Customizing cars has always been about standing out in a crowd-distinguishing your set of wheels from the pack. Back in the '50s and '60s, you had to go to significant lengths to differentiate your ride because there were usually several other cars of the same make, model, and year cruising around your town. On today's streets, however, it's a different story. Any bone-stock '50s car will easily stand out among the sea of chromeless, jellybean pedestrian sedans and hulking SUVs that make up modern traffic.
This fact was not lost on Ron Kussin when he began building this '56 Buick Special a few years ago. Ron is no stranger to customs-he grew up in the paint and body trade and has built a long string of modified cars. Ron has the talent to build radical rides, but he quickly determined that this Buick's handsome original styling would always set it apart in a crowd. even at car shows, the stylish hardtop would stand out among the usual sea of look-alike Tri-Five Chevys and prewar Fords. Thus, he decided the best approach for this Special would be the simplest one.
With that in mind, Ron refrained from doing any major slicing on the big Buick body. Aside from shaving the badges and door handles, the biggest alteration was molding the park light housings and painting them to match the body. even the color selection-a two-tone of copper and cream hues-was relatively subtle. Ron sprayed the PPG colors himself and had Riverside, California's Wild Bill follow up with some tasteful pinstriping. The Buick's underside was left largely stock as well. Ron rebuilt the suspension, installed modified coil springs to lower the ride height, and bolted on a set of 15-inch chrome wheels shod with 1-inch whitewalls and smoothie caps. Ron and his son, Ron Jr., also rebuilt the original 322ci Nailhead V-8, bolting it up to the stock DynaFlow and making it rumble through a pair of 18-inch glasspacks. Finished off with tasty caramel 'n' cream tuck 'n' roll vinyl and a dash painted to match the exterior, this Special is a clean example of mild custom simplicity. it's also cool enough that it has already attracted another owner halfway around the world. Parting with his creations is something to which Ron has grown accustomed. He doesn't mind though. For him, the joy is in building cars and involving his son and wife, Vickie, in the process.
"The payoff for me is the enjoyment of people who buy my cars, the smiles on their faces," Ron said. "I like building '50s customs on a budget that people can afford. They're not high-tech cars; they're simply built to old-school standards, which was all i could afford growing up." The key, Ron said, "is giving the car a highdollar look on a low-dollar budget." Sounds simple, doesn't it?
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1956 Buick Special
The 322ci Nailhead V-8 that powered the Buick from the factory was deemed worthy of motivating it for a few more miles. Ron said that if he had it to do over again, he probably would've swapped in a more economical small-block Chevy, if only to take advantage of better transmission options. We think it's cool to have a Nailhead under the hood though.
Much like the drivetrain, the chassis remains essentially stock. Ron rebuilt the suspension and swapped in custom front and rear springs to lower the ride height a few inches, but otherwise left things alone.
Wheels & Tires
The wheel and tire selection is right in line with the Buick's simple and subtle character. Chrome 15-inch wheels with smoothie caps provide a bit of shine, and are wrapped in 205/75R15 tires with 1-inch whitewalls.
Body & Paint
"i grew up in the body and paint trade and have worked for many of the great masters," Ron said,b so you can imagine the restraint it took to leave the Buick body essentially alone. Ron shaved the badges, locks, and door handles, massaged the metal straight, molded and painted the park light housing, and fine-tuned all the panel gaps before spraying the PPG copper and cream pearl paint. Pinstriper "Wild Bill" Wisslead laid down the 1-shot accents.
Caramel-and-cream-colored vinyls were wrapped around the stock Buick seats in a simple tuck 'n' roll style. Ron also peeled off the original dashpad, painted the dash to match the body, and added laminated plastic teardrop dash knobs and an aftermarket steering wheel. Finished off with black carpet, the Buick's cabin is just like the rest of the car-clean, simple, and sweet.