1937 Buick Special Business Coupe: A Restoration Journal — Part 20
By Chris Ritter
Well it has been quite a while since my last Journal entry. I haven't fallen completely off the planet, haven't been abducted by aliens or contracted Ebola but, in all honesty, I am suffering from a mild case of burn out. That, coupled with a three year old son, incredibly fast growing grass and a full-time job has slowed my progress on the Buick considerably. Oh yeah, I've also been building a 20'X28' deck at my house which, of course, takes time and money away from the project. More on my thoughts on burnout later, let me now fill you in on what little I have done in the last three months.
At the end of the last update I was just about ready to close up my engine. After shimming bearing caps and checking clearances, I was to the point where my cam and crankshaft were fully installed in the case. From here it was time to turn my attention toward the rods, pistons, oil pump and head.
You may remember that my new pistons are +.030" purchased from Egge. The piston set comes with a wrist pin in the box. There is a bolt on the top of connecting rod that, when tightened, clamps the wrist pin in place. That bolt has to pass through a flat spot on the pin and the clearance here is incredibly small. If that spot doesn't line up perfectly you will never get the bolt through. I think I successfully lined the flat spot up twice on my first try while the other six rods started with frustration. When patience prevailed I was able to tighten the rod bolt down, securing the wrist pin in place. The piston is now free to pivot at will and the pin cannot move and scrape a cylinder wall.
This is the bolt that clamps the wrist pin in the connecting rod
After my pistons were on the rods, my attention turned to the installation of the piston rings. Just like the original Buick pistons, my new Egge units have four ring grooves. The top two are compression rings while the bottom two grooves carry oil control rings. With the exception of groove number three, all grooves carry a one-piece ring. The ring in the third groove is comprised of three pieces. I do not own a ring spreader so I carefully spread each ring by hand and put them in position. Let me tell you, after installing thirty two rings my fingertips were very sore!
Piston with new rings installed.
With my rod & piston assemblies complete, it was time to install them into position. I had numbered each assembly earlier in the project and it is essential that they returned to their original positions. I rotated each ring assembly so the splits didn't line up with the ring above and below and, with the help of a ring compressor and rawhide mallet, I tapped each assembly into place. Once in place the insert bearings were checked one last time and then torqued to factory specifications.
Looking into the engine with all caps installed and the oil pump in place.
From here I installed the timing gears and chain, ensuring that the timing marks on each gear lined up with the marks on the timing chain as discussed in the Shop Manual. After that I added the sprocket cover, installed my newly overhauled oil pump and, for the first time in over two years reinstalled the oil pan. Now it really looked like an engine again! Here I should note that I would have liked to have included more pictures but, as you can imagine, my hands were loaded with assembly grease and oil and these fluids just don't mix well with cameras.
A look at the cam and crank ends before the sprockets are installed.
The crank and cam sprockets are on in a test fit. Soon the chain will be on too.
The oil pan is back on after a two + year hiatus!
When I was finished looking at my almost-complete engine, I went back inside to address the other major component — the cylinder head. I purchased a new set of intake and exhaust valves from Terrill Machine and I needed to lap and seat all of them. To do this I applied a small amount of water based lapping compound and, using my lapping tool (really just a stick with a suction cup on each end), gently spun them a quarter turn back and forth with some downward pressure. When the grinding noised turned into a soft rubbing noise I visually inspected each seat and valve looking for a uniform "scuff" on each. This scuff ensures that the valve will be in contact with the seat at all points during compression strokes. When all valves were lapped and marked I removed everything and took great care to clean the entire head. The last thing you need in a newly overhauled engine is lapping compound!
After the valves were fully lapped they could be installed for the last time with their springs, keepers, and rocker arms and shaft. The (exceptionally heavy) cylinder head was now walked from my house to the garage where it was installed on the rest of the assembly.
A close look at a lapped valve seat
A close look at a lapped valve.
All of the ducks in a row.
Now it's time to paint an engine! I will be using Bill Hirsch engine paint and plan to spray it, although it can be brushed. Clean cast iron does not require priming however I will shoot a light coat of etch primer beforehand for maximum adhesion. All of the sheet metal components of the engine must be primed before using Hirsch engine paint.
While we are on the topic of paint, let me fill you in on a little side project I embarked on earlier this spring. My original plan for the winter of 2015 was to completely assemble and install my engine and then reattach my front and rear suspension. As the winter wore on and those things didn't happen, I began to examine the paint on the Buick's body rather closely. During these examinations I kept coming back to two small areas on the body where I sanded through the color during wet sanding. While one was about 1/4" in diameter and the other was just a different shade of blue, I knew that these spots were going to drive me insane when the car was finished. So, when the weather turned warmer I decided to do the time consuming but proper thing and strip all of the paint off my car, re-prime the body and then shoot the color again.
This unplanned project took a lot of time but I am happy with the way the initial spray turned out. I now have to color sand this paint and then worry about installing the engine in the frame. Repainting my car's body was sort of like taking three steps back but it is important to me that I not take any shortcuts and do the job properly while the car is still in pieces.
The repaint was a large contributor to my burnout. While I take pride in the fact that I took the time and paint to redo the job properly I think I am subconsciously avoiding the color sanding out of fear of making the sanding mistake again — I DON'T want to paint the body a third time! Nevertheless, the show must go on. At a recent car show in Hershey I was talking to a friend about my burnout. He has taken part in dozens of restorations and at one time was a restorer himself. He gave me great advice, telling me to pick a day of the week and just spend two hours with the car. He said even if I sit around the car and talk to a buddy or drink a beer it will get me reengaged in the project. So I am taking his advice. If you need to find me this summer I will be out in the garage every Tuesday from 7-9pm. You can even come and join me!