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Me and My 1956 Buick Super 4 Door Sedan


usnavystgc
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This is the start of sharing my experiences with my recently acquired 56 Buick.  I purchased the car from a little old lady in Mt Carmel, PA (I live in AZ).  The car was in the same family since new.  The purchaser of the car fell into poor health in 1968, and parked the car in a large carport behind his house.  He never recovered from his illness and passed in 1970.  The car went to his wife and to his daughter after she passed.  Neither of them did anything with the car until the daughter sold it to me.  

Here are some pics of the car the day it was drug out of the carport.

 

106036.jpeg.3c504000257ab03dafd32b0196145c29.jpeg106037.jpeg.13aa70ddc96daa3b240087ab52b71663.jpeg106035.jpeg.fbe39607531af24579aaae1c6a53164b.jpeg

Thanks in advance to all who will inevitably help me thru this process.  My plan is to get it running and driving and go from there.  The car is all original and you know what they say, they're only original once.  

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I have made more progress since those pics were taken and here's the current situation.  

 

Everything I took apart is back together and I'm at the point where I'm trying to get the car started.  Last night we made several attempts to start the car but, could not get any spark.  It got late and we noticed the coil (new) was extremely hot so, we shut it down for the night.  I'm going to run some more tests on it tonight in an attempt to locate the lack of spark issue.  

 

Does anyone have an idea as to why the coil would get so hot?  I've never seen a coil get that hot before.  The points are gapped with a feeler gauge and obviously the coil has power but no spark at the plugs.  The coil passes continuity checks and it obviously has input voltage.  I know these ignitions systems are simple but, just want to hear your thoughts.

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13 minutes ago, Bloo said:

Hook a test light from the (-) side of the coil to ground and see if it blinks when you crank.

If it blinks, its good right?  If it stays lit, there is a short or the points aren't opening?

 

I can physically see the points open when I crank it with the cap off.

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Yes. If the light blinks ok, try putting the end of the coil wire (high voltage wire) close to ground and see if you have spark.

 

If you have no spark or extremely weak spark from the coil, try a new condenser. If you still don't have good spark, try another coil.

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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I did try putting the end of the HV coil wire close to a ground and got no spark.

 

When you say new condenser, do you mean the one on the coil or the one beneath the dist cap?  Mine has two lol (one for the radio I'm told).  The condenser beneath the dist cap is new but I used the old one on the coil.  Do you know if the specs are the same?  I suppose I could just eliminate the condenser on the coil for now (since my radio doesn't work).  I will report back with my progress, I'm confident I'll be able to figure this out.  

 

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The condenser on the coil should be on the (+) side, not the (-) and as you mentioned is for radio interference. It is not necessary to run, and also shouldn't make any difference here unless it was shorted, and then the wiring would be getting hot, not the coil. No harm in disconnecting it.

 

The condenser inside the distributor is effectively on the (-) side because it is connected to the points, and it is the one to change.

 

While you are in the distributor, look to see if the breaker plate ground wire is there, and not broken. Most likely your breaker plate moves with the vacuum advance and has to remain grounded. A special wire with strands of copper and spring steel is used, so it can bend a zillion times without breaking. It will not cause the coil to get hot if it is broken, but you will need it to make the car run right, so it is worth looking at.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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Wow Mt Carmel PA - my family was from Marion Heights and Shamokin.  Sounds like the story of my car sitting in an unlikely shed behind a house. Looked like that too

 

New ignition coils and ballast resistors put me through hell this spring.  If after all the above advice checks out take a look at coil measurements.  I’ll take a crack at the hot coil complaint.  Am assuming hot is like burn to the touch hot and it from just sitting there with key on?  if so my hunch would be too much current going through the primary side of the coil assuming your battery isn’t some crazy high voltage. Why did you get a new coil?  Make sure the new coil is one with the right primary resistance, not the .3 ohms ones for solid state conversions.  If you have a multimeter, primary resistance of correct coil should be 1.5 ohms, secondary 8-10K ohms.  If the primary is too low or shorted it would cause too much current running through the coil.  Downstream of the coil is basically a connection to ground through the points.  Your ballast resistor on the firewall doesn’t kick in until after the car starts.  If suspicious you can jumper across/around if.  It should be about 1.5 ohms.
 

Also regarding starting spark, check the ignition rotor -there is a 10k suppression resistor in it. Make sure that’s not “open”.  It will run with numbers as high as 100k ohms and new ones are all over the map on values.

