Wheel Tracks Articles Archives

1955 Buick Special

“Cadet” is its name and Buick is its brand!

Brian Warren loves Buicks…

Brian Warren Buick CadetCadet, our 1955 Buick Special.
The name comes from the cadet blue metallic paint applied, by GM 60+ years ago
and the fact that the Special was the entry level Buick, at that time. Not sure why I settled on Buicks other than the fact the old advertising campaigns indicated they were “Just Better”. I think I had my sights on a 30’s or 40’s Buick, but found most needed much more work than I was willing to do or closer to the truth, capable of doing. I’m happy I decided on the 55’ because I think the styling is very iconic of a relatively happy time in America history and although lacking power steering, power brakes, and seat belts, I consider the car a reliable modern car.

 

Cadet joined our family in April of 2012 after surfing a copy of the publication “Uncle Hennery’s” out of Maine. The on-line pictures of the car looked great and deserved a closer look. After seeing the car and a short test drive, I was hooked and made a deal on the spot. I returned 2 weeks later with Vermont plates in hand, checked the fluids, kicked the tires, and began the 200 mile drive home. For the first 10 miles, I was all smiles. But after stopping for gas and a snack, the car would not restart. It was ready to start and wanted to, but the new operator (me) didn’t know how to engage the starter switch. Turns out those clever engineers at Buick had incorporated the starter switch into the accelerator pedal. It’s been fun watching others fall into the same trap since.

1955 Buick Special interiorCadet originally came from Glenn Buick in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. After going through paperwork that came with the car, I estimate I’m the 5th owner. The first owner was a banker from Sharon, Pennsylvania and the car still hasa draw string bank deposit bag from Sharon Savings and Loan in the trunk that contains assorted old wrenches. I think the 2nd owner had kept the car the longest (29 years) and put very few miles on it. The 3rd owner was an auto broker and took no interest in the car other than it being inventory. The 4th owner is an over the road truck driver and after purchase, brought the car to Maine. After owning it for 5 years, he could never find time to drive it, so he let me buy it and bring it to Vermont. At this time the odometer reads 29,850 miles. An oil change sticker on the door jamb indicates 21,033 miles had been logged by 1968.

Since I’ve owned the car, I’ve rebuilt the carburetor, combination fuel pump / vacuum pump, replaced the water pump, heater hoses (all 23feet), all flexible break lines, both front break cylinders, and front shocks. With the exception of an attempt at restoring the engine bay by one of the previous owners and touch up on the rest of the cars exterior, it’s all original paint. Even though primmer is showing in many places, there is no plan to repaint the car. The cars interior is original as well. The car drives very well and with the 264 cu. in. nail-head V8, Cadet has no problem cruising at interstate speeds (and beyond).

1955 Buick Special grilleLast July (2016), our family took Cadet back to Pennsylvania (Allentown especially), for the Buick Club of America’s nation car meet. The annual week-long event was the BCA’s 50th anniversary and was held at an amazing venue. Italian jewelry and luxury goods designer Nicola Bulgari hosted the event at his complex in Allentown. A converted 21 acre drive-in theater complete with a test track and still functional movie screen. Mr. Bulgari has enjoyed a fascination with American automobiles since he was a small child growing up in Italy. He recognized the design and engineering of American cars to be far superior to anything else on the road at the time. Between his Italian and Allentown addresses, he houses over 210 antique automobiles. Although all beautiful to my eye, he considers them to be daily drives and all are registered and driven often. One hanger sized building on his compound, housed nearly 40 Buicks ranging from the early 1920’s to the 1990’s, but lacked a 1955? Through Mr. Bulgari’s generosity, he has been able to secure funds to help sustain the “America on Wheels” transportation museum in Allentown. While on the PA. trip, the 90° days were challenging for me behind the wheel (Dana and Jason had A/C in the Reatta), but the Cadet took the city traffic in stride.

The car is certainly a keeper and although it won’t chirp the ties and the paint has lost most of its shine, we’ll let the stately Cadet gracefully fade into old age as it puts smiles on the young and brings tears to the old as it passes by.

1955 Buick Special hood vents

More Questions About Oil

From the Editor….

Dave, would you please keep this oil discussion going?

