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1938 Buick


Bob Cook
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I am looking at a 1938 Buck Century 4 door sedan (I presently own a 1957 Chevy, 1947 convertible & 1948 Plymouths Special Deluxe 4 door sedan and a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine) so i am a little out of my league on this one.  I am told and it does  appear that it has the original interior in good shape, nice dash, etc.  The person bought the car 3 years ago and left it outside (he said it has always been inside for the past 40 + years.  H "said" he drove it last year.  The paint shows many areas of cracked and pealing.  Trying to get and idea on value and what to look for in the car so I can make his an offer for the car.  Any info greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, Bob

 

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Welcome to the AACA Discussion Forum. Photos and a bit more specific information will enable folks to give you much better information. If you purchase it, you certainly should consider joining the 36-38 Buick Club. http://www.3638buickclub.org/ You will find the club's technical advisors and newsletter helpful as a new 1938 Buick owner. 

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Take the classic car price guides with a large dose of salt.  You're not buying a Toyota.  The cars you're looking at are over 80 years old and have seen a diverse ownership history.  My comment is based on having just recently been in the same position and now owning a '38 Century Model 61.  In the end, I had narrowed my search to two cars and it ultimately came down to the one I perceived as best value for the money that I was willing to spend.  Every case is different...

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On 11/2/2021 at 8:01 PM, GregLaR said:

Location will help as well. Is the car located in the rust belt or Southern California?

Car is in R  and has been stored in garage for about 30 years, then a guy bought it and did not have garage (was gong to build one and never did) so sat outside for last 2  winters.  "Said" he drove it last year!

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Bob,

 

Folks would like to help you but we do need more information to be able to help you. Some photos and at least a state or other approximate location will help figure out if someone else might be near enough to help you with it in person. Detailed photos will help give at least a general idea of the car's condition. I have seen running and driving Buicks of this era ranging in price from $1500 for a car that needed about everything restored to over $30,000 for a car needing basically nothing. The range is much to far apart to give you any sort of advice without knowing more about the car's condition.    

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On 11/2/2021 at 8:31 PM, MCHinson said:

Welcome to the AACA Discussion Forum. Photos and a bit more specific information will enable folks to give you much better information. If you purchase it, you certainly should consider joining the 36-38 Buick Club. http://www.3638buickclub.org/ You will find the club's technical advisors and newsletter helpful as a new 1938 Buick owner. 

find them and figure out how to attach them.

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On 11/2/2021 at 8:01 PM, GregLaR said:

Location will help as well. Is the car located in the rust belt or Southern California?

Car located in New England and garaged for 30 years then  sold and left outside for last 3 years, paint starting to crack.  Believed to have original interior also.

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Matt hit the nail on the head, not enough information to make a judgement here. It would be best if you could find a BCA member in the area to look at this car from the top down. The car is over 80 years old  and was probably freshened up once or twice to look nice, but many old cars still have the old wiring harness  (not cheap to replace) and you can not tell if there has been rust repair (and quality of repair) until you, or someone gets underneath it. The worst thing you can do to these cars is not drive them.

This goes along with the old saying "a body in motion tends to stay in motion" and vice versa.

Best of luck with your search and I also agree with EmTee, do not be in a rush and look at a few cars before deciding which one is right for you.

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37 Century:

 

Did you read the statement made above by MCHinson?  'Some photos and ........Detailed photos will help give at least a general idea of the car's condition.'

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Since we lost our 1937 model 41 to a T-Bone accident on August 1st I have has Buick friends looking for a replacement.

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Not that I had been looking. The (2) 1925 Buicks I have will keep me busy. The emotional ties I had with this car has put me off searching. But there has been several in our region of PA. that peaked my interest. One is a 1937-61 that does need most of what I have put into my car over a period of 34 years. Just to make it a reliable driver.

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If I could have found something I could drive at close to what I received for my settlement I would have considered it.

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On 11/8/2021 at 11:51 PM, kingrudy said:

Matt hit the nail on the head, not enough information to make a judgement here. It would be best if you could find a BCA member in the area to look at this car from the top down. The car is over 80 years old  and was probably freshened up once or twice to look nice, but many old cars still have the old wiring harness  (not cheap to replace) and you can not tell if there has been rust repair (and quality of repair) until you, or someone gets underneath it. The worst thing you can do to these cars is not drive them.

This goes along with the old saying "a body in motion tends to stay in motion" and vice versa.

Best of luck with your search and I also agree with EmTee, do not be in a rush and look at a few cars before deciding which one is right for you.

