I LOVE '53 BUICKS! They're Harley Earl at his best, with big round bodies, waterfall grills, port holes and a gun sight on the hood! The dash was inspired by WWII fighter planes, with large, round, analog, circular gauges and a radio in the center of the dash that looked like a juke box. All of this is surrounded by an engine-turned machined effect (Di-noc decal) that harmonizes with the color of the interior (ours is Red and Black).
Our car is the Buick Roadmaster Riviera 2-door hardtop. We restored it in Ivory with Red/Black leather interior, wide whites with wire wheel hubcaps. (See www.southernwheels.com, "Archives" section for all phases of the restoration.) When we had the Buick ready for final assembly, we put it in storage so that we could buy other cars that we wanted for the collection. Not wanting to have to redo anything later, we stored the car carefully, inside, under a breathing dust cover. The spark plugs were removed and the cylinders filled with Marvel Mystery Oil and the plugs put back in. We kept 2 ½ gallons of gas in the tank, non-ethanol with Bill Hirsch stabilizer. It was drained and refilled every 6 months. The engine was cranked over every 4-5 months, the antifreeze was kept at minus 30 degrees and a battery tender was kept on the battery. It is advisable to put the car on jack stands to eliminate flat spots on the bias tires, although they usually drive out as the tires warm up with driving.
When we were road-testing the car after mechanical restoration, we had some slow starts in hot weather, due to percolation. Most '53 Buick Roadmaster Series 70 V-8's came with a Stromberg #4AUV-267 4 bbl carburetor, but a few were available with a Carter #WCFB996S 4 bblreportedly a better carb. We found a Carter and sent it to Daytona Parts Company** for rebuilding. Fortunately, both carburetors hook up the same way and both have the accelerator-activated electric starter switch on them. In the last few weeks we have started back on the '53 to finish the restoration. The first thing we did was to start the engine, first removing the spark plugs, blowing out the Marvel Mystery Oil in the cylinders with air and cleaning (sand blasting) and gapping the plugs (AC45's, non-resistor). We changed the oil and filter (Valvoline VR-1 20W50 Racing Oil. This oil is rated for off-road use and still has a good amount of zinc in it.) The distributor cap was removed and the points and rotor contacts filed to get rid of any oxidation. The fuel filter is an AC glass bowl with a paper element, which we changed.
Before starting the car, I wanted to replace the valve cover gaskets. We use the thick type which don't leak. We repainted the valve covers and the engine. (When buying '53 Buick engine enamel, remember that the Specials still retained the straight 8's and used Turquoise blue paint and the Supers and Roadmasters were new 322 CID V-8's and used Green engine enamel.) Once the valve covers were repainted, I applied the decals, burnishing out the air bubbles, working from the middle out to the sides. You can use a credit card for this; I used my fingers. I've waited ten years to put these decals on. It was a special moment.
Now that the official V-8 decal was on, I could start the engine. When I cranked it, no fuel came up into the glass filter. The fuel pump was new, as were all gas lines, but we have had the rubber hose from the tank and the hard line going to the front to clog on other cars, so we replaced the rubber hose from the tank and blew air through the disconnected steel line to the fuel pump. Something came out of the line. We then hooked everything up, cranked the engine, the glass bowl filled and the car startednot even a miss! No noisy valves! Smooth and strong.
As I put the air cleaner on, I had to smile at how it is designed. It's huge, with an oil reservoir to filter the air and a big intake pointed toward the radiator for taking maximum air intake. It looks like something Howard Hughes might have had on one of his airplanes. Mr. Hughes purportedly owned a '53 Buick Roadmaster 4-door with air conditioning and a special air filtration system that dominated the entire trunk. It's a good thing Buick changed to a 12V electrical system in '53!
With everything in place, we started the engine again. I smiled as I enjoyed the throaty V-8 sound of the old nailhead. It really pays to spend some time to prep an engine for longtime storage.
