Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bob Wells
Laguna Beach, California
1956 Buick Century

In the square world a person can earn a nickname for any number of reasons, and none of them have to be related to anything as cool as owning a certain kind of car. The weird guy named Clay who rides the bus to work every morning and eats cabbage burritos like clockwork earns the moniker "Gaseous" Clay. The Detroit resident who moves to Northern Michigan's Upper Peninsula will soon be called a Yooper. Now gearheads on the other hand have to do something a little more momentous than pass gas in public or move to another region of their state to earn recognition. In the gearhead world it takes owning a string of a particular make of automobile to earn a distinguished title.

Take Bob Wells of Laguna Beach, California, for example. Bob started out with a Boss 302 Mustang, acquired a Boss 302 Cougar Eliminator, brought home a Boss 429 Mustang, and then stuffed a Boss 429 mill into a big-window 1956 Ford F-100. After all that Bob clearly deserves the nickname "Boss" Bob. In addition to the Boss-powered cars to be found in "Boss" Bob's garage, there are a pair of Deuces, a Vicky and a roadster both running full-house Flatheads. Down the row there's a '29 roadster pickup and a bevy of mild customs, ranging from shoeboxes to Starliners.

So how is it "Boss" Bob, a devout Ford fanatic, has a mild custom 1956 Buick Century planted smack in the middle of his 20-plus car collection? Nostalgia is the fastest route to the fountain of youth. It all started way back in high school when Bob had a good friend who owned a pure black 1956 Buick Century. No doubt R&C readers will recognize Bob took the recreation of his high school buddy's 1956 Century and cranked it up a few notches with performance and convenience options that didn't exist back in the day. Contrary to some styling found on customized mid-1950s Buicks found on the scene today, Bob's 1956 is almost pure Buick. There's not a Chevrolet motor to be found under its hood, Lexus bucket seats for an interior, or even a pair of finned Chrysler taillights tacked on.

The heart of customizing Bob's 1956 Century was the acquisition of a donor '65 Buick Gran Sport Riviera. Like a whole chicken prepared at a Mexican restaurant not one part gleaned from the '65 Riviera carcass went to waste. The 425-inch Nailhead engine, Turbo 400 transmission, and even the '65's bucket seat interior, complete with console, were adapted to fit into the Century. Four years in the making starting with an empty shell, the build of Bob's Buick was handled by Bill Brown at Rod Tech in Costa Mesa, California. An engine builder with Indy car experience, Bill blew the dual-quad Nailhead apart, and complied with Bob's desire to create the illusion of the best the 1950s had to offer in Nailhead performance.

Atop the vintage Weiand six-carb manifold there's a six-pack of dummy Ford 48 carbs that function as throttle bodies for a one-off Electramotive fuel-injection system. The wiring harness for the injectors is concealed in a custom-made cover with fins duplicating the fins on the Weiand-finned aluminum valley cover. Continuing the aluminum treatment Weiand finned spark plug and valve covers adorn the outer flanks of the 425. A Vertex magneto appears to be the source of ignition, but it's an Electramotive crank-triggered non-distributor ignition system that brings fire to the Buick. The Electramotive coil packs and interface are concealed within the '65 Riviera console. Spent fumes exit through a pair of Mark Weiss custom-fabricated tube headers dumping into a custom dual-exhaust system by the late Russ Dodson of Mesa Mufflers in Costa Mesa, California. Final tuning the Electramotive fuel-injection was handled by Raymond Harstad at J&R Motorsports in Costa Mesa. A Mattson's radiator with a one-off hand-formed aluminum overflow tank by Terry Hegman takes care of cooling chores.

At rest the 1956 Buick lays out on RideTech ShockWaves with the ride height managed by an ARC4600 Ride Pro automatic leveling system. The front suspension clip originated from a '70 Z28 Camaro. In the rear a 9-inch Ford with 3.5:1 gears is in place. For rolling stock the Buick rides on Coker narrow whitewall radials mounted on Wheel Vintiques Wildcat chrome wire wheels. The front disc brakes are Wilwood with Ford Police drums in the rear.

A distinct contrast to its black exterior is the Buick's sumptuous white Ultraleather interior by Augie at Costa Mesa Auto Upholstery. The '65 Riviera buckets fit right in but the length of the rear seat had to be chopped down, yet the width was right on. The one-off dashboard complete with a burled English Walnut fascia was custom made to accept a '41 Ford bezel packed with Dakota Digital gauges. Rod Tech installed Vintage Air air-conditioning and custom wired the Buick from scratch. A 140-amp polished one-wire alternator provides juice for all of the electrical appliances.

There were only two phases of building this Buick that took place outside of Costa Mesa. The chrome plating and polishing, $10,000 worth at 2001 prices was done by Charles Sihilling of Santa Ana, and the body and paint by Tim Marshall of Riverside, California. Marshall runs a one-man shop and specializes in turning out high-quality work, as "Boss" Bob's Buick attests.