'53-'54 Buick Skylark Club

2017 Skylark Meet - Tech Session

Skylark Meet Tech Session

Vin De Peppo opened the tech session talking about how gas spilling on his foot while using his new riding tractor.  By the time Vin was done mowing the gas had soaked through his shoe.  Besides being in extreme pain for a week, Vin went to five specialists, and was lucky he didn’t need a skin graft.  Vin has a friend in the refinery business that provided him with 16 pages of the harmful effects of Ethanol.  Apparently fuel refineries are having great difficulty even storing Ethanol because it is eating away the seals of their storage tanks.  The moral of the story was that today’s Ethanol gasoline is extremely toxic and should be rinsed off immediately.  The implied message is that engine parts without the proper Ethanol resistance rubber parts can fail.

John Garrett showed everyone a vacuum advance control from his “53 Skylark.  He asked how many in the room have ever checked their distributor vacuum advance control.  The vacuum advance control works in conjunction with the centrifugal advance mechanism of the distributor.  As the engine RPMs increase the vacuum advance rotates the point base plate in the distributor.  “This moves the contact points so that the distributor cam lobes open the points earlier in the compression stroke, thus advancing the spark.  At high speed, the spark must occur earlier in the compression stroke in order to give the fuel-air mixture ample time to ignite, burn and deliver its power to the piston as it starts down on the power stroke” (Buick Shop Manual pages 10-54 & 10-55).  John noticed that when timing his ’53 Skylark the timing would be off when the engine was revved.  So he decided to check his vacuum advance control.  John explained that you can buy a small pump to test the unit and visually see if the vacuum advance lever is operating correctly and holding vacuum.  If the lever does not move when 12 PSI is applied, you probably need to replace or have the vacuum control rebuilt.  John said that both Bob’s Automobilia and CARS, Inc rebuild these units.  John mentioned that if your vacuum advance control isn’t working properly your engine probably isn’t running correctly.

Marvin Pickens brought a dirty lifter cover from one of his Buicks to show the group.  He had drilled the spot welds out to expose the baffle and the copper gauge breather filter element.  Marvin wanted us to see firsthand how dirty and caked the filter element can get, and the main reason why your engine may not be ventilating crankcase pressure properly.  This issue was coved in our June 2016 Newsletter, and recently in the Buick Bugle.  It appears the copper mess filter could be replaced with a similar coarse steel wool.  It was agreed that the two ways to clean this filter was to remove the lifter cover and open up the baffle as Marvin had, or boil the lifter cover in a bath of degreasing agent for a few hours.

Eventually we got around to that age old discussion about vapor lock.  Ken Mitson said that the problem of vapor locking is centered on the carburetor and the boiling of the fuel in the carburetor created by heat from the manifold.  Although it was agreed that this was the final culprit many felt there are several factors which can contribute to the engine overheating and ultimately the fuel in the carburetor.  Many owners remove the heat control valve in the left exhaust manifold because this valve has a tendency to rust closed.  The purpose of the valve is to warm the engine when starting in colder weather. 

Is it time to put your Skylark in moth balls, or moth balls in the Skylark?  Ken Mitson talked about how he was given a fuel injector/carburetor cleaner sample at a Sema show years ago.  The sample was two wafers that you add to your fuel tank.  He put the sample in his suitcoat and forgot about it.  The next time he wore the jacket he noticed the wafers and the familiar smell of moth balls.  Ken talked to a chemist friend, and the wafers were indeed made out of the same active ingredient as moth balls.  For years now Ken has been putting 1 moth ball in his tank for every 2 gallons of gas.  Ken feels the moth balls increase the octane of the gas, clean the carburetor, and minimize the harmful effects of Ethanol as well as other additives available today.  FYI, you can buy the moth balls at Walmart.

Lost Oil Pressure

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
by: Al ‘Junior’ Malachowski

Have you ever noticed the pointer needle on your oil pressure gauge take a nose dive to the left toward the L (for low or lost?) after a high-speed panic stop, and while the engine was still running, how long it took for the oil pressure to recover back to the mid-point N (for normal, 35 psi)? If so, did you ever figure out what the likely cause was for this to happen? I came across a copy of a Buick Red Band (urgent) Service Letter to Dealers dated 5.05.55, advising that Buick engineers might have finally came up with a possible answer for this sudden loss of oil pressure, possible contributing factors, resulting damages, and a quick fix for all 1953 and early-1954 Buick V8 engines with the 1953 oil pump. The change point for the newly designed, factory-installed, oil pump was Engine Serial Number (V)626632(7) that translates to the June/July-1954 production months.

