1957 Buick Century Parts Car
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This is a parts car I picked up from someone in my local Buick club. It has a few parts on it that are not wasted/trashed/rusted, and that will fit on my 1958 Buick Special. It came with a title and the price was right - free. All I had to do was go get it.

The car had been "parked under a tree in 1969" due to suspension damage and a general lack of interest in fixing it. Ownership passed to my friend from the Buick club, and he sold off the trim and some other bits, and then many years later I got the car. The copy of the title I got was the one from 1967 that had been signed by the owner who "parked it under a tree". It had been signed and given to my friend from the Buick club, and then given to me many years later. It's rare to see an old title these days, so I thought it was kind of cool. It listed the license number from 1967 - WA state FBE620 - and all of the usual details of ownership and to identify the car.


The cowl tag has the following data:

1957 MOD         63

STYLE      4639

BODY No BC 967

TRIM       631



That breaks down as:

  •  1957 is the year
  •  63 is the model: 4 door, 6 passenger, Riviera sedan
  •  4639 is the body style, first letter is the GM division, second letter is the series, and the last two letters are the body style: Buick, Century, 4 door Hardtop Sedan
  •  BC is the build plant: this should be South Gate, GA but I can't confirm
  •  967 is the the body serial number, which is not the same as the vehicle serial number. This is a very low number indicating an early build date
  •  631 is the trim code for the interior colors and fabrics:
  •  MC is the paint code for the exterior, the first letter is the upper color and the second letter is the lower color: Seminole Red over Glacier White
  •  The accessory line is blank except for an odd cutout to the left of the "ACC". The cutout is shaped like a C with an underline, but I can't find any designation for what that might mean.

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The VIN on the title and on the body tag is:


The breaks down as:

  •  6 is the series: Century
  •  D is the year: 1957
  •  2 is the build plant: South Gate, CA
  •  008630 is the vehicle series number: A very low serial number, perhaps an early year build?

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Here's the car as it was before we loaded it onto the trailer. Check out the rust issues and the sheer volume of rodent home remnants under the hood and all over the engine. I also like the moss hanging off the interior. I need to add a good electric winch to my trailer...

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Here's the car as I got it home. Note that the doors were flopping around a bit, so I ran the tie-down strap extra length through the door handles and over the hood/trunk to make sure they stayed in place during the drive home. It looked funky, but it worked. I don't care about the body - it's just scrap metal to me.

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The radiator came with the car, but had already been removed. It came home in the back of the tow rig, and was just sitting here after unloading. It might be worth saving. The core needs to be replaced, but the side brackets and top and bottom tanks are good raw material to start with.

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Engine compartment pictures. The power brake setup is the same as the one on my 1958 Buick Special. The engine is a 4-bbl carb, which would be nice if I can save it. The rest is a pretty typical heater setup for the 1957/58 Buick's. The generator and power steering pump both spin freely - though rusty looking, they are not seized. That bodes well for the engine innards being salvageable...

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The core support is rusty, especially at the bottom where it's rusted through - more scrap metal. The wiring and connections appear to be the same as on my 1958 Buick Special, with the exception of the dual vs. quad headlights. That's worth hanging onto to get small pieces to use where needed when repairing the wiring.

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Part of the trunk lip (almost rusted out) and a random piece of door trim that was laying around. I later figured out that all of the skinny trim pieces were from the interior door panels.

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Rear bumper and trunk area. The taillight surrounds are intact, but rusty. The passenger's side backup lens appears intact. Check out how rust the bumper ends are - simply amazing.

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The hood is possibly salvageable along with the hinges and the lettering/trim on the front of the hood.

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Cowl panel and windshield wipers. These appear to the the "cam-o-matic units, the same as on my 1958 Buick Special. The cowl panel may be salvageable.

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Dash bits. Rusty, but intact as far as I can see. The engine turned faceplate is in decent shape, so it might be usable. We'll see what I find when I start removing stuff. I'm hoping I can save the cluster and related bits.

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Power Bench Seat

The front bench is a power 6 way seat, pretty standard GM stuff for many years. All that's unique here is the trim bits, and the specific seat tracks to fit this era car. The wiring and the rest is normal GM stuff that is detailed in pretty much any GM body manual from the '50s, 60's, or 70's. If I can save the unique bits, I can make this work in my 1958 Buick Special.

The power seat setup. We'll see if I can save it or not. The side trim pieces are in good shape, though the switch is a bit dodgy and will need to be rebuilt, see below.

