Our “New” 1923 Buick Roadster, “Archie”
When I was in high school my friend, Dennis, traded an unrestored 1920 Moon for a fully restored 1919 Scripps Booth touring car. That car was unusual even in the early 60’s, although there were still lots of Model A’s and such driving around. Dennis was quite the mechanic, could fix anything, but the Scripps Booth tested his patience and capabilities. In spite of the idiosyncrasies of, at that time, a 40+ year old car, it made many trips around southern California. It was driven up into the San Bernardino Mountains and made several 100 miles plus day-trips to the desert and the beach.
After graduation I moved and seldom saw Dennis and his car. However, I remembered the touring car and the interesting technologies used in the early days of automobiles. In 1973, I got a call from Dennis about a ’39 Buick coupe that was offered for sale by the pastor of his church. Jan and I drove over with Dennis to look at the car and decided to buy it. We still have the coupe and it was “car of the month” in an earlier issue of the Running Board.
Although I have enjoyed restoring and driving the ’39, it is too “modern,” from my point of view, to be a vintage car, although I guess it is. I remember the Scripps Booth with its vacuum tank, mechanical brakes, wood spoke wheels and other unique characteristics. I have always thought it would be neat to have a car like that one. I also thought that if I did add a car it should be an open car and a roadster would be my first choice. Late last year I saw an ad in the Buick Bugle for a 1923 model 44 Buick roadster that looked good in the photo and was about the right time period and body type I was looking for. I contacted the owner in Washington, and made plans to fly up to see the car. I believe he had not been driving the car very much, a reason for selling it, and when he went to start it up so it would be ready for me to drive when I came up, a valve stuck resulting in a bent push rod! He called me about three days before I was scheduled to come up with the news. I cancelled the trip and Dick, the owner, had made plans to spend the winter at his condo in Florida so any meeting to drive the car would have to wait for repairs and his return to Washington in the spring.
Finally, Dick was back, the car was running and I rescheduled a trip in April. Jan and I both flew to Seattle and drove east about 120 miles to see and drive the roadster. The Buick looked good but there were still some issues that needed resolution. I did drive the car and it generally performed as expected. I was not ready to make a decision however and wrote up a list of things needing attention when I got home. I sent the list to several Buick Club members for their advice. All came back with positive comments about the roadster and their combined opinions that there were no “show stoppers” regarding fixing the issues that I had identified. I decided that due to the distance I would rather get the car “as is” and take care of any repairs locally if I could negotiate a sale price that would cover those expenses. So I called Dick and we agreed on a price that reflected the work to be done. With that, I contacted a transportation company and arranged to have the car delivered from Washington to my home in California. Lee Wangarin came over soon after it was delivered and has been extremely helpful in advice on fixing some remaining issues and has also provided a wealth of details in past issues of his ’23 newsletter, the Spark and Throttle. He also told me I needed a name for the car so I gave it some thought and came up with a name that was more common when the car was new, Archie and so Archie it is.
I have completed brake adjustments (two wheel mechanical), replaced all the inner tubes for the 500×32 tires, replaced all the radiator hoses and the leather fan belt, and have correct ’23 push rods, thanks to Lee, to complete a fix for the previously bent pushrods. I have also gone through the electrical wiring and cleaned contacts and made some improvements. Oh, and I also drove Archie to the Auto Club to transfer the title. I still have to address some noises from the clutch when it is disengaged although the clutch holds well when driving. Finally, I plan to nickel plate the door handles and MotoMeter plus some other miscellaneous items to provide improved protection from corrosion.
Due to my limited storage at home, I plan to eventually move Archie to a garage in the San Bernardino Mountains where I can drive him on some scenic and less traveled mountain roads.