…..So he had Steve Gibson Auto Body remove the emblems and door handles, but leave the signature portholes and side spears (which, along with the bumpers, were replated by Paul’s Chrome). The shop also frenched in a quartet of ’59 Cadillac taillights in the original locations before Steve Kallam loaded up his paint gun with Sikkens Ferrari Red urethane. When complemented with Boyd Coddington 17- and 18-inch wheels and meaty Michelin 225/50R17 and 255/55R18 rubber, the bright red hue helped create the tough, hot rod look Frank was after.
Frank changed things up a bit more in the Buick’s cabin. “The rear seat frame and metal dash (with modifications) are all that remain from the original interior,” Frank says. In between, he installed ’99 Acura bucket seats straddling a 2003 Buick Park Avenue console, and had Ray Hester wrap the seats and side panels in beige leather. Meanwhile, Mike Warwick wired the dashboard before it was fitted with custom aluminum panels, Classic Instruments gauges, an Aiwa stereo, and controls for the Vintage Air system. Finishing touches came in the form of an ididit tilt column, Billet Specialties wheel, and Juliano’s seatbelts.
The end result of Frank’s two-year effort is a very special Buick that’s a little bit custom, a little bit hot rod, and very cool all over. It’s a well-rounded cruiser that’s built to use and enjoy. “This car is driven–no trailer queen here,” Frank says. “I believe what I like most about this car [is] it’s just fun to drive. To me, that’s where the payoff is.”
Few cars make more natural mild customs than ‘50s-era Buicks. These big, bold cruisers have always had just a little extra style and panache than common, everyday Chevys and Fords. Beyond that, their relative scarcity today makes them all the more distinctive when plunked down in the midst of such aforementioned marques at cruise nights and car shows.
The attributes of Buick’s brutes are not lost on Frank Kallam, who says he always liked the “swooping side moldings, fender vent holes, and signature grille with vertical bars.” So he was quick to snatch up a nice, original, rust-free ’54 Special hardtop when it came along. Prior to the Buick, Frank’s stable of cars concentrated mostly on performance machines like Camaros, Corvettes, and GTXs. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Buick would undergo a somewhat muscular custom transformation.
Fatman Fabrications is just down the road from Frank’s home in Greensboro, North Carolina, so it was an easy choice to deliver the Buick there to be fitted with a new frame stub employing a Mustang II-style front suspension, Air Ride Technologies air springs, and Wilwood disc brakes. Another pair of air springs was set up with a four-link arrangement to suspend the 3.73:1-geared, disc brake-equipped 9-inch rearend. Fatman built mounts to accept a drivetrain befitting such a heavyweight cruiser–a 502ci, 502hp big-block Chevy crate engine and 700-R4 overdrive automatic. Eventually, Doug Garrett stripped the entire chassis apart to paint and detail everything prior to final assembly. Frank didn’t want to significantly alter the Buick’s visual character, just slick it up a little.