According to the letter and to duplicate this scenario after the oil pump’s by-pass valve checked out okay, possible contributing items found included an excessively dirty, plugged, or greatly restrictive oil filter and/or the oil level read more than two quarts low on the dipstick. During a rapid deceleration with one or all of the contributing items existing, it was determined that the oil rushing forward in the oil pan uncovers the oil pump’s rectangular pick-up screen that allows air to be sucked into the pump and oil system. Due to the air lock, the reduced oil pressure is insufficient (6 psi needed) to open the oil pump’s by-pass valve immediately. Recovery time was noted as dependent on both the oil level and filter restriction amounts. Field service personnel attributed a few burned out main crankshaft and connecting rod bearings to this loss of oil pressure.

Compare the two pictures shown below, taken from 1953/1955 Buick Shop Manuals, and notice the differences in the engine’s lower crankcase. My first impression gave me an inkling that an investigation into this problem might have been brewing for a while. After the original one-year, one-hit wonder 1953 oil pan’s run ended, a new double-dipper oil pan was introduced at the startup of the 1954 production run along with a redesigned crankshaft baffle profile. Then later in 1954, the new oil pump with a circular pick-up screen was introduced and located more-forward to eliminate the possibility of an air lock. Lastly, the baffle was completely eliminated before the end of the 1955 production run. Oil pans have a 10-quart capacity and the suggested oil fill for a completely dry engine is 8 quarts. An oil change with a new filter requires 7 quarts with the residual oil film throughout the engine accounting for the 8th quart. I took the time to fill up a spare oil pan to confirm the total capacity and the referenced 2-quart-low line and noted it accordingly with the dashed line. For those with sharp eyes and good memories, note the short 1953 dipstick depicted in the picture with the high markings that was a 1953 recall item I addressed in a previous Newsletter. The original dipstick readings indicated no oil with 3 quarts remaining.




So what was the quick fix, short of replacing the oil pan and pump, for preventing an air lock in the oil system that took so long to figure out? A single hole, 3/32” in diameter, drilled into the underside of the doubled-walled oil filter canister’s base assembly’s lid, once the canister and oil filter were removed, was suggested. Buick service personnel were instructed to make this change and charge the customer when their car came in for Buick’s Lubricare Service. It might be a good time to drop the oil pan (24 bolts), clean out the sludge, clean out the pick-up screen, check out a few rod bearings, and verify which model oil pump you have. Looking for a drilled hole during your next oil filter change would be a good idea too. Do you think your engine rebuilder would know of these upgrades? TOODLE-LOO!

Inner Tubes with OE Skylark Wire Wheels

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
By: Al ‘Junior’ Malachowski


Are you running original Kelsey-Hayes (K-H) wire wheels on your Skylark that have exceeded their life expectancy? At least those were the words of choice Buick used when they issued a Service Bulletin to Dealer Service Departments in 1955 to remind wire wheel owners that there was no way to determine the wheel’s life expectancy due to variable driving habits and road conditions. The article went on to say that before a set of new tires are mounted, wheels should be checked for radial and lateral runout by an authorized K-H Service Station that has the specialized equipment. The article did not specifically address the numerous spoke problems you read about today: stretched, bent, broken, weakened tensile strength, or failures due to hydrogen embrittlement.

Back up a few years prior to when that Bulletin was written. Bias-ply tires that required inner tubes were the norm and tubeless tires were in the final design stages when the Skylark wire wheel was designed and built. Starting in 1955, all new Buicks came standard with tubeless tires except when you paid extra for the five wire wheels package-option and only then, inner tubes were provided with the tires according to Buick literature. Does that tell you anything? The 40-spoke K-H wire wheel option was not advertised as an available factory option on 1956 and later-year Buicks.

So you decided to send your original wheels out for new chrome and a new lease on life rather than buying a set of the Wheel Vintiques (WV) 6”-wide Skylark-style reproduction wire wheels that are advertised as allowable to run tubeless tires. You rationalized that spending a few more dollars to upgrade your OEM chrome-plated carbon steel spokes with the stronger polished stainless steel spokes and a layer of silicone sealant for air-tightness would be just as good as the WV wheels. Besides, you didn’t have to buy new inner flaps and tubes and worries about pinching, puncturing, and patching inner tubes ceased. After the new tires were mounted, you now have second thoughts whether those upgrades were enough to run your new bias-ply tubeless tires without inner tubes. Did you miss anything? 

