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Not easy to start second time round ‘38 Special

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Well, we tried to have an afternoon outing to relieve the boredom and used it as an excuse to take out the ‘38 Buick. Haven’t used it for a month and has only been started one other time.


Anyway, it started reasonably well after cranking a few times, obviously fuel had evaporated but had it running at fast idle on the hand throttle for a couple of minutes then shut it off. Big mistake 😔

Returned after about ten minutes to start our journey, and it wouldn’t start.

After fruitless efforts, lots of cranking and no starting,  I removed the air cleaner and disconnected the automatic choke cable which allowed it to remain partially open. Eventually it started, with a cough and then ran fine. Strong smell of fuel, so probably flooded. And a big black soot patch on the driveway! Put the cable back in the slot as it was.


After a 30minute drive shut it off and it restarted fine after a 40minute rest.


Then another drive for about 30 minutes. After another stop for over an hour, it restarted again.


My concern is that I want it to start every time, even if I shut it down after a short time.


Had previously done points, dwell timing, new leads but I suspect it is being over choked by the 2bbl Marvel carburettor.


Any thoughts. I want this to be super reliable and have confidence every time we use it!

Rodney 😔😔😔😔😔😔😔😔


Anyway, we got there and back and had a nice walk. And Jo took an arty farty picture too!






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Hi Rodney,

Sorry to hear about your misbehaving '38.

Given that previously you  have done all the most obvious renewal/ checks, I would suggest you check to see if you have spark at the plugs or even at the points. This was my recent problem.

i recently had a very similar problem with my 38; just as you have described but it finally went dead totally no starterator resonse but I could get it cranking by shorting the starter solenoid, but it just would not fire.

I checked all the items you mentioned. I run a Stromberg aerobat carby which I had completely rebuilt. I also installed a 6volt electric pump at the fuel tank outlet last year. So I did not suspect any of those components.

I did identify a problem at the "new" coil HT resulting in no spark at the points. Had good leads too. Replaced the capacitor inside the distributor pior to suspecting the new coil.

Just to to be sure to be sure I now have a new distributor cap, a new coil and points. I have not installed them yet.

I was also suspecting a perished diaphram or bad points in my vacuum staterator, but until I restore a spark I have will not delved into that bit yet.

My first suggestion...check for spark and check the coil.

Hope that gives you something positive to follow up. Let me know how you get on.

At least you have some nice photos😁😁😁



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If it was flooded initially, I'd check choke adjustment. You probably need far less choke than you think if you're usually driving it in warm weather. I had a similar problem, but when my car was very cold. It would flood and be very hard to start. Backing the choke off helped a great deal. At summer temperatures, my choke is almost 3/4 open during a cold start and it seems to work well. 


Also, do you have an electric fuel pump? Some of the problem might be fuel percolating in the bowl during hot soak after shutdown. That can actually cause a lot of the fuel to evaporate. I'm not sure about the quality of the gas you have Down Under, but here it boils at about 140-160 degrees and I've actually had my 1929 Cadillac running and could hear the fuel boiling in the carburetor. Check your heat riser under the carb as well to be sure it's open so it's not cooking the carb as you drive. I'm a big fan of electric fuel pumps, which can often stop heat-related fuel problems before they start. Don't think of it as a crutch or a band-aid, it's a solution to a problem that didn't exist when your car was built.


Hope this helps!

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I have mentioned this a few times but I have also seen it a few times, like that insurance company. If it was in my driveway right now I would remove the distributor cap and push the breaker plate to the limit with my finger. How fast does it return? The plate rides on a lubricated cork pad. If you put a couple drops of oil in the lubrication pipe every 1,000 miles that might not be enough.


It is a quick and easy check. And you might want to take the plate off and check just to be sure.


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Don't know if THIS applies to a "down under" Buick.

A few years ago I worked with a friend on his 38 with choke issues... ended up with a later carb converted to manual choke just so he could drive and enjoy it.


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  • 6 months later...

Thank you for your posts, I changed out the Marvel for a 1947 Carter from a later Buick Special. And it now starts and runs every time. As much as I enjoy originality, I enjoy driving the Buick much more!


And now for the axle seals 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

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