1/18-1/24/14 - put it together
Made a list of what this car needs to be put back together to attempt a start / get it running. I decided the plan to take a bunch of stuff off the engine in order to clean up, sandblast, and put what I'd like as final/restored finishes on them before putting this back together was 1. taking too long, 2. too expensive without knowing whether the car will then immediately need major / expensive further work, and 3. adding up to a bunch more tools (a large compressor, sand-blast chamber, paints, coatings, etc., etc.) that I don't have budget for now. And if the outside is going to look as-found, why not the engine?
1/22 - cleaned up the generator brackets and put them back on.
1/23 - put the generator on the brackets. Bought some flat sheet gasket material, red RTV silicone, and a thermostat at the FLAPS (favorite local auto parts stor). Made up gasket for the pipe elbow that is also the water pump mount. Put the pipe elbow back on the engine.
1/24 - made up gasket for the water pump to elbow. Put the water pump back on the engine.
1/25 - made up gasket for the lower thermostat housing. Put the lower thermostat housing on the engine. Found that the thermostat was about 1/4" too large diameter to fit into the housing. Cut it down using tin snips and filed the edge smooth. Made up gasket to go between the thermostat housing and the thermostat cover. Installed the thermostat. Bought the fan/generator belt at the FLAPS. The Buick fan (Ed) wasn't there today. Too bad. I brought the '55.
Tried to buy the oil filter there. They checked within the city. No good. They checked Phoenix (daily transfers available). No good. They checked California. No good. Said to order myself online, or they could do the same thing. Are they really that hard to get?
Want to bring the replacement radiator mount bracket (also holds the front fenders!) and the battery tray to a local sandblaster / powder-coater. I don't expect that to cost a whole lot.
Major other items to buy: Radiator. Radiator hoses. Battery. Oil. Trans fluid. Maybe a brake line flare tool and replacement brake line. Still haven't got the hose to the rear wheels swapped out yet.
1/26 - fan/gen belt on. fuel/vac pump back on.
1/27 - front seat back in. 3 lines (fuel, vac, dist advance) back onto manifold & carb & fuel/vac pump.
1/27 - valve cover back on. Spark plugs, dist cap, plug wires back on.
2/11 - worked on painting yet another trunk handle emblem on 2/9. Sort-of accidentally won an ebay auction. Didn't really intend to buy it, but thought the price was too low for the condition, so I ended up with it. Pretty good condition on the chrome. With the emblem painted it looks really nice. Has the Buick left lens, so it was from a standard transmission car.
2/11 - also won an auction for a right tail light assembly. This was from a non-deluxe 51 or 52 Special. Well, most of it was. Chrome is really nice - no pitting noticeable. I got the one on the car off, cleaned up its parts some, and put this one back on. It doesn't fit quite exactly the same. Seems to be slightly narrower perhaps. Maybe it got squished in storage somewhere along the way. Anyway, the lens that was with it cleaned up real nice. No fading, no sun / UV damage - so it sat inside for a long time. But the lens didn't fit down into the housing when I went to put it back together. So I used the better of the 2 that were on the car (the one from the left side). I will repaint the other one with the red tail light paint to darken it up some (it's faded to clear in the center). Turns out the lens on this ebay special must be from a 50-70 series car. Different lens number. The base of it is thicker, so it doesn't fit down into the tail light surround at all. So now I've got an oddball lens to resell.
2/11 - also about a week ago, won an auction for a set of dash knobs. These looked pretty nice in the photos. For $3.25, how bad could it be (ok, about $9 in shipping). So I put those on. They had the lighter & ash tray in a separate auction (starting at $1), and those did not get a single bid, so the seller threw those in with my package! Cool - at least the shine / slight pitting on all 6 dash knobs will be from the same original family. The ash tray wasn't as nice as the ones in the car, so I left those. The knobs that were in the car were covered with that same yellow sticky gunk that was on the inside of the window glass. It cleans off, but still the chrome isn't quite as bright as this ebay special set of knobs.
So now need to resell - 2 trunk handle/emblem combos, dash knobs, '55 ash trays (no handles), '50-'52 tail light lens, '51-'52 hood ornament (I won an auction, the shipper never shipped, I put in for refund with ebay, they refunded, then about a month later, the item showed up - that seller got quite a few negatives and neutrals - I think they lost their ability to keep up with the number of items being sold). Anyway, I put that ornament on the hood, as it was the best, and I need to resell the other one. The one that was on the car probably isn't sellable because it doesn't have the ring on the bombsight.
