1959 Buick Radio Options

February 14th, 2010

Radios were optional on all models of the 1959 Buick with three options available.  Buyers had a choice of Sonomatic Push Button radio, Wonder Bar radio with foot switch, and the Transistor Portable radio.  All 3 radios featured manual and push button tuning.  Other options include rear speaker and power antenna.

As can be seen from the photo, this car was ordered with the Wonder Bar Radio, Power Antenna and Rear Speaker.  The below photo (taken before the restoration) shows the radio and switches for the power antenna (left of the courtesy light) and rear speaker (right of the courtesy light).  A close look will reveal the “Wonder Bar” located just above the radio dial.  Pressing the wonderbar engaged a signal seeking circuit which activated a small electric motor that moved the pointer to the next AM signal detected.  The radio also featured a sensitivity dial beneath the volume knob that allowed the user to vary the strength of the signal needed to stop at any particular station.  The Wonder Bar radio also included a special foot switch located on the toe board to the left of the brake pedal.  Depressing this switch allowed the user to engage the signal seeking circuit to change radio stations (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

Below are descriptions of the different radio options from the 1959 Buick Facts Book (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

It was not possible to order both the Wonder Bar and the Transistor Portable together.  Whereas the Wonder Bar radio used vacuum tube electronics located directly in the dash mounted radio, the transistor electronics for both the dash mounted radio and the portable radio were housed in the Transistor Portable radio located in the glove box.  Although the dash mounted radio for the Transistor Portable option looked identical to the Sonomatic, and it played through the car speakers, in reality the dash unit was a dummy with it’s volume and station controls remotely controlling the electronics from the portable.  This means that the dash radio could not operate without the portable being plugged into its correct location in the glove box.  While the Sonomatic and the Wonder Bar radios would take a few seconds for the tubes to warm up before playing,  both the dash mounted unit and the portable unit for the Transistor Portable option would begin playing instantly because there were no tubes, just the transistors in the portable unit.

Below is a 1959 advertisement for the Transistor Portable radios that were installed in Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac vehicles in 1959 (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

1959 Buick Tire Size and Wheel Colors

February 15th, 2010

Baby waitin’ for a new set of shoes…

The original correct tire size for the Electra 225 was Bias Ply 800 x 15 with white walls optional.  Unfortunately, that exact size is not currently available.  I had to make a decision to either go with radials or original bias ply.  After much deliberation…and even canceling an order of radials moments before they were shipped…I decided to go with Coker’s (http://store.cokertire.com/) U.S. Royal branded 820-15 bias ply with 2 3/4″ whitewall. I could have gone with the Coker brand with 2 1/2″ whitewalls, but there was no such thing as “Coker” brand tires in 59.

By most accounts, correct whitewall width should be between 2.3″ and 2.5″ (the factory installed different brands with each brand having slightly different white wall widths). Luckily…after installation the whitewall measures exactly 2.5″ because 1/4″ is inside the rim.. I’m hoping that with the entire front end being rebuilt it will be nice and tight so I won’t be all over the road with these bias ply tires. Just in case… Greg is painting me a second set of wheels if I want to throw on some radials at a later date.

One of the regular Buick Options for many years through 1958 was having the wheels painted red from the factory.  For 1959 Buick decided to make the standard wheel color black, with the only option of changing the wheel color to body color.  In the case of a white car it meant going with either standard black wheels or optional white wheels.  As purchased, this car had optional white wheels which quite honestly look like poop.  The temporary black rims that were on the car  in the shop were not much of an improvement.  Below is a picture of white 59 Buick where the rims were painted red to match the interior (note that this car has the Deluxe wheel covers, whereas the Electra 225 came with the Super Deluxe wheel covers with spinners) …

In the case of a white car with red interior, I think the factory missed the boat and should have offered red wheels.  I’ve decided to deviate from stock on this issue and have the wheels painted red! (heck…I like these red wheels so much maybe I’ll just chuck the wheel covers)

Out of the shop for the first time…

~ Tom Sidoti
1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

Wheel Alignment & First (almost) Completed Pictures

February 17th, 2010

The car is finally ready for a wheel alignment.  Below is a shot of the car getting loaded up for a trip to the alignment shop, and another of the car in the shop. The hubcaps were deliberately left off the car until after the alignment to avoid unnecessarily scratching the wheels.

With the wheels set straight (and the hubcaps finally on), Greg started doing some preliminary road tests. His reports to me best explain the progress so far:


First the “Yahoo!” part. I’ve only driven the car 6 miles so far and it is GREAT!!! Runs and drives superbly! Steering is straight arrow with absolutely minimal “bias ply drift”. Feels real good! The quick steering box is the cat’s ass! Felt a bit weird at first but I got used to it REAL quick!