 

If you don’t have a shop manual get one or go to hometown Buick there’s online literature. Take careful measurements and follow the specs. Let us know how it goes.

 

https://www.hometownbuick.com/1956-buick-electrical-specifications/

 

Follow up - What’s the state of the gas and oil your trying to start it on?  Folks will probably weigh in on fresh gas, clean oil, filters, maybe a prelube of the cylinders. If you don’t drop the pan right away drop it soon. It amazed me the level of crap in there - the cars oil inlet was basically the size of a quarter because there were 40 years of crud covering up the inlet screen. How it ran and had good pressure we’ll never know.  
 

Be prepared for a fuel pump and rubber fuel line too - don’t expect the original to last long if at all - those innards are probably dried out and don’t hold up well to ethanol based fuels.  Look for spray out from the top of the pump, or it could also leak into the engine but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
 

Congrats on the new ride!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by KAD36 (see edit history)
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Thank you for the great advice. So I figured out it was indeed a short of t the primary distributor wire to the points. The insulation was basically dust. I managed to get some heat shrink around it, hooked it back up and after sitting for 53 years, it fired right up.  I couldn't believe it (I tried to attach a video of the first start but, no go. If anyone knows how, let me know).

Here's what I know, the fuel pump works, auto choke works, tranny works but leaks at the torque ball, water pump works and the thermostat works. 

I am not using the tank, I have a 5 gallon can feeding the fuel pump directly (fresh gas but with ethanol). 

I did replace the oil after it ran for about ten minutes and amazingly it had some brown color to it.

My neighbor and I are absolutely stoked about the car. I think he might be more excited than me lol. 

She's hitting on all cylinders, runs strong, idles and is not overheating. Unbelievable!

 

I managed to post the video on YouTube. 

 

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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Thank you so much @KAD36. I have an old navy shipmate that lives there in MT Carmel. I stayed at his house for a week trying to get the car rolling with brakes. We accomplished neither but it brought us together for the first time since 1988. We had a great time working on the car. 

The car was sold at Albertinis in MT Carmel and it still has the dealer tag on the trunk. 

 

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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I won't be able to do much to the car for the next couple of weeks but when I get back, I'm going to try to tackle the torque ball seal replacement. In preparation for that, I have watched Mudbone's video, reviewed the shop manual and read as much about it as I can find on the forums. 

Here are a couple questions I'd like to pose to the group. 

1) do you absolutely have to undo the rear springs or will the torque tube move back far enough by just undoing the shocks and panhard bar? I'm thinking of pulling the rear end back with a comalong while the springs are still attached. Is this a bad idea?

2) Are the bolts for the springs left hand thread?

3) How many floor jacks do I need to make it as easy as possible?

Thanks in advance. More questions are certain to follow.

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The #1 recommendation is to hold up on that seal.  Chances are it will reseal itself with some usage.  But if you are going to do it anyway, you can do this with one jack stand under each frame rail at the rear axle, and a floor jack under the pumpkin.  Some do pull the rear axle backwards with come along, or push the rear axle back with a bumper jack while leaving the springs attached, but honestly,  for the sake of not disconnecting two bolts I have to wonder if it is really advantageous to have coil springs bent over like that. 

You may find it easier to lift the car in all 4 corners and place it on jack stands,  remove the rear tires while the axle is balanced on a rolling floor jack. Disconnect the rear axle at the shocks, springs, panhard bar, and the flex line to the brake line at the front of the torque tube.  Pull the rear axle all the way out AND when you have the torque ball seal replaced, pull off the torque tube so you can pull off the drive shaft and put fresh grease in the splines at the pinion shaft. 

I think it is important to keep in mind that the 56 Buick contains several one year only parts.  

The drive shaft is one year only due to the employment of fine splines at the rear axle.   This whole rear axle is one year only.  55's had coarse spline and a pin to lock the drive shaft on. 57 had a two piece drive shaft with a universal inside the torque tube.  The 56 is a fine spline and intended to slide a little on the pinion shaft splines.  While supposedly greased for life at the factory, if it is dry now you will have more friction and wear and a chance to strip the splines.  The only fix at that point is a replacement drive shaft.  You will need a drive shaft replacement from a 56 Super or Roadmaster  although I do wonder if the spline section  can be cut off a Special or Century and grafted onto a Super or Roadmaster drive shaft. Regardless, if you can do that you may also find it difficult to tell if the parts driveshaft wasn't likewise stripped. 

