1955 Buick Special Custom - 05

5/4/13 - Tucson Rodders Days car Show

Rolled it out about 5:30 and got the upper surfaces dusted off. Cleaned the wheels with alcohol to get the residue off from the tire change place.

In the driveway, ready to go.

The ghost flames.

Ghost flames.

My father-in-law Don was riding along. First trip on the highway. Speedometer is wildly optimistic as usual, then it starts making a squeaking sound. I realize it's the upper end of the cable, which was just replaced - yesterday. We'll either start a fire, it will run-in and disappear, or the speedometer will die. Anyway, made it to the show. Would be nice if the turn signals worked. (They worked when I got it, but stopped yesterday?) At the show, got some interest - one guy was a real Buick fan. But there were only 3 Buicks at the show of at least 200 cars. Maybe 300. (I was registrant 225, and from the looks of the color-coded 1-day vs. 3-day passes, the 1-days got the lowest numbers in sequence, so the fact that I got 225 at about 7am (they opened at 6am) isn't unbelievable, and they filled in at least 4 more rows of 25-30 cars each. Anyway, the other Buicks were a $265k 1952. It won one of the highest awards at the other big car show in Tucson last year - don't recall if it was Best of Show or People's Choice - something like that. The other Buick was early 1960's - '64? Anyway, nothing else in the 50's. There may have been a Cutlass or something as there were a few late '60's - early '70's (cutoff was '72 for this show). I wanted something different, and I got it. I heard several people comment on the color & paint job (ghost flames). Anyway, there were many, many more 55-57 Chevy's. Wouldn't that start to be demoralizing if you couldn't have your '55 as nice as that $100k+ one that was parked diagonally behind my car? As it was, I had the nicest/best '55 Buick out of all 300-or-so cars assembled, as it was the only one.

A pair of super-nice tri-five Chevy's parked on one side.

Saw this one with the flying-over-the-flames job at the Freddy's cruise night the next week.

After walking around and seeing nearly all the cars, and after sitting behind my car for a while, we headed out. I thought it was rather early (1pm), but we were tired. There were hotrods on the road in front of us and behind us, and coming towards the show, so it wasn't too early. The car is making a rattling-jingling sound from the rear on both sides. Don heard it like it was from the right rear wheel, and I heard it like it was from the left. It was proportional to speed, so not just a loose rattling thing, but something going around with the wheels. So we stopped at a gas station and felt for loose parts on the wheels and got nothing. So keep going. A little further on, the speedometer squealed its last loud squeal and stopped indicating. I could still hear the cable going around, so maybe it just came off the instrument. At one point, the police held up traffic for a few minutes to clear an accident, and the temp gauge showed hotter than ever. I thought we might have to shut down - I don't know if that's worse - to be all heat soaked and just turn it off, or to cruise lightly for a few minutes, then shut down. Traffic in our direction was allowed to move after a few minutes, and it cooled right back down again.

So overall, I think it might need shocks and springs. Disk brakes w/ a booster would be great too. I bought a raffle ticket for a 350 Chevy engine w/ 700R4 (is that a T400 w/ overdrive) trans. Man, that would be awesome. Even having just invested a fortune in the 350/350 that's in there, there would not be much point in going much farther than to pay the big bucks to get a new engine installed if it was delivered to me.

5/6/13 - exhaust wrap

Wrapped the exhaust where it passes under the oil pan. Had some wrap left over from the airplane. The exhaust is fairly tight to the oil pan - closer than I thought. Need to see how the exhaust is routed with the stock engine - this close to the oil pan isn't good for the oil.

Found out the original Nailhead routed the LH exhaust in FRONT of the engine, to join w/ the RH exhaust. Not too practical for the engine in this car - maybe go with headers at some point and come up with a way to join farther back - or maybe not join at all - just two completely separate exhausts all the way back - though that requires at least 1 hole in the frame...

5/7/13 - jingle in back

In driving to/from the car show, and then again this afternoon, I noticed a jingle from the rear. Seemed to be proportional to speed. Pulled the rear wheel and brake drum off. I think the sound is the rear brake shoe. It has the proper retention spring, but it seems to move around. I couldn't find anything else loose. I thought it might be parking brake hardware that was not connected, but if there was a parking brake lever in these brakes, they have been pulled out. The brakes do have a spot for a cable to exit out the front, but no additional levers inside. Also pulled off the dome light cover - yes, it's getting power. In fact, the power isn't shutting off, thus the burned out bulb. Need more checking on that one.

