I’ve been fascinated with hot rods and custom cars since I was in high school. I had to give that all up in my mid 20’s to focus on my career. Fast forward to the late 1990’s when I started going to the Good Guys Car shows at the Alameda County fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA.
By the early 2000’s I had the bug and dreamed of the days of old and the hot rods I built and drove as a youngster. One thing I struggled with was did I really want to spend my hard earned money on a childhood Hot Rod fantasy. Unfortunately my Father passed away in 2004 and left me and my two sisters a very small sum of money. After considerable thought I decided to use that money to build a car in honor of my dad.
Growing up I never lived with my Dad, however I was blessed to have been very close with my dad for the last 30 years of his life. The few times my dad came to visit when I was a kid he always drove Buicks, so I decided I would build a Buick cruiser in honor of my dad.. Now the next question was what year Buick would l build? When I was a teenager growing up in Compton, CA, one day I was sitting on my front porch and all of a sudden I heard tires screeching, speed shifting and loud pipes and looked up and saw a slammed red 1954 Buick Special 2 door Sedan fly past my house and I never forgot that moment for over 50 years.
Since I had already decided on a Buick, along with the indelible memory of the red 1954 Buick screaming past my house as a teenager I decided to build a 1954 Buick Special 2 door hardtop. The search began, looking far and wide I found a very nice 54 Black Buick Special up in Alberta, Canada and the asking price was U$12K. The car was far too nice and cost too much for what I wanted to do. Across the US I found several other Buick Specials between the $8-10K price range none of which seemed to be the right car. I found several rust buckets in the $2-5K price range and those were not acceptable
Finally during the Thanksgiving week 2004, one of my EMC co-workers based in Detroit, who knew I was looking for this car, sent me a mail note with a link to a 1954 Buick Special that was for sale in Aurora Colorado , which I eventually purchased for $5,000.00
We were in SoCal for the Thanksgiving week and I sent a mail note to the owner and told her I was interested in buying the Buick. The owner sent me more pictures of the car and told me she had 3-4 other people interested in the car and she would sell it first come first serve. She also made me aware that the mustache grill was broken and the left side of the tooth grill was broken but she had an extra complete tooth grill that would come with the car.
The last weekend of November I used my frequent flyer miles to book a 1 day round trip ticket to Denver, fortunately no one had come up with the cash and I had a cashier’s check for $5K. I rented a car and drove to the home where the Buick was housed and spent about an hour inspecting the car. The car had been kept in a garage for the past 10 years and not driven in the snow. There were no visible signs of rust, and the body was in almost perfect condition. I started the car, backed it out of the garage to make sure all the gears were working and all the electrical components were working. After about an hour I gave her the cashier’s check and she gave me a bill of sale and agreed to store the car for two week while I arranged to have the car shipped to my home in Fremont, CA.
I spent the next 6 months going from shop to shop trying to find the shop that I would in trust to tear down my Buick and rebuild me a cruiser worthy of displaying at a Good Guys show. Fortunately Fred Watkins, a family friend and builder of a few very nice hot rods suggested I go talked to Dennis and Bob over at B&D Hobbies. I drove the Buick to the shop and talked to Dennis and Bob about what I wanted to do and they said no problem they could do everything I wanted done. The icing on the cake was when they took me into another part of the shop and showed me the 2 Black 1929 Fords they had built, one a convertible and the other a sedan delivery, both with Blown Big block Ford motors and a 1949 Chevy convertible with a blown 383 stroker engine. The build quality of these cars was outstanding and represented the kind of workmanship I was looking for. Needless to say we agreed that B&D hobbies would build my Buick.
During this time I had far more time than I had money to spend and the agreement was to pay as we go. For the next 18 months Dennis worked his magic.
This is the tricky one. You spend all this time and money to build your project car and you are not sure what color you want to paint it. Wouldn't it be great to be able to see the color on a model or see different two tone combinations? There are options;
Below are just a couple of crude Photoshop examples I created from a picture I took of a Red Buick I saw at Good Guys back in 2005/2006
I selected two colors from the 2007 Corvette. All I wanted to do was to show my Painter the color combination I was looking for. I printed two copies of a convertible Corvette, one in Atomic Orange and one in Red Jewel. Then I cut one picture of the Corvette horizontally right down the middle. I then used some tape to overlay the cut picture on top of the other whole picture which made a nice template. This allowed me to lift either cut piece to see a two toned combination
Prior to me making the Corvette templates, Everyone who asked what the color the Buick would be painted, I simply said Orange and Red and no one, including my painter, had anything positive to say about my color combination suggestions. Once they saw the Corvette template it was an “Ah Ha” moment and everyone thought it was a good color combination. These are stock Corvette colors and many people think they are candies.
For the next four and a half months Pepe's auto body stripped the body down to the metal and removed the front fenders, hood, doors, all the glass and the deck lid to complete all the body work and prep for painting. While this was happening I had to get all new glass, weather stripping, and have all the window chrome re-chromed
After the car was painted we drove it for a few months before we had the upholstery done. Kirk deYoung did all the interior/trunk fabrication and the sound system and Danny Villalpando over at Hayward Auto & Marine Upholstery did all the upholstery and made a custom bra for the Buick.
Below is a collage of the final project.
During the period of 2009 and the end of 2013 the Big Poppa Buick has won over 50 awards, including the Street Rodder Top 100 for 2010, George Barris Kustom de Elegance 2012 in Novato, CA, and several Best of Show, Best Paint, Best Custom, Best Upholstery awards. In 2010 the Big Poppa Buick was one of two cars featured on the Good Guys West Coast Nationals T-Shirt; The Buick was also one of two featured cars on the Novato Nostalgia Day t-Shirt for 2013. In the Fall of 2013 at the Race N Rods show at Laguna Seca Raceway, the Big Poppa Buick won 3 awards e.g. Best Paint, Best Custom, and Mothers Pick, which was sponsored by Mothers Car Care Products. Finally the December 2013 edition of Hot Cars Digital Magazine had a 4 page article on the Buick with some nice color pictures.
We continue to "Drive and Enjoy" our Buick, but since we finished the 1955 Plymouth BA/GT Wagon that I built for my wife "Lil Mama" we have been cruising up and down the west coast in her Bad Ass/Girl Toy.