My interest in old cars

Big old cars are fascinating because they really show what driving is about. In both mechanical terms and overall design. A lot of post 1960 cars have boring yet functional designs. Where are the times that cars had a posh dashboard rather than recycled plastic? Where are the times that adding ornaments, additional fenderlines and so on in favour of a better looking car was normal? As for the mechanical improvements it's good to have power steering and power brakes for easy and safe driving but it removes the feeling of driving a big and heavy car. Driving an oldtimer without power-everything is a pure form of driving; you, the car and the road.

So where are those times? They are today! This is where my interest for old cars kicks in and I'm lucky to have access to various old cars because my parents own a Mercedes Ponton 220S (1956) and Mercedes 280CE (1979). In the family two uncles are into old cars (Mercedes and Bentley) so I've seen various old cars.

Mainly two types of American 50'ies cars exist: from 1949 to 1953 and from 1953 to 1959. The latter are the rocket-style cars with tailfins, the first are "new generation" cars with just a big front grille. The grille in the previous cars (1948 and earlier) is big too but the overall style of the car is a tad different. My interest goes to the first "new generation" Pontiac from end of 1949, Pontiac Star Chief 1958 and Buick Roadmaster 1958.

In mechanical terms and design I like the Pontiac 1949 most. The Pontiac sports an old-style flathead engine and it's design is at least to say 'gorgeous'. When I saw this Pontiac I knew I wanted one. Since then I've actively looked around for a Pontiac and eventually found one.

A tune up; a few bits.

A little tune-up for the Pontiac:
- New Autolite 295 spark plugs
- Checked the brake on the rear drivers wheel
- New oil (20W50 Classic, mineral oil)
- New fan belt
- New thermostat

Because I have little history about the car I don't know the age of parts like spark plugs. In order to maintain the car and be on the safe side I replaced all the spark plugs. The old ones looked good indicating the engine runs fine.

The rear wheel on the passengers side had a little squeek noise. Cleaning it out and re-adjusting the brakes did the trick.

Comma advises to change the 20W50 classic oil each 2000 to 3000 miles. Because I did about 2000 miles since I've bought the car and I didn't know the age of the current oil, I refreshed it all.

The fan belt was old and worn out. The new T24403 fan belt works great! In order to install it I lifted the engine up and slid the belt onto the pulley. An other option is to remove the water pump, a job that should be done in the future because the bearings start to wear out.

I also installed a new thermostat. My car always ran too cool and it turned out it didn't have a thermostat at all. It's has probably been removed in the past and never replaced. ... > Reply on this!

Passenger vent-window and battery

Did some work on the vent-window in the passengers door. After the years have passed the rubbers were worn out and as dry as a bone. I installed an after market replacement rubber which fitted but unfortunately isn't as good as the original one. After all it turned out better than it used to be; water resistant and no squeaky wind noise while driving.

Another thing is the battery, or more specific it's color. The white plastic doesn't fit with the ohter parts under the hood. Currently it's sprayed with plastic primer and almost ready for a nice black finish. ... > Reply on this!

Refreshing the engine (bay)

I have been tinkering with the freshness of the car under the hood again:
- Repainted the water pipe for engine coolant
- Cleaned out the oil breather cap using gasoline and water
- Repainted the oil breather cap with RX5 and RX10
- Painted an aluminium duct in black as crankcase ventilation pipe

The oil breather cap was full of sludge. I guess it didn't saw much cleaning in the past. Cleaning the cap is a job done quick- just pour in gasoline and shake the breather cap. Do it a couple of times and then clean it up using water. On the picture I sanded it as well and got to the second layer of RX5; ready for painting!

Image ... > Reply on this!

Dynamo trouble again

I noticed that the amp-meter didn't jump up while driving. A quick test with a multi-meter learned that the generator supplied around 0.30 volts at full speed. Normally this should be a bit over 6V.

As the generator is pretty straight forward I removed it and measured the output while turning the generator manually. It was around 0.2 volts. I opened the cover and it turned out that one of the brushes was totally flat. As I have a rusty spare (unrestored) generator I swapped the brush from the unrestored generator and turned the generator by hand. Now it was already outputting 0.13V which is a great improvement. Bear in mind that these generators need a few RPM to get voltage so it's normal that the output is very low with low RPM. After installing the generator back into the car the amp-meter was back at full potential.
The old rusty generator; left shows a proper (but old) brush and right is the worn out brush.