Questions….. Should we use synthetic in our old cars? What about the question of single-weight oil vs multi-weight oils in our old cars, which is best and why? You have mentioned the moisture collecting in our car’s oil pans, especially during winter storage, should oil types come into the conversation here? What about this whole question of 600 weight in our old differentials? What should we use and is 600 weight really 600 weight? Thanks Dave.

Gary, good questions.

synthetic oil cansThe question of synthetic oil in our old cars is a good one. Like any selection of engine oil, it comes down to the application.

The quality of engine oils has improved dramatically since our antique cars were manufac-tured. The multi-viscosity high detergent oils available today are vastly superior to the oils availa-ble when these cars were new. Not that many years ago, engines were full of sludge and varnish from engine oil deposits. Cars needed to have the engines flushed with flushing oil during an oil change.

The additives and detergents in engine oils still break down, requiring oil changes. This happens more quickly under “severe” driving conditions. Older, carbureted vehicles with open crank case ventilation require more frequent oil changes. The fuel mixture of carbureted engines is not as well controlled as the fuel mixture of modern computerized fuel injected en-gines. Unburned fuel in carbureted engines and early fuel injected engines will dissolve in to the engine oil. Modern engines have sealed crankcases. Older cars have open crankcase ventilation, leaving an opportunity for dust and dirt to migrate in to the engine oil. Because of these reasons, oil needs to be changed more frequently in these older engines than it does in modern engines.

oil leakI have had a number of people tell me they will not use synthetic oil, because they think it will leak out. If your engine already leaks oil, this is true. Synthetic oil will not cause new leaks in an engine. If the engine has sound seals and gaskets, synthetic will not leak any more than conventional oil.

Synthetic oil is superior to conventional oil for lubricating and cooling the moving parts of the engine.

If the vehicle has a fairly new engine I would be more inclined to use synthetic oil. The parts and machining cost to rebuild an engine can quick-ly pass $5,000. Synthetic oil is a relatively inexpensive way to protect this investment.

Some vehicles, like air cooled Volkswagens, were designed to use straight weight oil. I have been told multi viscosity oils can foam up in these en-gines, and only straight weight oils should be used. I use straight 30 weight synthetic engine oil in my John Deere Tractor.

Moisture will condense in the crank case as a byproduct of combus-tion. This moisture will remain there until it evaporates away due to engine heat. The engine needs to be run for a while fully warmed up for this to hap-pen. If the car is not driven much, it makes sense to change the oil before putting the car away for winter storage.

There are many factors to consider when choosing an engine oil. The type of driving, number of miles driven in a driving season, the condition of the engine, oil consumption of the engine and cost of the engine oil should all be considered.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if the extra protection of synthetic engine oil is worth the extra cost.

Next month I will talk about gear oils.

Editor’s notes….. Watch the monthly VAE auction, you will find some great oil deals. Much of the time the price is half or less what you would pay at the store and the items are high quality, new products.

Cats in the Woodpile

If you are reading this and are not a “cat person” do not bother to continue. But, if you tolerate them and even love them, read on.

For several months this winter I was feeding two feral cats, one female and one male. The male decided that inside the house would be better than outside, so we took him off to the vet for a checkup and sex “adjustment”. Henry became our second inside cat. He and our first cat were not exactly copacetic, but adjusted, mostly.

In the middle of May we went to Colorado for our grandson`s high school graduation and then for a visit to the Grand Canyon with our daughter. When we returned home, we discovered that the female cat had delivered five kittens, all of whom were living in our wood shed in and among the stacked furnace wood. Of course they were all cute – three calico, one gray, and one black. Who was the Dad??? No idea at all. In the last week of June, our daughter, grandson and his girlfriend came for their annual visit, to be in the Milton July fourth parade and to ride in a classic car. Meanwhile, it was becoming ap-parent that we could not keep all of these kittens and Mommy Cat. How do you get five kittens that you can’t even catch, into adoptive homes? Our daughter-in-law demonstrated the wonders of social media to us by putting their pictures on Face Book. The word was out to the world that we had these amazing possible pets to give away. About this time, our grandson and his friend had to return to Colorado, then our daughter’s significant other arrived with his two children and we all tried to catch the kittens as we now had people clamoring for them. We managed to catch three with only a little patience, deception and speed, and handed them over to some very happy people. One lady even decided she wanted two. Next we needed to catch the last two and Mommy cat. Finally after much effort, we caught the last two kittens. Who would have thought that a cute little kitten could be so vicious? Wendell’s hand is healing and nobody has shown symptoms of cat scratch fever yet. A lady wanted the little terror so badly, she drove three hours from New Hampshire to get it.

