Jump to content

My 1938 Buick Century Model 61


EmTee
 Share

Recommended Posts

Back in September I bought Matt Hinson's 1938 Century.  This car was restored by Matt as chronicled in the following "Our Cars & Restoration Projects" blog: https://forums.aaca.org/topic/297623-1938-buick-century-model-61-four-door-touring-sedan-trunk-back/#comments

 

DSC_0275.thumb.JPG.c74ef4b9ad466fadec7cc

 

I'm starting this topic to continue the car's story as I take the baton and work through the 'sorting' phase of the project.  My goal for this car is to get it reliable enough to participate in pre-war/vintage tours and other Buick or classic car gatherings.  As of today, I've added about 250 miles to the odometer.  The 'fettling' of various bugs and other nits is underway and I'll use this space to update my progress toward the stated goal.

 

Having never driven a pre-war car of any type, let alone a Buick, my first impression behind the wheel was how easy it is to drive.  The car actually looks bigger than it is; it's at least six inches shorter than my Riviera.  It is considerably taller, however.  Inside, the cabin is cozy - again, narrower but taller than my 60's cars.  It feels more like my '56 Bel Air, but narrower.  Steering is light, but has good road feel.  The clutch is also light and shifting is really effortless.  I drove my 4-speed GP the other day after having not driven it for a couple of weeks while working on the Century and it's funny how short the shifter throws and how stiff the clutch felt by comparison...  From the driver's seat it's really neat to see that long, tapered hood extending out in front.  It's also interesting to note how close you are to the windshield.

 

Over the next week or two I'll try to catch-up with what I've been doing since the car arrived on September 26th...

  • Like 6
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christmas came on September 26th this year!  The Century showed-up at the end of the day, just as darkness was setting in…

image.png.19a3ad66a3af3dca29793011f01199a3.png

The other pictures taken were just too dark to see anything, so I snapped these after parking it in the garage.  Previously I would park the Riviera in this spot.  It’s interesting to note that the Century is actually shorter, albeit much taller.

image.png.d0f1c692dbe9459324459a9495718e3a.png

image.png.f7739106727578ee1e957c1454e789d0.png

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the first jobs I tackled after taking the car for a brief drive to add some non-ethanol gas to the tank was to investigate a grinding/scraping sound coming from one of the front wheels when braking.  I pulled the drums and checked the brakes at each wheel.  I found that the scraping noise both Matt and I had heard intermittently was caused by the edge of the secondary shoe contacting the drum.  This was due to the shoe having 'jumped over' the eccentric wheel on the backing plate, which should normally be bearing against the back of the shoe.  This appears to have happened because the shoe retaining pin that holds the shoe against the backing plate was too long and not holding the shoe against the backing plate, allowing the shoe to override the eccentric when the brakes were applied.

I found that on 3 of the 4 wheels, the pin for the secondary shoe was about 1/4" longer than the pin for the primary shoe.  The LR wheel was the exception; that one was not scraping and had two of the shorter (i.e., correct) pins holding the shoes.  To fix the problem I wound up shimming the longer pins under the head on the outside of the backing plate to reduce the working length and allow the springs holding both shoes to be compressed to the same (shorter) height.  This seems to have resolved the issue.  Apparently, the wrong pins were included in 3 of the 4 brake hardware kits used when the brakes were installed.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, EmTee said:

This appears to have happened because the shoe retaining pin that holds the shoe against the backing plate was too long and not holding the shoe against the backing plate, allowing the shoe to override the eccentric when the brakes were applied.

I found that on 3 of the 4 wheels, the pin for the secondary shoe was about 1/4" longer than the pin for the primary shoe.

Great sleuthing!  Any pictures?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a picture showing one of the pins that I needed to shim to the proper length:

image.png.bd7ecbb9d24c5e11d907b51344810fa8.png

 

I used a 1/4" - 20 nut which was the right height and allowed the fluted end of the pin to pass through.  I considered cutting the pin and somehow crimping (or otherwise 'smashing') the end to provide the 'ears' needed to lock into the spring cup, but worried that the modification might fail later.  Ultimately, I'd like to replace the long pins with shorter/correct ones, but that will likely involve convincing Mike at NAPA to let me sort through his stock to identify the part number for the pins I need...