 

Also might as well change the flex line and brake lines while the unit is out and check the fluid level in the rear axle as well as check the bushings in the strut rods and panhard bar. 

 

I know this is a lot, but after 65 years, and 53 of em just sitting, well...how many times do you want to go under it?

 

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Good points above - how bad is the leak - seeping, dripping, dumping?  Is it important or urgent to replace now?  They do occasionally seal up after use. Also some 1 year only parts on the 56 so take care - awareness only - not meant to scare you off.  Flexible brake line is good advice as long as you’re there until you go through rest of the brake hoses/cylinders which assume is high on your list

 

1) That would work.  FWIW some folks use a bumper jack to push the axle back and disengage the torque tube.

2) Think they are standard - can’t recall exactly.  See 4) below

3) My method was to put the frame up on 4 jack stands, tires on ground, and ratcheted the axle back. I think my 1 and only floor jack was fit with a big block of wood from a 2x6 or 2x8 and a groove in it for the diff housing to rest on and not get too tipsy. That might be overkill. I don’t seem to recall lifting the axle too high at all, just enough to jiggle the tires and get the driveshaft to reseat during installation.  It wasn’t elegant but it worked.  See 4) below
4) Listen to the smarter guys with more “practice”. 😆


In the rare event as new old car owner you visualize this procedure over and over in your head while you’re away, the good news is you’ll have thought of everything and it will go almost flawlessly when you get back…😎👍


Question: what’s your overall plan to get from here to “running and driving”.  Might be able to get input from the team on best sequence of repairs.  Just a thought.

 

Edited by KAD36 (see edit history)
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Wow, thank you guys for the replies and advice. 

@JohnD1956, that def sounds like a lot of work but I do see what you're saying and I think it's good advice. I def may need some help. In preparation for that, do I need to order any special parts or is it just a disassembly, grease, reassembly? 

I want to go under it the least amount of times possible, so, I'm all ears.

Regarding how bad it's leaking, in my view it's pretty bad and I can't stand leaks (maybe I bought the wrong car lol) but I have tons of respect for you guys. Here's my dilemma, the brake lines are totally shot from front to back. When we were trying to get them working in PA, we chased hole after hole. I ordered a new brake line kit and intend to replace all soft and NICU lines. I have already replaced the wheel cylinders and had the drums turned. Shoes are in great shape. I was thinking the smarter way to approach this would be torque tube seal then brakes since you have to disconnect the brakes to access the torque tube seal. In order for me to see if the torque tube seals, I'm gonna need brakes (lol catch 22) but, I guess it's not that hard to rebleed the brakes. What are you all's thoughts?

Regarding my plan, I want to get the car driving and let it tell me what it needs. As you are likely aware, the 56 Super 4 door post sedan is not a high value vehicle. Although I love the car, just getting it driving reliably will likely cost more than the car will ever be worth. The car needs work from front to back, top to bottom and left to right. Much of it is labor but things like suspension, exhaust etc must be replaced. Although I'm not in this to make money, I am trying to watch how much I put into it. So with that in mind, I'm likely gonna leave it ugly but make the interior nice, make it mechanically sound and drive it regularly. I want to be able to drive it on a Saturday night or Sunday to church or to a car show (rust and all) but she will never be a trailer queen. Does that make sense?

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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@KAD36, the leak is dripping.

I welcome all input from you guys regarding the sequence of events for repair of this car. I'm having a blast but it's only because there are people out there (like you all) willing to share their knowledge to help me succeed. I consider myself fairly mechanical savvy but, this is my first 50's car and it's not a Chevy so parts just aren't out there everywhere. I love having a unique car though. I'm going to enjoy the ride. 

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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Dynaflows drip!   One may stop the drip for awhile but it will come back.  The sealing technology was far inferior then to now.  Having said that, give it a try. That would be a perfect time to replace the back brake lines and any other brake parts needed on the back [ rear?].   Block the frame just in front of the rear wheels,  remove the wheels, disconnect everything needed to remove the rear end assembly and roll that sucker out from under the car. Now the brake lines are accessible. Do you have a 1956 Buick Shop Manual? 

 

  Ben

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I don't have the shop manual but, I have found it on the Hometown Buick website and I refer to it often.  I keep telling myself I'm going to get one but, the website is just too convenient :).

