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Fixing the 53 Special


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Concerning that Weatherhead fuel line that posted above, the swap meets used to be full of them.  I would not dare use one on a car, as (1) they are not ethanol-resistant and (2) are all at least 50 years old.

 

Funny (to me) story: When I first acquired my 1934 Pierce, the previous owner had replaced that style hose, which is visible when hood is raised, with a professionally-constructed modern one with a woven stainless steel outer covering.  First time showing the car, my Evil Twin @Bob Jacobsenwas a judge and nicked me a point on authenticity grounds.  A month or so later he visited me while I had the hood up on the car, and I showed him that I "fixed" it, and said I'd put on one of those old crappy lines to not lose a point the next time he looked at it.  Aghast, he said, "Is it safe?"  I said, "Who cares about safe, I just don't want to lose a point!"  I let him stew a couple of minutes before explaining that he was looking at the woven stainless line after six coats of rattle-can black paint (having taped off the fittings), and touching the tacky last coat with a red shop rag to impart the texture of the old-style lacquered-fabric outer.

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That's one of the first things I replaced on my '51. Great ideas from all here, but I took the easy way out. Ordered one from Old Buick Parts.com. Two years later all okay...no issues, fit fine.

 

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Gas Lines (3.158)

1940-1953 Gas line to pump hose. 1940-1952: All;
1953: Specials.

GL403.................................................................$24.50 ea.

1

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😀😀😀😀😀 If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is!   Been guilty of doing that many times. But you gotta learn some how.

Rodney 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀

 

9 hours ago, Kestrel said:

 

 

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11 hours ago, Grimy said:

Concerning that Weatherhead fuel line that posted above, the swap meets used to be full of them.  I would not dare use one on a car, as (1) they are not ethanol-resistant and (2) are all at least 50 years old.


Kev: Don't listen to Grimy. Pierce Arrow enthusiasts are well known to be highly unstable personalities (comes from years of having to explain to the "common people" that "No, this isn't an English car!" 🤪). 
 

I'm kidding of course - you already know the drill about not using original hoses, and he's totally correct about the safety aspect around all this. I bought that original just for the fittings. It was as rigid and inflexible as an ex I dated...

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58 minutes ago, JBP said:

Kev: Don't listen to Grimy. Pierce Arrow enthusiasts are well known to be highly unstable personalities (comes from years of having to explain to the "common people" that "No, this isn't an English car!" 🤪). 
 

I'm kidding of course - you already know the drill about not using original hoses, and he's totally correct about the safety aspect around all this. I bought that original just for the fittings. It was as rigid and inflexible as an ex I dated...

Didn't affect me, though.  Didn't affect me, though.  Didn't affect me, though....  🙂

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There once was a Pierce-Arrow owner who also owned a late 1950's Cadillac convertible. He came to my house one evening complaining that the Cadillac would not got over 80 MPH any more. That comment rolled right off me. But he was insistent. "I" am one of the poorest riders in the world but I was coerced into the passenger seat of the open convertible. Off we went like the down on a thistle along my street. As the houses gave way to farmland I begged for my acknowledgement to be taker seriously and without demonstration.

Finally, with white knuckle proof that the low 70's were the limit I gave him a ride home with a promise to return the car at peak performance in a couple of days.

 

Caddy's of that vintage are nice the fuel pump is on top of the engine and has a glass bowl. It didn't take long (or a demonstration) to see a stream of bubbles in the bowl that varied with the speed of the engine. The old hose had morphed itself into a bleed of Tyvek similar to what I had used under the siding of my house. The seal allowed air into the fuel stream under vacuum but held the seepage back when the engine was off. New hose and the bubbles were gone that evening.

 

I have replaced many sections of old fuel line just in due diligence since. It may not be related to the kind of car one owns but there is a certain value in showing a symptom to the mechanic and saying "Fix that".

 

Many, many years ago a coworker was talking about medical diagnosis. He told me he would never go to a doctor and ask for a diagnosis of a pain in his arm. However he was quite comfortable with walking in and presenting a compound fracture, pointing at the protruding bone, and saying "Fix that".

 

HE was not a Pierce-Arrow owner.

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Compound fracture, protruding bone, calm demeanour, and clearly used to consulting for help after a calamitous failure? He must have been a Mopar guy. 

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Y'all are too much.

 

I checked out the brake system today, I have some good news and bad news.

 

Good news is the right front is completely fine and probably usable, except for the lines and wheel cylinder. I'd be completely fine with using everything here. Also the wheel bearings are good with that vintage American grease.

 

Bad news, the right rear is completely gone. Left rear has wallowed out holes for the backing plate but everything is there. Haven't taken apart left front yet but it is hard to turn like the brakes are hung up.

 

I can get away with only turning the right rear drum, but I still need ALL hardware for it.

 

There's also this piece behind the grease cap that looks kinda mangled. I'm sure it's some type of nut retainer, but can I go without it? I've seen other wheel bearings without this piece and no problems.

 

Thanks, Kev

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So.

 

Next on the agenda is figure out how to pull the left rear axle so I can change the backing plate, since its wallowed out on the studs and causing it to move around. The left rear shock is also disconnected.

 

I'm sure I can just look it up in the manual, but is there any special tools I need or special tips for taking apart that rear diff? I just need to have one side out. In the meantime, I'm going to look for a backing plate and see if I can assemble the other side's brakes.

