1973 Buick Electra
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This was my daily driver car for some time. This page is an attempt to record my repair, hot-rodding, and customization efforts to date. Enjoy.

Specs:

1973 Buick Electra Limited 2dr Hardtop - Model 36CT(?)

  • Basic Specs:
    • 455 cid V8 engine
    • 4bbl carb
    • TH400 transmission

  • Factory options:
    • Power Steering
    • Power Brakes
    • Power Windows
    • Power Door Locks
    • Interior Map Light
    • Automatic Climate Controls
    • "Limited" Interior and Exterior Trim Package
    • Front and Rear Bumper Guards

  • Options I have added and/or am in the process of adding:
    • Rear window defogger
    • Cruise Control
    • Speed Alert
    • Trip Odometer
    • Power Trunk Release
    • Twilight Sentinel

  • Options I want but have not hunted down yet:
    • Cornering Lights
    • Guide-O-Matic
    • Headlight Monitors
    • Posi-traction Rear Axle

  • Custom modifications:

I used to own one of these beasts way back when I was in college. It was a great car - huge, powerful - and it had a case of terminal rust. It was NJ, and the car had been driven through way more than "one too many" salty winters. It went the way of the dodo when I moved out to WA, but I never forgot it. Sometime after moving out here, I stumbled across this car for sale in a field by the side of the road for the paltry sum of $700. I offered $600, and drove it home. After obtaining it on such a whim, I realized I had a decent piece of metal on my hands - it just needed some TLC. The body was pretty straight, and though the paint finish was long gone, there was no terminal rust - in fact the biggest problem the car had was a serious case of moss growing on it. (This is the Seattle area, after all!) I took it home, washed it off and out, and used it for a second car for quite some time. This page attempts to document some of the upgrades I've made to it so that others can enjoy the same benefits without the hassle I went through. It will also end up being a record of what I did to the car should I ever actually get it done. :-)
 

Related Pages

As individual parts of this page get too long, I move them off to separate pages to keep things more manageable. Here's the current list of the separate pages.

 

Tech and History

This is the oldest known photo I have of this car, taken just a few months after I bought it.

1973BuickElectra001.jpg (217920 bytes)

I ended up putting a new transmission into the car shortly after I got it - the original one finally slipped it's way into oblivion. I also found out the hard way who was and was not a good trans shop in Oak Harbor, WA. (The Transmission Factory on Goldie Road was not only incompetent, they were outright dishonest - no wonder they folded. But enough sour grapes...) I had the vinyl top removed and the rear window area repaired to remove the typical rust that one gets under a vinyl top. I also installed a rear window with a defogger grid on it while I had the chance. I put on a set of nice BF Goodrich Radial TA's tires all around, dropped a brand-new Die Hard battery into it, and proceeded to drive the tires off of it. It's a nice long-distance cruiser - taching about 2000 rpm at just shy of 80mph courtesy of the super-low rear end ratio. I've seen the high-side of 110mph with ease. I figure it'll top out around 150-160mph, but I have no interest in going that fast until the suspension is fully rebuilt and upgraded all around.

After the transmission, next up on the to-do list was the electrical system. The factory 63 Amp alternator was in dire need of replacement - it was old and quietly putting out much less than it's rated output. Taxing it with a bigger stereo, the rear window defogger, and new halogen headlights sealed it's fate. Read my article Higher Amp Alternators for older GM's to learn all about the replacement. Since I did the original work, I've learned a lot more about automotive electrical systems and will be redoing a bunch of things in the wiring to improve them.

