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Noobie and his '39 Century


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Hello all, first post - my new hobbie just arrived last Sunday,  seems to be a barn find.  Supposedly the previous owner purchased in the 70's and the interior redone, but seems to have been mostly stationary since then.   I've been reading the forum for the last week or two and trying learn as much as I can.  

 

My goal is to (1) avoid converting it to a kit car, plenty of family experience with that, and (2) get it on the road so I can start enjoying it.  Long term, I think I will keep it as original as possible while improving drivability and maintainability, considering things like brake upgrades for example. 

 

First step will be to remove the front clip so I can inspect the suspension and see if we can breath some life into a very clean looking 320.  

 

Any advice, tips, links, or suggestions are greatley appreciated. IMG_20200919_183259.thumb.jpg.d8870a8e169ea623b54a96440214109b.jpg

 

BR,

Chris in NC

IMG_20200919_154125.jpg

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Welcome to the world of '39s ☺️

From the small wiper transmission and fine grille you probably have the short chassis version.

Chassis was made full length during production

 

With the 320 cracked exhaust manifolds are a common problem

1939 transmissions can be weak

1939 torque ball can/will be an issue

1939's have a lot of 1 year only parts

 

There is facebook group for 1939 Buick's

.

The front clip sheetmetal can be taken of in one piece.  Not that hard but better with 2 people

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/208899-1939-buick-front-panel-removal/

 

39 front sheetmetal_01.jpg

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Thanks for the heads information, I'll check out the Facebook group for more info.

 

You're right, I have already noticed the short frame which I would like to eventually reinforce. 

 

What are the symptoms of the problems with the torque ball?

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Chris,

 

Welcome to the AACA Discussion Forum. Where in NC are you located? I am in Wilmington. While there are some things that are specific to 1939 Buicks that I am not the best guy to help you with, there are a lot of things that you might be able to find to help you in my restoration story of my 1938 Century. You can read that here: https://forums.aaca.org/topic/297623-1938-buick-century-model-61-four-door-touring-sedan-trunk-back/

 

I would also suggest you may want to consider checking out the 36-38 Buick Club. Despite the name, the club welcomes all Straight 8 era Buicks. The club's technical advisors and newsletter should be helpful to you. You will find the club website at: http://www.3638buickclub.org/

 

 

Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, C-Lamb said:

Thanks for the heads information, I'll check out the Facebook group for more info.

 

You're right, I have already noticed the short frame which I would like to eventually reinforce. 

 

What are the symptoms of the problems with the torque ball?

100's of short chassis 1939's running OK.  You are not going to put a tow ball on it or put a lot of weight in the trunk. Buick had fix that was done by dealers at the time.

 

Torque ball wears. And the other rubber mounts/engine mounts wear old - perish. Things move and put stress on other parts. Is a 1 year only design. In 1940 Buick went back the the 1938 design.  Look at the facebook group

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/339722-used-1939-buick-torque-balls-series-40-60-that-are-worn-and-no-longer-usable/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/337629-1939-buick-torque-ball-lining-replacement/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/313771-1939-buick-torque-ball-needed/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/276957-new-1939-special-torque-ball-set-up-need-a-little-help/

 

Brakes are OK if in good condition and well maintained.

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9 hours ago, MCHinson said:

Chris,

 

Welcome to the AACA Discussion Forum. Where in NC are you located? I am in Wilmington. While there are some things that are specific to 1939 Buicks that I am not the best guy to help you with, there are a lot of things that you might be able to find to help you in my restoration story of my 1938 Century. You can read that here: https://forums.aaca.org/topic/297623-1938-buick-century-model-61-four-door-touring-sedan-trunk-back/

 

I would also suggest you may want to consider checking out the 36-38 Buick Club. Despite the name, the club welcomes all Straight 8 era Buicks. The club's technical advisors and newsletter should be helpful to you. You will find the club website at: http://www.3638buickclub.org/

 

 

Matt, 

I've got the '36-38 club bookmarked and will definely be mining it for information.  Very impressive project and 20 some pages of posts w/ you '38.  I'm hoping to not go that far in the near term, but it really depends upon what I find as I get into it. 

 

Thanks!

Chris

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5 hours ago, 1939_Buick said:

100's of short chassis 1939's running OK.  You are not going to put a tow ball on it or put a lot of weight in the trunk. Buick had fix that was done by dealers at the time.