 

That said, I think part of the issue here may be that the original locking cups (no longer available) were a convex style, based on the illustration below from the shop manual:

image.png.80eadf8c0eea9cd6ec4ca9e1bdc7f43e.png

 

Here's a picture from Matt's restoration blog showing the original hardware.  Note the spring pin retainers are the 'convex' style as shown in the shop manual illustration.  I may check with Matt to see whether he still has the original pins & cups...

 

DSC_0340.thumb.JPG.bbb89823449951f1de619

 

The style shown above would appear to require a longer pin.  So, maybe the longer pins would work with the original locking cups, but the new ones provided with the installed hardware kits look like the ones shown below (i.e., concave):

h4019-2_1.jpg

 

The interim fix seems to be working, so I'm not in a big hurry to change anything right now.

Edited by EmTee (see edit history)
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The car was very hard to start, both cold and hot, so I decided to check dwell, timing, compression and valve lash. My first attempt to set the timing failed because I was unable to see the flywheel marks through the timing hole in the bellhousing.  Following an on-line consultation ( https://forums.aaca.org/topic/369100-1938-320-eight-flywheel-timing-marks/#comment-2277336 ) I dropped the clutch inspection cover, identified and re-painted the flywheel timing marks.  They were all there, but the engraved markings are very light.  The timing was well advanced from the shop manual specification of 6* BTDC.  I reset the static timing to 6* and now the car starts right up, both hot and cold.  Cold start requires pumping the accelerator a couple of times, as the choke is currently open and not functioning.  Dwell was OK, so with timing set, I next checked the compression and valve lash.

I removed and checked the gap and overall condition of the spark plugs.  All eight appeared to be as new, with a sharp edge on the center electrode and tan colored insulators.  Gaps varied between about 0.022 and 0.032 inches.  I reset all to 0.025 inches in accordance with the shop manual.  With the plugs removed I decided to make a cold compression check.  There were three cylinders in particular that were significantly lower than the others.  I suspected (hoped) that tight valve lash would explain the discrepancy, so I proceeded to check the current, cold lash clearances.

 

Next, with the valve cover and distributor cap removed, I rolled the motor through the firing order checking the intake and exhaust valve lash at each cylinder with the piston at TDC on its power stroke.  The specified lash for both intake and exhaust valves is 0.015" (Hot).  I made the following measurements with the engine cold (not running).  1E=0.011, 1I=0.013, 6E=0.008, 6I=0.0.14, 2E=0.007, 2I=0.000, 5E=0.014, 5I=0.011, 8E=XXX, 8I=XXX, 3E=0.012, 3I=0.012, 7E=0.008, 7I=0.009, 4E=0.006, 4I=0.004.  (I screwed up measurement of #8, but that cylinder showed good compression.)  These readings confirmed my suspicion that tight lash might explain the discrepant compression readings.  Again, rolling the motor through the firing order, I reset the lash for each valve to 0.019" (to allow for the cold engine) and verified each by ensuring that a 0.20" feeler gauge would not fit.

 

Lastly, I reinstalled the valve cover, spark plugs and distributor cap.  I started the car and to my surprise, the valves weren’t nearly as noisy as I had expected.  Previously (and not surprisingly), the valves were virtually silent.  I plan to run the engine this way for at least a couple hundred miles before checking the hot lash setting.  That result will determine whether (and how) I re-adjust the lash settings.  If the hot lash ultimately measures close to 0.015, I may elect to repeat my cold lash setting procedure using a revised cold lash target.  I think that the cold method allows much better control over the final lash value than the hot/running method.

