It wasn't that long ago that if you told your hot rod buddies that you had a '55 Buick convertible as your ride you would have gotten laughed out of the local hamburger joint. Doyle Thomas, of Tyler, Texas, knew something the others didn't-he knew Buicks and hamburgers. Aside from owning Whataburger restaurants and grilling a tasty burger (with an extra-large chocolate shake we hope!), he opted to go the street cruiser route and show what could be done. Fifties Buicks weren't considered a delicate car by any means but this was considered a performance era. It was the era of big cars, bigger chrome, developing V-8s, and the coming of age for Detroit and America.
Many of us received our introduction to Buick as a performance car because of a television show based on the California Highway Patrol. Turns out in 1955 the California Highway Patrol placed a fleet order for Century two-door sedans, a body style at that time not available to the public. It combined the Special two-door sedan body with Century power. Broderick Crawford was shown driving a two-door Century sedan during the first season of Highway Patrol. (Later he would drive a four-door Century, which was the car that the real California Highway Patrol drove.)
Why did the CHP want Buick Centurys? Well, Buick was in the midst of coming up with the first production car capable of hitting 100 mph and what do hot rodders call 100 miles per hour-the century mark! There's also the story about the Buick executive coming back from the British Isles who had heard the term "doing the century" relating to cars running 100 mph. Anyway, this type of performance is just what the CHP was looking for. And for those of us who remember riding in those cars, getting to 100 wasn't nearly as difficult as getting back down. Power was moving faster than brake technology and it wouldn't be until the mid-'60s before Detroit began offering disc brake packages.
A lifelong hot rodder, Doyle found himself hooked up with Bobby Alloway, of Alloway's Hot Rods in Louisville, Tennessee. The task at hand was what to do with Doyle's '55 Buick convertible. Wanting to make this a "max" effort, the plans began with stripping the car down to the bare sheetmetal.
Alloway's began with an Art Morrison Enterprises (Fife, Washington) chassis stretched 1 inch over stock yielding a 123-inch wheelbase. (We think you can hide a Model A in the trunk!) The 2x4-inch rectangular tubing frame is set up for independent in the front and a Winters Performance Products (York, Pennsylvania) quick-change in back. The quickie is outfitted with a limited-slip differential plus 3.50 gears, 31-spline axles, and held in place via a four-link and Panhard bar. The rearend housing is also home for Strange Engineering (Morton Grove, Illinois) coilovers, Wilwood Engineering (Camarillo, California) six-piston calipers, and 14-inch rotors. The Morrison independent front suspension utilizes Morrison dropped spindles, RGA rack-and-pinion steering, Strange coilover shocks, and a Wilwood brake package. The 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors, six-piston calipers, and master cylinder, are all brought to bear by a Kugel Komponents (La Habra, California) pedal assembly. Other corner adornments are the Alloway-designed, Boyd-built billet wheels measuring 17x7 in front and 20x10 in back and neatly wrapped in BFGoodrich 255/55R17 and 275/55R20 rubber.
Yes this is a '55 Buick, and yes, that is a '57 Olds dash. The Olds dash is one of the bes
The gauge cluster is a '57 Olds reworked by Classic Instruments.
Paul Atkins used a saddle-colored leather over the front '64 T-bird buckets and built and
He also stitched over the full-length center console and door panels as well as laid down
Kugel Komponents received the nod for the pedal assembly with a combination of fabricated
The power is no longer the factory 322-inch Nailhead rated at 236 hp but rather a GM Performance Parts 502 that was massaged by Mylon Keasler (Maryville, Tennessee) with a beefed-up cam, an Edelbrock (Torrance, California) dual-four intake, and a pair of Edelbrock 600-cfm carbs both topped with an OTB Gear (Walnut, California) full-fin air cleaner. Interestingly, the valve covers, an Alloway custom piece, are machined to be reminiscent of Nailhead covers over Chevy big-block heads. Supplying this 500-plus horsepower V-8 with its gasoline is a stainless steel 16-gallon tank by Rock Valley (Stillman Valley, Illinois). The ignition is based around an MSD (El Paso, Texas) distributor and box followed with Taylor (Grandview, Missouri) plug wires, with Sanderson (South San Francisco) full-length headers, Flowmaster (Santa Rosa, California) 40 mufflers, and a custom 21/2-inch exhaust system by Mile Barillaro. The transmission is a 4L60E built by Keisler Engineering (Rockford, Tennessee) equipped with a Lokar Performance Products (Knoxville, Tennessee) shifter. A Steve Long brass radiator (Indianapolis) with a Vintage Air (San Antonio) Monster fan and Front Runner system, and a Stewart Components (Escanaba, Michigan) high-flow water pump handle the cooling chores.
In 1955, the Buick was very proud of its new visored headlight appearance along with the hooded taillight. The brake, parking, and directional light are all located in the top globe of the taillight.
Well, that was then and this is now. Alloway opted to replace the stock Buick headlights and surrounding sheetmetal with '55 Chevy headlight buckets. Other custom sheetmetal touches include a '54 Buick grille, '56 Roadmaster taillights, custom bumpers, the side stainless moved up 4 inches, shaved door handles, and the addition of the four billet portholes. The brightwork was applied by Dan's Polishing (Adamsville, Tennessee). At some point all, and we do mean all, of the sheetmetal needed bodywork and paint. Alloway's HRS handled the basecoat/clearcoat PPG black.
Dan's Polishing handled the brightwork of which there is plenty on top and especially unde
Back in 1955 the Buick seats were deep and soft and these cars could easily sit three across. The material was a combination of nylon and Cordaveen. Well, that was back in the day. Today the skills of Paul Atkins, of Atkins Custom Auto Interiors (Hanceville, Alabama) took '64 Ford Thunderbird front buckets and covered them in brilliant red leather. He also made the custom rear seating. The custom door panels are also covered in red leather while the carpeting is a black Daytona weave laid over a complete floorboard covering of Dynamat (Hamilton, Ohio) insulation.
The interior mods don't stop here. The dashboard is the very-popular '57 Olds with its original gauges refinished and upgraded by Classic Instruments (Boyne City, Michigan). Blended to the bottom of the dash is an ididit (Tecumseh, Michigan) steering column topped with a '57 Olds steering wheel with a smaller-than-stock diameter horn ring. The Vintage Air A/C flows through Alloway-fabricated custom air vents.
The Buick Century made three runs at American automotive history, introduced in 1936-42, then 1948-54, and then from 1973-2005. While this Buick could never get permanent traction in the eyes of the automotive public it most certainly is gaining daily in popularity with hot rodders. We can expect to see more and more of these street cruisers at events for years to come.
A Winters quick-change is traditional hot rod fare but we didn't expect to see it under a
We've seen this treatment from several makes of '50s cars-the gas filler hidden behind a t
The motor is GM but not Buick-look past the Nailhead-appearing valve covers. The big-block