Another thought on the jingling brake shoes - I don't know if the brake system has the usual check valves to keep the brake shoes closer to the drum.

5/8/13 - data/history page

Made up a data and car history page. Saw quite a few of these on other cars at the car show. Need to get it laminated to stick under the wiper.

5/9/13 - Cruise Night

Another cruise night at Freddy's. This time, got our tickets. If you bring a special car, you get a ticket. It's good for a small custard at Freddy's, or a drink with your sandwich at Firehouse subs. Today there was a Camaro club (all current generation cars) behind the Firehouse. There seemed to be sort of a Mustang row at the general parking. Saw 2 other buicks - a '63 Riviera (should have stuck my camera underneath to see if the rear end is like on my car), and a '41 that parked one over from right behind me. He didn't seem like a happy guy for such a nice car, so I didn't talk to him. Maybe next time. We got our food from Firehouse and sat in front of the car. Brought camp chairs for everyone. Then got our custard at Freddy's. Didn't have any real detailed conversation about the car - just a few quick comments here and there. The guy with the super-nice '55 last week (Century? It's the Special body with the 4-hole fenders) either wasn't there or I missed him. Anyway, the car seems to be running off battery only. Need to figure out if the alternator is dead, not connected, or what. Carol noticed the Camaro guys all watched my car as we drove out. When we got back home, she noticed 2 of the blue lights in the right port holes worked. I thought the 3rd one the wire was just not connected, and I had purposely taped-off the wire to the left ones because it was fallen off and exposed (raw 12v positive w/ the lights on). Later, I added little jumpers as needed (one on each side) to get all 3 lights on each side working. Might be a safety feature - help to light up the side of the car a little at night.

Dinner picnic in front of the car.

1941 Buick

1963 Riviera

5/10/13 - Polish & stuff

Researched parking brakes, disk brake conversions and Buick-specific parts sources. One site mentioned Simichrome, which I had used on the motorcycle. I decided to try it and polished most of the left side trim. Tried a little area of the front bumper as well. Hard to tell in the garage light at night if it made much difference. Also tried it on part of the front wheel, as I saw some seriously deep-shining wheels at the show last week. Yep, I think these wheels could look that good. Downside is now that I started, I need to finish that wheel...

5/11/13 - Cars & Coffee

Went to the C&C at the La Encantada shopping center. Today's was 8-10-ish. Sometime in the next couple of weeks they are going to switch to 7am to avoid the heat a little more, but today was perfect, though a bit breezy. Probably due to the part of town (and the fact that that shopping center is pretty high-end), this is the cruise for the Ferrari / Audi / Mercedes / Porsche / BMW / Lamborghini crowd, though there were quite a few Corvettes, a couple of cars from the '50's, and just 1 or 2 that met the classic Street Rod definition. On the way back, Carol ended up behind me near the house, and she reported that the brake lights are gone. So not only turn signals, but brake lights as well. Turn signals maybe optional - brake lights are not. Next thing to fix.

Found the turn signal fuse was blown. Got another fuse at the store, put it in - turn sigs are back, but I'd expect that to be temporary because what caused the fuse to blow? Not sure. No luck with the brake lights, but while under the dash, found the reverse light lead on the steering column for the former column shifter. I may be able to figure out where the reverse lead is off the current transmission and get reverse lights back. I also took loose and reinstalled the speedo cable from the back of the instrument, but I'm afraid the instrument may have just stripped internally...

Ferrari, Aston Martin, Cobra (real, all-metal, continuation series), Lamborghini... What have I gotten into?

Back to Earth. The Buick next to a Subaru.

Back to that other world... Ferrari Daytona.



Mercedes gull-wing

5/13/13 - Brake lights

From the diagram, it looked like the brake lights are on with the ignition / key. Took the fuse panel loose (again) and probed the supply line _to_ the brake light switch which is on the forward side of the fuse panel (not the side you can see with it bolted in place). True - the brake light supply is switched to the key. Not like cars now. Next step - probe the brake light switch on the splitter fitting (under the steering column, under the hood). Ok - could check hot going into the switch. Put a folding camp chair between the brake pedal and steering wheel (to activate the brake light switch, if it was working), and probed the non-hot side of the switch. No good. Pulled the leads off the switch and checked the switch both off and on using the resistance measurement on a multimeter. No good. Always open. One more check - with the ignition hot, stuck a drill bit between the two brake light terminals on the wiring. Yes, brake lights light up. Activated the turn signal switch in both directions - yes, turn signals work too. Ok, so the switch is bad. Looked it up on Autozone.com (since they actually have a 1955 Buick Series 40 in their online catalog), and there's a switch looking just like what I have, for $6. Not a big deal.