  • Like 7
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A couple of miscellaneous tasks completed over the last few weeks included installing the rear seat assist straps and mounting my 'new' 1938 NY (YOM) license plates.  Since NC did not require a front license plate, the car didn't have a front plate bracket when I received it.  I contacted Matt Hinson who found an original one in his parts stash that he was willing to part with.  I gave it a fresh coat of black paint and it fit perfectly on the front bumper bracket.  The '38 NY plates I bought online were in quite good shape for their age.  I straightened and touched-up around the bolt holes.  The rest of the original paint looked good (including the lettering), so I just cleared over everything to restore uniform luster.  They look great on the car and complete the period look, if I do say so myself!  ;)

 

image.png.99ceb9ee105199c3e908884a5dc79211.png

 

image.png.6c375f135f1c4e3cf9e4b0ce98a62185.png

 

image.png.268c167e4c8fdb03b86171403864a6ec.png

  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a gorgeous car. I hope it brings you many years of fun. I've long wanted a pre-war car but unfortunately I don't have the garage space to accommodate a second Buick. I'd love to see it next year when I hope to make a trip up to the museum in Norwich.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The car is definitely running better.  Starting is much better, both hot and cold.  Oil pressure has been running at about 40 psi (judging by the gauge) and temperature generally hovers around 180 ~ 190 degrees.  On one local trip, however, the temperature climbed toward 200*.  I was able to get home before it overheated, but as soon as I got home and shut it off the coolant boiled-over and puked orange liquid on the floor from the overflow tube.  As received, the cooling system was filled with plain water and with the daily high temperatures here in steady decline, I need to flush and refill the system with a 50/50 water/antifreeze mix anyway. 

 

Another thing I noticed was that both the upper and lower radiator hoses are too long.  Each one has a kink that reduces cross-section.  The lower hose in particular was kinked where it makes the 90* bend.  Also, I noticed that I can squeeze the lower hose completely by hand (especially when hot).  This made me suspicious that perhaps the lower hose had collapsed during the last trip, where I had run the car at a constant 50 ~ 55 mph for a couple of miles.  Following the near-overheating episode, the car seemed to behave normally.

 

I disconnected the lower hose at the radiator and let the water drain on the ground.  Although orange in color, there were no chunks or large flakes observed.  All of the color was due to very fine iron particles.  I removed the upper hose and back-flushed the radiator.  Again, I saw no large particles in the water that was expelled from the tank.  I let the hose run until the water was clear.  I then removed the thermostat, which appeared to be functional.  Rather than tempt fate, however, I decided to replace the thermostat with a used one that I ‘gutted’, leaving just the center opening.  I reinstalled the thermostat housing with the modified ‘thermostat’ (essentially a restriction plate).  I then trimmed the upper hose for length and reinstalled it (no kink).  I removed the lower hose and noted that in addition to being too long, it did not contain an internal coil (i.e., ‘spring’) to prevent the hose from collapsing from pump suction.  I found a used lower hose that I had saved which had a coil inside.  I trimmed the Buick’s lower hose to the proper length (to eliminate the kink) and inserted the coil into the hose before reinstalling it.  I filled the radiator with water in order to test the result before adding antifreeze.

 

Following a couple of successful test trips where the temperature stayed right around 180*, I again drained the radiator and this time the engine (via the water jacket petcock) as well.  I filled the system with 9 quarts of green anti-freeze and topped it off with distilled water.  After driving the car and checking for leaks I let it stand overnight before verifying the freeze point (-34* F) with my hydrometer.  According to the chart on the jug, that value signifies a 50/50 solution.  So, with that, the cooling system ready for winter.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Note the post above refers to work performed 2 or 3 weeks ago.  Since then, I've been fixing other small issues and driving the car locally at up to 40 or 50 mph for short sprints.  Last week I decided to push it a little harder and ran a steady 55 ~ 60 mph for several miles.  Temperature started to climb above 180* (outside air was about 50*).  When I pulled into the driveway I saw coolant running from the overflow tube and the inside of the RF fender and outside of the RR fender were wet with coolant.