Still in hot pursuit of a radiator. Someone advertised parting out a '50 Super on the Buick forum. I replied a day later & the radiator was already spoken for. I called a junkyard that advertises on ebay - they are parting out a '50 Buick now. The guy thought the radiator was sold, said he would go check & call me back - no call back. How hard would that be? I might have asked about something else. Sent emails to 2 people advertising general parts in the Bugle. One replied - no radiator. Other - no reply yet. Called another person who advertised in the Bugle - said all their '52 parts had sold. I've found 5 of these radiators so far - one on ebay that I hestitated on & didn't buy (gone the next day), one via the buick forum - guy says he has it, but doesn't seem too motivated to box it up & ship it, another via a craigslist ad (parting out a '50 or something) - exchanged emails but he doesn't want to ship anything, the '50 being parted by the junkyard on ebay... the one at DVAP in Casa Grande that they said was too worked over to be worth messing with... Watched an auction for NOS top & bottom tanks go by on ebay - sold tanks for 4 or 5 radiators (all different ones) for $86 - not sure the one I needed was in there, but there was a Buick one of about the right vintage... There's a '50 core on craigslist right now - I'd call on that, but then what do I do with just a core? Might be worth it if I ever find an old junky one. Anyway, seems like with scarcity like this, someone would do well to make an exact-fit replica. There's a kinda-fit one by an outfit in Buffalo NY, but they cad-designed it - just looking at their cad model views it doesn't look right. Inlet in wrong place, outlet not curved in right direction, side mounts holes don't look right, top tank all angular (how hard is it to make a curved top), fill neck in wrong spot (centered instead of offset to the right). I mean, if you're gonna cad-design a new radiator, why not get it right? I spoke w/ a guy in Buffalo (I forget how I found him) - he said he let those guys borrow the original radiator to make their model before he sold the original radiator. If they had an original to copy, they don't seem too concerned with getting it any more than close. They advertise on ebay - relatively expensive. There's another outfit on ebay advertising custom radiators. Might see if I can get that junk one from Casa Grande & get it to them to make a good replica. Their price is in the mid-$300's range. Not great, but not too bad. And I still don't know if the car is even going to run yet...
Also repainted the Buick script on one of the '51 hubcaps that came with the car. This might go for the spare tire. Still need to polish it up some with the metal polish. This was the best hubcap that came with the car.
Before painting the script
After painting the script. The photo doesn't do it justice.
2/23/14 - clean up & sell extras
Friday, made ebay ads for some surplus items. A very nice trunk emblem, a medium-ok trunk emblem, a hood ornament, a 50-series tail light lens, and some '55 ash trays (pretty poor). Sold the first 4 items - the really nice trunk emblem sold quick enough that Carol dropped it off at the P.O. while I was at the Oro Valley car Show on Saturday. The other 3 sold over Saturday night, so I'll get them out for Monday. Cleaned the 2nd bumper bullet that needs to be resold. Also on Friday took photos of the '50-'52 dash knobs + ash tray. Will get all that listed soon, but need more packing tape and some smaller priority mail shipping boxes.
2/22/14 - Oro Valley Car Show
Took the '55 to the show. They limited this to 200 cars, and each car was either on a row end cap by itself, or it was allocated 1 1/2 parking spaces inside the marked spaces area. They pre-printed windshield tags, and pre-assigned the parking spaces by class. I think this worked out really well. A lot of people really liked the car. A lot of people either had one or their dad had one - or they had some story. Met the guy with the '60, Tom. He bought that as a tribute - his father had the same car back when it was new. Sounds like he found a fairly decent survivor car & that he had not had to do a complete restoration - just typical replace & fix items + have the trans rebuilt.
Weather was excellent - mid 60's in the AM, and mid 70's in the PM, with just the slightest high overcast towards the end. Carol brought the kids out around noon, and left Evan with me. Evan took me on 3 expeditions to the very far end. First, to ride the little ferris wheel. Next, to get a balloon sculpture - best caterpillar I'd ever seen - took the guy 7 balloons to make it. Next, to get a shaved ice, which led to stickiness everywhere. By that time, they were calling out the awards. I stuck around to hear my class called, not really expecting anything (and I wasn't disappointed). Then we headed back to the car, packed up, and got out before everyone was ready to start up & go.
On the way home, that was nearly the end of it. A car pulled out from a side street onto Twin Peaks, and he realized we were in the lane he was aiming for. I jogged the car over (I had some idea that the lane next to us was clear), and he stopped about 5 feet out into the lane we were in. There were 2 cars right behind me - one in each lane. I didn't hear crunching, so they must have squeezed past. Anyway, made it back alright.