 

Kev

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The axles are held in by c-clips, so you'll have to pull the spider gear cross shaft and hope the little pin/bolt doesn't break.  While the axles are out, consider greasing the axle bearings - they're not sealed like they are on a newer car, and you're supposed to grease them every 25,000 miles (it's in the owner's manual).  You may want to order some seals (two per axle, inside and outside) ahead of time, but new ones are lip seals rather than the original felt material.  I had a problem with axle venting after replacing all the seals, and I had to rig up a vent.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves... :)  

First, you need to pull the back cover and drain the rear end to get the axles out.  

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Just be aware that once you pull the pin that holds the spider gears in place it is likely to fall apart with pieces dropping into the bottom of the casting.  I was a little daunted by putting it all back together but I spent about 30 minutes under the car thinking about how to do it and only had a couple failed tries to get everything lined up and the pin in place.  This includes the two spider gears, the thrust washings for the spider gears and the spacer which all need to be lined up for the pin to be reinserted.

 

Mark

Edited by M1842 (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Very sorry I haven't given any updates to the project, but only because there hasn't been much.

 

I've turned the one drum so it's nice and smooth now, found some rear brake backing plates, and got all the fittings loose on the brake switch/line junction thingy. I still need to remove the master cylinder to rebuild it, I just can't seem to unscrew the pushrod for it on the front. It's the only thing stopping me. Inside the reservoir isn't bad actually, just a bit of surface rust.

 

Tomorrow I plan to take the axle out and replace that backing plate as well as get everything for the rear brake sorted. I also plan to replace all the hard lines with nicopp lines, hoping I can reuse at least some fittings. Already have the wheel cylinders, flexible hoses, shoes, all that, although I might not even need shoes. I'll take some pictures of what I find tomorrow

 

Kev..

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Use the new shoes since you have them. If the car's been sitting awhile it's good practice to replace everything in the brake system with new parts. If you don't fix everything now you will wish you replaced all the worn stuff soon after you put the car back on the road. 

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If you do use the new shoes, while you have the one axle out go ahead and pull the other and replace the seals. That way you won’t risk ruining the new shoes should there be a leak from the rear end. Peace of mind.

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Well, I finally got around to doing what I wanted to do on the Buick. I was pretty busy last weekend but today I was free to do this.

 

Both bearings look nice, everything seems to be in good shape. The oil was a bit goopy and black though and I got my hands pretty dirty. This is as far as I got before it started heavy raining and I had to put the cover back on her.

 

The only thing is the axle retaining clips were stuck on, like the ends were pinched over the axle. I'll try to achieve that again when I put them back in.

 

Turns out the whole problem to the wallowed out backing plate holes was one stud that doesn't want to stay put. I figure I can just put a ground down bolt in there and it would be good, since the axle itself is worn down a bit where the flat spot on the stud is supposed to go. Other side backing plate is perfect, despite the lack of brakes on it.

 

Kev

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There shouldn't be any need for the c-clips (axle retainers) to be pinched over the axles.  They're held in their recesses by the spacer block and spider gear shaft, so they really can't go anywhere once everything is assembled (assuming that all the original parts are there).  

Are you greasing the axle bearings and looking at the seals?

Edited by Aaron65 (see edit history)
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I don't believe they are supposed to be pinched. Look it over real good while it is apart, and you will probably see that they sit down in a recess so they can't come off. With the pin and associated parts removed, you can push the axles inward slightly and then get the clips off. When the pin and associated parts are installed, the axles have to be pushed back out to make room, and the clips are down in a hole where they cannot fall off.

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Thanks Aaron and Bloo, I didn't think they were supposed to be like that as there isn't really a need, they fit in that recess in the spider gear. That just tells me either they did it that way from the factory, or someone's been here before me (much more likely).

 

I'll clean out the bearings and grease them good. The seals look okay, not much leakage from what I can tell. If I do need to replace them, I know now that it isn't hard to take apart the rear end.

 

Thanks, Kev 

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On 6/6/2021 at 6:39 PM, The 55er said:

The mangled piece from the front brakes in the last picture is a static eliminator for the radio. You can go without it. 

 

Not too old to learn something new.  Please explain how that piece in the wheel hub can work as a radio static eliminator.  Thanks. 

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The axle retention clips on my 55 Special are also "pinched".   C shaped rather than a half circle. I used a tie rod tool to take them off.  To reinstall I had to use a punch.   I believe this is how they were designed, at least for 55.

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2 hours ago, 50ChevyFrank said:

 

Not too old to learn something new.  Please explain how that piece in the wheel hub can work as a radio static eliminator.  Thanks. 

According to the manual, they eliminate an unbalance between negative and positive charges as the wheel rotates, which otherwise would cause AM radio static. Something about a "corona effect" ? No expert here but I suspect it's some form of voodoo at work 😄

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On 6/28/2021 at 9:13 AM, M1842 said:

The axle retention clips on my 55 Special are also "pinched".   C shaped rather than a half circle. I used a tie rod tool to take them off.  To reinstall I had to use a punch.   I believe this is how they were designed, at least for 55.

I knew I wasn't crazy. 

 

I think they'll be a little hard going back on but I'm just going to leave them, there's no way for them to come out when everything's together 

 

Kev..

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6 hours ago, Just_Some_Young_Kid said:

I knew I wasn't crazy. 

 

I think they'll be a little hard going back on but I'm just going to leave them, there's no way for them to come out when everything's together 

 

Kev..

Actually, one tap on a brass drift and a 2.5 pound hammer and the clip was back on.  Easier than I expected.

 

 

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