5/14/13 - Brake light switch

Stopped by the auto parts store. Switch was in stock. Got that and a container of brake fluid. I had found the single paragraph about replacing the switch (page 10-68 under Lighting System) which had the key words - fill the switch body with brake fluid prior to installing. The other key is to ensure the splitter fitting is full of fluid - by depressing the brake pedal slightly if necessary. This wasn't necessary - the fluid started rising up out of the fitting on its own. Got the switch filled using a syringe to drip in single drips into the switch body. Got it down on the fitting with little to no air bubble inside the switch. Tightened it down, put the wires on, pressed the brake pedal and ... nothing. Oh yeah - on this car the brake lights are powered only with the key on. Turned the key on - got lights. Took it around the block a little to check that the brakes still worked ok. Checks out good, though the battery is a little weak. Still have that alternator on the list...but with brake lights it's back to legal driving...

New brake light switch installed. Steering column at top of photo. Yes, that's a splice in the wire that I re-worked from a twist-together (and no tape!) to soldered together and taped. That sort-of aqua blue behind it all is the garage floor. I didn't put the epoxy on the floor - the prevous owner of the house did. But it sure has been nice for identifying leaks and keeping things clean.

5/15/13 - Random findings

Decided to try the wheel polish that I got when picking up the brake light switch. Just do something without a huge mystery to solve. So, finished off the front wheel that I had started with the Simichrome. The area with the Simichrome seems to be a little smoother and deeper shining, but I wasn't trying all that hard (just a microfiber cloth, no power tool). Moved back to the back wheel. At the inside, my hand was bumping against the brake drum - and it moved! Not only did it move, but it made that jingling sound I've noticed while driving! So I pushed and pulled on the brake drum, and sure enough, it's loose inside the wheel! So much for spacers not being safe (according to the tire shop) - that spacer is in there to tie down the brake drum. So I jacked the car up, pulled off the wheel, and it must have been the center of the wheel riding on the axle hub, with the studs just overhung in tension. Anyway, slipped the thinner of the spacers in there, and it all tightened down nice. Moved the car around in the garage and added the same spacer on the other side. Another mystery solved.

5/16/13 - cruise night

Got the family over to the Freddy's cruise night again this week. Nice not to have the jingling brakes. After it sat for 10 min while we got the food, we decided to move the car closer in by a row since the lot was slower filling up today (hotter). The car did not like to run heat-soaked and was nearly stalling. On the plus side, with no power steering or brakes, there's not much lost when the engine stalls. Anyway, after eating, then going to Freddy's for the custard, it had cooled off enough to start and run pretty well for the ride home.

Parked between this nice '57 Nomad and a '62 - not sure exactly what, but the guy was talking about the '61 plate he bought and registered it with - because AZ did not make a '62 plate. I'd be in the same boat - there isn't a '55 AZ plate, but I could use a '54 plate with a '55 corner tag.

Family picnic behind the car - the lot did end up filling in behind us after a while.

Family photo...

5/17/13 - reverse lights

By studying the wiring diagram, found that the wire to the reverse lights is the black lead off the 4-conductor switch/terminal on the top of the steering column behind the dash. If they are in order as shown on the wiring diagram, that black power line to the reverse lights should be the farthest connector to the right side. Looked up under there - yes, a black wire. Ok, what powers it? There's 3 more wires on that thing. By chance, I happened to look at the standard trans wiring diagram. That one has a simple switch in the line - light blue = power in. Same circuit on the automatic trans wiring diagram is also light blue, and should be the next wire on the terminal strip (2nd from the right). Pulled that one off by feel, since I couldn't see it. Threaded it back around to the left side of the steering column. Yes, light blue. Clamped those two together with a cleco clamp, being careful to insulate this big gob of positively-charged items from touching the steering column, and turned on the ignition. I fully expected to see nothing, as why would 58-ish-year-old bulbs work. But there they are - reverse lights! Cool. Now, how to hook that up to a toggle switch for manual rearward illumination (I'll figure a slick way to get it automatically switched on the shifter perhaps at some point, but manual switching is better than nothing). Ran down to the auto parts store and picked up some fast-on terminals and an illuminated switch. Made up some leads to pop onto the existing wiring and slid the terminals in place and double-taped them since they will sit over the top of the steering column.

