"Buying An Old Car"
Buying an old car can either be one of the greatest or the worst experiences of your life! In the excitement of finding your dream car, a lot can be overlooked or justified. In January, I mentioned that there might be another Packard in our future, but since the deal wasn't finalized, I didn't mention it any further. We now have the car. It is a 1951 Packard 180 Custom LeBatron Sport Brougham with restoration started, needing completion. Upon reaching an agreement with the seller, I faxed that agreement to him, stating the total cost of the car, the down payment to be made, the condition of the car, that it was to be 100% complete, or, if any parts were missing, those parts were to be listed. (Kt is important to use the term "reasonable' when describing cars and parts, because that is what a judge uses as a basis for any ensuing judgment. Black's Law Dictionary* defines "reasonable" as: "fair, proper, just, moderate, acting according to the dictates of reason". It is helpful also to use the "Old Cars Value Guide" 1-5 system, #1 being perfect.) I signed and dated the agreement and faxed it to the seller, who signed and dated and faxed it back to me. I also requested current photos of the car, which he sent. I then sent him a down payment (keeping a photo copy for my records), certified mail, return receipt requested. To keep all this paperwork intact, I began a folder for the car, since I wouldn't be picking it up for a few months. I also started determining restoration sources, parts, services, etc. I had a motor's and parts manual for the car already, so I began making a list of parts, bumper to bumper. The LeBaron Sport Brougham was custom built for Packard on their top-of-the-line 180, 356 cubic inch, 138" wheelbase chassis. Only 100 were ever built, and 25 survive. Luck was with me, because the latest Packards International club magazine featured one of these cars, and had some very detailed photos and information. I continued to make calls and gather notes, finding every fact I could, until it came time to pick up the car.
We routed our trip on the computer. Round trip it would be 2000 miles from Georgia. We set out, myself, my wife Karen, our friend Charles and his wife Leigh, in a dual cab 3/4 ton pickup with dual axle car trailer, phoning the seller before we left to tell hem our expected time of arrival, which was to be Tuesday after lunch. However, we would call him Tuesday at 10 am to give him a closer time of arrival. We had five days to make the trip, so it wasn't going to be all that pushed. Everything went well on the way up, and, except for an hour and a half delay going through New York City, across the George Washington Bridge Monday at 5pm rush hour (What a nightmare!), we made pretty good time. Tuesday at 10am I called the seller as I'd promised, but he wasn't in, so we drove on to the shop where the car was located. As we pulled in and saw the car, even in primer and with parts off, it looked great! The shop manager came out and told us we were early. I told him that while we waited for the seller to get there, we would go bumper to bumper and inventory all the parts. As I got out my clipboard, he said that the seller wasn't coming, to just give him my check and he would give us the papers. I handed him my copy of the contract (this is why getting an agreement in writing is important). He handed it back to me, said the seller wasn't coming, and that he didn't know anything about the car and couldn't answer any questions, period. Following a brief, but ballistic discussion, the seller was on his way over. By the time he arrived, we had inventoried all the parts, which were neatly labeled and in good shape, but a few were missing and soon those were rounded up. We all shook hands; we drove the '41 onto the trailer, and headed home. A good ending to a potential disaster. The trip home went well, but I suggest you check your total truck and trailer length. The length limit without getting a permit differs state to state, and could result in a fine. (This information is available in many road atlases). The '41 in home now in its garage. Look for photos and articles on its restoration and on the LeBaron company in future issues.
One of the projects this month was on our '36 Packard Standard 8 Coupe. If you've been following our Driving Old Cars series, you know of the complete engine overhaul including the removal of the radiator, which was rodded out and painted. The car's cooling system is a "no pressure" system, with the water filler at the top of the radiator, accessed by removing the mascot. Ours had been modified retaining the original mascot filler, but a new style cap, filler neck and overflow had been added to the top tank, filled by lifting the hood and removing the cap. An 18 lb. Cap was on it, which prevented the overflow from working, thus building pressure in the system. Sensing that this could be a problem, we switched to a 4 lb. Cap, since a no-pressure cap allowed coolant to continuously rut out the overflow while the car was running. With this modified set up, we were losing at least 2 quarts of coolant every time we drove the car, since the overflow was located well down the side of the tank. We have a 1937 Packard with the same radiator set up. Its overflow enters the bottom of the top tank and runs up to the top of the filler neck. So we put the 18 lb. Cap back on and removed the overflow tube and plugged it off. Then, using a 6 inch long 1/4" drill bit, drilled into the brass filler neck and inserted a brass nipple barbed on both ends. We pushed it into the filler neck, put an overflow hose on one side, running it down the side of the radiator and out the splash pan, then put a short 1" piece of hose to lock the barb inside the filler neck. Problem solved. The car now runs at 180 degrees, no unusual boss of coolant, and it vents through the overflow for the "no pressure" system it was meant to have.
It is amazing what you find when working on old cars-some of it good, but a lot that makes no sense whatsoever. Keep saving the cars! See you next month...I'm going out to look at the '41.