This was a quick fix but I should take a better look at it soon. The quick worn out of the brush probably has a reason ... ... > Reply on this!

Exhaust manifold and a few other bits

Fixing the leak in the exhaust did help a bit but wasn't enough. The manifold was also leaking and turned out to be bent a bit. After flattening it and remounting with a new gasket the engine runs like new! Solid and sound! Perhaps a new muffler one day and it'll be extra smooth.

I also renewed some fuel-lines, repaired a hole near the hydramatic, new coolant lines, refreshed the coolant itself, removed air in the radiator underneath the front seats, put on a selfmade gasket on the carburetor and removed some rust.
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Engine without manifold, carburetor and air filter. The black spot on the right is the middle of the manifold. The soot clearly shows a leak.
Part of the hydramatic. It's supposed to have a tiny hole (which is still there) but in my case it was damaged. To prevent dirt on the inside it's better to seal the damaged hole. ... > Reply on this!


A new dynamo arrived. The new dynamo charges a lot more than the old one! Even with lights on it charges more than the old one.
New, bigger, dynamo in foreground. ... > Reply on this!

Rust prevention

Almost all of the bad wires are retaped and the problem with the taillights has been fixed. Meanwhile I noticed some rust underneath the dashboard, some little rusty spots and screws. Fighting this rust is on my to do list now. In the near future I'd like to:
- Treat the rust;
- Fix an exhaust leak
- Refresh the radio (wiring and rust)

In the meantime I have received nice little borders to decorate the licenseplates and a proper dynamo. The dynamo is being checked at the moment but it looks good!
... > Reply on this!


Part of the electrics have been redone years ago. It's either replaced or retaped which is all fine. The wiring underneath the dashboard hasn't been touched much, however. Some cables tend to loose dried out cloth when you touch them and thus are a risk of shortcutting the circuitry. I started on retaping these wires and to correct a problem regarding the taillights and the dashboard light; I can use the dim knob to dim the taillights and the taillights don't light up with citylight enabled. ... > Reply on this!

A replacement dynamo!

Finally the new dynamo arrived. It turned out to be a different model (not for this Pontiac) but using one part from the old dynamo it fits! On 24 March I installed the dynamo but couldn't get the car running. As it was late I left it as it was and continued fiddling around the next day. It turned out that I just had to put some fuel direct into the carburetor as everything dried up. After putting half a cup of fuel in the carburetor the car fired up immediately. Didn't expect that to happen after a month!

The dynamo is not the original one and, more important, it doesn't recharge the battery enough when I use lights and radio together. This means I have to be on the look-out for an original one, but as the car runs fine with the existing dynamo I'm not in a hurry for this. ... > Reply on this!

Bought the Pontiac Chieftain 1949

My Pontiac, I saw it for sale on-line in the Netherlands. Being able to see and drive the car before buying it is a big pro. If I would have bought it in the USA I can't be sure what I bought until I have it a home. After getting in touch with the seller I made an appointment to see and test the car. In the flesh the car looked way better than on the pictures and a short inspection showed that the car was in perfect state. After a testdrive I knew I had to buy this car, which I did on 25 februari 2011.

I drove the Pontiac to the RDW (Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer) to import it to the Netherlands as it was registered as Belgian car. Unfortunately the dynamo broke along the way which meant I had to drive about 250KM with a ticking dynamo. To prevent shorting the car's electrical system I removed the wires from the dynamo. I was lucky to have a full battery and a car that starts really well, because the battery didn't recharge along the way and no-one would be able to help jumpstarting because of the 6V system.

Below you see a video on the day I arrived home with the car:

For the moment I don't have a working car. I still need a working dynamo, new plates and insurance. The plates and insurance will be arranged in a few days. The dynamo is a different story. I removed the dynamo and noticed that the pulley scraped on the casing of the dynamo. It's probably caused by a worn out bearing. As pictures tell more than a thousand words:
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On the left you see the damage caused by the pulley that scraped on the metal. The right photo shows the inside part with the bearing that isn't steady anymore. I can tilt the rotor a bit which shouldn't happen.
... > Reply on this!