 

Torque ball wears. And the other rubber mounts/engine mounts wear old - perish. Things move and put stress on other parts. Is a 1 year only design. In 1940 Buick went back the the 1938 design.  Look at the facebook group

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/339722-used-1939-buick-torque-balls-series-40-60-that-are-worn-and-no-longer-usable/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/337629-1939-buick-torque-ball-lining-replacement/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/313771-1939-buick-torque-ball-needed/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/276957-new-1939-special-torque-ball-set-up-need-a-little-help/

 

Brakes are OK if in good condition and well maintained.

1939_Buick, thanks for the torque ball links, learned a lot and saw the diagrams I needed in the later posts to have a clue what it is and how it works.  Really hoping that I don't get stuck with something like that right off the bat, we'll see.  Once the front clip is off, we'll see if we can start and drive it as is and then start fixing one thing at a time (starting with brakes). 

 

Long term, I would like to be able to drive a few hundred miles w/ a small popup, so I'll have to address that chassis issue, but no hurry!  For freeway trips, it sounds like it would be nice to find a better rear diff, but sounds like that's very rare as well. 

 

For now, we'll see how little we can do and get it on the road. 

 

Thanks!

Chris

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Any 1939 owners can certainly chime in with anything I have forgotten but personally, I would not bother with removing the front clip at first. I would drop the oil pan, clean it out, go through the oil pump, reinstall the pump and reinstall the pan with a new gasket. Drop the gas tank, check it and clean out as needed, clean out or change the fuel lines. Remove and rebuild the carburetor, rebuild the fuel pump, assuming there are no major obvious wiring insulation issues, drop a new battery in it, clean up or replace (with correct heavy duty cables) battery cables, and see if it will run.  I would then rebuild the brake master cylinder and wheel cylinders, flush out the brake lines and install new brake fluid. Change the differential gear oil. Change the transmission gear oil. Top off shock absorber fluid, and put on some new tires.  After that, you may have the running driving car that you want. 

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6 hours ago, MCHinson said:

Any 1939 owners can certainly chime in with anything I have forgotten but personally, I would not bother with removing the front clip at first. I would drop the oil pan, clean it out, go through the oil pump, reinstall the pump and reinstall the pan with a new gasket. Drop the gas tank, check it and clean out as needed, clean out or change the fuel lines. Remove and rebuild the carburetor, rebuild the fuel pump, assuming there are no major obvious wiring insulation issues, drop a new battery in it, clean up or replace (with correct heavy duty cables) battery cables, and see if it will run.  I would then rebuild the brake master cylinder and wheel cylinders, flush out the brake lines and install new brake fluid. Change the differential gear oil. Change the transmission gear oil. Top off shock absorber fluid, and put on some new tires.  After that, you may have the running driving car that you want. 

Thanks Matt &1939_Buick.  

 

Those are exactly the repairs I was thinking about performing, but I was thinking it was much easier to do that w/o the sheetmetal in the way.  Plus, radiator and cooling system could probably use a clean and leak test while out.   My experience working on VW's etc. is that it's usually easier to take the time to go ahead and get things out of the way and make the rest of the work lots easier with less twisting and squeezing, so I was sort of assuming the same for this... but I'll definitely defer to those with experience. 

 

As for the last drive, no idea.  The engine is remarkably clean with no sign of serious oil leaks,  but the area around the shock looked like it might be a bit of a mess.  Based on the varnish leaking out of the gas tank, I'm sure it's been 10 years, but I think it could have been 20 or 30. 

 

For cleaning the area around the door frames (lots of mud daubbers and such), anything recommended or anything to avoid using?

 

For cleaning the ~70's upholstery, any recommendations on things to use or avoid?  Toying with removing the seats to clean the carpet and any mice detritus from underneath, but that looks pretty involved?

 

Thanks again for the input.  This weekend, I just pushed it out of the garage and let it sit in the sun and air out a bit more. 

 

Chris

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48 minutes ago, C-Lamb said:

For cleaning the area around the door frames (lots of mud daubbers and such), anything recommended or anything to avoid using?

 

For cleaning the ~70's upholstery, any recommendations on things to use or avoid?  Toying with removing the seats to clean the carpet and any mice detritus from underneath, but that looks pretty involved?

