The Ayala brothers, Harry Westergard, Gene Winfield, Neil Emory, the Barris brothers, and other customizers of the postwar decade were masters at creating a timeless, classic style that has been influencing builders for more than half a century. In this case, the inspiration came from the customs that rolled out of Barris Kustom City in the '50s.
Take a look at the chopped top, skirted rear wheel openings, frenched headlights, molded hood and decklid, shaved panels, spots, Cadillac hubcaps, and wide whites, not to mention the overall profile of this asphalt-scraping Buick coupe, and tell us you can't see the influence of those fat-fendered customs Sam and George were building 50 years ago. Those were the cars Ron Gomez always loved. He was born too late to drive one of those customs back then, but that hasn't prevented him from adding their style to the custom he drives today.
Ron found this '41 Buick Special 44S six-passenger sport coupe in stock condition. He knew a member of the Auto Butchers in Southern California had owned the car, but a registration sticker in the glovebox revealed that it had originally come from Hawaii. More evidence of its tropical roots could be seen in the badly pitted trim, almost all of which was replaced during the buildup.
Changes to the body started at the top. At first, Ron was planning on a Carson top, but Joseph at the Drag-N Shop (Santa Fe Springs, California) came up with the idea of chopping it and filling the rear quarter windows. David (aka Froggy) came up with a concept drawing and the cutting began. Froggy's artistic skills would be required again at the end of the job, when it was time for 'striping.
Keeping the proportions right was the real trick to this car. The straight-eight Buick mill under the hood made the nose look a mile long, so after the top was chopped 3 1/2 inches in front and 4 in the back, the whole thing was relocated 3 inches forward to keep the profile balanced. The chop, along with filling the window, molding the fenders, flaring the rocker panels to meet the side pipes, shaving just the right amount of trim, and dropping the whole thing 2 inches from the pavement, make the already-long coupe look like it goes on forever.
When Ron first started work on the Buick, people knocked him for wasting his time and money, but Ron had an idea and he stuck with it. Now that the custom is done and on the road, he's getting phone calls from people trying to find old Buick parts. It must make him feel good to know that his ride, inspired by the Barris brothers from 50 years ago, is now influencing others who want to build a custom like Ron Gomez' '41 Buick.
West Covina, California
1941 Buick Special 44S
The engine compartment is filled with the stock '41 Buick straight-eight that accompanied the car out of the Flint plant. Ron adapted the dual Stromberg 97 carburetors for the I-8. The original column-shifted three-speed transmission also remains. Ron replaced the Buick 44S rearend's stock 4.11 gears with highway friendly 3.73 gears from a Roadmaster.
Chassis work was done at the Drag-N Shop. The stock GM framerails were C-notched and drop spindles were added to the frontend to lower the Buick to the pavement. An air bag system was installed to lift it back up (dual compressors and a 5-gallon tank are packed in the trunk).
Wheels & Tires
Ron's Buick nails the '50s look in the rolling stock department, with 15-inch stock steel rims covered with '57 Cadillac caps, and G78-15 whitewall bias-ply tires.
Body & Paint
Bringing the body to this condition took a combination of sheetmetal massaging and swap meet searching. The massaging was done at Drag-N Shop, where the seams were filled and the top chopped and relocated forward. The hood was modified to clear the spotlights and shaved of all ornamentation. The side strip was retained with two pieces welded together to create a seamless piece where the door handles once were. A replacement grille was installed in place of the unsalvageable original. The rear bumpers are from a '42 Buick, with bumper guards modified to house custom-built taillights. The body is finished (for now) in urethane primer. The light purple shade has changed slightly every time the car has been blocked. Paint will come when Ron is ready. He's not in a hurry to cover the elaborate pinstriping on the lower decklid, created by Froggy at the Drag-N Shop.
The idea was to leave the interior as original-looking as possible, which Ron says was harder than modifying it, due to all the hard-to-find old parts he needed to replace. The seats and door panels were treated to maroon and white Naugahyde, applied by California Upholstery. The original wheel was replaced with a restored banjo wheel, and the original instruments also had to be replaced. A fabricated instrument panel was built under the dash for additional gauges after the car was converted to 12-volt. The dash was trimmed with a mini skull and more of Froggy's first-class 'striping.