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.
Tom & Ruth ComptonNevada City, California'46 Buick Super Convertible
Drivetrain: The blown big-block Chevy-which dyno'd at 592 hp and 674 lb-ft of torque-is rowdy for a custom. Aaron's Machine in Roseville assembled it with JE forged slugs, a Comp roller cam, and a Littlefield 8-71 blower topped with dual Edelbrock carbs. March pulleys, MSD ignition, and Sanderson headers are part of the package, along with a hand-crafted air cleaner by Roseville Rod & Custom. ATO Transmissions beefed up the TH400 trans to handle the power. And it wouldn't be a custom without lakes pipes, would it? The Buick's functional leg burners connect to a custom exhaust with Stainless Specialties mufflers.
Chassis: Built by Bruce Leonard, then rebuilt and refined by Roseville Rod & Custom, the Buick frame wears a Camaro subframe and a triangulated four-link secured to a 3.25:1-geared Currie rearend with Wilwood disc brakes. Custom coil springs provide the stance-there are no airbags or hydraulics. A stainless 35-gallon fuel tank is filled through a Hagan cap hidden under the spare wheel's center cap in the trunk. The frame is painted to match the body; everything else is detailed to the hilt.
Wheels & Tires: Massive 20x8-inch Colorado Custom wheels fill the big Buick's fenders. They're finished off with custom center caps and wrapped in Michelin Pilot 245/40ZR20 rubber.
Body & Paint: Where do we start? Besides shaved emblems and filled seams, the Buick's top is chopped, the head- and taillights are frenched, the fenders are molded to the body, and the hood is shaved, peaked, louvered, and rounded. The decklid is re-shaped, the rear fenders widened and re-contoured, and the fender skirts are scratch-built. The front bumper is tucked, frenched, and fitted with custom bullets; the rear is split and recessed. The front wheel openings are radiused, and the doorjambs are boxed and smoothed. Custom sheetmetal work is also found in the engine compartment and trunk. Bodywork is by Roseville Rod & Custom (Roseville, CA), with House of Kolor Candy Apple Red paint by Jason Haskin.
Interior: Kudos to Ward Auto Interiors in Orangevale for the fine leather upholstery covering custom seats with heat and massage features. The dash is mostly stock, with rebuilt gauges by United Speedometer, custom knobs, and wood graining by Fritz at Progressive Image Woodgrain (Carmichael, CA). Tunes and visuals come from a Pioneer head unit (with DVD player) with Alpine amps and Kicker speakers. Vintage Air climate controls, a Budnik wheel on an ididit column, and German wool carpet finish things off.