While attending the Goodguys Rod & Custom Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, we kept our eyes open for cool cars bearing the YG decal, hoping to find a potential Young Gun of the Month. When we ran across the sweet 'n' low Buick you see here, we were stunned, as our crown and spray-gun logo was not only proudly displayed on the windshield, it had been painted on by hand! As it turns out, 29-year-old Jeff Gilger had his membership application in-hand but was in such a hurry to get his car buttoned up for the Goodguys show that he didn't have time to actually send it in. Since you can't get a decal until you mail in the form, he did the next best thing and made his own. That kind of dedication is enough to get our attention, but what really won us over was the Buford's slammin' stance and 'flaked tangerine roof that screamed for attention everywhere it went. Even more impressive is the fact that the entire project was completed for about $4,000, which makes this car the perfect example of a budget '60s custom.
So how do you go about building a cool cruiser on the cheap? According to Jeff, it takes a lot of hard work and a little luck. After scoring a job as a parts driver for Jim Pace GM Parts Warehouse, he managed to spot the clean, old Buick sitting in a yard his second day on the job. With help from two uncles and his friends, Twinkie and Dibic, Jeff managed to complete his custom makeover in only two months. After rebuilding the stock drum brakes, the coils were hacked on all four corners to achieve the proper stance. Next, a set of 15x7 Astro Supremes was shod with 215x75R15 wide white radials, while the 364 Wildcat motor was equipped with dual pipes and long tips to complete the period-correct "Bellflower" look. Finally, the two-door sedan was nosed, decked, shaved, and painted by Dibic, Gorgo, and Uncle B (Jeff didn't mention any last names). The body is covered in House of Kolor Zenith Gold, while the roof is House of Kolor Golden Orange 'Flake buried under Sunset Orange candy. Finishing touches include a Maltese cross mirror, true Mexican blankets covering the interior, and a wicked skull shift knob decked out in matching orange flames. Jeff credits his girl Heidi and son Jeffrey for all of their support throughout the project.
There's no arguing with the flowing lines and budget basement price of this killer cruiser, which proves that with a little luck and the help of friends, a rod or custom can be had on any budget. As the January '04 Young Gun of the Month, Jeff will receive a gift certificate worth $400 redeemable at WyoTech, which has campuses in Laramie, Wyoming, and Blairsville, Pennsylvania. Home to one of the top automotive education programs in the country, WyoTech offers classes in Street Rod Fabrication, Upholstery, Custom Painting, and more. They also have a full line of apparel and videos available on their Web site in case Jeff can't make it out to one of the campuses. Congratulations, Jeff, we look forward to seeing your next custom creation!
Young GunsThanks...In last month's column, I spent some time talking about the down-to-the-wire jam to get my '28 roadster finished in time for the '03 Americruise East and how tired I was from six weeks of all-night work sessions and last-minute parts runs. This month I thought I'd give you an update on how things went, as well as take the opportunity to thank a few people who were invaluable along the way.
Until you actually build a car from the ground up, it is virtually impossible to grasp how much time it takes to make it road worthy once the basics like paint and upholstery are complete. Thankfully, my father Dave and our friend Mike Lambert (a former auto shop teacher) were both available to lend a helping hand every time I got hung up or frustrated. I drove the roadster for the first time on the morning the car was supposed to ship, and after a few laps around the neighborhood, I filled her up and set out for So-Cal Speed Shop, where an enclosed hauler was waiting to take my little roadster to the Lone Star State. While my first real drive in the roadster filled me with pride, it wasn't a very exciting ride. I ended up smack in the middle of L.A. traffic, so the car never went above 30 mph. Luckily, it drove like a dream and never got hot, so by the time it was loaded into the rig and on its way to Texas, I was feeling pretty confident.