Now we “just” had to catch the mother, so we put out a Have-a-Heart trap, put food in it and hoped for the best. The first night we caught a raccoon which our daughter insisted we release. The second night we caught the same raccoon again. Wendell says it died of cardiac arrest, all very sudden and unexpected. The third night we caught a very large Tom cat that we have never seen before. He was the wildest thing I have ever seen, bounced off the garage walls and made a break for it. That might solve the mystery of who the father is. At one point, I thought I had trapped the mother in our garage, but she managed to slide under the garage door and get away again. We are still trying. So, our saga is not over – we still need to catch Mommy cat and take her to the Humane Society – may have her spayed first, but it may be too late. Ah, CATS!!!!! I’ve gotta lov’em!!

1923 Ford Model T Mail Truck

1923 ford model t dan noyesDan Noyes and his dad, Bob,  with their 1923 Model T Mail Truck that has been in the family for five generations.

In 1901 or 1902, Fred Noyes and his horse Ned delivered their “Rural Route 1” mail in South Sudbury, Massachusetts (note picture to the right).

ned the horseIn 1923 the route was 28.6 miles, Wheel Tracks was unable to find if Ned and Fred had that distance on Rural Route #1 to deliver mail. Using information from Vermont area routes, during that time the 28.6 miles was somewhat normal when horses were used. In the winter time the postman would stay over night along the route somewhere …mostly wherever the best meals were served.

1912 harley davidsonIn 1912 Fred traded Ned (the horse) for a 1912 Harley motorcycle (vin #2139B).

The cost of the Harley was $185.00 from New England Motorcycle Company in Boston. Wheel Tracks believes the Harley model was a 30 ci F-head single cylinder engine. It was belt driven with battery ignition and was 4.34 HP. For you who know Harley motorcycles, using the vin number, is this correct and another question….can this Harley be located using it’s vin number if it still exists?

You can see from the picture of Fred on the Harley that he had a basket on the back plus a shoulder bag to carry his load of mail.

1923 ford mail truck fred noyesThen… in 1923, Fred Noyes started using his 1923 Ford Model T mail truck. It is believed Fred bought only the Model T chassis because in May of 1922, he purchased a “Light Runner Rural Mail Wag-on” body from Harrington manu-facturing in Peoria, Illinois, to make his mail truck complete. The body cost him $160 plus he added a new front spring for $1.40 and a set of rear fenders for $6.00.

1923 ford mail truck in shopThe truck also has a Ruckstell rear end added on May 3, 2017…! What would Fred have to say about this? A page was found in Fred’s papers where it appears in 1922, his annual wage was $1950.

Fred Noyes’ last day of delivering mail with the “T” was in 1931, a very long time, thirty years, of knowing his friends along Route 1 in Sudbury, Mass.

1923 ford model t mail truck-unrestoredToday the Mail Truck is owned by our VAE Chairman, Dan Noyes, Fred’s great-great grandson. Dan’s dad, Bob gave the truck to him a number of years ago after having the engine rebuilt and restoring the rest of the truck. The 5th generation, if you are counting, would be Dan’s son Ian Noyes.

The picture here shows the truck as it was sleeping in its barn after many years of being ignored and before Bob Noyes decided to restore it.

Synthetic Oil

Hey Dave’s Garage-

What is synthetic motor oil all about? Why is it better than natural oil? How does it differ chemically? I always thought that frequent oil changes were necessary because of the build up of acid and other contaminants. Why don’t they build up in synthetic oil the same way? Wendell Noble

Wendell, great question! There is a lot of information, and a lot of strong opinion here.

There are three types of engine oil sold in the U.S. that are considered “Synthetic”.

synthetic oilGroup III synthetics are oils based upon hydrocracked crude oil. They have many qualities of “true” synthetic oils, but they are not manufactured or “synthesized” in a lab. They are refined from crude oil.