 

Thanks again for the input.  This weekend, I just pushed it out of the garage and let it sit in the sun and air out a bit more.

Removing the front seats is not hard:-4 bolts each side to the floor. The seat is heavy: 2 people.  With the seat & carpet out you can remove a floor cover plate.  Then take the cover off the transmission (6 bolts) to inspect - change the oil

Image in here--> https://forums.aaca.org/topic/349351-40-century-wont-shift-when-warm/

 

Removing the rear seat is not that hard. Cars of this era are built simply

 

A common rust spot is the bottom of the rear door pillars. Water from sliding quarter window drain channel runs inside and rusts out on the floor. Originally the drain channel had a plastic hose the ran inside the door pillar frame.  That old hose may have fallen off in 1949-1959 (10-20 years from new)

 

A very good thread to look at Billy's thread on the restoration of his 1939 Special.

Due to software changes some images have been lost. 

For reason unknown its picks an image from a post in the thread. Not the image on the first post

 

Edited by 1939_Buick
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Thank for the links!  Billy's project is one of the first I saw when exploring the forum, the wife loves the color.   I saw all the screws around the base of the seat holding the upholstery down and got nervous, but maybe pulling those can be one of the evening projects.  They are in good shape, so I hesitate to mess with them, but it would be good to check for unwanted homes.   

 

That access plate is extremely convenient, once I get through the engine, then I will tackle that. 

 

Two questions

- how hard is it to get replacement glass?

- how hard is it to find a replacement gas tank? Given the varnish and the leaking, I'm not looking forward to that.   First though, we'll see if it runs. 

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For the Glass, I would suggest: http://www.vendio.com/stores/bobsclassicautoglass/item/buick-glass/1939-1940-buick-4-door-touring/lid=36442608

 

For the gas tank, if it had non-ethanol fuel in it, it might surprise you. My 1938 Century was parked for 23 years. The inside of the gas tank was in wonderful condition. An old fashioned radiator shop can probably clean, check, and possibly repair a fuel tank if needed. There are also several suppliers of gas tanks. I doubt they have a specific 1939 Buick tank (I know they don't have 1937 or 1938 Buick tanks), but if you need a new tank they probably have one close enough that will fit in the same area, and probably will just need some minor modification to work. This is one such company: https://www.tanksinc.com/?msclkid=2e97dbebc31a146089968483d1cf3533&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=**LP Branded&utm_term=Tanks Inc Gas Tanks&utm_content=Tanks Inc Gas Tanks

 

If you decide that you want one of their poly tanks. I have one that was on my restoration body donor 1938 Special that I will make you a heck of a deal on, if you want to pick it up here in Wilmington. I think it is either their 1937 or 1938 Ford or Chevy tank, but I don't remember which.  

Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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Removing the seat nothing to do with the upholstery. Just take if off the runners (back & forward slide) and take it out

 

Billy used a new repro '39 Chev tank, that he modified a little

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/314273-39-buick-special-gas-tank/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/252488-1939-filler-neckfender-info/

 

Edited by 1939_Buick
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Excellent to hear that the glass is readily available, I was not expecting that answer to be so easy!

 

I'll look at the seats more closely, most of the time right now is going into long overdue shop cleaning and organizing to make more room. 

 

Sounds like a trip to Wilmington is in order sometime soon, I'll see if we can't get away some weekend for a trip to the beach. 

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21 hours ago, 1939_Buick said:

Removing the seat nothing to do with the upholstery. Just take if off the runners (back & forward slide) and take it out

 

Billy used a new repro '39 Chev tank, that he modified a little

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/314273-39-buick-special-gas-tank/

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/252488-1939-filler-neckfender-info/

 

Thanks for the tank links, look like there are several good options. 

 

Regarding the front seat, I can see the bolt holding the front of the seat rail to the floor, but the back is totally obsured behind the footrest.  I suspect there's a simple trick, but I haven't wanted to just start pushing and pulling (and I'm avoiding any can-o-worms until I make more room in the shop).

 

Regarding the back seat, I see at least 2 screws in the trunk holding the back in, but the bottom is completely upholstered to the floor. 

 

Not very well thought out picture below. 

IMG_20200921_203005.jpg

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I have a '37, but I'm sure a lot of this carries over.