The tour kicked off with a party at Vintage Air, and the very next day we were on the road to Louisiana, our first night stop of the trip. Besides a little leak coming out of the rearend, the car ran pretty well the first day, until the shifter came off in my hand as I pulled into the hotel parking lot that night (the endorsement for Loctite goes here). As I sat there wondering how the hell something like that could have happened, help arrived in the form of famed rod builder Roy Brizio and my editor Jim Rizzo. As it turns out, Riz and Briz would play a major part in keeping my car on the road for the duration of the trip. The two of them already had an idea of what had happened (my 3-foot-long shifter picked up every vibration in the road and worked everything loose) and had it bolted back together and adjusted before I could even get my tools out of the bag.
The next day, I was back on the road, and things went pretty well. That night, however, I noticed that my steering was starting to get a little sticky. I talked the problem over with Roy, who promised to check it out the next morning prior to the driver's meeting. We inspected the steering problem in the daylight and decided that the driver-side front kingpin was short on grease and starting to stick. Since it was basically impossible to get a grease gun on the hard-to-reach zerk fitting, drastic action would be necessary. This is where things get pretty wild. While the rest of the group went ahead to the lunch stop at Coker Tire, Roy (in the R&C 50th Anniversary Deuce roadster), Riz and his nephew Josh (in the So-Cal Speed Shop Deuce roadster), Ray Lark (in his gorgeous '33 roadster), and myself stayed behind to fix my car in the hotel parking lot. We pulled the kingpins, slathered on a coat of grease and hit the road...for about 20 miles. That's when I broke a muffler hanger and blew a collector gasket simultaneously. This was getting ridiculous. Once again Roy came to the rescue, as he managed to have an entire mobile hot rod shop packed into the trunk of his roadster. A few burned fingers later, a new gasket was in place, the muffler was suspended by baling wire, and the four roadsters were back on the road in a full-tilt boogie.
Along the way a couple of locals pulled alongside to tell me my car was on fire, which, as you can imagine, scared the everlasting wee wee out of me. I pulled over to check things out, and after changing my Mighty Mouse underwear, I discovered that the car wasn't burning; the trans had developed a mysterious fluid leak that was dripping onto the exhaust and smoking like crazy. It didn't appear to be a major hazard, so we sped off the rest of the way to Lokar, where things were already wrapping up for the evening. As the roadster crew rolled in, Lokar's Rick Craze met me at the driveway and told me he had heard about my woes and was ready to do whatever was necessary to get the car dialed-in and ready for the road. After setting me up with a new extra-short shifter, Rick introduced me to Mike and Jim Barillaro, twin brothers who have more natural skill with a wrench than anyone I've met in a long time. The dynamic duo put my car up on a lift and immediately began looking over the entire car front to back, fixing and tweaking as they went. Finally, a little past midnight, I was ready to rumble. I think it is important to mention that these guys worked their butts off on my car late into the night on their day off, and they accepted nothing more than a thank you in return. In the meantime, Lokar owners Skip and Debbie Walls not only kept the lights on for us, but hung out the entire night as well. Kindness like that doesn't exist outside the hot rod community, and I pray that one day this sort of compassion and willingness to help a stranger in need can spread outside our little community of gearheads.
After the all-night thrash at Lokar, my car ran well for the duration of the trip, and it continues to run like a Swiss watch as I write this. I believe that all freshly built cars have a few tweaks and teething problems in the first few hundred miles, mine simply cropped up on an accelerated schedule because I broke the car in by driving 400-500 miles a day for a week straight. With limited experience and only a few handtools I couldn't have gotten far without the help of friends-some old and some new; for that I will always be grateful and the memory of my first roadster road trip will be a lasting one. If there's a point to this column, it's that as a Young Gun, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You might be surprised how many people will stop to lend a hand when they see a newbie in need. Thanks again to my Dad, Mike Lambert, Roy Brizio, Jim Rizzo, Roy Lark, Rick Craze, Skip and Debbie Walls, Mike and Jim Barillaro, and Jack Chisenhall. -DanDan.Kahn@primedia.com