Group IV synthetics are produced from Polyalphaolefin base stocks, and are one of the two “true” synthetic oils available in the US.

Polyalphaolefin (PAO) is a manufactured ethylene chemical used to manufacture many plastics and fabrics. It also can have good properties as a lubricant. Pure PAO alone does not work well as an engine oil. It still needs additives to work as an engine oil.

Group V synthetics are almost exclusively ester based. Like PAO based lubricants, group V base oil needs additives to be an engine oil. Group V based oils are very specific application lubricants. I don’t believe they’re used as a base in over the counter synthetic engine oil.

So, so called group III synthetics are a more highly refined crude oil, with a base stock that comes out of the ground as crude oil.

Group IV synthetics are synthesized from Polyalphaolefin (PAO).

The benefit of a true synthetic is uniformity and consistency in the molecular make up of the base oil. Unlike refined crude oil, synthetic oil has consistent molecular chains. Think of crushed gravel being ground up to similar sized pieces (conventional oil), and compare that to manufactured glass marbles (Synthetic). The marbles are more consistent in size and shape. The marbles would make a better lubricant.

Cost may be the best way to determine if oil is a true synthetic. If it is under $5.00 a quart, it is probably a group III synthetic. The true answer can be found on the bottle or the manufacture’s website.

Regardless of the base lubricant, all engine oils have additives to control viscosity through temperature ranges, and additives to keep the engine clean and well lubricated. These additives still wear out or break down regardless of the base oil used. Engine oil is also diluted with by-products of combustion through use.

So why use synthetics? Synthetic oil is a superior lubricant. The oil is consistent on a molecular level, with no impurities. Refined oil has inconsistent molecular chains and still retains trace amounts of impurities. Synthetic oil maintains viscosity regardless of temperature. Put a quart of conventional oil and a quart of true synthetic in your freezer overnight. In the morning take them out and shake them. The synthetic will still be fluid. The conventional oil will be thick like honey. Remember that next winter when it is below zero and you start your car.

Synthetic oil does not sludge and varnish in the engine as conventional oils do. I have opened up engines with over 200,000 miles on them with synthetic oil, and they look like new inside.

Oil change intervals should still be dependent on driving conditions. Short distance driving is “severe” duty. It is often a good idea to do a Used Oil Analysis to get an idea of when to change your oil. A UOA may show your used oil did not need to be changed, and was still able to properly lubricate. You may find a vehicle with synthetic oil, with few short trips can go 10,000 miles or more before the oil needs to be changed.

From the Editor…. Dave, would you please keep this oil discussion going?

Questions….. Should we use synthetic in our old cars? What about the question of single-weight oil vs multi-weight oils in our old cars, which is best and why? You have mentioned the moisture collecting in our car’s oil pans, especially during winter storage, should oil types come into the conversation here? What about this whole question of 600 weight in our old differentials? What should we use and is 600 weight really 600 weight? Thanks Dave.

A 1949 Indian Roadmaster makes it back on the road.

With a little help from Wendell Noble and an assist from Fred Gonet

For as long as I have known him, my friend and neighbor, Dallan Baker, has owned an all original 1948 Indian Roadmaster motorcycle. That’s at least 30 years and I only recall seeing him ride it once. When he recently mentioned that he wanted to sell, I found it merely interesting. I’m not a motorcycle guy so the thought of buying it didn’t immediately spring to mind. I did ride a little motorcycle briefly in the ‘70s but I gave it up. Unfortunately, I was going around a corner at the time. However, the idea of owning this wonderful piece of motoring history did gnaw at me. I finally made him an offer which I thought was reasonable and better than any offer he had had at the time. We are both very happy with the results.

