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The ‘Old Buick’

Time:2018-02-14 21:31Turbochargers information Click:

News Halifax Dartmouth Bedford

Among the fondest memories of Edith Steffens’ childhood are the adventures she had with her grandparents exploring the back roads of Guysborough County visiting relatives, going berry picking, and being taken to the circus in Antigonish in their 1929 McLaughlin Buick.

The car is still in the family and has always been called the ‘Old Buick.’

"I was not around for the first 15 years of the Buick’s life, and I don’t know a great deal about the inner workings of cars. The history of the Old Buick is in the family archives passed on to me by my father," says Edith.

Last September, Old Buick spent two days at Hatfield Farms in Hammond Plains on the set of Stephen King’s TV miniseries, Bag of Bones, starring Pierce Brosnan.

Husband Jim Steffens, kitted out in a period shirt with a loud tie and a hat typically worn in 1939, drove down the road at 10 mph. In the movie it seems as if they were doing 80. There is no sign of Jim. He ended up on the cutting room floor. Such is fame

"Family history records that between 1922 and 1929, Grandpa, Chris Francheville, had two Model Ts and a 1927 Pontiac. He was never very happy with them and decided he wanted a Buick," Edith says.

"He thought long and hard about the purchase. At that time a Chevrolet cost about $500 and the 1929 McLaughlin Buick cost $2,000. He decided on the Buick and cashed in his stocks and bought it from D. R. MacKay, a General Motors dealer in New Glasgow. A few months later the 1929 stock market crash wiped out many people’s life savings."

He kept the car until he stopped driving in 1956.

The McLaughlin was a familiar sight in eastern Nova Scotia. One April, when there was still ice on the water, Grandpa and Grandma loaded up Old Buick with a canvas boat and outboard motor and took off on a fishing expedition to the mill dam on the Canso Road.

Grandma Edith stayed in the car with her knitting while Grandpa manned the boat. After a while the boat started leaking and began to sink. Grandpa abandoned ship and swam for the shore. It was then he realized he had left his expensive reel and his motor to sink. He swam back and towed the foundering boat to shore. He was over 75 years old.

"Around 1930 my Dad, Billy Francheville, and his parents made one of the Old Buick’s few trips to Halifax. Grandpa, who was unaccustomed to the big city and its strange rules, drove the wrong way up a one-way road," Edith remembers.

"A policeman put up his hand for him to stop, and now, completely flustered, Grandpa pulled over to the curb and ran over the policeman’s toe. Fortunately his heavy boots saved him from being hurt. I don’t believe Grandpa was even given a ticket."

Another close call happened on the Eastern Shore, at Ship Harbour. The car’s brakes had become wet, and when Grandpa made a right-angled turn to cross the bridge at the head of the harbour, the brakes failed. The car bounced off the bridge three times. Luckily, the bridge was sheathed with hardwood so the car was not seriously damaged.

The Old Buick is a model 27 four-door sedan. It has a standard six cylinder Buick engine with cast iron pistons, overhead valves, up-draft carburettor, oil filter and Babbitt poured-in bearings. The original multiple-disc clutch is still in the car.

She has four-wheel brakes and external brake shoes with the emergency brake inside the rear brake drums. Its generator, distributor and water pump are all driven by the camshaft. The radiator fan is driven by a belt and a honey-combed radiator is mounted on a cross-member of the frame.

The rear springs are cantilevered; the front and centre are mounted on the frame and the rear on the axle. They have bushings that need to be greased every 500 miles. The internal drive shaft and the drive shaft housing couple up with a ball joint to the rear of the transmission. The gas tank has a fluid gauge.

Her tires, on mountable rims, have inner tubes and measure 20 X 5 1/2 inches. She has a fabric-covered roof which, over the years, was painted periodically to keep water-tight.

"After the car was transferred to my father, she was rolled out to take my invalid grandmother for Sunday afternoon drives. She always started on the first turn, even on the coldest winter day. By 1966 the tires were badly worn and Eaton’s Catalogue had stopped carrying their size. Dad parked her in the garage and ran the engine from time to time," Edith says

"And then one day she refused to start and languished until the late 1970s when she was stored in my garage where she remained until my second husband, Jim, decided she should be restored.

"Without Jim’s inspiration Old Buick would not have been restored to her former glory and would not have been in the Stephen King movie. I couldn’t have afforded to restore her myself."

The couple asked Vic Matheson, whom they had met on the Coast to Coast 2000, to take charge of the project.

Five years ago a total frame-off restoration was undertaken. Every part of the car was sandblasted and repainted before being reassembled.

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