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Fixing the 53 Special


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Posted (edited)

Hello again everyone! As some of you know, I was on the fence for quite some time about getting this car, but as of today it was purchased and put in a place where I can work on it properly. Outside but still.

 

If you all don't mind, I'd like to start this thread so I can get some help and advice, and show you all my progress along the way. I know it doesn't look like much now, but I'm sure I can get it looking decent and running good with a lot of time and a little help. 

 

In the meantime, here are some pictures, and the body tags. Hopefully someone can help me decode them.

 

I know that it's a 1953 Buick Model 41D Special, but that's about it.

 

Thank you all for helping me decide, now the real journey begins!

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Edited by Just_Some_Young_Kid (see edit history)
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As of now, the things that work are:

-All exterior lights 

-Gauges 

-Horn

-Engine

-Transmission (as far as I know, moved in drive and reverse while running)

-All doors open and close nicely, and lock

-Hood and trunk both latch nicely

 

Things that don't work are:

-Brakes (big deal, pedal goes to the floor)

Suspension (at least one rear link on shock is disconnected, pretty bouncy)

-Passenger interior air vent

-Parking brake

-Starter (works, just turns over very slow)

-Battery

 

Things that I'd like to get fixed, besides the obvious brakes and suspension, are:

-Front passenger and both rear smoker windows, which are there but somewhat cracked

-All window and door seals

-Trunk seal

-Rust (the ultimate battle)

-Tires

-Play in steering

 

I'm sure I'll find more things, but that's all I can think of at the moment.

 

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Posted (edited)

Happy for you, guy.

 

Do we just keep refering to you as kid?  What part of the country are you in?

 

 The slow turning is probably NOT the fault of the starter. Get that new battery. Get new battery cable of at least oo in size. As big or bigger than your thumb. If the present ground cable is braided, about one inch wide, it MAY be OK. Clean it real good. At the engine end too.

 

Ben

Edited by Ben Bruce aka First Born (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

Happy for you, guy.

 

Do we just keep refering to you as kid?  What part of the country are you in?

 

 The slow turning is probably NOT the fault of the starter. Get that new battery. Get new battery cable of at least oo in size. As big or bigger than your thumb. If the present ground cable is braided, about one inch wide, it MAY be OK. Clean it real good. At the engine end too.

 

Ben

My name is Kevin, just call me Kev. I'm 24 and live in central Illinois.

 

The battery is something like I've never seen. 3 cells, its about 2 feet long and narrow. I believe the cable was pretty big but I'll check out everything tomorrow and where to get a battery like that. The ground strap is probably okay since it's almost exactly as you described it.

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You need a Group 2E six volt battery. I buy mine from my local NAPA parts store and all of them have outlasted the warranty and given me good service. Their part number is 7248. 

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Neat car, should be a good driver once you get it sorted. I don't have much to offer, except I'll mention about cranking on these. Even when everything is perfect they still don't crank like a 12V car. It is difficult to put into words, but they kind of crank like you have a low battery on a 12V car. Make sure you give the cylinders some oiling before you try to fire it up.

 Otherwise, have fun!

 Keith

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Posted (edited)
On 5/30/2021 at 4:35 PM, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

.. . . In the meantime, here are some pictures, and the body tags. Hopefully someone can help me decode them . . . 

 

20210530_152639.jpg

20210530_152715.jpg

 

In addition to all the decoding info that can be found on Hometown Buick's website, consider these:

-  Your Car Serial Number that consists of the assembly plant prefix "1" for Flint-Michigan + the sequential number of 7I28564 is an August-1953 production build-date number.

-  The last digit (4) in this sequential number does not designate that this number was assigned to a Buick 40-series Model.  

 

Has the OEM Shell Grey bottom color been sprayed over with a cream-colored paint or did the OEM oil-based lacquer yellow-out that much in 68+ years? The two-tone Body by Fisher Number Plate, the lack of paint on the door-jamb's C.S.N. metal tag plus the shiny screws makes me question it. Thanks.

 

1-Scan-050.jpg.2de6a935166ce24c501876c3ed11d6c8.jpg

 

Al Malachowski

BCA #8965

"500 Miles West of Flint" 

 

Edited by 1953mack (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Hi Kev, Congrats on owning this great old Buick...

 

You know this already, but completely restoring the braking system should be a "Special" high priority. It's one thing to not get moving or konking out after you're moving, but not being able to stop that big gal is beyond scary.

 

I would recommend replacing or rebuilding every hydraulic component in the system. This includes all the steel brake lines. They may look fine from the outside but DOT3 brake fluid absorbs moisture like mad. If not flushed regularly, the system will rust from the inside.

 

We had a 1966 Mustang which underwent a cosmetic restoration by the previous owner. The mechanicals were a mess. Every wheel cylinder was full of rusty brake fluid but there were no leaks and the car stopped well. However, one of the steel lines broke when I removed it and folded it up as trash. The steel line was thin due to internal rust.

 

Since you will be using your Buick as a daily driver at highway speeds, a well sorted brake system can't be stressed enough. The mechanical side of the system (brake hardware, shoes, drums, etc) should be completely gone over as well.

 

As you have noted, the suspension, steering, and drivetrain will need attention too. However, the braking system is at the top of my list...!

 

Please keep us posted.

 

Paul

 

Edited by pfloro (see edit history)
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Thank you 55er for the battery information, my napa is closed today for memorial day, I'll have to go when they open at 7 so I can go before work. I went to o'Reillys since they were open today but no luck.

 

Thank you Aaron for looking up the VIN, it still looks like the green interior but the gray looks long gone. 

 

Thanks Buicknutty, it did crank slow but I think it's just because the battery is nuked. It took another battery and a jump pack to crank it over. As for the oiling, I have a little oil pistol I'll use to squirt some down the spark plug holes.

 

1953mack, you're saying that the VIN tag doesn't belong to this car at all, considering the last digit is a 4? Is the door tag supposed to be the same color as the body? And I'm not too sure on the paint question, it doesn't look like there's anything under it, but the inside of the trunk does look kind of grayish. The roof I can tell has been sprayed, there's remnants of black underneath it, but it still isn't the shell gray color.

 

And lastly pfloro, the brakes are the first thing on my list, besides cleaning it and making it look decent first so I have a little more motivation. I plan on replacing and renewing everything related with the brakes, so that means new nycop brake lines, new hoses, new wheel cylinders, new shoes and hardware, and I'll see if I can get away with turning the drums since I have a lathe available. I'll also see if I can rebuild the master cylinder since I assume they aren't exactly available. Also I'm thinking now I wouldn't drive it EVERY day, maybe just once or twice a week

 

I will tell you all that I'm getting a little nervous, since the more I look the more body rust I find. The floor is rusted through underneath the carpet on the driver footwell, the trunk has a few holes in it, and the door jambs all have a bit of rust. I'm nervous because I've never repaired rust and have little experience welding. I just hope I can do it myself or that its not too expensive to repair. 

 

The good thing is that the under side isn't too rusty, the frame is good and body mounts are good as well as most of the body, except the spots mentioned above. 

 

I'm also wondering what kind of material is under the carpets and where I can get it. It's kind of thick insulation, but it doesn't quite look like the insulation used under dashes and carpets in cars today. If its possible, I'd like to find a big sheet of it in bulk so I can cut it to size.

 

Thanks for all the help everyone, it's still going to be a long process to get it driving properly.

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17 hours ago, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

I'm 24 and live in central Illinois.

Don't overlook Interstate Batteries: https://www.interstatebatteries.com/locations/interstate-batteries-of-central-illinois-il

 

They have been my main battery source for over 30 years. Although I have used NAPA and Pep Boys. Our Rochester, NY Interstate distribution center has the friendliest staff anywhere. I generally use what they call blems, $25 when I started and still only $45 Exch. I picked up 2 Group 27's for spares last year just because some came in. I bought a new long 6V for my '48 Packard a few years ago, no blems on some of the odd ones but I call from time to time. They also sell household batteries at way better prices than bubble pack drug store ones.

 

NAPA is still the ignition "go to" place, can't beat Echlin.

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Stay away from the DELCO antique style batteries, they are not worth the cost.  I like the long 6 volt battery sold by Tractor Supply that is a little bigger but still fits the Buick battery box.  This battery is rated 875 CCA that is better than a standard 2E.  Their number is 3EH.  Price is reasonable too. 
Joe

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Kev, if I may answer your question to 1953Mac,  the number he is referring to is the serial #. Assuming all original, this is the same as the "frame" number. This may be the number on your title. Or not . A lot of states used the engine # which is stamped on a milled surface just in front of the distributor.  The engine number should end with a 4, which indicates this engine was installed in a series 40, Special.  I probably muddied the water here.