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The power seat switch. It was already partially disassembled and some bits were falling out. I think I have all of the inside bits... When I was messing around with it, some stuff dropped out, and I found one of the little spring pieces inside laying on the ground. See the next photo for details.

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The switch disassembled. Not shown are the four metal clips that hold the back piece to the shell and the center metal plate that covers the plastic piece. I think I have all of the little spring pieces (two shown), but I'm not 100% sure. They appear to fit into the back of the switch handle into formed recesses and give the handle some spring loading to hold it in place against the "underside" of the housing.

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The back of the main switch body.

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The back of the main switch body as a close-up/cropped photo, and one with labels so you can see what each of the posts are for. I think I reversed the labels for the "rear up/down solenoid" and the "fore & aft solenoid", unfortunately. Doh! I need to dig out the manual again, double check myself, and fix that...

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The front of the main switch body.

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The front of the main switch body as a close-up/cropped photo, and one with labels for everything. Each section of the switch is basically the same. If you actuate that section of the switch in either direction you will activate the contact for the solenoid for that section (front, rear, fore/aft). You also activate the motor in the correct direction by activating the wire to that part of the motor activation relay. If you compare to the previous labeled picture of the rear of the switch, you'll notice that the two directional contacts are tied together along the top and bottom sections - activating this in any of the three sections activates the motor in that direction. Similarly, the power feed is tied to all three switch sections so they all get power at the same time, and it's insulated where it passes over top of the "up or rearward" contact strip. Thus, it's possible to activate both the front and rear in the same direction at the same time by simply pushing the entire switch face/handle in the proper direction. Combined with the way to activate two contacts at once (solenoid + direction), there's actually a reasonably clever bit of engineering buried inside the switch. The outside chrome is in decent shape, so if I can get the switch working electrically, I think it will be good enough for me to use.

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Left accessory panel, with power antenna up/down switch below it on the bottom lip of the dash.

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A second shot of the same area plus the door jamb that somehow got lost in the pile of pictures, and had to be inserted here later. It shows where the body tag goes in relation to the front door, which is helpful. The lower steering column cover has already been removed in this photo.

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Fuse block and connectors that went to the switches near the base of the steering column. The big brown wire going to the far right of the fuse block to the same connector as the red one is the power seat feed wire.

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Speed alert buzzer mounted to the top of the drivers side fresh air intake, and some of the fresh air intake details.

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More steering column connectors, and the drivers side of the transmission tunnel where it meets the cowl. The wiring bundle in the middle is going to the main firewall connector. The silver bolt is holding the firewall insulator pad in place.

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The lowest metal duct under the dash for the dash and floor vents. Also shows the glove box mounting screws in the third picture. Last picture shows the oval flexible hose connection to the heater core on the right kick panel area, along with the heater temp controls. The black hose coming up form the temp control is a small temperature sensing bulb that fits into the plastic housing for temperature feedback to the valve. It's pretty cool. The right dash vent hose comes off the top of the metal duct, near the right end. You can see that duct in a later picture.

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A close-up of the wiring and oil pressure sender pipe that goes through the cowl on the passenger's side. The black metal is the duct notes above - the left edge of the picture is right where the heater floor outlet is at.

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Passenger's side fresh air vent, and metal duct mounting details for heater and dash vent duct. Also shows another show of the heater temperature control valve and some of the plastic housing for the heater core on the right.

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Drain hose in upper area of the passenger's kick panel, it drains from up near the edge of the windshield near the rear lower corner. The purple wire goes to the door jamb switch for the passenger's front door.

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Another shot of the driver's side fresh air vent area showing all of the steering column connectors, the brake pedal assembly, the main wiring harness at the firewall connector, and a piece of the flexible ducting that goes to the driver's side dash vent. The bellows looking rubber thing in the middle is where the brake booster pushrod enters the passenger compartment. The fuse block is at the upper left. I believe the tan wire with the round push on connector hanging out in space is the horn connector wire that goes to the base of the steering column.

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Driver's side dash area showing antenna switch, fuse block, routing for the speedo cable (next to the two bolts sticking out, upper oval hole), the wiper control cable (lower round hole), the brown and red wires for the power seat circuit breaker and feed to the seat, and the general routing of the flexible hose to the driver's side dash vent.

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Power seat circuit breaker and wiring lead coiled up so you can see all of it at once. Red wire goes under the carpet to the seat.

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End of the antenna signal cable and grounding point. Multicolor harness is the main body harness hanging into the photo.

