- - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ken Farley bought his 1940 Buick Special in October 1997, a year after he first saw it for sale near Martinsburg, W.Va.

Records indicate that the Buick, one of 20,768 such models manufactured, was initially sold in Kentucky with a base price of $955, Decades passed before the car was sold to the second owner, who took it to Ohio. That owner, about 20 years ago, had the Buick repainted the original black. The interior was reupholstered at that time.

Eventually the Buick was sold to the man who took it to West Virginia, where it was found by Mr. Farley.

Mr. Farley and his wife, Shirley, were shopping for a pre-war car — preferably a Chevrolet or a Buick — they could take on tours with friends who had their own antique automobiles.

The Buick, with 84,000 original miles recorded on the odometer, fulfilled all of their requirements, so they took the plunge. The first task was driving their acquisition 200 miles to their Annandale home. With Mr. Farley behind the three-spoke, shoulder-wide steering wheel, the Buick rolled home at highway speeds with Mrs. Farley providing peace of mind by following in a modern car.

After Mr. Farley installed a new brake system, wheel bearings and tie rod ends, he and his wife enjoyed cruising in the 3,605-pound Buick. The heft of the car combined with the 121-inch wheelbase makes for a luxurious ride. The 7.00x16-inch tires Mr. Farley installed in place of the original 6.50x16-inch tires also contribute to the featherbed experience.

On one tour the driver in the car behind Mr. Farley informed him that his two small brake lights mounted low on the fenders were barely visible. With a nod to safety Mr. Farley installed, in the middle of the trunk lid, a 6-inch, can’t-miss-it, brake light.

Opening the trunk lid exposes a lined trunk with the spare tire lying flat on the floor beneath a horizontal shelf.

Following one of their longer trips, one to Roanoke, the 248-cubic-inch, overhead-valve straight-eight-cylinder engine, Mr. Farley noted, “started using oil.” He took the car out of service in 2003 in order to overhaul the 107-horsepower engine.

During the rebuilding process, which was accomplished in his garage at home, Mr. Farley reports, “Nothing was left out. I did all the work.”

Since then Mr. Farley uses Castrol motor oil exclusively in the rebuilt engine, usually 10W30, except in the extreme heat of summer.

Convenient features along with extra-cost accessories make the two-door Buick sedan attractive as well as a comfortable touring car. Some of those goodies include:

• Radio.

• Turn signals

• Electric clock.

• Rear gravel pan.

• Locking gas door.

• Exhaust deflector.

• Delco four-blade fan.

• GM tissue dispenser.

• Deluxe steering wheel.

• Rubber running boards.

• Red wheels and trim rings.

• Vinyl kick panels on doors.

• Bumper-bracket-mounted driving lights.

Mr. Farley has accomplished a number of cosmetic enhancements that include the replated chrome window cranks and interior door handles. Additionally, he had the left door repainted when he noticed primer showing through the well-polished paint.

Amazingly, the vacuum-powered wipers actually work and can clear the windshield in a rainstorm.

The Farleys recently completed an Antique Automobile Club of America five-day “Sentimental Tour” hosted by the Bull Run Region. The hub of the tour was near Potomac Mills shopping mall and each day a 100-plus-mile excursion took place.

Mr. Farley marvels at how car designers of 65 years ago managed the flow of air ventilation to keep motorists comfortable without air conditioning. “Just don’t get stuck in traffic,” is his admonition.

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