1949 indian roadmaster motorcycleIt’s great to acquire something like that which comes with plenty of provenience information. The first owner, who bought it new in the Springfield, Vermont area, put 194 miles on it before he took a spill and then put it in his bedroom for the next 10 years. Dallan, who was 18 at the time, bought it from the deceased owner’s estate in 1958. He rode it regularly until he went into the service a couple of years later. We don’t know the actual amount of mileage on it now because the speedometer drive gear has been broken for a while. The odometer now reads 5,413 miles. Owning it is one thing, learning to ride it is another. Wendell Noble

Editor’s notes…… A nice phone conversation with Dallan Baker uncovered a few other details in the life of this Indian. Asked if he had ever taken a spill on the bike, Dallan recalled a day when he was a passenger while his cousin was slowing down on wet pavement to enter his driveway. A little too much rear brake was applied and they went down. He recalled how his cousin jumped up, pulled the bike back on its tires and quickly pushed the Indian into the garage. All the time leaving Dallan lying, unhurt, in the middle of the road. He guessed he might have put 15,000 miles on the bike, with his longest ride being the 300 miles from Arlington to Essex and back one day many years ago. He had done very little to the bike during the time he owned it. The seat was changed to allow room for a passenger. Before that, the passenger sat on a blanket on the fender rack with one foot resting on the kick starter and the other on a part of the frame….that was where he was when his cousin hit the rear brake too heavy. He also said because the bike had sat for 10 years when he bought it, the engine compression was very low. He had the engine overhauled with new rings and etc.

Dallan Baker's 1949 indian roadmasterAnd where does VAE’er Fred Gonet of Proctorsville fit into all this? Soon after Wen-dell purchased the Indian, Fred got word and was anxious to make his way North to see it…..he has this huge “thing” for Indian motorcycles. In the mean time Wendell and Dal-lan had spent some time unsuccessfully getting the bike to run. Fred did come North and found the main culprit was a bum condenser and the bike was soon making it’s beautiful sound.

The bike controls are…. Left hand throttle, right hand spark, left foot clutch and right foot brake. When asked, Fred explained how to stop at an intersection with your left foot occupied and not tip over. It goes like this….You hold the brake with your right foot, the clutch with you left foot and keep the bike from tipping over with your

1948 indian roadmasterThe Indian Chief, built in Springfield, Massachusetts by the Hendee Manufacturing Co. and the subsequent Indian Motocycle Co. from 1922 to the end of the company’s production in 1953.

The Chief was Indian’s “big twin”, a larger, more powerful motorcycle than the more agile Scout used in competition and sport riding.

Engine is a four-stroke 42 degree V-twin, 1210 cc, 40HP. Top speed 85MPH.

Transmission, 3-speed hand shift, chain final drive.

Suspension, girder fork, weight 550 lbs., fuel capacity 3.7 gal., new price, $800 without sidecar.

Tank Ooze

gas tank oozeAbsent any questions this month, I will share something interesting with you. Recently I drained and removed the gas tank on the Datsun 240Z project. This car was parked in 1982. I removed the drain plug, but no gas came out. I poked at the hole with a screwdriver, and felt a thick tar like substance. I poked through it and very dark, varnished gas began to dribble out.

After removing the gas tank, I stood it up on end. About a gallon of thick, black asphalt like substance oozed out the filler neck.

I googled it, and learned that gasoline literally turns back in to crude oil after sitting for a long time. After 35 years, it does not resemble gasoline anymore.

Special Days

By the time this goes to print, Mother’s Day will have passed and Memorial Day and Father’s Day will be on the horizon. Let me say, before I really get going, that I probably have written about the subject before and hopefully you are a bit like me and can’t remember and to those who can, just use it as a reminder, if you remember and have followed my past suggestions, a giant kudos to you!

I have wondered for years why we make such a big deal about what I consider very important certain subjects one day a year. Take Mother’s Day, which has just passed, many people took some time and took Mom out to eat, gave her candy, flowers, jewelry, cards and I’m sure the list would include a huge assortment of things, some of which would have been more appreciated on – well, let’s say a Wednesday. Those things are vacuums, brooms, new dust cloths, ice scraper or maybe a gift certificate to the car wash. Nothing says I love and appreciate you like a gift certificate to the local car wash! Don’t get me wrong, remember I am writing from my prospective and I realize there are women out there that tools would be at the top of their list, I’m just not one of them. Another thing about these days, like Mother’s Day, that I think of is why are those mothers running around and waiting on me. It does create some guilt in me, even though I have worked in a profession which required working on holidays and I certainly didn’t want any (well I won’t say any) one to feel guilty, I was away from my family and hopefully helping them out.

