Luis Contres at Glendale’s Country Upholstery trimmed the seat in materials sourced from Jenkins Restorations and Interiors. The faces wear leather and the skirts a coordinated heavy-grain vinyl. Frank Borowitz at Premier Frame and Body rolled pleat-like beads into aluminum sheet to create the race car–inspired door panels. J.B. also specializes in re-casting steering wheels in custom resins, which explains the exotic-looking marbled finish on this ’39 Ford wheel and its matching shift knob.
J.B. used cut-down stainless windshield posts but had a thinner frame welded up from strips cut from stainless sheet. Contres clad the cut-down Superior Car Parts top irons with Haartz Stayfast canvas. The taillights came from a ’37 Lincoln Zephyr.
Now we’re going to cop to something: we made the case that J.B.’s Buick is a factory hot rod, which it is if you buy that definition. But it isn’t exactly stock, either. This isn’t Rod & Custom & Restoration after all.
The car owes its current configuration largely to Pruett’s Automatic Transmissions in South Phoenix. “I don’t know how to describe it,” J.B. says. “It’s a transmission shop but they can do just about anything.”
Anything in this case happens to include pretty much everything behind the engine. Pruett’s used a Bendtsen’s adapter to mate a TH350 transmission to the Roadmaster engine. That’s a big deal in Buick land: until 1961 the suspension pivoted from a socket at the back of the stock transmission and the TH350 doesn’t support the torque-tube design.
Pruett’s solved that problem by making brackets to install the entire rear suspension—axle, links, coil springs, two-piece driveshaft, and all—from a ’60s Buick Riviera. The guys at the shop also happened to install it in such a way to lower the car just a little bit.
The swap also happened to eliminate the pedal assembly, a shortcoming Pruett’s corrected with a Kugel Komponents swing-pedal kit. The front suspension remains stock except for a modest lowering to match the rear.
The engine is exceptional beyond its Roadmaster heritage. For one it wears a very rare crown, an Edmunds two-pot manifold. If you’re not familiar with his story, Eddie Edmunds was sort of the patron saint of speed equipment for orphan engines. But since not many big-Buick owners were interested in extreme performance Edmunds didn’t make many Buick manifolds. This one came from J.B.’s good friend and Buick Club of America founder, the late Greg Fallowfield. The other side of the engine sports another rare piece of early speed equipment, a Mallory dual-point distributor—again, a Fallowfield contribution.
The body isn’t entirely stock, either. These cars’ thin pot-metal grilles disintegrated early, inspiring aftermarket cast-aluminum versions like the one this car has. J.B. fashioned a pair of front turn signals from vintage cab marker lights and re-cast their amber lenses in white. He also had the rear fenders shaved and relocated the fuel filler to the spare-tire tray below the rumble lid. He replaced the taillights with aluminum pieces that he cast in the likeness of ’39 Ford pieces. Corrales and the Saucedos straightened and sprayed this body in PPG Concept, this time in a cranberry hue. Royal Plating in Tucson refreshed the chrome.
The very presence of Jenkins leather and vinyl in it marks this interior as custom. Doug Stinson at Tempe’s All American Upholstery stitched it in a pattern that he and J.B. designed. Stinson incorporated a number of other elements, including ’53 Skylark armrests and stainless trim that MarZee Water Jet Services cut with J.B.’s business logo.
According to J.B., Buick made only a few examples of steering wheels with crossbars in the spokes. “They made a few transition wheels in 1936 and 1937 and I’d saved that one for that car.” He re-cast the rim in a marbled burgundy and, using the same material, cast the inlay in a custom horn button. To prevent the Gennie shifter from spoiling the interior’s integrity he replaced its stalk with one from a ’39 Ford shifter and topped it with a Ford knob that he re-cast in the steering wheel material.
We admit our bought-or-built hot rod model has a few flaws. For one, the Ford would’ve been too new and expensive for a kid to buy much less modify when the Buick was a hot car. For another, by the time Chevrolet introduced its revolutionary V-8 no self-respecting hot rodder would have even given the time of day to a ’37 Buick. Finally, ’36 Fords are no longer cheap and disposable to truly fit my definition of a hot rod.
But really, who cares anymore? They’re both hot rods even if neither one fits any particular definition. These days both cars fit in another category, one that hardly needs categorization. They’re just super bitchin’.
1936 Ford Roadster
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1937 Buick Century Convertible
Rod & Custom Feature Car