Regarding the rear seat, just lift the lower cushion up and out of the car.  

 

This will expose the two steel clips and the two bolts bolts that go through the floor that secure the back cushion to the floor.

The holes in the floor are threaded to accept these bolts.

 

My '37 had three wood screws that came in through the trunk to hold the top of the rear cushion secure.

 

A little wiggle and muscle and the rear cushion should come right out.

 

DSC_2584.thumb.jpg.6f21abfc0be86f9f97f105fbc9799fc5.jpg.3172cda19a40726f854dba01a1166505.jpg

You can see where I cut the Dynaliner sound deadening material to access the clips and bolts.

 

 

 

Here's the link to the seat install:

Just touch the arrow in the upper right corner.

If you keep reading, the front seat install comes next.

 

I'll jump on what Matt said earlier.....  I also have a complete documented restoration of a '37 on the Pre-War Buick site.

I tried to include a lot of photos as I went along, but I have so many more.  If you need any, please don't hesitate.

On the first couple pages I removed my interior, there are some photos there that may help as well.

 

Good Luck...  you found the right guys here!  There is a LOT of knowledge on this site!

 

Gary

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At least on my '41, the bottom cushion of the front seat is just held in place by gravity like the back seat.  Once you pull the bottom cushion out of the frame, you can get access to the bolts that hold the seat rails in place on the floor.  On the '41, there are four bolts on each side.  I figure the '39 must be similar.

 

 

 

Edited by neil morse (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, Gary W said:

I have a '37, but I'm sure a lot of this carries over.

Regarding the rear seat, just lift the lower cushion up and out of the car.  

 

This will expose the two steel clips and the two bolts bolts that go through the floor that secure the back cushion to the floor.

The holes in the floor are threaded to accept these bolts.

 

My '37 had three wood screws that came in through the trunk to hold the top of the rear cushion secure.

 

A little wiggle and muscle and the rear cushion should come right out.

 

DSC_2584.thumb.jpg.6f21abfc0be86f9f97f105fbc9799fc5.jpg.3172cda19a40726f854dba01a1166505.jpg

You can see where I cut the Dynaliner sound deadening material to access the clips and bolts.

 

 

 

Here's the link to the seat install:

Just touch the arrow in the upper right corner.

If you keep reading, the front seat install comes next.

 

I'll jump on what Matt said earlier.....  I also have a complete documented restoration of a '37 on the Pre-War Buick site.

I tried to include a lot of photos as I went along, but I have so many more.  If you need any, please don't hesitate.

On the first couple pages I removed my interior, there are some photos there that may help as well.

 

Good Luck...  you found the right guys here!  There is a LOT of knowledge on this site!

 

Gary

Thanks Gary, Neil, Ben, that makes sense. I just didn't want to pull too hard, will try shortly. 

 

I've been looking at many of the restore threads, I think I saw Billy's first, and so did my wife, so I will be painting it Sequoia Cream at some point I guess!  The challenge I have with the pictures is that they often show the item removed, but not the trick to getting it out... although it's usually pretty clear once you know the trick 😉  Thanks again.  I'm hoping to accomplish something this weekend.

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The bottom back cushion came right out with a bit of tugging, but there's no sign that the bottom front cushion comes out.  As you might see  in the picture, the upholstey extends down and is attached to a the 'skirt board?' at the bottom and there's no sign of movement, other than the normal front to back movement.   What am I missing?

 

 

IMG_20200921_203016.thumb.jpg.5ddb95bb04ebdd7c8d56065de48941be.jpg

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Assuming it is like 1938, to remove the front seat bottom, you have to remove the screws to remove the cloth covered metal trim on the bottom edge of both sides of the seat. The front edge of the cushion will also have nails or screws securing the fabric to the wooden seat bottom frame. After you remove those screws and/or screws and nails, the bottom cushion can be removed. 

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The photo you have posted shows the back of the front seat, but you are asking about the bottom cushion of the front seat, so I'm having trouble understanding exactly what your question is.  On my '41, the bottom cushion of the front seat is set down into the seat frame and not held in place by anything other than gravity.  If you tug on the front edge of the bottom cushion, you can pull it up and out of the seat frame very easily.  Then you have easy access to the bolts holding the seat frame onto the seat adjustment rails.  As I said before, the '39 set up might be different.

