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Rick Beazley

1962 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

1962 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

I grew up in a Chevrolet family and in 1986 I started searching for a Yank tank of my own. I looked at numerous Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillacs before a friend of ours asked if I would be interested in a Buick convertible. It turned out that an associate of his had a vehicle import business who, with his brother working a garage in the Seattle region, would locate interesting vehicles for Australian buyers. Obviously, I was interested and popped over to watch a short VHS video of the car. This showed a complete, running car that required restoring but looked in pretty good shape. The story as told to me was that the owner had taken the car, a 1962 Electra 225, to the garage due to the Dynaflow transmission having lost reverse gear. The repair quote was too high for the owner and a deal was struck to sell the car together with a 1962 Chrysler 300 Coupe. I agreed to purchase the car for $6,000 door to door with half down and final payment on delivery. Not a bad price for the time and included a spare transmission and steering wheel. This was in December 1986. I later found out that the brothers that I was dealing with had developed a very bad reputation to the point that not long after I received the Buick, the brother operating in Perth was forced to leave town due to some serious threats to himself, both of the legal and illegal variety! Anyway, a very stressful four months followed worrying if the car would ever reach Fremantle Port, but it did eventually get here in late March/ April 1987. The car gained a few serious scrapes and dents during the transfer, some exterior badges had been stolen and it looked like someone had placed something heavy on the roof, bending the metal hood bows. Also the promised spares were not there, the boot lock had been broken but I could tell that something had been hidden in there that was already gone. At least it was better than the 1959 Cadillac that was in the same shipment. That looked like it had been dragged out of long time storage at a salvage yard with every panel dented and lots of parts missing. I got the car home and began searching for parts, finding Classic Buick and CARS Inc. in the USA amongst others. I now purchased my first house, primarily to house my growing car collection, and shortly afterwards met and married my wife Bev. As happens with many of us, a new and growing family took precedence and the car was stored. I did pick up a rusty RHD 1961 Electra to use for a steering conversion because at that time we could not register a LHD car. This rule changed as soon as I bought the ’61 but this car did provide some much needed spare parts later. We also purchased a 1983 Pontiac Grand Prix and used this for events in the newly formed BOCWA for a few years. My first serious effort to restore the convertible was in 1993 when I stripped the car completely and began cleaning and inspecting everything but our growing family and debts meant the task was put on hold for a few more years that included another house relocation. I joined the BCA in 1993. Besides the small tasks done to the car in the preceding years, not much had happened but the new house (and shed) allowed me to get stuck in to the restoration properly in 1999. I scraped a huge amount of old grease and Washington State mud (fine grey silt) from underneath the car. There was some rust in the front floors and more serious rust in the boot (trunk) floor plus smaller areas in the usual places at the bottom of the front mudguards (fenders) and rear wheel arches. At that time rust repair patches were not available for this model Buick so I took the body to be profes- WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR BUICK? The Buick News Page 11 October 2019 sionally repaired as we did not have the facilities to fold floor panels. I did the rest of the bodywork, applying and removing body filler as required, with my Dad helping with the spray gun. This process went on forever!!! During this time, I went through the interior, ordering new correct carpet, trunk lining material, vinyl and leather hides from SMS trimmers in Oregon. I also had them re-upholster the door panels as they had the correct tooling to do this as per factory. This was a very stressful and expensive exercise and I would not do it again. They could not get exactly the correct shade of vinyl, it was a very bright orange-red and the material supplied is a few shades darker but looks better. We pulled the engine down and found serious freeze cracks in the block that eventually condemned it as one large crack went through the head bolt holes. Luckily, I had the 1961 engine as a spare but, unfortunately, the blocks differ between 1961 and 1962 due to the engine being moved rearwards by 4”. This meant that the oil pump is in a different position but my Dad was able to re-drill the block and the block was now suitable for my 1962 chassis. We found that this block – an original low compression export version – had previously been sleeved back to standard bore. Unfortunately, one of the pistons had a crack. These low compression pistons are not made now but I found a pair at CARS Inc. that I purchased. This meant I could run the car on 91 octane fuel. The rest of the engine rebuild went smoothly, with new bearings, camshaft etc. Meanwhile I went through the suspension and brakes, renewing all shock absorbers, rubbers, seals and hoses plus sleeving the wheel cylinders with stainless steel. The transmission was taken to a shop for a rebuild with new parts as required. The fault with these transmissions is that the bracket holding the reverse band tight breaks if you “rock” the car by hitting reverse with the revs too high but new brackets are readily available. By this time, I had decided to restore the car to “as delivered” and this adds many complexities and dollars. I ordered a new factory style exhaust from the USA with the correct resonators and cross flow muffler. Regrettably, I ordered it in stainless and I found later that the inner baffles were carbon steel so during short runs the stainless muffler developed many rust pinholes due to the moisture not being removed from the exhaust. I had the original Cardinal Red colour matched and our friend Paul Dunham did the painting in acrylic paint in our patio. The dash and interior paint is Verona Red in satin finish. New hoses, rams and pump were fitted to the folding top and a lot of time was spent straightening the bent bars and aligning the mechanism so that it all worked. New rubbers, seals and windscreen were fitted and I spent a lot of time repairing the stainless trim using small wedges of Jarrah and a sandbag. All chrome-work was completed, failed and chromed again. The taillights were sent to S.A. for repairs to the pot metal and chroming, this process dragged on for 18 months. I had the 1961 rims straightened to use as they were safety rims, better suited to radial tyres, my biggest change from factory. The car was finally completed in April 2014 and has been reliable but thirsty. The rebuilt Rochester 4-jet has a sticky secondary jet that occasionally floods the secondary chambers. I also had the new generator brushes fail (wires separated from the carbon brush) that unfortunately led me to mistakenly short out the field coils and burnt out the generator, regulator and engine wiring harness. A stupid mistake but could have been much worse! The odometer is showing 24,570 miles which evidence with the car would indicate has only gone over once so 124,570 miles. It went down the production line on the 4th week of December 1961, so with that and it’s Coca-Cola Christmas colours of red and white, make me think of the car as the original owners’ Christmas gift. Rick Beazley WA Buicks

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