 

I see that you said the bolts for the springs are left hand thread.  The manual doesn't say that but, I did notice that a guy on YouTube with a 1950 Roadmaster said his were.  Can someone confirm that they are indeed left hand thread on a 1956?  @Mudbonemakes no mention of it on his 1955 Century.

 

@Ben Bruce aka First Born, please don't take offense to me requesting clarification on the thread type.  I sincerely appreciate you weighing in but, to be honest, the unbolting of the springs is one of my biggest fears regarding replacement of the torque tube seal.  That's why I want to be positve of the thread type.  I'm not afraid of the springs but, I do fear stripping the bolt or nut.  I can't imagine how to get it out if that were to happen and I'm sure the top nut plate is not easy to find (although I'm sure one could be made by a machine shop).  We all have our fears and mine is the fear of stripping a bolt.  I absolutely hate trying to tap or drill something in the weirdest of angles.

 

I can likely look at the threads and determine of they are left or right but, my eyesight has gotten worse over the years and if I'm wrong, that could turn out bad.

 

That's great insight about the brake lines being accessible once the rear end is rolled out.  I never even thought of that.

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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11 minutes ago, Ben Bruce aka First Born said:

No offence taken.  I would just crawl under there with a 1/2 in drive 3/4 in socket and breaker bar and check. That is what I would do.

 

  Ben


You can also lay into it like Ben says until you skin your knuckles real good going counterclockwise, then try going clockwise until you bust your fingers up real good going that direction….then sit on the pavement with your hand wrapped in a dirty shop rag and take stock of the situation….just make it look like you know what your doing at all times.
 

Ok that wasn’t helpful - enough from the peanut gallery.  🤣. Mine were not so encrusted being from the same town 5 miles away such that what Ben advised worked fine and didn’t snap the bolt.  I only remember the wheel bearing nut being backwards.  Sorry.

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9 hours ago, usnavystgc said:

In preparation for that, do I need to order any special parts or is it just a disassembly, grease, reassembly? 

My 1960 parts manual showed this drawing

 

20210816_163420.jpg

 

Note parts S & T. The retainer and the packing. This manual shows group 5.449 but the available parts section skips over that number. I think that means they were no longer available by then. The packing is probably the grease? And then there was a felt washer to hold the grease in. I did buy a felt washer years ago for when I do my car's drive shaft. But it was a lucky e bay find.  Other than these parts i would suggest getting new bushings and flex hose. Bobs automobelia in California or Cars in N.Jersey both have those. Bobs may be able to help with the felt washer too. When I do mine I will use wheel bearing grease. 

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@usnavystgc  You know what, I withdraw the suggestion to take the torque tube apart.  In looking at the manual and the service bulletins it appears there are a few things to be aware of regarding this 56 set up.  I don't have a scanner so I need to get some pictures of the items of concern and post them for you.  In addition, many years ago someone posted a technical suggestion in the Buick Clubs magazine regarding a way to service this area of the drive shaft.  I have to find that page and show it also. Essentially this fellow recommended drilling a hole in the torque tube to expose the area of the drive shaft where the grease should be.  Then drilling the drive shaft and installing a zerk fitting so that this can be greased on a regular basis.  Then capping the hole with some sort of plastic plug.  This would eliminate the need to take the unit apart, which apparently can cause drive shaft damage if not removed and installed straight.   I will look for this page and put up a copy hopefully tomorrow. 

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After looking at the several booklets I have accumulated here is what I have found. 

Aside from what is in the regular service manual regarding this subject, which by the way includes an explosion picture with all the parts of the rear axle described by part number and which includes a "Kit #" for the packing and retainer which WAS in my 1960 parts manual,  I want to start with the simplest fix for this first.

 

Using this booklet, 56 buick drive shaft service information0002.JPG

 

on pages 239 and 240 we find this problem description and potential fix.  I have not done mine yet but this is probably the best alternative since it allows constant maintenance

.

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0004.JPG

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0003.JPG

 

But if you opt to pull it apart instead,  from this manual 

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0005.JPG

 

we find two TSB's in the contents regarding the drive shaft and torque tube

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0006.JPG

 

Here's the first article which says how to grease the splines at the end

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0007.JPG

 

And here is the 2nd TSB dealing with aligning the rear axle to struts

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0009.JPG

 

Then from this manual

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0010.JPG

 

I am going to attach several pages just dealing with this particular service. Most of the manual goes into the replacement of the rear axle gears etc, which I am not including here.

