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39 La Salle finally arrived today, HELP!!

Started by Mark Maron, February 08, 2007, 08:28:46 PM

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Mark Maron

Well it is finally here, started with a jump, it is 13 below here an drove into the garage. HELP there are so many buttons i am lost.
A throttle "pull" does not seem to do anything, a interior lights? Pull with a toggle switch under it? Other flip switches by the vent handle, Left under the dash a button of some sort that goes up and down...almost under the antenna....above the heater switch..There is a knob on the dash in the center of the windows???
Where do i find what all this is for and how to use it.. I dont want to break anything by trial and error.,
Also the previous owner out in an 8 VOLT battery... he felt it was better for the accessories. Can i put that on a 6volt battery charger over night to charge the battery, I have only heard of a 6volt and a 12 volt charger..
help out there to start with

Fred #23106


If I were you, I would go on Ebay and buy an Owners Manual, as most of the questions that you have will be answered. You can buy an 8-volt battery tender almost anywhere - using a 6-volt battery charger will bring it up to only 6-volts (I think). The small round button in center of dash is to turn on the windshield wipers (they run on vacuum, so motor must be running). If you are lucky they will work.  If not, there are places that can fix the wiper motor, but it is a big, big job to remove, unless you like standing on your head. It is an even bigger job to get it back into place after rebuilding (keep good notes).

Hopefully you will get all of this behind you soon, as warm weather will be here in a few months and you will want to drive it. Check previous posts regarding 8-volt batteries. (Use the search feature).  Good luck with your new LaSalle.


Rusty Shepherd CLC 6397

Im not sure my 07 CTS would start quickly at minus 13 degrees, so dont be discouraged if your La Salle doesnt start again until the weather warms up!

Doug Houston

First, GET RID OF THAT D----D 8 VOLT BATTERY!. Get the starter rebuilt by someone whom you know can put it in proper shape. The guy who said that the instruments work better on 8 volts is an idiot. They will work like crazy, but not for long. Likewise, your lights. In addition, 8 Volt batteries make a smoke generatot out of a radio.

The little vertical push-pull thing is the vacuum valve for a power antenna, which is probably long gone. the 1939 model year was the first year for the vacuum antenna. (No, you cant get new ones)

There is a toggle, or (sliding) switch under the dash for dash lights. There should be three positions; off, constant on, and normal on-off with the light switch. Interior lights should be controlled with the regular slide switch on the "B" pillar.

Fred #23106

Re: 8-Volt Battery in 1939 LaSalle.  Mark - By now you have probably read Doug Houstons reply to your thread on the this forum and his recommendation for using 6-volts. (He is correct). In the early 1970s, I had an 8-volt battery on my previous 1939 LaSalle and dont remember any problems, except I know that I did not have an 8-volt battery charger, so assume I was only charging 6 out of the available 8 volts. I dont think I changed the voltage regulator to 8-volts either, so again feel that the car was running on 6-volts (not sure). I remember that the car started quickly and dont remember any problems with anything, including the radio (if it even worked).

So last summer, I tried an 8-volt battery in my 1939 convertible and this is what I experienced:

1) The 8-volt battery fit into the existing battery box (under drivers floorboard).  It was the exact same size.
The 8-volt battery had a higher cold cranking amps than a new 6-volt battery. I think it was around 675 cca.

2) I did not take a chance on ruining the radio (they cost around $1000 to replace if you can find one), so I disconnected the radio by removing the fuse before installing the 8-volt battery.

3) The gas gauge did not work correctly, but I didnt know this, and I ran out of gas at the 1/8 tank level (Gauges work on resistance, so do not work right on 8-volts).

4) The headlights seemed brighter, but all older lights are rated 6-8 volts, so I dont see a problem with the lights. In fact, brighter might be better. My car was previously converted to 6-volt sealed beams.

5) The starter turned the engine faster and car started immediately (turned over slower with even a new 6-volt battery and this is most noticeable when engine is hot).

6) After adjusting the regulator to 8-volts, the ammeter fluctuated back and forth and my electric repair man couldnt get it right. (I later bought a NOS Delco Voltage Regulator (# 1118204)and went back to a 6-volt setup - see below for info).

7) The clock didnt work before or after installing the 8-volt battery. *Dont know if clock will be damaged on 8-volts.

8) Forum members say that the 8-volt battery could damage the starter (doubtful, but possible). By the way, my car has a brand new starter motor and new ignition components,and heavy battery cables (most important not to use cables from the auto supply that are for 12-volts, as they are very thin and will not work properly, if at all).

Summary: 8-volts will start car faster, but other problems can and probably will occur and I would never take a chance with the radio, as several radio repair men have said that they refuse to work on a radio that has been hooked up to 8-volts. As a result, I ordered in the best 6-volt battery that I could find, which had about 600 cold cranking amps. (Some are as low as 450 cca).  I previously purchased both a 6-volt and 8-volt Battery Tender (around $30 each) for my experimentation with the two batteries. I always use Battery Tenders, and they do a good job. Even though the 6-volt battery was fully charged, the starter cranked slower than with the 8-volt battery and made me a little anxious, even though the car always started.

Thinking of all of the problems that could and probably would occur, I went to a 2-battery setup, using two (2) 6-volt Optima Red-Top Batteries. These are very narrow in size and will fit (side by side) into the existing battery box, without the necessity of moving the battery, or enlarging the box, or adding another box. I like to keep my cars original in appearance and do not like cutting into original metal for modifications. The Optima Red-Top Batteries were connected IN PARALLEL, which means that you still have 6-volts. If hooked up in SERIES, you will have 12-volts and everything will be ruined.