 

  The Fisher Body plate is just that, the Body plate. It appears to have been painted over.  Should not have been painted from factory. 

 

  Ben

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I need to stay on top of these replies, lol. 

 

Looks like there's quite a lot of Interstate battery dealers around here, there's also a really good battery shop called Rexx Battery here in Springfield, and multiple farm stores around. I'm sure I'll find a good battery soon.

 

As for the paint and VIN code Ben, thanks for clearing that up for me. I guess the car has been fully repainted at some point since the tag is painted over, would be cool to get the factory original paint back on it some day.

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Kev

In my opinion……..

acquiring the skills and abilities to address common old car rust issues 

will allow you to enjoy this hobby more.  Farming out floorboard rust repair

in this day and age is costly and ties up the car for weeks…..maybe months,

instead of a couple of weekends of home repair.

my latest welder is a Miller 180.  There are cheaper ones, but this rig allowed me to

quickly improve my sheet metal repair capabilities.   A little practice on scrap metal and

youll quickly become fearless when faced with the need to patch a floor, make a bracket, 

Repair a rocker panel, etc.

Yes, brakes and roadability  stuff first……but, keep one eye on a quality mig welder and necessary

fabrication tools for your body repair issues.  Skills that are learned will allow you a lifetime of enjoyment

in fixing up these old cars.

Many guys here have acquired great skills doing this, so you’ll have lots of good coaching when the time comes!

 

 

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12 hours ago, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

Looks like there's quite a lot of Interstate battery dealers around here

I have always liked the service at the distribution center. They do retail and that would be your best source for the blems. I also get a chance to ride into the city and have lunch at one of the contractor diners.

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17 hours ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

. . .  I probably muddied the water here . . . The Fisher Body plate is just that, the Body plate. It appears to have been painted over.  Should not have been painted from factory.  Ben

 

I disagree with what you're saying unless you can post some Buick documentation here. The OP's lower number plate and surrounding areas show the OEM Shell Grey paint with splashes from the undercoating job.  

There was a good reason why the factory painted Body by Fisher Number Plates and their fasteners in 1953. 

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Welcome, Kev, to the wonderful world of the '53 Buick. Great car and the last gasp of the Fireball straight eight. 
 

As you dig into the vehicle a bit more, you'll see its quirks and mannerisms. One of the great things about the '53 Special is relative availability of parts, as so many were sold that year. 
 

Pretty sure that replacement floor pans are (or certainly were) available from a few vendors, so don't sweat over the floor as you have options for replacement/repair. Redo the braking system (as you've already indicated), flush the system, throw a blanket over the seats and have fun this summer. 
 

Attached is a photo from the '53 dealer's book showing your trim number and fabric (which is available new from SMS).

D9BFF686-0B9B-4861-83F8-B2E11F90629D.jpeg

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If you are not concerned about using an "aftermarket battery", I have used the 6V optima battery with great success. It's much smaller and thus much lighter. It never let me down when I had it my '52 Special. 

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Hi all, I went to my local NAPA this morning before work, and sure enough they had a battery for my car. It has been sitting on the shelf so long that it was under charged so I'm going back tomorrow morning with the old battery to exchange it, also getting a fan belt for $5! I really need to start going to NAPA more often, they always seem to have what I want.

 

I appreciate all the help here. Tomorrow or soon I'm going to take out all the floor insulation as it's all wet and probably causing the floor rust. The real problem is the leaking window seals which I need to get taken care of. What can I use in place of the insulation before I get some real stuff, or is this insulation easy to find? It needs taken care of either way now that its covered from the rain nicely.

 

I'll have to look around for a nice welder since I only have the cheap Harbor Freight mig welder. I haven't checked the rear floor pans but they look okay from underneath.

 

Thanks JBP for the input, I know that the car does have seat covers on it now, I'm kind of afraid to take them off and see what's underneath for now. 

 

As for the battery situation, I'll see how a NAPA battery is for now, if I don't have any luck then I'll try Interstate, because I know the Optima batteries are expensive, but nice.