Another project this month was our 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D (diesel). It is a driver favorite, a car with old Mercedes styling, comfort and super dependability. I bought this car a year ago out of ten-year inside storage. It just needed a good servicing. We removed and cleaned the fuel tank, changed the pre-filter and main fuel filter, the oil, antifreeze and got everything working including the A/C. It has run without problems until a few weeks ago, when it started severely missing at idle to the place where I thought the engine was going to quit, then it would clear up, and the last trip home, speed was reduced to 10 mph in low with the accelerator to the floor, but it got us home. I had just changed the fuel filters a few weeks before, but when I looked at the clear pre-filter, it was dirty. Over the past year, I have added several cans of injector cleaner, and started thinking about how that might have cleaned the fuel tank and trash might have ended up in the tank's strainer, located at the bottom of the tank. After talking with some friends who work on diesels and going online, the consensus was a clogged strainer and maybe 30-year-old soft/flex fuel hoses collapsing on the inside as the fuel passed through them, similar to a person with clogged arteries that have plaque blocking them. My plan was to remove and replace the tank screen and all soft hoses from the tank to the injectors and return soft hoses back to the tank. I ordered a kit which included all hoses and clamps and bought a special 1-13/16" socket to remove the screen without having to remove the tank. I bought these from mercedessource.com. I found a new tank screen and a couple of injectors, just in case, from other online vendors.
Jason Sain, a Mercedes mechanic who specializes in classic Mercedes, works on the Southern Wheels restoration team as well as running his own mobile business, working on vintage Mercedes. The car was to be worked on outside on a slanted concrete driveway. The front wheels were chocked and the rear was high enough in the air not to need jacking up. Movers' blankets were laid down and a drain pan was put under the back of the car, the fuel cap was removed to let the tank vent, and the soft hose from the tank screen at the bottom of the fuel tank to the hard line going to the front of the car, was disconnected. This is only about a 10" hose. Once the fuel had drained, the soft hose was removed and with our special socket, we removed the screen. We poured some fresh diesel fuel into the tank and let it run out into our pan to help wash out the tank. With clear diesel coming out, the new screen was put on and a new hose installed using new German hose clamps. These clamps have indented slots in them instead of slots that are cut all the way through the clamps. The German clamps don't cut the hose when they are tightened. On the driver's side of the tank are two soft return line hoses that were also replaced, and now Jason was ready to go to the front underhood hoses. The first soft hose attaches from the hard line near the firewall to the right side of the pre-filter. The second hose goes from the left side of the pre-filter to the right side of the hand prime pump. The pump button is in the middle and the next hose to replace goes from the left side of the hand pump to the right side of the main screw-on filter. This is a banjo hose and goes to the "in" arrow on top of the main filter. On the left side of the top of this filter is an "out" arrow. We replaced this banjo hose going to the front side of the injector pump. There is also a hose from the top of the main filter to the back side of the injector pump (not in the kit). The injectors have steel (hard) high pressure lines. Each injector has a nipple on each side of it. The injector nearest to the firewall has its right nipple capped off and the left nipple is a return line connected by cloth-braided fuel hose (3.5mm ID and 7.5mm OD) to the injector to the left. These return hoses connect one injector to another and the last injector's left nipple at the front of the engine is a return line to the main filter. The last hose to change is the cigar hose, a large, soft hose from the top of the main filter back toward the firewall to a hard return line.
With all of the soft hoses replaced, it was time to add a few gallons of fresh diesel, put on the fuel cap and go to the front to bleed the system. The '84's have a push-button pump to bleed out air from the fuel lines. Earlier 300D's had a knob that was turned counter-clockwise and you moved it in and out to pump out the air. Once the fuel was clear of air bubbles, you turned it clockwise to lock the knob. The button is easier. Before bleeding, Jason opened the bleeder bolt on top of the main filter, then pushed the pump button repeatedly until all of the air bubbles came out and clear fuel ran out of the bleeder bolt then tightened down the bolt. You can hear a hissing sound as the bubbles come out. Now each injector's steel line must be loosened about one-quarter turn, then crank the engine, holding the accelerator down. When the fuel is clear, tighten the lines and start the car. Jason took the Benz out for a drive, getting it up to operating temperature. No missing! The transmission went through the gears with good pickup in passing gear. Smooth shifts had been lost with our clogged fuel system problems. Here is Jason feeling good about his worka job well-done!
Keep 'em running well and keep 'em driving!