There are eight visible differences between the K-H and WV wheels that I noticed when I placed one of each wheel side by side without a mounted tire; there could be more. Two of the eight affect running tires without inner tubes: the already mentioned sealant and the obvious safety beads, both seen on the WV wheel. Safety beads are designed to provide a better tire to wheel fit, prevent tire slide on the bead seat, and prevent air pressure loss due to horizontal forces when turning corners. Without an inner tube, it doesn’t take much to pop a bead resulting in total air pressure loss within a split second and possibly control of your vehicle. Without inner tubes and safety beads, you are most likely running what is considered an illegal tire/wheel combination in your state or country. Have any doubts? I suggest you consult your insurance agent or local law enforcement agency. You don’t want to be involved or liable for a serious or fatal mishap due to running any type of tire without an inner tube on a wheel that was designed for an inner tube-type tire. I guarantee it.   




My sketch above (quarter-inch grids) should give you a better idea of the rim contour comparison of the two wheels and the safety bead locations. The letter following the wheel size (J or L) denotes the rim contour designation that meets certain dimensional criteria. The cross section profile of a 1953 Skylark K-H 15x6½ L wire wheel is similar to the 1954 K-H 15x6 L wheel shown…difference being a half-inch wider drop center. Note also that the WV wheel is shorter in overall height (by 3/8”) than the K-H wheel when measured from top to bottom flange. That difference would be noticeable only if you were running one of each wheel on the same side of your Skylark with the same size whitewall tires. The exposed whitewall width would be 3/16” wider on the WV wheel than the one on the K-H wheel.  

I shied away from mentioning anything about running a radial tire, with or without an inner tube, on an original K-H wire wheel…a whole new can of worms. After reading too many opinions, I am not totally convinced that 40 cross-laced spokes is the magic number. For those interested in reading about the other differences between the K-H and WV wire wheels, along with a few BCA wire wheel judging opinions and requirements of running inner tubes with wire wheels, check out the following link on the internet’s AACA/BCA General Forum Site… http://forums.aaca.org/topic/266693-wheels/. You might recognize the author of a few Posts and the additional Thread noted near the bottom of Page Two.


TOODLE-LOO!

Sven's Fifty-tree Lark

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
by: Al ‘Junior’ Malachowski


Hey Sven, duz dat Teal Blue fifty-tree Lark stop anyting bedder ven de enyun goes kapuut after youse brot dat inta da fixer-uuper shop? No such luuke, Ole. After dem guys vorked and vorked on dat contraption unda da floor, dey give up and yust made dee horn toot a yiddle yowder.

UFF DA! It sounds to me like Sven’s power brake system might be missing a few parts and his mechanics are looking in the wrong location for an answer. Given that his problem happens only when the engine stalls on his original early-1953 Skylark (Teal Blue was discontinued in May, 1953), the power brake system auxiliary electric vacuum pump (EVP) and its relay might be the answer to solving his hard brake-pedal problem. Together with an operational OE power brake cylinder (PBC), the EVP should provide a soft pedal and good brakes when the engine stalls, contrary to an alternative fact that appeared in the August 2012 Skylark Club Newsletter addressing the troublesome 1953 PBC…the original unit in your Skylark does not work if your car stops running (you will have no brakes).

The EVP was a factory-installed item on all 1953 Buicks with the power brake option built during the last month of the production run, beginning with Car Serial Number 17150754, on Skylarks with a body production number of ± 1679-1690, and on all 1954 Buicks likewise equipped. The intent of the EVP was to start running and provide adequate vacuum to attain a soft pedal for the power brake system only when the ignition key is turned to the ON position and when the generator doesn’t generate sufficient voltage to turn the pump off, which according to Buick specifications, is an engine speed of ± 250 RPM compared to a normal idle speed of ± 450 RPM. Once the required RPM are reached, the relay cuts-out and stops the EVP from running and the engine’s manifold vacuum takes over.

Missing and considering installing one for added assurance? Working OE parts are somewhat hard to find but here is what’s out there for literature. Since the rushed-into-production Buick power brake system wasn’t introduced until 1953 B.C. (before Cadillac), and the EVP came out in late-1953, both after the 1952 AND SUPPLEMENTARY-1953 BUICK SHOP MANUALS were already published, you’re out of luck if your reference library is limited to these two manuals. A better source would be to find a 1953 BUICK PRODUCT SERVICE BULLETINS, Abridged Edition, or the October 15th BUICK BULLETIN 2.353, that has the information on how the TRICO EVP should work, pictures of a completed installation, limited instructions, and a wiring diagram. Reference is also made to a template with all the dimensions, CHART 53-730, that is included in a TRICO ELECTRO-VAC installation kit, Group 4.899, Part 1391768, pictured below. The suggested location is under the hood, on the rear face of the sloped driver’s side front fender skirt (inner fender), in a triangular depression below the fresh air intake opening. A flat-rate installation time was noted at 1.0 hour. Good luck on the one hour without a lift.