Dug through a box of aircraft electrical stuff and found the terminals I needed - 1/4" female for the larger-diameter wire that I used for the leads from the existing wiring. Crimped those onto the wires. Made up a little bracket to fit onto 2 existing holes in the dash under the center ventilation control. Found a jumper with a 1/4" female to ring terminal in with the aircraft stuff ready to go. So stuck that on the switch ground terminal (lighted switch needs ground for the light). Tested it out and it works. Now need to finish off the bracket (radius edges, smooth off, paint) and get some proper fasteners to the dash for the bracket. But as it is, there are reverse lights.

Bracket location under the dash. Probably paint bracket black so it isn't so obvious, and pull the wires up as well.

Looks kind of strange in this photo. Taken at night with the flash, with lights on in the garage. They are actually really bright. Might be old 6v bulbs being run at 12v.

5/18/13 - reverse light switch

Finished smoothing off the bracket for the switch. Found some 8-32 screws and nuts to attach it to the dashboard. Painted the bracket black. After drying for a while, installed it and the switch. Cable-tied the wires up under the dash.

Later, went out to try pulling the left front wheel to see if maybe I could scrape some of the old grease off of the suspension. Found that the wheel lug adapter only fits the REAR wheels! How crazy is that! So will need to stop by the tire shop again for the other size. Also checked under the hood, since it's open for battery charging. Found coolant drips on the floor - under the lower radiator hose at the radiator end. Felt under the hose - seems to be at the clamp point, so the hose is probably needing replacement. Well, I wanted to swap out the thermostat housing for an adjustable clocking one to get the upper hose into a better configuration, so I'll add draining the coolant and replacing both hoses to the list.

Later, went back out to check out the stereo wiring. The speakers are not connected to the correct outputs, but even with moving the fader and balance around, I still don't quite get it. The front speaker is on the right. No speakers are on when the fader is to the front, so the front speaker is on the right rear. The left rear speaker may be correct. I'm not sure if the right rear speaker is connected - I can't get it to play alone, but when the balance & fader are centered, it sure seems like the sound from the back is from both sides. Tried to find the install guide online, and the operating manual is there, but the installation guide won't download. Maybe I'll try a different model, since the connector seems to be used across a bunch of them.

5/19/13 - stereo connections

I did get the installation guide. Yes, connections weren't to the right places. So I got the front speaker connections moved to a front speaker output, and a rear speaker that was on a front moved to a rear, but there's an interruption elsewhere (possibly right at the speaker), so the right rear speaker doesn't work. Also, the left and right is now reversed on the rears.

I was doing all this neatly with solder and heat shrink though I probably should have tested before socking it all down. Maybe I can uncross the left and right rears under the back seat or just re-do the behind the dash connections. Either way, it looks like the back seat will come out again to check that right rear. Though today's progress is that a big gob of electrical tape and twisted-together connections are out, and the front to rear balance is controllable. I didn't do anything with the power connections, but I plan to split that into 4 (it's all twisted onto one always-hot connection) - always hot for the station memory, hot with ignition for the radio power (so radio goes on/off with the key), to a marker lamp circuit (to control whatever the difference is between day/night lighting on the stereo face), and power antenna lead (for a future power antenna).

5/20/13 - stereo connections, cont'd

Carol actually asked me to go to the garage for a while because she had something to do for work . Pulled the stereo back out. Undid 2 of the 3 speaker connections from yesterday - swapped left and right on the rear speakers. Plugged it back in - yes, got that corrected, but right rear is still silent. At least that isolates it most likely to the speaker connection or speaker and not the speaker wire, since the left rear had been successfully driven by both R and L. Took the simple approach - the speakers don't seem to be held in very well to the rear deck. Lifted the right rear and there it was - one of the wire connectors was off. Plugged that back in. Good to go on rear speakers!

Next, went after the power leads. They were all twisted together onto one always-hot lead. Split it into the correct always hot, hot with ignition, on with headlights, and power antenna leads. Don't have a power antenna, but soldered a pretty long length of wire on there and fed it into the glove compartment until it's needed. Re-secured some wires up under where the stereo sits so they don't hang down. Ran the hot-with-ignition lead over to the fuse panel. Found a terminal with a little hole in it near the top, so stripped the wire, fed it through there, and wrapped it around. Not great, after all the aircraft-style soldered-and-heat-shrunk stuff I had done behind the radio, but not any worse than other stuff that is hung off that panel. I'll add a ring terminal and attach it with a screw that is holding another ring terminal already. Check this out - now the radio goes on/off with the key, and the station presets are also stored. Yet another job that now that it's a heck of a lot more right than it was, is pretty much completely unnoticeable.