I  went back to take some pictures of the 1938 Buick over this past weekend.  The gentleman was not home, so still have not made an offer on the car.  The interior is believed to be original as was stored inside for30 years.  It does have many places where the paint is pealing due to now being stored outside past 2-3 years.  I want to make an offer this weekend, so any info will help me.  Thanks, Bob

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On 11/2/2021 at 7:28 PM, Bob Cook said:

I am looking at a 1938 Buck Century 4 door sedan (I presently own a 1957 Chevy, 1947 convertible & 1948 Plymouths Special Deluxe 4 door sedan and a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine) so i am a little out of my league on this one.  I am told and it does  appear that it has the original interior in good shape, nice dash, etc.  The person bought the car 3 years ago and left it outside (he said it has always been inside for the past 40 + years.  H "said" he drove it last year.  The paint shows many areas of cracked and pealing.  Trying to get and idea on value and what to look for in the car so I can make his an offer for the car.  Any info greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, Bob

 

I answered one persons comments and attached some pictures, check them out and give me  your thoughts.  Thanks,

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On 11/2/2021 at 7:28 PM, Bob Cook said:

I am looking at a 1938 Buck Century 4 door sedan (I presently own a 1957 Chevy, 1947 convertible & 1948 Plymouths Special Deluxe 4 door sedan and a 1967 Sunbeam Alpine) so i am a little out of my league on this one.  I am told and it does  appear that it has the original interior in good shape, nice dash, etc.  The person bought the car 3 years ago and left it outside (he said it has always been inside for the past 40 + years.  H "said" he drove it last year.  The paint shows many areas of cracked and pealing.  Trying to get and idea on value and what to look for in the car so I can make his an offer for the car.  Any info greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, Bob

 

I answered one persons comments and attached some pictures, check them out and give me  your thoughts.  Thanks,

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Do you have any more photos? I have still not seen enough photos to make a decent analysis, but will post a few comments. It has the wrong hubcaps. Running boards are missing the stainless steel trim and I can't tell anything about the rubber condition from the current photos. The paint is too far gone due to being parked outside, to do about anything but a total repaint. It looks like all of the chrome has also suffered by exposure to the weather. I can't tell much about the interior upholstery condition. The steering wheel and dash appear to need to be restored. All of the window gaskets that I see appear original and need to be replaced. Is the engine stuck? Will it turn? Will it run? Photos of the engine compartment would certainly be helpful.  With all of the unknowns, I would say that it appears to be a good car to start with for a total restoration, but is probably not practical to try to just get it running and clean it up and enjoy it. In the last few years, I purchased a much rarer 1938 Model 67 that was a running and driving car which also needed restoration. I purchased it as a parts donor for my 1938 Model 61 restoration, although I ended up selling it instead. I purchased that car for $1500, which I admit was a good deal on the car. 

 

From the limited photos that I have seen, I would think that car is probably worth somewhere between $2000 and $5000, depending on the engine's condition and answers to the questions in the previous paragraph. Even if you got it for free, you are unlikely to be able to restore it for less than what it would be worth after restoration. Buying a car to restore can be an interesting and rewarding experience, but it is not likely to be a profitable one.     

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2 hours ago, Bob Cook said:

I answered one persons comments and attached some pictures, check them out and give me  your thoughts.  Thanks,

I would be concerned the way the paint is peeling. This very well could be a sign of poor body work underneath the paint. Also, black attracts heat and when you have a combination of materials this cracking and lifting occurs. I have seen this on a few cars. Also look at the rubber seal on the back window, this may be original to the car, the rubber is dried out and is no longer pliable. I would not doubt is all the rubber in this car needs to be replaced. It is available, but not cheap. A real good paint job on this car would be 15K to 20k if the body was in good shape. Also the bumpers are showing some rust. Chrome is not cheap if done right. I have had chrome done poorly and you get what you pay for. There is a lot of work to be done here. Best of luck, a look under the hood might find other issues, but if it hasn't been driven for two years that would be a concern. 

Best,

Mike 

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FWIW, I don't necessarily agree that a total repaint is imperative.  That said, mechanical condition is key -- does it run?  If the interior is decent, I could see giving it a good top-to-bottom cleanup inside and out.  The good thing about black is it's possible to spot repair and get a reasonable '10-foot' result.  As others have said, the deteriorated window seals likely means that water has been entering the car.  I'd be concerned about the floors - particularly the front seat floorboards which are covered with a rubber mat.  Obviously it needs new tires, which should be on 15" wheels if they're original.  Given what I see so far, I can't begin to WAG a value...

 

On the plus side, it is a Century and the sidemount spare is cool.

