The classic American custom car was pretty much born in Northern California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, and native son Leo Reyes felt the influence from a very early age. With so many of the great legends of customizing, like originators Westergard, the Barris brothers, Bailon, Cushenberry, Wilhelm, and their traditions proudly carried on by custom loyalists like John D'Agostino and Richard Zocchi, Leo had very big shoes to fill.
When the right time finally came, the proper platform for Leo's vision was found in Hayward, California, with the purchase of a complete, but somewhat neglected, '54 Buick Special. Since it was definitely going to be a custom, Leo went to the best and delivered the car to Oz Kustoms in Oroville, California. Jumping right in, Oz sliced off the hardtop roof and replaced it with a 4-inches-lower Carson-style lid. That one major mod set the stage and custom tricks to follow included shaving the hood, doors and deck, removing the side trim, frenching the headlights and antennas, and finishing it all off with a pair of '55 Lincoln taillights in each new custom opening. Oz finished their work with a House of Kolor Kandy Tangerine topcoat over a Gamma Gold base. Fresh chrome from Superior and a set of wide whitewall rapped chrome wires complete the visual package.
Plenty of custom work went on under Leo's Buick as well, with pieces from an early Camaro tucked under both ends. The rebuilt Camaro clip is steered by a Monte Carlo column and box. A disc brake-equipped Camaro rearend pushes the big Buick and a full system from Air Ride Technologies adjusts the altitude. Since it's a cruiser, a stock '85 Chevy 350ci small-block is more than enough to handle the task with just enough dress-up items to make it sparkle when Leo pops the hood.
Inside the car, miles of pleated pearl white vinyl wrapped over the Glide Engineering bucket seats, door panels, headliner, and rear seat by Bob Divine instantly greet you. Classic Instruments gauges complement the refinished dash and steering wheel and cruising tunes are pumped through an array of JVC audio components.
After three years of hard work and help from his brothers and all his friends, Leo's dream of becoming part of custom car history came true when he picked up awards acknowledging his accomplishments from custom heroes Joe Bailon and Rick Dore. With results like this, we can only hope to see the next creation from Leo sometime soon.
Leo and Lisa Reyes
San Jose, California
1954 Buick Special
A cruiser at heart, Leo felt a box stock '85 Chevy small-block would make plenty of power to prowl his local streets. A four-barrel carburetor tops a polished intake manifold to provide a little more juice. A billet air cleaner and valve covers, and Sanderson headers add some flash to the mix. An owner-assembled Turbo 350 automatic transmission makes cruisin' easy.
Updating the suspension in one shot was made easy with a Camaro front clip swap. Along with a lower ride height, better brakes, better steering and mounts for the small-block engine came already attached. A Camaro rearend to match was installed and ride height is adjustable via a full system from Air Ride Technologies.
Body & Paint
Oz Kustom (Oroville, CA) gets all the credit for the '54's transformation from tired hardtop to stunning chopped convertible. The work began by clipping off the unwanted hardtop and replacing it with a Carson-style padded lid in a 4-inches-lower position. The work continued from nose to tail with frenched headlights, shaved hood, sides and deck lid, and a custom set of taillights made up from four '55 Lincoln lenses. The reworked sheetmetal was sprayed with a gleaming coat of House of Kolor Kandy Tangerine over a Gamma Gold base.
Wheels & Tires
Leo isn't into large-diameter billet "bling" so he went with a traditional combination of chrome-plated wires (15x6 and 15x7) wrapped in 195/70/15 wide whites from Coker Tire.
A traditional custom needs a traditional interior so Bob Divine (Martinez, CA) was the man to stitch up pleat after pleat of pearl white vinyl to fill the cavernous passenger compartment. The tuck 'n' roll covers a pair of Glide Engineering buckets up front and custom-built buckets in the rear. The original dashboard was filled and smoothed before receiving a full set of gauges from Classic Instruments. The final touch of class is a fully restored original Buick steering wheel.