Ended up with 5 or 6 flyers for other shows. The Rodders Days I want to do because it's a Street Rod focused show, and it's on the mall at U of A. There's a smaller show at a Methodist Church around here - fundraiser for a chairity. I'll probably do that. There were 2 more on the way far east side of town. Might keep those in mind as something to go see. Carol pointed out that the cars are probably all different. One of those is at St. Gregory's - capped at 500 cars. I was a spectator there last year, and it's a zoo. Completely not set up to handle the volume. The cars are on the athletic fields, I guess - anyway, fairly tall grass and VERY dusty. No shade to speak of. Cars are in rows by class, so there's some organization to it, and there's actually prize money for winners (not just plaques). Also got the flyer for the next Oro Valley show - they do this one 2x / year. February & October. Not sure I'll do October, because it's a very long day. At the Rodder's Days show, they didn't care when you left. Some were leaving early afternoon. I've seen about what I want to see, regardless of the quantity of cars by then. The other one I did last year - Cops & Rodders, had a do-not-leave-before time. That was a long, long day. This Oro Valley one yesterday also had a no-cars-moving between these times (9am-3pm).
3/5/14 - brake lines
Yesterday I cut out the rear brake line. I cut about a 2-foot section between the hose fitting at the frame (the hose that jumps from the torque tube to the frame) and where that tube bends up over the top of the frame. I went to the auto parts store today for just a brief minute while the kids were at TKO. (I actually didn't miss any of their class.) Ken, the Buick fan, was behind the counter. I asked about brake fittings, and he said the way to do it is to buy a line with the fittings on each end already in place. He did show me that there is a union fitting to join 2 lines together if you need to use 2 shorter segments to make one long one.
So my plan to flare a new fitting onto the front half of the old tube and make a new tube isn't going to be the way this happens. The plan now will be to buy one of these tube segments and bend it up, with a coil if needed to take up extra length.
Other items since 2/22 - got a pair of front turn signal housings off ebay from a seller in New Mexico. Cleaned them up - the chrome was in much better shape than the ones on the car. Took off the left one from the car. Tried to fit the new one. The inboard bumper brace didn't line up. I could see the stamping was shaped differently in that area. They were sold as 50-70 series parts, so I found out they really are different. The light buckets and front trim rings were different as well. So I took new photos and tried to be really clear that whatever car they came from, it had been at least bump-parked in the past (the front surface is scratched/scraped). They sold to someone in Sweden. I had to call eBay to find out how to add international shipping, which worked very well so far.
Other items - got a '51 hubcap that's in much better shape than the worst of the 4 that were with the car. Idea is to polish up 4 decent '51 hubcaps to have as an alternative to the '52's. Also plan to get a bench buffer and a SST polish kit and see what I can do with parts like the hubcaps.
Also got a pair of lower rear door trims. One was dented more than I expected. As usual, when looking at the ebay photos again, the dents were there. Of course the seller doesn't know how to quantify a dent - they had words to that effect, but how do you quantify how much dented? Anyway, took a while to gradually hammer most of that back out. Plan is to try polishing these up and see how good I can get them. Though seeing these it gives me appreciation for what's on the car - in that respect, the SST stored outdoors on the car has more shine than these parts I got. Also the parts I got have more pitting as though from small rocks and sand along the leading edges. The pitting is very small and should be restorable.
Also got what was advertised as a left tail light bezel. Turns out, it's a right. Not worth sending back for a refund, so I'll put that back out there.
Also got a '51 shop manual for a very good price (~$9, including shipping). Plan to turn loose the other one (which is more worn) for more than I paid for this one. Original plan was to resell this latest one, since I believe what I paid (even with shipping) there's a little profit still in it. But since the latest one is nicer than the first one I got, I'll sell the first one.
Back to the brake line - I was afraid the fitting at the divider block (the forward end of the line) was going to round out. So I sprayed some penetrating oil on it and left it for about an hour. (Went and polished another front signal housing I got from that same seller in New Mexico - but this one I could positively ID that it has the same bumper attach points, same light bucket, and same front trim ring as what's on my car. One reason I bought it was to remove competition from the ebay listings while I resold the pair I got that didn't fit. But the chrome on this one is the nicest of all. Not super-excellent, as whatever car it came off of was also parked by feel or used to push things - the front edge is worn.) After an hour of polishing that, I went back to the brake line and the fitting cracked loose. So I'm gaining confidence I can get another line back in there and not have to go on the hunt for a replacement divider block. Here's where the rotted driver's floor came in handy. I freed the line from the frame clip that I could see about a foot back from the divider block, and I could feel that there was another clip, but I couldn't see it. The line passes on top of the frame right where the floor is rotted completely through. So I enlarged the hole a little with some snips and could see another frame clip. I freed that, then the line was loose. I wiggled out from between the frame and body. Line measures between 68 and 69 inches from the divider block to the rear hose.
3/7/2014 - brake lines
Got a 60" pre-made section w/ fittings flared onto each end. Got a 12" section to make up the difference. Bent the 60" section using the original as a pattern. It fint in pretty well. The photos here are from front to back. That hole in the floor was convenient for getting the line into the clip on the frame. The most aft segment needed some S-bends to take up the extra length.