 

The 'rest of the story' is unfolding here: https://forums.aaca.org/topic/371177-1938-radiator-flow-specification/#comment-2298149

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the nits that Matt warned me about was the hood struts.  As they were, they refused to hold the hood open for more than a few seconds before beginning to slip on the inner surface of the hood.  If not caught in time, the strut would collapse, with the hood slamming shut on top of it.  Matt told me that the ’38 design for the struts is different than the ones on his ‘37s, so he was not familiar with how they are intended to operate.  After staring at them for a few days (during which time I used scraps of wood to prop them open) I concluded that there had to be something missing.  My solution to the problem is replacing the hex-head bolt holding the strut to the cowl with a bolt modified to include a U-channel to capture and hold the strut in the upright position.  The strut itself is riveted to the cowl bracket through a slotted hole.  The idea is that extending the strut (i.e., rivet against the bottom of the slot) allows it to be rotated to the vertical position, then pushed down into the U-channel to lock the strut.  Raising the hood and pulling up on the strut allows it to be rotated and placed in its stowage clip so the hood can be closed.

 

I started with a pair of ¼” carriage bolts and two large fender washers.

image.png.899e828be75bc09bbc621ef2267ccb43.png

 

I ground the heads of the carriage bolts flat, drilled the center of the bolt head to create space for the weld bead and removed material around the circumference until the heads fit snugly into the washer hole.  I then trimmed the washers so that the upper flat edge fit against the step in the bracket below the rivet.  (This prevents the bolt from spinning as the nut is tightened inside the car under the dashboard.). The lower edge was trimmed to match the bottom of the cowl bracket.  I then welded the U-shaped pieces to the modified carriage bolt heads, filling the cavity from the inside of the “U”.  The backside needs to remain clean and flat, so that the U-bolt fits tightly against the strut bracket.  Grinding the weld flat and some black paint yielded these:

image.png.001e184eee583996c2a40795848e3abf.png

 

image.png.47718525c9e5e14128bc5347c467c405.png

 

The last step was to reinstall the struts on the car.  The U-head bolts simply replace the ordinary hex-head bolts that were there originally.  The photos below shows the final result with the struts locked in the ‘open’ position:

image.png.8e6ba87ec97a7d5a8b1194706c2108c7.png

 

image.png.6ebdb0c330da5f5f0cd96540a386465f.png

 

They hold the struts securely, such that I am not afraid to leave the hoods open with these locking channels.  Raising the hood and pulling up on the strut allows it to be rotated to the down position and placed into the stowage clips at the outer edges of the cowl.

  • Like 5
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Car looks great........keep putting time in it......it just gets better. You should try and get the choke working correctly........it’s a pain but worth the effort. I used to sell stainless hose springs for lower hoses to prevent collapse......another common issue on early cars getting driven fast. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

EmTee:

 Keep at it, things are comming together. The overheating issue solutions on my 37-41 had to evolve one step at a time as you are doing. As edinmas has suggested I had already done the Evaporust treatment for three cycles. I feel that the block was now well cleaned but my problem was caused by the last pocket of sludge that was left from the block cleaning. I should have had the in-line filter. What ever was left in the block purged and packed the radiator solid. DSCF4364.JPG.59beb074d5bbd300451388810f6c47db.JPG      DSCF4360.JPG.44749c7c6ce3ffebaa2cd0d0719264d0.JPG

This was the 3rd cycling of the Evaporust prior to getting the new recore. Then progressive cleaner filter fabric starting with a mud consistancy then down to some scale specs at the bottom right. The bulk of the scale was scraped off the filters and put in the matchbox to show how much was still in the system. Of course this was after the shop that did my car in 2012 said they cleaned the block and cleaned the radiator.

DSCF1386.JPG.b525fd077b3c6c55aa7d1fa3b5fb0319.JPGI did take a photo while it was at the shop and they did have the core plugs out.

Only hope was a recore. No overheating since 2015 when it was done. 3 summer time over 100deg trips totaling over 7,000 miles without a problem. The 2017 BCA meet in Wisconsin was a 3,000 mile round trip.

While winterizing my now wrecked 37 I changed out the Gano filter and there was about 1/4 shot glass of rusty scale. Not bad after 6 years.

DSCF4369.JPG.bf29e521ffb48413f57a9dff99e95838.JPG

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...