Being that all 1954 Buicks with power brakes came standard from the factory with the EVP, the 1954 BUICK SHOP MANUAL includes servicing information, exploded-view comparison pictures of the newer MORVAC (built by Moraine Products Division) and the original TRICO ELECTRO-VAC EVPs, adjustment specifications for the cut-out relay, and a more-detailed wiring circuit diagram (Figure 10-95). Information on the differing mounting brackets and a layout template for the MORVAC EVP is not included. It does note that an EVP can supply 10” (Hg) of vacuum to the PBC in two seconds once the ignition is turned to the ON position with a maximum output of 20” (Hg). A BUICK MASTER CHASSIS PARTS BOOK covering the 1953-1954 years has comparison drawings of the two different pumps, motors, mounting brackets, hardware, and all the parts numbers.

The 1954 BUICK PRODUCT SERVICE BULLETINS, Abridged Edition, addresses customer’s complaints and situations to avoid: internally-grounded EVPs that shorted out; sealing the EVP’s motor wires from moisture penetration with a body calk (Permagum); removing the EVP’s inline fuse whenever you’re troubleshooting other electrical problems for an extended period of time with the ignition key turned to the ON position and the engine’s not running, to prevent burning out the motor; and running the pump dry without the special PBC 5W oil. Installation time was now bumped up to 1.5 hours to complete the following work: disconnecting or removing/replacing the battery cable, LF wheel, starter splash pan, fresh air intake hose, and the ignition’s anti-theft plate; drilling the five mounting holes from the wheel-well side; installing the EVP and relay; rerouting the 11/32” vacuum hoses; and tying-in all the wires. Don’t put the tools away yet. Take her out for a test run on a quiet backroad stretch and while free-rolling at a good clip, turn the ignition to the OFF position and then after a few seconds later, turn it back to the ON position and listen for the EVP to start running. With everything wired and working correctly, you should have soft brake pedal-pumps to get da Lark to a complete stop and then some, until you turn the ignition back to the OFF position.

Starting in 1955, Buick abandoned the EVP and went with an oversized soup can (180 cubic inches) for an auxiliary vacuum reserve tank, located under the floor, near the PBC. TOODLE-LOO!

Is Your Engine Breathing Properly?

Is Your Engine Breathing Properly?

Have you noticed oil on the top or your engine and don’t know where it’s coming from?  Have you checked your filler cap and found the filter material in the cap full of oil?  Marvin Pickens and I had this problem.  All engines develop crankcase pressure which gets worse as the engine and rings get older.  Crankcase pressure needs to be ventilated, and there may be a problem with the breather filter located on the underside of the lifter cover.  The Buick Shop Manual states this about ENGINE CRANKCASE VENTILATION:

“Crankcase ventilation is provided by the ventilating type oil filler cap located at the front end of the valve lifter cover and the crankcase ventilator pipe connected to the rear end of the lifter cover.  The filler cap contains a gauze filtering element to exclude dirt.  A gauze filled breather filter is built into the rear end of the lifter cover to remove oil from the air stream before it leaves the crankcase.

The ventilator pipe extends down to near the bottom of the engine so that air passing the open end will create suction when the car is moving forward.  The middle transverse web of the crankcase and a baffle mounted above it form a partition which causes the draft of air to be drawn downward through the front section of the crankcase and upward through the rear section.  As the air stream reverses direction in the filter, oil is separated and drained back through a hole in the rear end of the filter. “

Below you can see the shop manual air flow diagram and the underside of Marvin’s lifter cover.  Marvin cut open the filter and found it totally clogged with dried oil.  When this filter gets clogged air will not flow out the rear ventilator pipe and crankcase pressure will push oil out through the oil filler cap, depositing oil on the lifter cover which gets blown onto the engine and engine compartment.  The only way to clean this enclosed welded breather filter element is to boil the lifter cover in a degreaser bath, or cut it open to replace and re-weld it as Marvin has.  GM realized this system was inefficient and in later years provided valve covers with breathers, and then a PCV valve system.  It is important to also keep the element in your filler cap clean.  If you drive your Skylark a lot you may consider changing your valve covers to aftermarket covers with breathers.