Car Restoration Projects
The class of 1930
NSW South Coast Buick enthusiasts Ross and Mary Stuart are the owners of this classic – one of five Buicks from the ’20s, ’30s and ‘60s that Ross has owned over many years.
It would appear that Ross has more than just a passing interest in this grand old US marque and he bought this lovely example during the late ’90s from an advertisement in Restored Cars magazine.
The car was in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville, as Ross told Historic Vehicles’ Jim Gibson:
“The guy had bought it for his son, who was an engine reconditioner.
“He’d pulled the head of it, but that’s as far as it got, because the son had found a girl, lost interest and told his old man he wasn’t keen to be involved in the Buick project anymore!”
His father was livid – hence the sale. Ross reckoned the Buick was a good buy and bought it on the spot.
The two and a half year journey
With the car now back in Ross’s shed at Nowra, the restoration began in earnest.
“The paintwork was original, right down to the red pin-striping,” Ross said.
“I was very thankful for that, as I wanted to bring the car back as close to its original condition as possible.
“However, the upholstery was shot and I worried about where I might find the same cloth, after almost 70 years had passed.”
As luck would have it, he was told by a local upholsterer of a warehouse in the Sydney suburb of Rosehill that had a stockpile of cloth, used in cars by the vehicle bodybuilders of the day.
“I ventured up there and located the warehouse he’d mentioned,” Ross said with a smile.
“I made an enquiry and was pointed in the direction of an old fellow down at the end of the storage area.
“He looked at my sample and said, ‘Come with me’.
“He took me into an area with a huge stockpile of upholstery cloth, stopped and pointed, saying, ‘I think this is close’.
“Sure enough, there it was – a perfect match!”
Ross couldn’t believe it, but told him the amount he needed.
“It must have been my lucky day, as there was a metre more than I required.”
Ross said he couldn’t get the smile off his face on the drive back to Nowra. The body was separated from the chassis and the project became a true nut and bolt restoration
Ross’ good friend Don Miller was a qualified mechanic and keen to lend a hand, so with Don’s toolbox open, the engine came out, for a complete check and full recondition.
The clutch was replaced and both the gearbox and differential re-raced. The mechanical braking system had cotter and clevis pins replaced, as well as the linings and the drums skimmed.
Shackle pins, steering box and tie rod ends were all checked and parts replaced where necessary.
With the body sitting back on the chassis and the car drivable on its new tyres, it was off to the local panel-work specialist Geoff Bainbrigge, in order to check, align and repair any of the body parts, to his fastidious standard.
Next on the list was the local motor trimmer, to stitch up the interior, with the original material from ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ in Rosehill.
Ross and Mary have since had the pleasure of travelling in this fine, 1930’s jewel- in-the-crown from our 20th century of automotive history, during the first two decades of the 21st century.
Ross’ first encounter with Buicks
Ross Stuart grew up in the Braidwood area in NSW, close to the gold mining area at Majors Creek.
In his mid-teens he bought his first car. It was a 1926 Morris Oxford sedan, for which he paid the princely sum of £25, after selling his pushbike for £15, to scrape together enough money for the purchase price.
“I drove the Morris around for some time,” Ross said. “Of course I was too young to have a licence!
“I remember driving back to Majors Creek, when the local copper was coming in the opposite direction and here was I, with no licence or registration.
“He just waved to me and carried on his way.”
Ross said there was a ’33 Chev’ after he’d sold the Morris and after the Chev’ was sold came his first encounter with the Buick brand.
“It was one of two ’29 models I’ve owned,” said Ross.
“The Buick came from some locals who’d originally bought it new and they’d just purchased a brand-new FJ Holden.
“I went to pick up the Buick with mum and, after we’d collected some eggs off the back seat, where the chooks had been nesting, I drove it home.
“The paintwork was badly faded and rough in sections, so we rubbed it back and mum painted it with a brush and made a good job of it.
“The trick was to warm the paint up, which eliminated the brush marks somewhat.”
At that stage Ross thought it was time to get his licence, so he went up the police station.
“The copper asked how he could help and I said, ‘I’m here to get my licence’, and the cop just smiled.
“After that visit to the police station I finally became a licensed driver!”
As mentioned previously, Ross has owned a clutch of Buicks from the ’20s, ’30s and even a 1963 Skylark.
“One I was quite fond of was a ’36 model,” he said.
“It went like hell and I particularly remember giving a couple of FJs a run for their money one day on the straight heading out of Penrith towards the Blue Mountains.” Ross said with a smirk.
Ross spent his early working life in his father’s timber-getting business in the Braidwood district.
He later moved into his own 600-acre Radiata pine logging area at Wingello, on the Southern Highlands. He worked that site for 11 years, until NSW Forestry changed the boundaries, which caused him to move on to greener pastures in the NSW Shoalhaven district.
Who was Buick?
Although ‘Buick’ is the oldest car brand in the USA, David Dunbar Buick, who started making automobiles at his Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company in 1899, had little to do with the brand after 1906.
Like the businesses of many early automotive pioneers, David Buick’s operation was under-funded from day one. Also, he was primarily interested in producing stationary engines that used Walter Marr’s overhead-valve design – a feature that was later patented in Buick’s name by replacement engineer, Eugene Richard.
When Buick became convinced of the future of the automobile, he and Marr rekindled their relationship and started producing Buick cars in 1903, powered by OHV, 159 cubic inch, two-cylinder, ‘boxer’ engines with opposed cylinders.
Financial backing was initially from a friend, Benjamin Briscoe and then, when that well ran dry, from James Whiting. That backing also failed and William C Durant had moved in by 1905.
‘Billy’ Durant became one of the US automotive industry’s most important figures, founding General Motors off the back of the successful Buick brand in 1908.
In 1904, Buick sold only 37 vehicles, but that increased to 750 in 1905, 1400 in 1906, 4641 in 1907 and 8800 in 1908, making Buick the leading car brand in the USA.
By then, David Buick had left the company, with a stock bundle that made him wealthy, but he died with very few assets some 25 years later. (Durant also became a multi-millionaire, but died, penniless, in 1947.)