November 6, 2017

A closer look at the 1949 Buick Special Series 41 Sedan

There are numerous unique characteristics of every vehicle whether it's a classic car or your daily driver. It's not until decades later that any of these design details become very interesting. 
  • Power windows: Once an innovative luxury item and the reason your kids/grandkids don't know what "roll up the window" means. 
  • 2 sun visors: That was once an extra feature
  • Power steering: Now the only reason anyone can park in a city thanks to the design of the seemingly shrunken parking lots.
  • Turn signals: Can you imagine using hand signals on congested roads? Ouch!
Seems like a pretty basic list right? At first glance, it definitely is B.A.S.I.C. Things get's more complicated when replicating the early versions of these "options". Digging into the wire routing, mounting brackets, bulbs, wiring, wiper blades, specialty hardware, trim clips....well you understand. It's a different ballgame altogether when attempting to create a classic automotive time capsule that looks better than show room new. Oh and there's that minor detail of ensuring the old technology can safely carry people on today's busy roads.

Meet our latest challenge: 
1949 Buick Special Series 41, straight 8, 248 CI, 4 door sedan

The hood latches double as decorative trim on either side of the hood. The telescoping antenna has a knob above the rear view mirror to turn it from it's resting position, laying on the center strip of the windshield, to it's "on" position, upright and 4 ft tall!


We thought the interior of the car was tan. It appears to be tan. Even the headliner is tan! However, the body tag(discussed later on this post) and the smallest parts of the interior that escaped sun exposure tell us that the interior was in fact gray wool broadcloth with a dark gray metallic dash. The seat foam was so rodent damaged that the blankets on the seat are in place to cover the springs and the door panels are nearly missing all together. 

For the passengers, each seat has it's own ash tray and the glove box has a large clock front and center. Perhaps to allow well timed nagging of "are we there yet?" Sliding rear windows are a unique style and include a drain tube in the structure of the car to direct the rainwater from the window well , over the rear inner fender and to the ground through the rocker. 

The "oh s***" handles in the back seat call attention to the complete lack of seat belts. The sheer size of the car should in theory make you feel rather safe, however, you may never be able to see someone coming up behind you as the mirrors (only 2, rearview and driver side) are exceedingly small when you consider the amount of space you need to be aware of while maneuvering this land yacht. 

The seats in this Buick bear a close resemblance to love seats you may find in your home. They are BIG. And they have armrests! Not exactly what you might picture when you think of automotive seats

If you should ever find yourself in an traffic accident in this Buick,  you can blame the lack of mirrors and small windows for not being able to see much of your surroundings. You can also blame the other driver! Everyone on the road and sidewalks will certainly see you coming and without a doubt know that you're driving a Buick! The front of the car is adorned with the trademark "smile" of 21 vertical teeth surrounded by chrome and 4 nameplates/emblems front and center on the bumper guard, grill surround, hood front and hood top.
The characteristic grill of the 49 Buick is in remarkable shape! Only 2 of the 21 vertical stainless steel "teeth"  have dents and the worst pitting is on the bumper guard. This is a rare blessing on a restoration project!
Why is that? If you have to ask, you've never had your chrome re-plated! The cost to repair, straighten, triple chrome plate and polish all of the bright work on this model could cost more than a NEW car. The more pieces we find in great condition the better it is on our customer's budget! 

The rear bumper has been used and pretty badly abused. It's obvious that the bumper was the #1 choice location to push and/or pull the car (possibly even pry it) out of at least a couple of predicaments over the many years it was on the road. 

Molly was in charge or tearing down the Buick, removing all trim, windows, electrical, gauges, upholstery, body panels, rodent houses and hardware. She removed the parts, bagged all hardware, boxed, labeled and sorted every last piece of this car as she prepared the body to be removed from the chassis

This car is all original right down to the engine bay. The original Straight 8, 248 CI engine and 3 speed transmission are still in their places. Even the 6 volt battery looks original. It's hidden there under a pile of corrosion. As was common for the era, the inner fenders served as housings for fresh air ducts with tubes on the right and left going straight into the cabin of the car. The filter? A mesh screen similar in size to household window screen. Based on mouse nests, leaves and the clump of red clay we removed from the ducts that was larger than an adult fist it's safe to say that the screen wasn't very effective.
The first look under the hood is quite deceiving and overwhelms you with it's rusty orange colored glow. It looks like everything is covered in rust inside the engine bay, but it's actually an impressive accumulation of Oklahoma red dirt. 

Good news right? No. It's not.

Honestly, the dirt is harder to remove than rust.
With the engine removed, the first of several "scrape and clean" sessions began. In hindsight, we should have weighed the clay. This car lost a lot of weight simply by cleaning all the parts!

Is that a transmission?
That's more like it! It's a 3 speed!

More scraping and cleaning! It's hard to tell, but in the shadow under the car, we built up a 4" pile of wet clay which we scraped from the cross member, inner fenders and front suspension parts. 

The #1 key to planning a restoration for an original appearing car: the body tag* and VIN number(or serial number)**. Decoding these numbers will unravel the original specs of a classic car more reliably than going by appearances of what parts and colors remain. It can also prove/disprove a claim of "number matching" vehicles when buying a prospective project or weekend cruiser.
*For detailed information on Buick paint and trim codes see the information on this AACA forum thread
**For detailed information on Buick serial numbers see Team Buick

The Buick passed safety inspection in 1973! That's fairly impressive for a 1949 Buick to be road worthy in '73

The original gauges and dash parts are all intact and in restorable condition. The electrical however, is a very different story. The old wires were found to be mostly bare thanks to serving as an all you can eat buffet to the rodents living in the car.

Under all the corrosion was an Allstate 6 volt battery

Flash forward to the day we removed 18 body bolts, only breaking 4 of them, and lifted the body from the chassis! 

Not the typical view of a '49 Buick! And, once again, thankfully that's not ALL rust on the underside.Being able to rotate this car's body on the rotisserie makes sandblasting the floor and structural areas of the body a breeze. 

This Oklahoma classic is prepped for a dramatic makeover!
And the transformation is under way!
Sandblasting was completed October 2017 and only revealed a few more areas of the floor that will require metal repairs.

 What's next? Stay tuned! 
We've got a lot of work ahead and we'll be sharing progress on our Facebook page and here on our blog in the coming months. 

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