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7 hours ago, MCHinson said:

Assuming it is like 1938, to remove the front seat bottom, you have to remove the screws to remove the cloth covered metal trim on the bottom edge of both sides of the seat. The front edge of the cushion will also have nails or screws securing the fabric to the wooden seat bottom frame. After you remove those screws and/or screws and nails, the bottom cushion can be removed. 

Thank you Matt and Neil for the quick response.  Yes, it's like the '38, it seems you have to remove a slew of screws etc to remove the seat, so, I'll put that off for now since there's no need to do it yet.. at least not until I need to check the transmission! I took the picture from the back of the front seat to show how the fabric seems extends down over the based of the seat and is not separate as since in the '41 pictures provided.  But, it wasn't very useful.  

 

Thanks again!  Hopefully, more progress toward running this weekend, but a long list of things to do around the property.  

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Here's the picture I should uploaded last night, but overlooked.

 

Tonight continued cleaning and organizing and occasionally cleaning or PB Blasting on the car.

 

Here's to a productive weekend! Thanks for the help!

ChrisIMG_20200924_204923.thumb.jpg.cdf0baedeca548f2f04edcff62218e6d.jpgIMG_20200924_204923.thumb.jpg.cdf0baedeca548f2f04edcff62218e6d.jpg

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Thanks for posting that photo.  I can now see how different your front seat is from my '41.  As Matt said, it looks like you will have to remove those screws along the bottom and remove that piece of trim before you can remove the bottom cushion.

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Well, been slowly starting and cleaning up in the shop.  Got some new shelves up and other stuff moved around. 

 

Got the car up on stands and been apply some PB anywhere and everywhere.  Got the hubcaps and wheels off without trouble and all the bumper bolts loose (only had to use the big impact once).  Have the hood off, and have the 6bolts under the drivers side guard removed without any issues.  

 

Refering to the instructions from Arl116:

  • 1. Remove the hood
  • 2. Remove the bumper and irons
  • 3. Disconnect the Head light wires at the blocks
  • 4. Disconnect the radiator hoses
  • 5. Remove 6 bolts under the each guard
  • 6. Remove large bolt under radiator/crossbeam
  • 7. Remove 2 bolts that hold the side panels each side
  • 8. Remove 1 bolt that holds the top of the side panel to the cowl each side

I think I found everything except #7, any hints?  All the bolts in the front seem to go into the radiator frame.

 

I hope to remove the rest of the bolts tomorrow and get some help on Sunday to maybe pull clip on Sunday so I can get to the engine. 

 

Picture preview looks upside down hopefully that gets sorted when it gets posted.

 

Thanks!

Chris

 

 

IMG_20201002_200134.jpg

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7 hours ago, neil morse said:

Thanks Neil, did you download it and rotate it or is there a tool in the forum?  It shows up correctly on my tablet before 

uploading.

 

 

c-lamb.jpg.c0c42f099a781fc34885fb736c3f47e9.jpg

 

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I just downloaded it and rotated it.  There's no tool on the forum as far as I know.  Good luck with your project -- looks like a lot of fun.

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Well, the deed is done. One son is stuck home from college and the other one stopped by to borrow the boat, so when he returned, I was ready with my 3 person job!

 

The instructions from above:

  • 1. Remove the hood - 4 bolts
  • 2. Remove the bumper and irons - 4 bolts easy to get to and find.  I think they were 3/4".  Had to use the big impact on one of them... 
  • 3. Disconnect the Head light wires at the blocks -Pretty easy.  Also have to free the wire from all the clips.
  • 4. Disconnect the radiator hoses - definitely easiest at the engine.  Hard/impossible to get to the lower one it seemed like. 
  • 5. Remove 6 bolts under the each guard - I think these are all 1/2", and I think there are only 5 that have to be removed, the upper one just ties the side panel to the guard. I think the one that doesn't have to be removed is 7/16th.
  • 6. Remove large bolt under radiator/crossbeam.  I thought this was going to be hard, but was barely on.
  • 7. Remove 2 bolts that hold the side panels each side - I couldn't find these, I don't think there are any others to remove.
  • 8. Remove 1 bolt that holds the top of the side panel to the cowl each side - These are pretty obvious.

IMG_20201003_161804.jpg

IMG_20201003_161711.jpg

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