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But, since I'm getting a new battery tomorrow, and if the battery is actually good, I'll squirt some oil in the cylinders and fire it up. I'm going to attempt a crankcase flush, which the manual says to idle the engine with fresh oil for about 10 minutes at 1000rpm. Then drain it and fill to the correct level.

 

I'll wait on the coolant flush until I get the hoses and new cap. I'm also waiting to start on the brakes until all those parts come in. I hope everything goes well and that the drums aren't too far gone, and that I can bleed the system correctly.

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Welcome Young Kid.  53 Specials are my favorite Buicks, as my family had one when I was a boy.   I hope to get one someday.  

Also I lived in Central IL (Sullivan and Bethany) for 18 years.  Been to Springfield many times.  

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Hi Frank, glad to know I have something that someone likes. Maybe you could help me with my next question.

 

The fuel line coming from the tank that goes to the pump is a hard line except right next to the engine, where there's a small section, a few inches long, of flexible hose. I was thinking of just using brake line for the fuel line and using the original fitting to the pump.

 

My question is, where can I find this flexible hose that is especially for fuel? It needs to have a fitting on each end, and I know I can't use brake hose. Do I need to make one or can I find a cheap one somewhere?

 

I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to make one, I'm just curious.

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Kev,

   When you want to address the brakes, I can assist you with everything with quality parts....

    Master Cylinder,  Wheel Cylinders,  Brake Hoses, Brake Shoes, Inner & Outer Bearings  & Seals, Emergency  Brake Cables, & a whoooooole  lot more for your new toy....

   Always best to simply call me  --- Craig --- 516 - 485 - 1935...,

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14 hours ago, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

Hi Frank, glad to know I have something that someone likes. Maybe you could help me with my next question.

 

The fuel line coming from the tank that goes to the pump is a hard line except right next to the engine, where there's a small section, a few inches long, of flexible hose. I was thinking of just using brake line for the fuel line and using the original fitting to the pump.

 

My question is, where can I find this flexible hose that is especially for fuel? It needs to have a fitting on each end, and I know I can't use brake hose. Do I need to make one or can I find a cheap one somewhere?

 

I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to make one, I'm just curious.

 

The auto parts store has hose made for ethanol gas. 

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Hose:  There are two types, SAE30R7 and SAE30R9.  The R9 is high-pressure fuel injection hose (you don't need high pressure capability, of course) but in my experience the R9, though more costly, is MUCH more resistant to ethanol in gasoline and will have a much longer life.  The hose deteriorates from the inside out, so you know you're in real trouble if damage is visible on the exterior of the hose.

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Get the 30r9. Pressure is far from the whole story. I know it's not cheap, and it is kind of hard to work because it doesn't stretch much. It is ethanol resistant and lined, and is the only good choice today.

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When I am working with hose that is a tight fit and doesn't like to stretch I will give the inside diameter a shot of silicone spray, takes the fight out of it.

 

If you need to make up a new steel line that adapts to hose you can do step one of a double flare. That will make a nice round end to slide the hose over and once clamped it will not slide off. It will also have a smooth the edge. I have seen a raw edge of tubing cut a hose after vibrating for a while. Don't need that under the hood.

Bernie

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47 minutes ago, Bloo said:

I know it's not cheap,

I hear that term frequently. Is there or was there once a prerequisite that things were supposed to be cheap?

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12 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

When I am working with hose that is a tight fit and doesn't like to stretch I will give the inside diameter a shot of silicone spray, takes the fight out of it.

 

If you need to make up a new steel line that adapts to hose you can do step one of a double flare. That will make a nice round end to slide the hose over and once clamped it will not slide off. It will also have a smooth the edge. I have seen a raw edge of tubing cut a hose after vibrating for a while. Don't need that under the hood.

Bernie

That's a great idea! I think that's what I'll do, thanks a lot!

 

Thanks for the ethanol resistant hose recommendations, the thing is I thought I needed a flexible hose that looks exactly like what's on there. It actually looks like brake hose, so I thought I needed something similar, but the flare trick is great.

 

I'll probably just steal some hose from the shop anyway, lol.

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48 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

I hear that term frequently. Is there or was there once a prerequisite that things were supposed to be cheap?