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The steering wheel is new. The original steering wheels on these cars were made of "hard rubber" which quickly deteriorate to brown crumbly matter with the consistency of dog poop after a few decades, your shiny new steering wheel is what they make nowadays. Those cost $4000 so congratulations.

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1 hour ago, Morgan Wright said:

The steering wheel is new. The original steering wheels on these cars were made of "hard rubber" which quickly deteriorate to brown crumbly matter with the consistency of dog poop after a few decades, your shiny new steering wheel is what they make nowadays. Those cost $4000 so congratulations.

 

No, While that steering wheel appears to have been recast many years ago, it appears to be an original 1938 Steering Wheel. The standard hard rubber steering wheel is actually much more rare. Almost all of them received the optional steering wheel as shown on that car when new. That wheel was available in both the ivory color and mahogany color. Mahogany was more likely to have been found on a Century when new, but most of them have been recast in the more popular ivory color. The steering wheel costs about $1000 to recast, and that one needs it again. I have never seen one sold for $4000. There is a guy on ebay who sells restored ones for $2000 from time to time.   

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3 hours ago, MCHinson said:

 

No, While that steering wheel appears to have been recast many years ago, it appears to be an original 1938 Steering Wheel. The standard hard rubber steering wheel is actually much more rare. Almost all of them received the optional steering wheel as shown on that car when new. That wheel was available in both the ivory color and mahogany color. Mahogany was more likely to have been found on a Century when new, but most of them have been recast in the more popular ivory color. The steering wheel costs about $1000 to recast, and that one needs it again. I have never seen one sold for $4000. There is a guy on ebay who sells restored ones for $2000 from time to time.   

 

 

Please show me some documentation that there was an optional plastic in 1938 that lasted longer than hard rubber, one that still looks shiny and new after 83 years. Other plastic used in 1938 Buicks was nitrocellulose which deteriorates just as quickly as hard rubber. And the $1000 price for refurbished banjo steering wheels may have been true years ago but they went up. Let's go Brandon.

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3 hours ago, Morgan Wright said:

 

Please show me some documentation that there was an optional plastic in 1938 that lasted longer than hard rubber, one that still looks shiny and new after 83 years. Other plastic used in 1938 Buicks was nitrocellulose which deteriorates just as quickly as hard rubber. And the $1000 price for refurbished banjo steering wheels may have been true years ago but they went up. Let's go Brandon.

 

I have no idea who you mean by "Brandon", but having owned two 1937 Buicks and two 1938 Buicks within the past couple of years and being the newsletter editor for the 36-38 Buick Club, I know a thing or two about these steering wheels. I have never seen one advertised for anywhere near $4000 as you indicated, but if you look closely at his photo, you will see that the wheel on that car is cracked and needs to be recast. That wheel is probably worth between $100 and $200 as a core to be recast. I have purchased an extra 1937 wheel to recast within the past 6 months for $100. 

 

The "standard" wheel was rubber. They were used on very few cars. The "optional" wheel was actually installed on most 1937 and 1938 Buicks when new. They came in both ivory and mahogany. I never said anything about how long the plastic lasted... and did not say anything about how shiny it was. If you read what I wrote, you will see that I indicated that the one on that car has been recast, and needs to be recast again. I have seen restored wheels within the past 6 months or so being sold on ebay for $2000.  I had one 1938 wheel restored a couple of years ago for less than $900 and I have one that is scheduled to be done by a different vendor in a few months. His price is $1200. I was offered a recast mahogany wheel for a bit less than $1000 within the past 6 months, but I did not want a mahogany one. I have what appears to be an original 1938 banjo wheel on my 1937 Model 61. It has a couple of cracks but is servicable but certainly not shiny. 

Edited by MCHinson
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Morgan, you are way off base here.  The premier steering wheel guy in Arizona charges $1500 for a deluxe job.  I recently got my '41 wheel done for $500.  This is the result.  If someone quoted you $4000, run the other way immediately.

 

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2 hours ago, Morgan Wright said:

 

 

Please show me some documentation that there was an optional plastic in 1938 that lasted longer than hard rubber, one that still looks shiny and new after 83 years. Other plastic used in 1938 Buicks was nitrocellulose which deteriorates just as quickly as hard rubber. And the $1000 price for refurbished banjo steering wheels may have been true years ago but they went up. Let's go Brandon.

 

I'm having my wheel recast... it's not $4K... It's not $1k either...so...

 

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Also, you said that only some of them were hard rubber in 1938 and some were not, but I'm not buying it. They were all hard rubber, unless you tell me they had another material in 1938 that I don't know about. Restored is NOT original, and recast is not original. And we are talking about the wheel, not the horn ring, the hub, the decal cap. A wheel is a wheel, we are only talking about the wheel.

