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.