I worked out one nasty little bug this morning. There was a rude little feedback through the throttle linkage. Not quite a squeak but a light thud/rub, I guess, just enough to be annoying. There is a plate that goes on the engine/bellhousing and the firewall mounted throttle linkage bears against it through a rubber bumper. The plate was slightly bent so there was metal to metal contact. This probably happened when they did the triple/twin conversion. It’s back behind the left head so there is no way in hell that you can see it. It took a while but I located it and snuck up in there with a long bar and straightened it. Until it’s in position you can’t tell there’s a problem and when it’s in position you can’t see it! Nice…..Smile

Now….the “AWSHIT!” part. Yesterday when I did the front end alignment it’s critical that the car doesn’t move. I stepped down on the parking brake hard and it went about halfway down and caught. Just like it should and had done several times in the past. I gave it a final push and BAM! it went to the floor! Corvette resto guys were watching so I was ridiculed. Fine, be that way…..I figured I just hadn’t tightened a clamp properly and it had slipped. No big, right? NOT! Turns out the brand new (at least it appeared to be) parking brake cable had sorta come apart. The collar that is crimped on the end of the housing was either made wrong or not crimped tight enough at the factory. The outer cable housing pulled through and is about 1 1/2″ beyond where it should be! Real nice!

I’ll see if I can fix it on the car otherwise I’ll have to get a new one from CARS/Buick. I think they’re less than 50 bucks but replacing one is like extracting a wisdom tooth through your butthole!

A bit of a bump in the road but overall very happy with first road test.


As I was backing the car up the slight grade in the yard the transmission started this high pitched whine, not quite a screech, but working that way. But only in Reverse under load. Well, kiss my ass! Maybe low on fluid, a hydraulic buzz. Don’t panic yet. I moved the car around to different positions and it wasn’t getting any better. Now it would do it in Park and Reverse. Low and Drive still okay.

So I pulled it over to the shop to check ATF level. On the way over it started doing it in Low. Not good…..

Pulled in the shop and popped the hood with it running. The noise was coming from the AC Compressor! Son of a …, NOW What?????

Well, as it turned out it was only the generator air duct hose rubbing on the generator fan. The hose is metal reinforced and the rotating fan on the generator cut through the rubber to the metal thus the ever increasing high pitched screech.

Ahhhh…..that made my day! Easy fix!

Also…I was able to repair the parking brake cable without removing the whole assembly from the car. Thank God for that! I was able to get the “collar” to slide back into it’s correct position and then I tack welded it. That should do it! I stood on the park brake pedal and it felt just fine.

I noticed the gas gauge was right on “E”. Not on the peg but on the actual letter “E” indicating that it was working somewhat. I crawled under the back and tapped on the tank. Sounded pretty hollow so I guess it’s pretty accurate. THAT is the end where it needs to be accurate! If it doesn’t go all the way to FULL who cares??? I want to know when it’s close to EMPTY! I poured in 6 gallons and it came to a bit over 1/4. Poured in 5 more gallons and it came up to about 5/8. Then 3 more gallons brought it up to a bit over 3/4. I’d say we’re in pretty good shape as far as gas gauge is concerned.

Anyway…since it was finally a beautiful sunny day…it was perfect for photo op. So I scrubbed the blue crap off the new whitewalls, ALWAYS big fun!! Smile I picked the best wheel covers and stuck them on after a minor spiff. Then I took it out front and shot some pics…

~ Tom Sidoti
1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible

First Showing – AACA National Gettysburg

February 17th, 2010

Although there are still a few bugs to work out…the car was good enough for its first showing at the AACA Gettysburg National Car Show, especially since the show was literally held in within sight of Greg Cook’s Restoration Shop in Gettysburg.  Here is shot of my car and my friend Joe’s 1959 Buick that Greg Cook completed earlier in the year on the way to the show…

We were fortunate to get spots next to each other, Joe’s car had already won an AACA National First Prize (First Junior) at its first showing a few months ago.  At this meet Joe’s car is vying for an AACA Senior Award, and my car was vying for an AACA National First Prize (First Junior).

After standing inspection I put the top down on Snow White.

Here we are at the show…Greg Cook on the left, Joe in the middle and me on the right…

After surveying the field, it was obvious that Greg’s work is second to none. Given a million bucks there are many shops out there could never duplicate Greg’s work (trust me…my car (and Joe’s) were previously at one of them, and it was considered a top flight shop…). All in all, it was a great day!

In the end, my car scored the AACA National First Prize (First Junior) and Joe scored the AACA Senior Award.  Not bad for a first showing…

After the show my car headed back to Greg’s shop to finish working out a few bugs, and Joe’s car headed back home…but not before a little photo op in Greg’s front yard…

~ Tom Sidoti
1959 Buick Electra 225 Convertible