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Old 12-01-2013, 02:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Resurrecting the Beast

I recently sold a Pontiac Grand Prix because it had many problems and only got 19 MPG, and also sold a Jeep Liberty because it will develop problems and only got 18 MPG. The wife drives the Acura, my dad drives the truck, and I'm left with Lafawnda (Honda motorcycle).

While I look for a gen3 Prius, I've decided to fix up a 1976 Buick Riviera and do my short commute with it when it rains. The beast hasn't moved in 20 years, and has sat in a lean-to carport. None of the fluids were drained and it sat on the wheels which are now flat.

What is the minimum you suggest I do to get the thing running again? So far, I am thinking to:
  1. Drain fuel tank
  2. Clean carb
  3. Replace tires
  4. Replace coolant
  5. Flush\bleed brakes
  6. Replace power steering fluid
  7. Replace transmission fluid
  8. Replace hoses\rubber\wiper blades as needed
  9. Battery
  10. Check air filter

The car had very little exposure to sunlight, so there should not be any UV damage. Also, the fuel lines have never had E10 in them, and I'm uncertain if they can survive it. What else should I check or replace?

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Old 12-01-2013, 02:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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20 year old gas is probably still good, the newer stuff dies after a year or so. Drain it if you are bored but when I got the '76 Chev van started that had been parked since the late '90s the fuel was still fine. My major concern in your case would be brakes. The rubber in the wheel cylinders/master cylinder may or may not fail after the first few times you put pressure on it. Don't bother flushing the brake fluid, just keep an eye on the level and look at the backing plates of the wheels and the base of the master cylinder the first few times you drive it. You might get lucky and everything will just work fine, or something may leak, you won't know until you try it. And be prepared for the float in the carb to get stuck, causing the carb to spew gas everywhere, keep something like a screwdriver handy to wack the bowl on the carb to free it up so you don't end up starting a fire. And a $2 inline fuel filter spliced into the rubber line running from the frame to the fuel pump could save you a ton of grief in case there is rust or other junk floating around in the fuel tank. Good luck!
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Old 12-01-2013, 04:44 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I wouldn't go assuming old gas is good. Drain the tank and retain the fuel you remove; when you get The Beast running again you'll add a gallon or so of the old stuff to a full tank of good gas and use it up that way. This is how I get rid of old chainsaw gas at the end of the season, run it through the truck. A little two stroke oil? No problem.

I dunno about replacing the coolant. Open the drain petcock at the bottom of the radiator and take a sample from the bottom of the system. If the juice coming out looks okay, run it. A properly filled coolant system has no air and the antifreeze in 1993 and even 1983 was loaded with anticorrosion additives, it might be good to go.

Same goes with PS fluid and tranny fluid. If levels are good and the sample doesn't come out green and furry, run it.

Brake fluid I would flush. Before you flush, give the pedal a few good hard pushes, and then check for leaks at the calipers and line connections. Dry rot's a terrible thing, sliding butt-first over the horizon because of it is worse.

If you can, chuck some kind of driver into a drill and spin up the oil filter for a couple of minutes before you start it for the first time. Everything's gotta be bone-dry in there.

Start a log for The Beast. If you're gonna drive it, squeeze it.
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Old 12-01-2013, 07:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I was wondering if I should pour a little oil through the spark plug holes just to have oil more immediately available in the cylinder.

The in-line fuel filter is a good idea, and I'll throw one in before I fire the beast up for the first time.

The Beast will get a fuel log, and I'm looking forward to seeing what a 7.5L engine can do.
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Old 12-01-2013, 08:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The cylinders may be rusty after sitting that long. If you just start it, the rings should scrape the rust out. It will take some life out of the rings and cylinders, but should not be catastrophic.

The cam, however, is a different matter. Cam lobes are THE most lubrication sensitive part in an engine. A dry start with a little rust will wipe out the cam. I suggest removing the rocker arms, checking for any rust, and reassembling with assembly grease before starting the engine.

I also recommend all new belts and hoses before driving it very far. All new light bulbs won't hurt either.

Change oil before starting it. There may be water in the bottom of the oil pan.

Make sure the parking brake works.
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Old 12-02-2013, 08:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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First day working on the beast. The exterior has minor rust spotting all over. There are some plastic panels in the rear that are disintegrating for no apparent reason. Brakes appear to work. All rubber looks acceptable, including the tires. Fluids look very good.

The radiator has a broken flange where the cap attaches, so I might have to replace the radiator. Maybe a shop could fix the flange?

I tried to siphon the fuel, but the tube was restricted by something before it reached the tank. At that point, I decided to put a little oil in the spark plug holes and turn the engine over briefly. First crank, nothing happens. Second crank, the starter motor free spins and does not engage the engine.

Tomorrow I will pull the starter and see if I can get it working. I might just see if the Beast will fire up on the existing gas, or dilute it with fresh stuff.

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Old 12-02-2013, 08:49 PM   #7 (permalink)
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My 1971 CB 350 sat from 1983 until 2011 (28 years). I pulled the plugs and shot some WD40 into the cylinders and let it sit for a week. The oil had been changed 1 mile before it was put away. When I got it running I rode that bike 100 miles on that same oil and 200 miles on the 40 year old original tires. It took around 40 miles for the flat spots to smooth out and I was very very careful, not exceeding 40 MPH and waiting for any vibration after the flat spots smoothed out.
Spotlessly clean inside that motor and never used a drop of oil. Rode it from 4718 miles to 6245 miles before I sold it for $2500. Paid $250 for the bike and had about $1300 in it when I sold it not including my labor.
If you don't know the inside of the fuel tank is clean and you add E10 to that car, anything in the tank will come loose and rapidly plug the fuel filters. The alcohol does that. You could install and inline filter in a location where you could remove it after a visual inspection showed contamination. Maybe carry a spare filter if you decide to not drop the tank. You'll probably be lucky if it gets 6 MPG on that short commute. Probably best to put the filter BEFORE the fuel pump.
You will probably have fuel system problems from the alcohol, but it may just be hoses and a possible fuel pump diaphragm.

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Old 12-02-2013, 08:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Oh yeah, the young lady is quite the "barn find". Just kidding.

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Old 12-06-2013, 02:12 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Second day working on The Beast. My dad is a genius and stuck the exhaust line from a shop vac into the gas filler opening to pressurize the tank. This sent fuel from the tank out through the gas line at the carburetor, where I had disconnected the line from the fuel filter and carb. Using this method, we were able to drain about 3 gallons of fuel from the tank. A small spill made a puddle and I attempted to burn it off with a lighter, but it wouldn't ignite. All of the volatile portions of the fuel had evaporated.

I removed the starter motor, which was silly easy with only 2 bolts holding the unit on. Some of the contacts inside of the starter solenoid looked slightly corroded, so I took a wire wheel to them. Once the starter was back in, I tried turning the motor over. For some reason the gear from the starter only engages the engine about every 10th try.

With fresh gas in the tank and the fuel lines primed, I cranked the engine and The Beast fired right up, however she won't hold an idle consistently. I accidentally broke off 3 brittle vacuum lines, so maybe that's why the idle isn't great.

It turns out there was some water in the radiator, I had just assumed there was none since the cap has been off for 20 years. I'll still need to replace the radiator or figure out how to fix the flange.

The barn find in the previous photo is the farmer's daughter, and I married her a couple months ago.







Buick Riviera Starting - YouTube
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Old 12-06-2013, 11:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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a carb rebuild might be in order. you can take it apart and clean it up and everything but the accelerator pump might be dryrotted after that length of time. also id put in a fuel pump for good measure as well. peace of mind

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