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0011.JPG

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0012.JPG

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0022.JPG

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0021.JPG

 

AND  I was wrong about that felt washer.  I do have the washer which in my 60's part manual is listed as part # 1175943.  This is described in the parts manual as follows:  Washer Differential side gear baffle insert (2).  There are two possible sizes to this "washer, one at .18 and the one like I have which is .26.  I have looked at the manuals to try and determine where these go but have been unsuccessful.  Suffice it to say that they DO NOT go on the drive shaft to retain the grease in the splines of the torque tube.  The pictures above also do not show any retainer and packing items either.  It looks to me like you just pack the spline cavity and install.   But the zerk grease adaptation first posted seems to be the best alternative.

 

One other thing I want to note. In the manual it says there is no gasket between the torque tube and the carrier.  It is meant to drain in case the seal at the transmission end fails and the tube fills with tranny fluid. One thing you may want to consider is before taking the rear axle out, try to open the carrier fill plug.  You want to see if you have trans fluid in the rear axle.  In that case you will obviously need a pinion seal replacement.  But also note that there is no drain in the 56 Rear axle carrier. If you open the plug and the fluid is up to the opening like the book says, then I suggest leaving it alone.  To drain it requires pulling the carrier out or tipping it on one of the outer ends to let it drain out an axle opening.  That of course does not seem to be a good approach in my view as if there is any debris in there you run the risk of dumping it right into the gears and bearings. 

 

Whew!

 

56 buick drive shaft service information0016.JPG

56 buick drive shaft service information0017.JPG

56 buick drive shaft service information0020.JPG

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OMG @JohnD1956 Ha ha ha, that is a ton for my feeble mind to take in but, I feel truly blessed to have you share this info with me.  Obviously, drilling the torque tube and propeller shaft is the easiest thing to do.  If I understand it correctly, you are packing the propeller shaft from front to back with a quality wheel bearing grease.  I'm guessing since the zerk fitting is so small, it will not cause an imbalance on the prop shaft.  

 

It sounds crazy that they would make the prop shaft float to act like a mini U-joint.  Not to mention they made the splines finer.  It just seems like a recipe for failure but hey, there's no hump.  LOL.  Obviously, they thought better of it and gave the 57 another U-joint half way down the shaft.  

 

I must admit, when you mentioned taking the torque tube and propeller shaft out, I worried about bending the drive shaft.  It seems even a little bend would be disastrous.  Anyway, My plan is to drill the torque tube and prop shaft.  I feel more confident doing that than pulling everything apart.

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2 hours ago, usnavystgc said:

If I understand it correctly, you are packing the propeller shaft from front to back with a quality wheel bearing grease. 

 

Glad to be of any help.  As for this statement, take another look at that diagram from the technical tips book and then Frame 6 picture. The grease would only be in the spline area, not the entire drive shaft. As a matter of discussion I also wondered about the zerk fitting creating an imbalance, but what with the metal removed to get it in there vs the weight of the fitting I don't think it would be much of any difference.  I did notice one of the diagrams shows a weight on the spline area of the drive shaft.  I think I would try to verify if the shaft in the car also has a weight, and if so I'd be inclined to put the zerk fitting 180* opposite that. 

 

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1 hour ago, JohnD1956 said:

As for this statement, take another look at that diagram from the technical tips book and then Frame 6 picture. The grease would only be in the spline area, not the entire drive shaft

Ok, with that statement in mind, what confuses me is, they say to drill the hole just aft of the end of the torque ball but the grease is intended for the rear of the prop shaft?  The only way I can see for it to get back there from that hole is to pack the entire drive shaft with grease.  Am i missing something?  

 

It basically says drill a hole toward the front to grease the rear?  I'm probably getting too deep in the weeds.  I do tend to do that.

Edited by usnavystgc (see edit history)
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8 minutes ago, usnavystgc said:

It basically says drill a hole toward the front to grease the rear? 

I don't see where you get that location.  The text in the tech tip says drill the hole 7 1/4 inches from the rear of the torque tube. 

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It probably did not help that the drawing put the end of the tube on the left side of the picture.  😄

 

But another consideration may be that this procedure is best performed while the torque tube is attached.  The hole in the torque tube is  5/8 in diameter and so to get a grease gun in there it could be a tight fit. As such it appears imperative that the grease zerk is centered in that area.  I would want the drive shaft to be in its final position for this procedure. 

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