How do you define rare? A one-off isn't rare, it's unique. We'd have to say anything that was produced in very limited quantities qualifies. Take this 1935 Buick 56-C cabriolet for instance, of which just 170 were produced. Yeah, we'd say that's rare. Then consider there are just three remaining in existence, according to a search by a title research company for Ed Sears, the owner of this one. Now that's definitely rare!

As Ed put it: "In my opinion, the 1934 and 1935 Buicks were the most beautiful cars ever built. After building a 1934 Buick four-door sedan, I began searching for a 1935 Model 56-C, a suicide door, two-door convertible with a rumble seat. It took several years, but I located this car in Berkeley, California. A further title search revealed its first owner was the movie actress Marlene Dietrich. When found, the car was in original condition but in relatively poor shape. It had been in at least two major accidents, with a lot of Bondo and a twisted frame. This was a major problem since keeping the original frame and exterior body was a must. However, most, but not all, of the original parts were there. Those parts which were missing or badly damaged were very difficult to find and obtain." For example, the foglights are extremely rare, and were an over-the-counter dealer option in 1935. These were found in very poor condition, but were restored and chromed by Qual Krom, in Erie, Pennsylvania, who also tackled the convertible top mechanism.

We encountered the Buick at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville last summer, where it was in the Pro's Pick section. Though the hood was open, it was on the side of the car facing away from us, the car's resto rod appearance giving no clue as to what was under that hood, or indeed, under the car! Walking round to the driver side, however, was somewhat of a surprise, first seeing the amazingly detailed Nailhead, then being given a tour of the interior by Ed, who pointed out the modern accouterments hidden inside the glovebox, and the reduced-diameter 1946 Buick steering wheel on a Flaming River column. Then we looked underneath the car...

Speaking with Ed, it transpired the Buick had only just been finished, but in its first four weeks it picked up the aforementioned NSRA Pro's Pick, First Place and the Gold Award at the Buick National Meet, and Best Of Show at both the Dublin Metro Show and the All GM Show in Washington DC. Not bad for four shows on four consecutive weekends!

Ed is an engineer/designer by profession, and though much of the build was handled by the Hot Rod Garage, in Denton, Maryland, he prepared the design and specifications and oversaw the build. The Hot Rod Garage salvaged the original frame, straightening and repairing it prior to Precision Hot Rods and Fabrication in Macedonia, Ohio, installing the Heidts IFS, Winters rearend, and the drivetrain. It then went back to the Hot Rod Garage for bodywork, upholstery, wiring, and assembly.

What we like about this Buick is that Ed built it to be a driver. He has, and will continue, to drive it often, reporting that it is very roadworthy, comfortable, and handles like a sports car. Of course, the 400-plus horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque doesn't hurt the driveability either!

Rod & Custom Feature Car
Ed Sears
Annapolis, Maryland
1935 Buick 56-C

Chassis

Once the Hot Rod Garage had straightened and repaired the stock 119-inch wheelbase frame, Precision Hot Rods and Fabrication installed the Heidts Super Ride IFS, using Aldan shocks, Flaming River steering rack, and Wilwood brakes. A custom pedal assembly employs a dual master cylinder and booster, fed by remote reservoirs on the firewall. A polished stainless steel gas tank by Rock Valley feeds the Nailhead through polished stainless lines. More polished stainless is evident in the Hot Rod Garage–fabbed exhaust system, utilizing Juliano's Pro Clamp couplings. A pair of pass-through, finned cylindrical coolers are located under the running boards, one for engine oil and the other for transmission fluid.

Drivetrain

You wouldn't expect anything less from a car of this caliber than a Buick in a Buick, and it doesn't disappoint, with a Russ Martin (Grass Valley, CA) machined and assembled Nailhead of 1966 vintage now residing under the four-piece hood. With Egge pistons, a TA Performance high-lift cam and reworked heads, and dual Edelbrock 500-cfm four-barrels feeding the engine through an Elco intake. Street & Performance assembled a one-off custom serpentine belt system, with more one-off fabrication, including the radiator shroud and fan cover, around a 16-inch SPAL fan and Mattson's radiator. A Chevrolet 700-R4 pushes the horsepower through a polished aluminum high-torque driveshaft to a custom-designed Winters banjo-style rearend, featuring 12-rib bells, a limited-slip differential, and 1966 Buick brakes with finned drum covers by John's Industries. The rearend is located on an unequal-length four-bar and more Aldan coilovers.

Wheel & Tires

What at first appear to be artillery wheels are in fact machined from billet aluminum by The Wheel Smith to accept original 1935 Buick hubcaps and trim rings. These are wrapped in custom-built 235/75R16 Diamond Back tires with a 3 1/2-inch whitewall.

Body & Paint

One of the biggest features of any resto rod is the paint, and the Buick not only has the almost-obligatory contrasting fenders and body, but they're in the original colors and scheme too. The Hot Rod Garage gets the nod for the bodywork and paint, and there's a lot of it on a car this size! Plus they scratch-built the outside mirrors. There's also a lot of chrome on this car, which was re-plated by Jon Wright's Custom Chrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio.

Interior

The bird's-eye dark maple woodgrained dash remains home to the stock gauges, though they've been restored and converted to 12V, and are now framed—or at least they are if you're the driver—by a reduced-diameter 1946 Buick steering wheel. The bench seat is a copy of the original, as are the door panels, all trimmed in tobacco-colored leather. Light tan, leather-edged carpet covers the floor, while the convertible top is trimmed in Mercedes "Sunbrella". The Hot Rod Garage handled the interior and upholstery work, while the wood bows for the roof were remanufactured by Oak Bows of Chambersburg, PA, attaching to the reconditioned top mechanism.