 

People should get out of the habit of using the word "original" for things that aren't original. That bugs the heck out of me at car shows, people always saying something is original when it's obviously been restored or repainted or remanufactured. You can't remanufacture the original. They should make a law against it.

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I would agree that it probably doesn't need a full repaint to be a decent driver. Might not win any best paint awards at car shows but certainly could look good enough to drive around. The peeling like someone said is a lower quantity repaint in its past. Fixable, but only to a point.

 

The big question is the running condition. As it sits I'd wouldn't pay north of $3-4000 assuming it doesn't currently run. I base that on the decent interior and it looks complete. I see vehicles of similar condition and vintage here in the Midwest selling for that. If not running make sure the engine is free first. Stuck motor pulls the price way down.

 

If it runs and moves with no major issues like instantly overheating I think your in the $6-8000 range. Again based solely on personal experience in the Midwest. Your mileage may vary.

--Victor

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18 hours ago, Morgan Wright said:

The steering wheel is new. The original steering wheels on these cars were made of "hard rubber" which quickly deteriorate to brown crumbly matter with the consistency of dog poop after a few decades, your shiny new steering wheel is what they make nowadays. Those cost $4000 so congratulations.

 

2 hours ago, Morgan Wright said:

Also, you said that only some of them were hard rubber in 1938 and some were not, but I'm not buying it. They were all hard rubber, unless you tell me they had another material in 1938 that I don't know about. Restored is NOT original, and recast is not original. And we are talking about the wheel, not the horn ring, the hub, the decal cap. A wheel is a wheel, we are only talking about the wheel.

 

People should get out of the habit of using the word "original" for things that aren't original. That bugs the heck out of me at car shows, people always saying something is original when it's obviously been restored or repainted or remanufactured. You can't remanufacture the original. They should make a law against it.

 

You would be better to just admit you were mistaken. You said "The steering wheel is new". You said, "They were all hard rubber". 

 

The steering wheel is not new, but is an original 1938 Buick Steering wheel which has previously had the plastic recast, but needs the plastic recast again. It is not new, and it has never been rubber. The steering wheel is made up of a hub, spokes and ring. The plastic on the ring is typically recast for about $1000 by a few different vendors. The most expensive 1937 or 1938 recast (original steering wheel that has been restored by having the plastic recast) wheel that I have ever seen was listed on Ebay for a buy it now price of $2000.

 

And to use your logic, people like you should get out of the habit of using the word "new" to describe a part from 1938 that has been restored by having part of it (the original plastic) replaced by new plastic. "Restored" is not "New". And apparently they did have another material in 1938 that you did not know about. Buick used plastic interior parts in 1938, including the steering wheel ring covering on the optional steering wheel that is typically referred to as the "banjo wheel" but was referred to by Buick as the "Special flexible type". 

 

While I hate to take this discussion off topic, if the original poster was to purchase this car thinking he was buying a steering wheel with a value of $4000, he would be very disappointed to learn the true value of it. 

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Yes, they would have had to remove the gauge from the backing plate to install it upside down. Either that, or else they replaced it with a different gauge that fits the backing plate or made some other modification. It is a weird thing to have done to that instrument cluster.  

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9 hours ago, MCHinson said:

 

 

You would be better to just admit you were mistaken. You said "The steering wheel is new". You said, "They were all hard rubber". 

 

The steering wheel is not new, but is an original 1938 Buick Steering wheel which has previously had the plastic recast, but needs the plastic recast again. It is not new, and it has never been rubber. The steering wheel is made up of a hub, spokes and ring. The plastic on the ring is typically recast for about $1000 by a few different vendors. The most expensive 1937 or 1938 recast (original steering wheel that has been restored by having the plastic recast) wheel that I have ever seen was listed on Ebay for a buy it now price of $2000.

 

And to use your logic, people like you should get out of the habit of using the word "new" to describe a part from 1938 that has been restored by having part of it (the original plastic) replaced by new plastic. "Restored" is not "New". And apparently they did have another material in 1938 that you did not know about. Buick used plastic interior parts in 1938, including the steering wheel ring covering on the optional steering wheel that is typically referred to as the "banjo wheel" but was referred to by Buick as the "Special flexible type". 

 

 

 

The steering wheel is new, because it was recast with new plastic. They didn't use old plastic, it wouldn't make sense to use old plastic. 