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Blower motor wiring on the engine side, sticking out of the dash. It just goes through an oval-ish grommet along with (I believe) the oil pressure gauge line. The carb starter switch wiring also comes through here, if my memory is right.

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The end of the parking brake cable where it connects to the rear cables under the torque tube. This is also the adjuster.

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Center dash area (where the transmission tunnel meets the cowl) after the lower metal duct for the heater vent and the two dash vents has been removed. The glove box is visible to the top right, the torn up flexible hose to the top left goes to the driver's side dash vent, and the most intact flexible hose in the center heading off to the right is the defroster connection between the right and left side metal ducting that is welded to the cowl structure. The metal spiral wound "wires" are the control cables for various things. The two wrapped together are for the temp and defroster vs. heat controls, and the one by itself is for the passenger's side fresh air vent. Both wiring harness connections at the cowl are visible - left is the main harness connector, right is the grommet for the blower and carb switch wiring.

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Same stuff, a bit further to the right. The passenger's side fresh air vent is at the right, the glove box is in the middle, and the metal duct is the passenger's side defroster duct welded to the cowl structure. The flexible pipe to the right is the connection to the heater core area. The four sscrews near the top are for the glove box door.

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Same stuff, all the way to the right. The plastic housing goes over the heater core and contains the air valves to control flow to the defroster or the heater and dash vents. You can see how the control cables route to their final destinations What's not clear are how the two control cables route - the one for the defroster vs. heater and dash vents goes in front of the metal ducting and to the plastic housing, while the temp control one goes behind the metal ducting and flexible hose and to the temperature control valve. The fresh air duct is a simple routing. You can also see the inside of the passenger's side wiper post, where the cables hook up and some of the pulleys.

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Passenger's side door jamb switch wire in purple, and drain hose for the base of the windshield.

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The passenger's side wiring on both the inside and outside of the cowl, plus lots of other nearby components. The wiper motor is visible behind the wiring, and the outside part of the main harness connector is clearly visible on the left - look for the three screw terminals.

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Right accessory panel with ignition switch, light for ignition switch, passenger's side vent control, and an open hole for the cigar lighter. The control for the trip odometer is coming through the underside of the dash.

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The main metal duct for the heater and dash face vents. Passenger's side is to the right. First picture is of the top, second picture is of the bottom. Note passenger's dash face vent hose exit is on top near the right hand side. Large vent pointing up in the second picture is the floor vent right over the transmission tunnel.

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Plastic heater core cover with air valve controls (for defroster vs. heater and dash vents) and passenger's side fresh air valve and screen. The second shot clearly shows the air valves in the two ducts in the plastic housing, as well as the oval duct for the heater and dash vents.

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Heater core on outside of passenger's side cowl as seen from inside the cowl. The temperature control valve is at left with the sensing tube clearly seen inside it's protective rubber hose. Note that of the eight bolts holding the heater core in, the top and bottom two are removed separately from the four holding the plastic cover on. There was a rubber gasket between the plastic cover the mounting surface to prevent air leaks.

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The heater core assembly. Note the air diverters in the main air inlet (round opening, first picture), the drain hose to the left (that would be at the bottom when it's installed), and metal shield at the top of the second photo to help direct air into the passenger's compartment. The temperature control valve controls the mount of hot water allowed to get into the inlet (upper left in first photo) which controls the amount of heat in the car. It's a pretty nifty little system. If my memory is right, the two under-seat heaters (if so equipped) are plumbed in series with the main heater core. The outlet of the heater core runs down under the car and to the under-seat heaters, then back up to the engine.

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Heater core opening in the cowl, temperature valve is still in place - or at least what's left of it is. Note the cowl drain hose exit at the top of the second photo. When positioned properly on the car, this drain would be behind the fender - the "top" of the cowl is closest to the brake drum visible in the background.

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Right side accessory panel. The ignition switch is not the original as far as I can tell - it appears to have been mucked with and replaced for reasons unknown. The metal piece to the left is the light housing that goes in the rectangular space over the ignition switch.

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More of the right side kick panel area, this one showing the routing of the purple wire for the door jamb switch. It clips to the top of the firewall insulator and runs all the way across to the driver's side.

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More of the metal defroster ducts, as the flexible hoses are removed. You can also clearly see the main wiper transmission pullers in the second shot, as well as the cables that drive the wiper arms, and how the passenger's side cables "cross" to reverse the direction of travel on that wiper arm.