 

You aren't new to this auto repair thing... are you?  🤣

 

But in all seriousness, lesser fuel line when it starts to fail often leaks right through pinholes in the side of the hose where the reinforcement strings are. In the 80s, old carbureted cars that used it on the pressure side (4 lbs) would come in with raw gas all over the top of the motor and the driver would either be unaware, or complaining of a gas smell. When it happens on the suction side, nobody can see the leak but the fuel pump can't lift. Everybody was pretty cavalier about it, and we just fixed it with more of that crap hose. It was all anyone stocked before fuel injection became common. A new fuel filter would come with 2 lengths of it and four clamps....

 

I am pretty sure you know all that, but not everyone does.

 

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

It actually looks like brake hose, so I thought I needed something similar,

 

If it is one of those hoses with the crimped ends, you can find them on Ebay occasionally but there is no guarantee that it would stand up to ethanol long term.

 

What I would do (and what I did on my Pontiac) is make a hose that is a direct replacement. I am guessing that the Buick has a double flare with a male nut on the gas line, and attaches to the fuel pump with pipe thread. If so, I would get appropriate hose barbs and some good clamps (preferably fuel injection type). Silicone spray previously mentioned works great to put it together. If it uses something different for connections, you can probably get appropriate hose barbs. Just match what is on the old hose. New barbs will be kind of long, check before you cut, the piece of hose might need to be a bit different length to fit nice.

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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Kev: the part that (I believe) you're speaking about is the one in the attached photo (just for reference with fittings, etc.). Made originally by Weatherhead, part # 11209

CEB3CFFB-B231-4BB3-A2D1-46185492CF61.jpeg

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16 hours ago, mobileparts said:

Kev,

   When you want to address the brakes, I can assist you with everything with quality parts....

    Master Cylinder,  Wheel Cylinders,  Brake Hoses, Brake Shoes, Inner & Outer Bearings  & Seals, Emergency  Brake Cables, & a whoooooole  lot more for your new toy....

   Always best to simply call me  --- Craig --- 516 - 485 - 1935...,

Thank you Craig, I'll definitely call in the future, since I probably need about all of that.

 

JBP, that looks exactly like what I'm dealing with here, thank you for the research. There's a lot of options I could go with, I think I'll try 60FlatTop's suggestion since it sounds the easiest, if it doesn't work then I'll make a proper hose with fittings.

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 I agree to make everything ethanol resistant, as there seems to be no getting away from it these days. Also if you get into welding, an inexpensive mig is a good way to go, but try to get too cheap a unit. Practice on some scrap pieces to get the feel of it. It does take time to learn, but it is doable! There are lots of on line videos for instruction, some are way better than others, natch.

 A word of caution about the carpet insulation. It is a natural fibre and if a stray ember lands in it, is can smoulder away. Almost lost a car that way! There are fibreglass blankets you can use to cover things up, but the best plan is to get everything out of harms way. This is getting ahead of you a bit, I'm sure.

 Looking forward to hearing about it starting up!

 Keith

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Posted (edited)

Hi

just found your previous thread where you were contemplating the purchase. Lots of for and against, but you bit the bullet and made a decision, which is great.
 

These old girls will give you lots of fun and enjoyment and lots of life experiences! And perhaps some heart aches or two down the road. Remember, it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

 

Great that you wish to keep her running as is and try her as a daily driver, perhaps just in summer. When working, always enjoyed using my ‘40 Pontiac then ‘64 Skylark to go to and from a few days each week. Just had to leave ten minutes earlier to be on time.

 

Please don’t forget to post pictures of what you do! We all love pictures.
 

Some say “ If there is no picture, it never happened!”

 

Regardless of how little or insignificant it may same, there is always interest from others on the forum. A great learning tool!

enjoy!

Rodney 😀😀😀😀😀😀

Edited by rodneybeauchamp
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Thanks Keith, I plan to go ethanol resistant anyway, but there are some ethanol free gas stations around here I'll try and go to. Also, i know there are a lot of video tutorials online, maybe I can use some of them. As for the insulation I plan to replace most of it anyway, I believe its getting wet from a window leak and causing rust on the floor pans.

 

Rodney, I plan to work on it this weekend, and at least tear into the brakes. I plan to drive it not every day but maybe every other, I don't want to be too hard on her. I'll be taking pictures of what I find this weekend, thanks!

 

Kev

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