Other TLC work before the engine replacement has been minimal. The motor has had the heads off once (overheated it and blew the head gaskets) but the bottom end is just as it was assembled in 1973. I installed a TA Performance booster plate on the oil pump, and that's helping keep the motor alive. (The booster plate is truly a bargain upgrade for the $15-$20 they cost! Every Buick 350 and 455 should have one installed.) I've got a spare 455 on an engine stand awaiting time and funds to rebuild it to some healthy street duty specs. I figure 500 hp and 500 ft/lbs is pretty doable on pump gas - and that should be plenty to get this 4500 lb tank moving along a lot faster than I'll be able to use on a regular basis. I could get wild and go for more power, but I'd lose some of my coveted bottom end torque. With the factory rear, passing on the highway is truly a joyous sight to behold. This thing accelerates from 40mph like most performance cars do off the line! Right now the car is in need of a serious bath inside and out. But your daily driver is supposed to get dirty and pretty much stay that way, right?

Cooling is critical on an large motor. They generate heat like you really can't believe. Keeping them cool is a monumental task - and keeping them cool in summer traffic, at idle, with the AC on is next to impossible. Since this is something I know all to much about from my experience with this car, I decided to replace the radiator with a heavy duty unit. While doing it I wrote a tech article Heavy Duty Radiators are easy and cool with all the technical details. Read up, stay cool.

For a while the work I was doing was focused on upgrades that were not required, but were more in the "stuff I want to do" category. Mainly that boiled down to working on keeping myself informed of engine conditions while driving - and that means gauges. I like gauges and lights. Lots of 'em. I prefer to keep tabs on more engine functions than most people know about. Tach, Vacuum, Water Temp, Oil Pressure, Oil Temp, Trans Temp, Volts, Battery Amps, and Alternator Amps. (I even considered monitoring the rear end temp for grins, but I decided against it.) To top it off, all of the factory warning lights are staying operational. Not bad 'eh? The dash will be home to my three most critical gauges, so that they are within easy view while driving. Tach on the left, and Vacuum and Oil Pressure on the right. All other gauges will be relegated to a custom console under the dash on the trans tunnel. I figure I'll build it will two rows of three gauges each.. The three temp gauges will go in the top row and the three electric gauges in the bottom row. The photos show the in-dash stuff - I haven't gotten around to building a custom console under the dash yet - so I have a bunch of gauges in single and double pods tacked to the bottom of the dash for now. You can also see how I'm painting over the fake wood grain trim on the dash. I think the black looks much better, and will continue to look better as the dash pad and lower sections are all recolored and repainted to a nice semi-gloss black. One thing at a time, though. As you can see in the enlarged photo, I still have some wiring to complete for the in-dash gauges, plus I need to build that custom gauge pod for below the dash. So many projects, so little time... Oh, before I forget, I found a really killer source for VDO gauges and custom mini gauge console online - check out http://www.egauges.com and you'll be amazed at what they have and your wallet will like the prices. I've spoken with the guys over there when I ordered some stuff from them recently, and they are really on the ball.

These are some photos of the car resting quietly on a car trailer in my side yard, under cover and awaiting restoration/resurrection.

1973BuickElectra003.jpg (389063 bytes) 1973BuickElectra004.jpg (418530 bytes) 1973BuickElectra005.jpg (400791 bytes)

 

 

Size: Large x Huge, Weight: Heavy

I decided to take a picture of the weight placards and post it for fun. This thing is huge beyond belief. Gross vehicle weight is listed as 6215 lbs - that's slightly over 3 tons - with 3045 lbs on the front tires and 3170 lbs on the rear tires. The math geeks out there will quickly spot that this car has a 49% front / 51% rear weight distribution - who would have thought this boat was actually slightly tail heavy? A quick look at the glove box placard shows that of the 6215 lbs gross weight, 1100 lbs is allocated for passengers and cargo - that puts the calculated curb weight in the range of 5115 lbs! One of these days I'll have to go get it weighed just to find out what the curb weight actually is.

1973BuickElectraWeightPlacard-DriversDoor.jpg (1451049 bytes) 1973BuickElectraWeightPlacard-Glovebox.jpg (1562752 bytes)

 

Purchasing Order

This was car #6. The first car I purchased in WA and the first time I had two operational vehicles at once. It was also my first experience with major transmission repair. It was the last vehicle I purchased before getting married.


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 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM