressure and stayed cool. The rebuilt transmission however, is really noisy in first gear, works OK but not what I expected for noise.  The transmission shifted well, as we had hoped, after spending quite a bit of time adjusting and fine-tuning this unique shift linkage. Steering was a white-knuckle adventure. The tires are junk yard rag radials.  A new set of tires and an alignment should make things right.


The clutch worked quite well. The brakes are up to the task but need to adjust the parking brake. The South Wind heater is not working yet - would have been nice on a 40 degree day. All gauges in the restore cluster work great.


Gonna miss power steering and brakes. I might need to figure out how to add some strength to these old arms. Missed outside mirrors and reached for a turn signal switch to the left of the steering wheel more than once.


Thanks to all of those who provided support getting us here! More to go, but we have reached a significant landmark. Bob H

Convert Before, Aug 2014 001 (Small).jpg

Engine Short Block (Small).JPG

Steering links new bushings etc (Small).JPG

Brakes RR 2016 (Small).JPG

abbott 2000 fr (Medium).JPG

Low Beam Feb 2020 (Small).JPG

Dash Part 02-20 (Small).JPG

Tail Lights 02-20 (Small).JPG

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Congratulations!  On the transmission, have you driven any other Buicks from that era for comparison?  The transmissions have a characteristic "howl" in first gear due to the straight cut gears.  So yours may be just fine.


Please post more photos when you get a chance.  We love photos!

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Yup,   Having a heater to keep the chill off helps.   Here in Florida, it gets nippy around Christmas thru mid Feb. but my heater does what ever it can.  Then again,  I have a 1938 coupe.    I needed a/c to survive the summer.    I have rebuilt the running gear to the point where I’ve taken trips as long as 1800 miles round trip.   Enjoy your unique 1939 rag top as it will surely turn many heads.   It’s a beauty....

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I've always felt that my 1930s and 1940s Buicks had extremely LIGHT steering, at least when moving even the slightest bit-

better than power steering, 

and certainly easier than our '30 Packard or '41 Cadillac !


An example - when my wife was just out of both right Rotator Cuff, and Knee Meniscus surgery, we were on our way to support a local AACA Chapter car show.

She had wanted to drive the '30 Packard 733 7-passenger Touring since it is easier to see out of than the '37 Buick 80C Phaeton (convertible sedan) with the top, "B" pillar, and windows up.

Following her once around the block, and right back to our driveway -

she said the Packard would be a strain to drive the 30+ miles each way and thought she would stay home.

I suggested that she drive the Buick and initially she resisted,

but once around the block, and she agreed it felt like power steering by comparison.


The 60 mile round trip to the show, driving local streets, as well as Interstate Highway was a breeze for her as the '37, as well as driving our prior '34 Buick.

They do have very light steering -

as long as you are moving even slightly.

One finger handles the steering, helped by the huge and beautiful "Banjo Style" steering wheel.

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My immense 1941 Limited steers with little more than a single finger if it's rolling even at 1 MPH. At a total standstill, I can still turn it with one arm, although it's awkward and easier with two. Shockingly light steering for something so big and old. A '39 Special should be a breeze as long as the alignment is right, the tires are properly inflated, and you have the right grease in the steering box (I use John Deere cornhead grease, which flows more than regular grease).

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kgreen: I appreciate your offer of the maroon shifter knob but the ivory matches all my other knobs and permanent steering wheel. In the first sentence of this post I listed my goals of preserving the car long-term and cruising it for pleasure. Car shows are simply not my bag nor to I intend to submit the car to anyone for judging except the general public. There are many excellent "authentic" restorations out there, one more would not be noticed. The car has the heart, soul and technology of a 1939 Buick Special but has mild styling and trim tweaks as well as improvements to safety, reliability and driveability. The 6 volt electrical system, for example, has been retained but modified to keep everything burning brightly.


Fasteners were/are kind of fun. I carefully catalogued each fastener and entered them into a computer spread sheet, nearly 300 different kinds of fasteners. Some were used only once, others by the dozen. I used grade 8 Made in USA nuts and bolts on all critical suspension and steering parts, ground the grade markings off to disguise them.  Body mounts and similar important bolts are Made in USA grade 5, treated the same way as the grade 8's. Some original hardware was restored and reused, the acme thread screws in the front sheet metal are originals. Replaced most sheet metal screws and smaller machine screws with stainless steel. Every bolt, nut, washer, and screw on the car has been replaced or refurbished painted or plated.


Again , thanks to all who helped move this project along with their unique brands of help and parts. Bob H





Chrome Batch (Medium).JPG

Clips Etc 250 ML (Small).JPG

OPTIMA Nest 08-2019 (Small).JPG

Engine Compartment (Small).JPG

new wood 2000 (Medium).JPG

12-28-017 Steering Wheel (Medium).JPG

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Wow, I like your idea for documentation.  For my car, which was missing many of the parts and had incorrect, new fasteners, I had to disassemble and document assembly details, part locations and fasteners on another car the same year as mine.    

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