As a result, the cold cranking amperage of my car has increased from 600 to 1800!  My car is in the garage for the winter and had not been started for about three weeks. Using the 2-battery setup (earlier this week), car started immediately (within 2 seconds) and the starter was cranking steadily and powerfully.  Doug says that I do not need 2 batteries, saying it will work, but is not necessary. I agree that it might be overkill, but I like overkill when it comes to a car starting quickly every time. There is nothing worse than an antique car that will not start. In addition, since the batteries fit into the existing battey box so nicely, it is not necessary to shim between a single Optima Battery and the battery box housing. Doug says that he uses one (1) Optima battery in his older Cadillac (or LaSalle?), so the true lack of originality has already been changed, whether using one or two Optima batteries.

Conclusion: If you want your car to stay with 6-volts, without the problems of going to 8-volts, you might want to consider the use of one or two Optima batteries in your LaSalle. I have some clear pictures of the 2-battery setup that I used, along with other pictures of my LaSalle and other cars. Check my web site at TARGET=_blank>   Click on "Technical Stuff" to see the writeup and photos of my 2-battery setup (6-volts).


mark maron #23573

First, GET RID OF THAT D----D 8 VOLT BATTERY!. Get the starter rebuilt by someone whom you know can put it in proper shape. The guy who said that the instruments work better on 8 volts is an idiot. They will work like crazy, but not for long. Likewise, your lights. In addition, 8 Volt batteries make a smoke generator out of a radio.


The little vertical push-pull thing is the vacuum valve for a power antenna, which is probably long gone.

There is a toggle, or (sliding) switch under the dash for dash lights. There should be three positions; off, constant on, and normal on-off with the light switch. Interior lights should be controlled with the regular slide switch on the "B" pillar.
Thank you so far


OK now that makes sense. 100percent. The first thing on my agenda is back to the 6 volt. and i will look into the Optima..I think they are around 130.00 each????
Next i want to send a picture to you if i might of what i think is a regulator for the 8 volt located under the dash. maybe you can identify it for me, it also has a toggle switch???LOST on it totally.
Right now my battery is in the engine i dont know why but i will change it..providing the battery box is below the car under the floor board as you you have a picture of the location that it is suppose to be in??
Then i know i have to change the cables i assume..
Let me know if i can send some pics and thanks
PS i wont turn on the radio till i make the change. and NO clock either for me...wonder if it was fried years ago

Fred #23106


Regarding the location of the battery.... My car is a convertible coupe - you have a coupe.  While I doubt it, but is it possible that convertibles had the batteries under the drivers floorboard and the coupe elsewhere, or did someone change if for ease of service?  However, the Owners Manual states on Page 53, "Storage Battery - The Storage Battery is carried in a compartment underneath the left floorboard."  Thats where mine is located and it looks very original, with a stamped metal cover, held in place with four 1/4-20 machine screws.

The original 6-volt voltage regulator is mounted in the engine compartment on the firewall on drivers side.  As I understand it, it has a 2-bolt mount to the firewall and one machine screw to secure the cover. The Delco Part Number is 1118204 (this is for 6-volts). It is possible that when the previous owner changed over to an 8-volt battery, that the regulator was changed. You may need a good electrical techician if you start putting things back to original if things are changed too much.

Others may want to voice an opinion on the regulator being under the dashboard with a switch. On this, I will say, "No Comment".


P.S. You can email me any pictures that you want and I will compare with what I have and will send some pictures by return email, but first wait until others have a chance to comment on your questions, as I certainly do not have all the answers and dont want to mislead you.  

mark maron #23573

Fred Thank you... send me your email if you can so i can send stuff to you..
The battery under the floor does show also in my book, went to lift the carpet this am and Stuck like glue.. all original and i just have to really pull it up to see what is there. Will let you know.
I have to check the Voltage Regulator and see the part number to see what is going on., and yeah i want you to see that part under the dash with a switch.

Fred #23106


Under my post, on left hand side of screen is my name.  Click on my name and it will get you to my email address. If the email address doesnt work, click on Properties and it should show up.


mark maron #23573

Mike Simmons (938)

Fred and Mark- Verrrry interesting. My 39-61 coupe also has its battery located under the pass front fender AND my original 39 OM (edition 39-62, 4M-11-38) states (on page 53) that it is located there. Live and learn. I would suggest that early and late Fisher bodies changed the battery location to the under floor-board location as it is in the 40-62. There is a similar running change in the windshield wiper escutcheon (if that is what the exterior part of the wiper transmission is called) from a small stainless steel item to the old-style larger chrome piece. I think LaSalle does the same as the small Cadillac in these respects.

Doug Houston

The thing on the wiper transmissions is absolutely true. I once had a 39 LaSalle hearse for a parts car, with a Meteor body. The wiper transmissions were the small type, which surprised me. When I cut up the body to scrap it, I discovered that there had been a plate welded over  holes for the larger transmissions, and punched for the samll ones. It was finished over with lead.

The Trico book describes both types of wiper transmissions for that year.

Battery placement is sort of a mystery in those transitional years. It seems that Cadillac took a long time to discover space in the front fender for a battery. My 38-60S has the battery in the fender. My 38 and 39 90 cars have the battery beneath the passenger side of the front seat. They finally put it inside the fender for the 40-90. One of the CCCA guys here has a 39-75 with the battery in the front fender. You confuse???? Me, too!