 

The steering wheel is the wheel you steer the car with. You don't steer with the horn ring, it would break and then you have no horn. You can't steer with the hub, unless you have a pipe wrench on it. And the hub is not the wheel, that's why Webster used a different word for it in the dictionary. You could steer with the spokes if you had extremely strong hands or power steering which wasn't available. When I learned to drive my mother taught me to keep both hands on the wheel. Not the spokes, and certainly not the horn ring because the horn ring was broken in her car anyway (1959 Cadillac. New horn rings for 1959 Cadillac cost $4000).

 

The original steering wheel was made of hard rubber, which was one of the only plastics they had back then. Bakelite, Gun cotten, nylon, not much else. But hard rubber was very common and Buick used it in all the models for the steering wheel. Hard rubber decomposes quickly in sunlight to brown crumbs. All "original" unrestored Buicks from that era have brown crumbly steering wheels where almost all the hard rubber has broken off. The Buick in question has a new steering wheel, and it certainly does NOT need to be recast, it's a beautiful recently recast (with new plastic) wheel.

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1 hour ago, Morgan Wright said:

 

The steering wheel is new, because it was recast with new plastic. They didn't use old plastic, it wouldn't make sense to use old plastic. 

 

The steering wheel is the wheel you steer the car with. You don't steer with the horn ring, it would break and then you have no horn. You can't steer with the hub, unless you have a pipe wrench on it. And the hub is not the wheel, that's why Webster used a different word for it in the dictionary. You could steer with the spokes if you had extremely strong hands or power steering which wasn't available. When I learned to drive my mother taught me to keep both hands on the wheel. Not the spokes, and certainly not the horn ring because the horn ring was broken in her car anyway (1959 Cadillac. New horn rings for 1959 Cadillac cost $4000).

 

The original steering wheel was made of hard rubber, which was one of the only plastics they had back then. Bakelite, Gun cotten, nylon, not much else. But hard rubber was very common and Buick used it in all the models for the steering wheel. Hard rubber decomposes quickly in sunlight to brown crumbs. All "original" unrestored Buicks from that era have brown crumbly steering wheels where almost all the hard rubber has broken off. The Buick in question has a new steering wheel, and it certainly does NOT need to be recast, it's a beautiful recently recast (with new plastic) wheel.

 

You are still wrong. Since you insist on posting incorrect information on this topic, I will attempt to further educate you on 1937 and 1938 Buick Flexible Steering wheels.

 

The optional steering wheel has an individual part number in the Buick Parts Book.  That part includes the hub, spokes, and the plastic coated ring. The horn button and horn ring are separate parts. The standard steering wheel also has an individual part number in the Buick Parts Book, That part includes the hub, spokes and the black rubber coated ring. That was a rare steering wheel since most dealerships sold all of their cars with the upgrade of the "flexible steering wheel". If you look back at the original photos of the steering wheel on the car, you will see that the recast plastic has several serious cracks and is separating from the spokes. It is failing and needs to be recast. 

 

I am attaching some photos for you. In one you will see the remains of an original unrestored 1937 Buick flexible steering wheel. You will see the current condition of the remaining original ivory colored plastic. It is not rubber and was never rubber. Feel free to compare and contrast that plastic with the rubber floor mat that the steering wheel is resting on. I am also attaching a photo of a 1938 steering wheel which is on my 1937 Century. It has either original, or possibly very old recast, ivory colored material (with a few small cracks that have been patched). In that photo you will also see a recently installed new plastic ring on the horn button. I am also attaching a photo of the original ivory colored plastic ring on the steering wheel that is on my 1937 Roadmaster's steering wheel horn button. Just for added information, I am attaching a photo of a California Buick dealer's 1938 price list, which shows that they priced all of the cars that they sold with the optional "special" steering wheel, which was not unusual. I have seen very few of the rubber 1937 or 1938 steering wheels, they were not popular in 1937 and 1938 and thus they are extremely rare.    

 

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Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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Not to belabor a point as to the longevity of these early plastic coated wheels but they were pretty rough after a decade or so of sun/heat exposure. My 1938 Special sedan I had back in 1974 had a wheel that was in the shape Matt shows with the before photo. When I bought the car it has a steering wheel cover. I never liked it and removed it. What the h........ friction tape...... why would any one wrap friction tape on this?  I started to remove it...... OH......now I know. I rewrapped it and put the cover back on.

 My 1937-41 had the same treatment on its wheel when I got it in 1987. I found a recast one at Hershey back around 1989 done in some funky biege color.DSCF1350.JPG.4011c73d800ea26d2548b3414aaf8837.JPG

But it looked fine for me. I think I paid $50. It held up well untill the recient accident that totaled the car. And yes, they do flex!

 I remember my dad's 1948 Oldsmobile that we had as a second car back around 1960 and the wheel was already well cracked. My 1973 Century had a crack in that wheel by 1979.

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