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My 1934 Pontiac adventure.


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  My 1934 Pontiac Adventure



Thirteen years ago I got a call from a car enthusiast in a neighboring town to tell me he had heard about a 1934 Pontiac in a warehouse in Wellsburg, Ia.  He didn’t know much about it.  I told him thanks, but no thanks, I sure didn’t need another car. Later that year I got to thinking about it and called him back for more info.  I called the owner and found out the car might be for sale, so I made an appointment to go look at it. 


The owner told me the car was purchased new by the Boomgarden family in Wellsburg which consisted of two bachelor brothers and an un- married sister.  They drove the car until 1962 when the last one could no longer drive.  Then the current owners, who were teenagers at the time, pooled their money and bought the car for $100.  It was lucky that there were two owners as they could never really figure out what to do with the car.  One owner might have made a hot rod out of it or sold it.  They drove it occasionally just for fun.  Somewhere in the early 70’s they loaned it to the local bank to drive in the 4th of July parade.  The car quit running during the parade and was taken to a warehouse, put up on blocks, and the radiator was drained.  That’s where I first saw it. Then these same two guys decided to sell it and wanted me to make them an offer.  I told them it was their car and they should decide what they wanted, and if I liked the price they would see my checkbook come out of my pocket.  This went on for a couple of weeks until I finally decided that if I wanted the car, I had better make an offer before they sold it to someone else or decided to keep it.  I didn’t want to make them mad with a low- ball offer, so I made a reasonable offer that I could back up with “The Old Car’s Value Guide”.  As soon as they heard my offer, they INSTANTLY knew what the car was really worth and wanted more money.  I figured if I wanted the car, I had better get some kind of deal made, so I used my “dynamic personality” and “superior negotiating skills” to make a deal. I paid too much for the car!


When my son and I went after the car, they had it out of the warehouse.  We loaded it on the trailer, hauled it home, and rolled it into my farm shop.  That’s when the fun began!


I bought a new battery so I could begin to get it running.  I turned the key on and had no power to the distributor.  I figured that’s why it quit running during the parade.  With my head up under the dash, aided by my test light, I found a loose wire on the amp meter.  Once I tightened it, I had power to the distributor.  The starter would barely turn the engine over, so I had it rebuilt.  Then it would turn over.  Since they had not drained the gas tank, I had to hook up a small gravity fed tank feeding the carburetor. 


I cranked until I had oil pressure, then turned the key on and kept cranking.  After awhile it started popping, coughing, sputtering and finally it started filling the shop with ugly smoke.  I was happy not to hear any big knocks and have good oil pressure while it was running on all eight cylinders.


Next, I filled the radiator only to find the water pump leaked big time.  I put on a NOS water pump and thermostat and new radiator hoses.  Then I could let it run long enough to get warmed up.  Then I changed the oil.  In the meantime I noticed the generator was not charging, so I had it rebuilt.


Next, I took the gas tank off to be boiled and coated and sent the sending unit off to be rebuilt.  I rebuilt the fuel pump (guess where I got the kit), and once the tank was back on, I thought I could see light at the end of the tunnel.  Ha!! Ha!!


I had ordered a new set of tires from Coker, and when I took the back wheels off, I noticed the rear axle seals had been leaking and had ruined the brake shoes.  I put in new axle seals, rear axle lube, and had the shoes relined with NOS linings I had on hand.


Finally, I was ready for the maiden voyage.  I drove it about four miles and made it back to the shop!


Next were front brakes, packing front wheel bearings, and filling the Dubonnet knee action front shocks.


Finally, I was able to do more driving.  Arliss and I made a trip to the grocery store.  We made it fine until on our way home.  The car started to make a terrible noise, it sounded like it was coming from the clutch.  I made it to the shop, parked it and waited until the next day.  I took the cover off the bell housing and everything looked good. No problems.  When I started the car there were no noises, until it got warmed up. Then the noise was back!  Then it dawned on me, I remembered talking to fellow ETC member Huck Mundell when he told me about his ’34 doing the same thing.  It was the vacuum switch on the manifold letting the starter engage when the engine was running, which created a BIG noise.  A trip to my parts building for a NOS switch solved the problem.  Then it was off to the muffler shop for a NOS muffler and a custom bent tail pipe. 


By then it was late spring 2009, and my goal was to drive it to the Flathead Reunion which was 120 miles away.  It had a couple of broken windows, so I took it a local old- time body man.  He replaced the windows, painted the black fenders, and buffed the original blue body paint to bring the paint and shine back to life.  I had a new set of hubcaps to complete the exterior.  The interior was

 all original and in good condition.  The odometer read 51,000 which I’m sure was correct. 


We made it to the Flathead and back with no problem other than it had a huge thirst for oil.  I figured if I was going to drive it very much I had better do something about the oil consumption, so that winter it was back to the shop.  I took the head and pan off, cut off the ring ridge and removed the pistons and rods.  The cylinder taper and wear were within tolerance, so I figured a set of rings would make a big difference.  What I did not plan on was some of the babbitt in the rods to be cracked and coming apart, so I had to send the rods to be rebabbitted.  We had to use a micrometer on each rod journal and give the shop the measurements in order to have the correct clearance on each rod.  My neighbor, who spent many years in an automotive machine shop, used a ring grinder to custom fit every ring to each cylinder with the correct end gap.  Once back together, it runs well, still smokes some, but uses very little oil.  Not bad for a $600 in frame overhaul. 


Since then the car has attended two Flathead Reunions, several local car shows, many out for supper nights, and been driven lots of time for fun. Whenever we get caught in the rain, Arliss wishes the original owners had opted for the optional right- hand windshield wiper.  People say to us, “Wow, you drove that old car all the way here?”, and I say, “Sure, and my check engine light never came on once”.











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  • 1 month later...

Good story, thanks for sharing.    I love to see original cars like that, still being enjoyed witout the $30,000 restoration.

Some day I'll do the short story in my 35 Ford Pickup, which we still enjoy as a truck.


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