The story behind this McLaughlin Buick started for me in September of 1977 when I was living and working out of the small town of Bassano in southern Alberta. My job allowed me to travel throughout the rural area and encompassed several other small towns in my district. It was on one of my travels that I spotted the car in a deserted old farmstead. I recognized it as a mid twenties Buick as I already owned a 1925 model 25. Upon closer examination I found it to be a 25-45A. It was typically what is known as a “basket case”. There was a mouse peering out of a spark plug hole, the front doors were missing as well as the front and rear axles. I did however see the potential in it and located the owner. He graciously sold it to me for $50.00 and I proudly had it hauled to my back yard. This picture is as I found it.
You can see the remnants of the fixed top which was an option. Once I made room in my single garage I started to take it apart and start searching for parts. I managed to pick up a bare chassis with good wheels. I found the original doors on a neighbouring farm still lying on a hay wagon from an auction sale years earlier that had not sold. I bought a second parts car (model 25-40) just for the carburetor. You have to remember that this was all in the days before the internet and finding master six parts was not easy then and is still not that easy in todays world.
Over the next year while I was gathering parts I was also trying to research the model 25-45A by doing some letter writing. I learned that the 45A was referred to as the “Special” – a “McLaughlin deal” Specials had a recessed walnut dash, an adjustable steering wheel and an adjustable front seat. The 1925-45 had the spare tire side mounted and the seats were black leather – deep pleated. The tops were black waterproof fabric. Colours were blue and black or grey and black. I now knew that the fixed top was an option and that I did not want to replace it so the search began for some folding top bows. I bought a set from a fellow in Ontario believing that they were correct however upon receiving them were not. I was beginning to lose hope of finding any. However, as chance would have it I accompanied a friend to go look as a 52 Cadillac convertible near Drumheller. As he was dealing with the owner I was talking to the owner’s father who had an adjoining farm. I told him I was restoring a 1925 McLaughlin and he said he had some old Buick parts in a grainery. So off we went to have a look. I could not believe that he had two sets of tops bows, one complete and the other mostly complete. We made a deal and I got my top bows. It seemed like the hard part was over.
I spent the winter of 1978 in a farmer friends quanset which he had set up to make and repair campers to keep busy during the winter months, so he had a complete selection of wood working tools. I spent most of my days off over five months redoing most of the wood. That was quite a task as the wood from the sills up about 4 inches had been covered in dirt and was dry rotted. I carefully brushed and vacuumed the dirt out so that I could carefully take measurements of the wood. The condition of the body wood can be seen in this picture.
By the spring of 1979 I had completed most of the chassis restoration and most of the body work with the exception of the fenders. It was also at this time that I was informed that my career was likely to entail a relocation so in anticipation of that we sold our house and moved everything to a rental home. By July the 1st we were living in Lac La Biche, a small town two and a half hours northeast of Edmonton Alberta. Over the next three years I finished the body work, painted it in my garage, fired the engine and had the upholstery done. The upholstery pattern was obtained with the help of Reynolds Museum in Wetaskiwin Alberta who had a 1924 in their inventory with the same pattern. It was just a matter of having the upholstery shop craftsman travel with me to the museum and take measurement and pictures and to check the method of construction. This photo is in the upholstery shop.
It was now the summer of `1983 and was time again to relocate the family. This time to Wetaskiwin. I had decided that I was not happy with my first engine, so removed it and sent the cylinder block from the 25-40 and the crankcase from the original car, and new Egge pistons to an engine rebuilding shop in Saskatoon Saskatchewan that specialized in vintage engines and re-babbiting. I re-assembled it and was very pleased with the results.
This almost seven year restoration was a family affair as it took us all over the country to swap meets in Alberta, British Columbia, Washington state and Montana in the search for Buick Master parts. What I was not as diligent in as I should have been was taking photos to record the process. Again this was in the days before digital cameras and I guess I just did not give it that much thought. Something that I regret now and highly recommend anyone doing a restoration to not forget.
It’s first major showing was at Expo 86 in Vancouver B.C. where it scored 845 points out of a possible 1000 points which earned it a second place trophy in the category of open cars 1925 and older. There were no cars that earned a first place. Needless to say we were proud of our efforts.
Since then, we have gone on several long road trips, the first being from Wetaskiwin Alberta to Penticton BC for an International Meet which meant travelling via Hwy 1 through the Rocky Mountains and back for approximately 1200 miles return trip. This picture is of the group at the Rogers Pass summit.
The next long trip was from Wetaskiwn to Regina Saskatchewan and the third trip was from our present home in Summerland BC to Missoula Montana. She gets a fair amount of use every year, lots of short runs and lots of driving dignitaries in parades and helping out with friends weddings. So much so that after 30 years of fair wear and tear I really should tackle a cosmetic restoration. Just have to find the time and energy to fit it in between other projects.
Here are some pictures of what it looks like today.
By Leon Rumpf, President of the VCCC South Okanagan Chapter.