This can apply to all our “special days” such as Father’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Veterans Day, Easter, Christmas, Labor Day, and President’s Day (combo of Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, for those of you who didn’t know or have forgotten). Some of these days have become just another day off from work with no mail and no banking and no thought to why it is a special day. And of course, some always fall on a Sunday. When I was in grade school (yes, many moons ago) onMemorial Day we marched to the cemetery, sang songs like America, Battle Hyman of the Republic and read a list of veteran’s names ending in a 6th grader (who had been chosen with great honor) to recite the Gettysburg Address. Yes, I said recited from memory. There wasn’t a child in that school that didn’t want that privilege and honor. I am not saying not to have any of these ‘special days’ but I bet mothers, fathers, veterans, workers would really appreciate a little more recognition, hand shake or a smile and a kind word all throughout the year and not just on ‘their day’. And let’s not forget those who don’t get a day, kind and helpful neighbors, door openers, people who let you go first, those who are there if you fall, those who give when something bad or sad happens to you, those who give you a hug when it is most needed, people who push your car when it is stuck or stops running and I remember once trying to fit a dresser into a way too small car (at the entrance of University Mall) where there was an abundance of onlookers) the Salvation Army bell ringer stashed her buck-et in the front seat and spent time and a lot of muscle trying to thread this needle – to no avail, then, a woman from a Fence Company in Orleans, ran back to her truck and produced enough rope to tie the dresser to the trunk, success – looks great in my house!

I guess what I am saying that once a year isn’t enough. Make a pledge to try and do something no matter how small each day. A kind word goes a long way and I bet if you get in the habit of doing this that if by chance a special day gets here and gone without you – you will be forgiven!

John Johnson’s Pro Street 1967 Camaro SS

john johnson 67 camaro ssA few in the VAE have heard about John Johnson and his Mountain View Auto Body & Sign company in Sheldon, Vermont.

If you see the logos on our show trailers, they were made in John’s shop. There are also some beautiful member vehicles that have departed John’s shop ready for the show field.

67 camaro ss pro street supercharged engineThis ’67 Camaro had been a “full dragster” in its earlier life. A quarter mile in the 9 seconds comes out about 150 MPH, and this Camaro had a reputation of beating most anything that wanted to go up against it. John says the car was showing its bumps and bruises when it came to him in 2005. A worn out paint job, a weird painted figure on its side and fist-bumps on its roof where maybe the former owner was teaching the SS to behave…. It also had no engine or firewall and the inside was gutted. You can see in these pictures what John has accomplished. His attention to detail is abundantly clear, all the way to the 100 hours that was spent to redo the hood into exactly what he wanted.

Superchargers were originally built for aircraft during WWII. Essentially, it is a large pump that compresses air and forces it into the engine’s air intake resulting in a horse power I increase of 50 to 100 percent. John has a supercharger that produces 9 pounds of boost on top of his 502 Chevy engine and when he wants to, he can produce HPs in the 700 range. Having a supercharger means it will not affect the engine’s reliability, longevity, or fuel economy under normal driving conditions but when you want to press your right foot down, all hell is let loose! Wheel Tracks has just learned about the term “Pro-street”. John’s Camaro is street legal and at the same time if he wants to do “some screaming”… the car is ready and willing. A “double barrel shot gun” is what they call the supercharger air intake that you see on top of the engine, another one of those terms an old antique Dodge and Franklin guy might never use.

67 camaro ss pro street interiorThe SS was about a two year project from ‘05 to ‘07 and John can still show you items he wants to add or change. To allow the engine to be as low as possible the mounts were special made. A Dano 60 rear-end was installed along with a whole new rear suspension system to accommodate the extra power. The paint job is a work of art, and all one can imagine is all the work unseen, when you walk up to a car like this……and the work continues.

There is a possibility we will see this Camaro at the VAE/Shelburne Car Show on Father’s Day Weekend. Another Camaro that has come out of John’s shop is the one you see on Wheel Tracks (page 16), the McDermott Camaro. Mark “Blue” McDermott will have his beauty at the show along with many others that have been invited. We see these wonderful ‘finished’ automobiles, and Ernie Clerihew & Don Perdue, hopefully, will have a surprise for us at the Shelburne show. The show’s co-chairs have found a true “barn find” ’67 Camaro for the show that will demonstrate the amount of work involved when we use the word “restoration”.

1967 camaro ss tail