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Glove box liner and mounting screws. There are also one on each side, and a few on the bottom inside that you need a stubby screwdriver to get out. After that' it slide right out without any trouble and without damage. W00t!

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The glove box door. After removing the four bottom hinge screws, opening it all the way and then tilting it away from the dash and up, it came right out. It's a bit rusty on the surface, but seems salvageable.

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A good shot of the radio after the glove box liner is removed. The red wire at the right ending in a fuse holder goes to the glove box light and then to the switch to be grounded when the glove box is open. The white/brown wires go to the clock light and clock power. The funky-shaped metal pie in the left foreground is the oil pressure gauge feed line, and you can clearly see the antenna cable going into the back of the radio at an angle.

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Close-up of the clock and glove box light wiring. You can see the wire from the glove box light switch at the right, and the switch itself is in the extreme top right corner.

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Radio stuff, complete with original Delco tubes. Neat. The green wire in the second and third pictures is the power for the radio,.

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More pics of the brake pedal and steering column area.

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The heater core mounting area as seen from the inside. Installed in the car, left is towards the engine and the drain tube goes up the rear lower edge of the windshield.

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Passenger's side dash area as seen after cutting away the cowl area.

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Left side accessory panel. Shorter more bent cable is for the speed monitor adjustor knob and goes to the lower left corner of the instrument cluster. Longer cable is for the driver's side fresh air vent. The brake warning light goes in the middle hole.

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Power seat feed wiring with circuit breaker, coiled up and ready to be stored until needed.

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Speedo cable, coiled up and ready to be stored. It's trashed at the bottom end near the trans, but it's good for a pattern and length measurement on a replacement. It goes to the left top corner of the instrument cluster.

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Back of the instrument cluster as it was being removed. Gas gauge is on the left (with the red warning tag on the sender hookups), amp gauge is left withthe big wires going to it, then the oil pressure gauge, and then the temp gauge.

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Gas gauge hookups, complete with warning tag so you don't hook things up backwards and blow out the sender and/or gauge.

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The instrument cluster, as removed. The two circular lens to the left and right top are for the turn signals. I'm going to take it apart one of these days to see what the mechanism looks like for the speedo. It's very unique. The mounting is simple - four nuts on four studs and that's it.

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The wiring harness as removed from the vehicle.

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The dash piece that mounts the headlight switch and heater controls. You have to remove the instrument cluster before you can get to all of the bolts for this. One of the control levers was busted internally, but could be welded back together. One of the cables seized and someone leaned on the lever too much. Oops. The controls are pretty simple. The two round holes at the top in the last picture are for the dash lights. There's one for the headlight switch as well, you can see it in the second picture.

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The radio, as removed. None of the tubes are smashed, and it's in surprisingly good shape overall.

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The final recognizable piece of the car - the front frame section with the front suspension partially removed (springs out, upper control arms disconnected from the frame) and the entire piece flipped upside down to get at the lower control arm mounting bolts easier. They were rusted in place pretty good, but pretty much everything else came off reasonably easily. I can't find any obvious evidence of the "front suspension damage" mentioned when I got the car - maybe a replacement part was installed before the car was parked? Pretty much everything here looks quite usable, after the obvious de-rusting, cleaning, and painting, of course.

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The front suspension is almost off in this picture. I had to grind off the attaching bolts at the crossmember. If you look closely you can see the welded on plates on the bottom of the near side of the crossmember that were used to repair the accident damage way back in 1969. Part of the lower control arm inner mounting bar was welded to these patches. Apparently the crossmember was too unstable to support the normal attaching points after the accident they had.

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A better close-up of the patches on the bottom of the crossmember.

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One of the transmission linkage pivots. I saved it to see if I can de-rust it and make it work as a "torture test" of some new de-rusting stuff I'm trying out.

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The crossmember, finally bare and ready to be junked.

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The front suspension and sway bar came off in reasonably good shape (all things considered), and has some decent pieces on it, if you want to de-rust them first. I don't need them (they don't fit a 1958 Buick), but it was easier to remove them and make the crossmember easier to manage, and hopefully someone else can use them. They're for sale, real cheap...

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The center section of the back bumper was potentially usable as a core, so I saved it.

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The rear windows were attached to a pretty substantial pot metal piece that connected to the window regulators, which might be usable, so I saved the whole thing for both sides. This is the passenger's side.

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Purchasing Order

This was Car #35. Another parts car, this time a free one. My first experience loading a car that was this rusty and had four flat tires and with the parking brake seized. It was not fun.

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 03/06/2010 11:49:39 PM