The big Nailhead has been exchanged for a more efficient 383 stroker small-block Chevy. Rick Harper, of Smith River, California, did the machine work and the engine assembly. Scat rods and crank pushing hypereutectic 9:1 slugs make up the lower end while a Crane hydraulic roller cam actuates the stainless steel valves. Aluminum valve covers, sandblasted and clearcoated, dress up the mighty mouse. The induction system is comprised of an Edelbrock Performer manifold and four-barrel carburetor. By keeping the accessories to a factory component whenever possible, Chevy ram horn exhaust manifolds instead of headers for instance, Juan gains practical performance that means little or no maintenance on the road. The hop-up efforts resulted in a 375-horse motor that produces 400 lb-ft of torque.
Using reclaimed parts, such as the GTO mufflers, is another way that Juan adheres to the old ways of car building. Juan hitches the ponies to the cart with a Turbo 400 trans fitted with an Allison converter from a motor home that has a 1,200-rpm stall speed. The column gear selection lever gives a nice stock look and actuates the Street Fighter shift kit. A custom-made driveshaft fills the tranny to rearend void.
The customizing of the body is subtle but arresting. The top of the convertible remains un-chopped. The major mods are in the body itself. The hood and fenders are peaked, the hood ornament is peaked, and the fenders, quarter-panels, and door caps are welded and molded. The great styling on the rear fenders comes from the reshaped wheel openings. The trunk lid has been sunken to affect a superior fit. Juan, who did all of his own bodywork, used a paint stick as a guide to maintain equal panel gaps throughout. He also applied the Sikkens Molten Bronze finish. The stainless trim has been chrome-plated and all of the trim pieces, including the bumpers, are stock. The extensive plating was done by Walker's Custom Chrome in Shasta Lake, California. Some little styling details that might escape the casual observer are the use of '48 Harley taillights as license plate illumination and the chief safety inspector badge as a tunnel hitch cover. By the way the "brodie knob," on the original Buick steering wheel is a gennie '40s item. Original (updated) gauges provide pilot info.
Juan put his skills into the interior as well. The German leather and square-weave carpeting were installed by Thomas Brennan at Ocean Awning in Eureka and the console is owner built. Juan had a hand in the install of the wiring, and the many custom touches that accommodate the AirTique A/C system. A Vintage Air condenser and Sanden compressor pump the frost through the custom Vintage Air vents. Cabin inhabitants relax on the comfortable seats and are either soothed or highly over stimulated by the sounds that emanate from the Alpine stereo. The stereo is pretty evolved and it could be argued that a car that is driven as much as this Buick is really needs good music to wile away those cross country miles.
Juan Freeman is obviously thorough, and his attention to detail and willingness to take an active role in the build of his car are remarkable. Those are the very traits that have made him so successful in his career. He has a job that requires an extraordinary ability to focus and a keen eye for detail, as he is a (now retired) homicide detective. Juan has an excellent case clearance record and was instrumental in bringing a high-profile serial killer to justice. The patience and focus required to do that job are exactly the skills that make a long car build successful. The amount of miles on this no-trailer car is the evidence of a case that was fully solved. The case of the longterm Buick is now closed.