Almost any hot rodder will tell you it's more cost-effective to buy a finished or almost-finished car than it is to build one from the ground up. Simply put, most rods and customs cost more to construct than they're worth when complete, especially if you need professional help crafting them.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Tom Compton's '46 Buick is a particularly glaring one.

Tom thought he was on easy street when he bought the Buick in 2000. The car was a driver-a mild custom built in the Pacific Northwest by the late Bruce Leonard, a man with a reputation for nice cars. A little freshening up and some new paint, Tom reasoned, and it would be back on the show circuit. When the car arrived at his house, however, Tom discovered what had transpired in the years since Bruce sold it. "The big convertible had most recently been in Florida," Tom says, "and evidently had been through several owners who had less appreciation for it than the Leonards. It showed many miles and little maintenance."

Tom figured he had two options. He could sell the car and search for a better one (fat chance, as there were about 5,900 Super convertibles produced in 1946), or he could bite the bullet, tear apart the big Buick, and give it the glory it deserved.

Tom and his wife Ruth chose the latter and never looked back, delivering the car to Ben York and his crew at Roseville Rod & Custom for a thorough rebuild and fresh batch of modifications. "I wanted a custom done in the early-'50s style, but with modern technology and ease of driving," Tom says. He definitely got it. From the triangulated four-bar rear suspension to the blown 454 rumbling atop a Camaro subframe, the fully detailed chassis is miles away from the '50s. The 20-inch Colorado Custom wheels are decidedly modern, as well, yet still evoke hubcap memories. They tuck up in the fenders without help from airbags.

This is a custom, though, so it's the body that really drops your jaw. An almost endless list of mods includes a functional, chopped convertible top, molded fenders, frenched lights, frenched and reshaped bumpers, radiused front wheel openings, handmade fender skirts, and a shaved and peaked hood. Look close and you might even notice subtle details like the reshaped decklid (the profile is raised an inch) and the widened rear fenders. The stunning House of Kolor Candy Apple Red finish is the handiwork of Jason Haskin.

Step inside and you're sitting in the lap of luxury. Actually, you're sitting on creamy leather-wrapped seats that'll heat and massage your derriere. If that's not enough stimulation, there's an entertainment system with a Pioneer stereo and DVD player, Alpine amps, and Kicker speakers. Ward Auto Interiors gets credit for the upholstery, while Fritz at Progressive Image Woodgrain painted the timber-themed dash.

Tom is quick to admit that he got more than he bargained for with the Buick. The simple facelift he'd anticipated snowballed into a 30-month, ground-up rebuild. He's got plenty to show for it, though. The car has earned top awards at prestigious events like the Grand National Roadster Show, Portland Rod & Custom Show, and West Coast Kustoms Cruisin' Nationals. In the end, it's been worth every penny.