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1954 Buick Forum - the 54 Buick Highway

time to put Betty together


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It took me over 10 years as a Skylark owner to figure out what I "really" wanted. My Skylark will have an original frame and all the original parts stored, but will be a modified. Just want to be up front f you read the thread so there won't be any surprises. Mine will be a Betty Boop theme, also the name of my mother. :air_kiss:

I plan to drive it to Portland for the modified class. It is intended as a daily driver, not garage eye candy. I'm not going to sit on 20K worth of leather, so don't even ask. I have personally seen over 40 beautifully restored Skylarks in every color and will always admire them. But I like dogs, kids and food in the car so I had to make a few adjustments. :sarcastic_hand:

The frame is now done. It has a 425 with a SP400 and a Riviera 3.08 posi rear end. The engine will be dressed as a 322, but lets start from the front. We have a rack and pinion front end with 11 inch disk brakes on a 1954 frame. Additional reinforcements have been added. We have a 4 link rear end with coil over shocks and adjustable ride height. Added is a dual master power brake unit. Safety, speed and that nice buick ride with a tilt steering wheel All mods are done with the goal of keeping the car looking original. We must have AC too. It's all designed to use the original body without any body modifications. We did have to do some slight trimming of the inner fenders, but the engine compartment will not easily give up it's secrets- it will look close to original. We found that the 425 is remarkably similar to the 322, it has a longer stroke but the heads are the same size. We also discovered that dual exhaust is problematic with the master under the floor, but I wanted to keep the OEM look (a 56 brake setup was tempting) Staying with the single OEM exhaust. :spruce_up:

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Betty is giving up her interior and the custom interior is now in production. I have a retired upholstery man who retired after a bad fallout with Clive Custler. After much debate, I decided to use th

and the seat is coming along

Well, Betty is now finished. Its been a fun adventure. The custom leather interior was made by Rick Seely, retired but we talked him into doing 1 last interior (who knows, maby more) The car is n

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a rusted out 54 century proved to be very useful. the front clip makes sizing very easy as does the cowl. This is also a lot less expensive than doing a frame off restoration. The donor riv was $300, all the suspension components, brakes, mounts etc were perhaps 3K. I can probably keep the whole frame, motor and drivetrain easily under 10K and I might be closer to 5K because the engine was low miles and a complete overhaul wasn't needed. It was the proverbial little old lady with a 64 Electra that never went too far and she maintained the car. The riv rear end is just the right size and needed very little mods for the 4 link triangulated rear end.

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the black betty song is fitting, I'm still a good month away from paint. :bomb: I personally want red but the body tag is black. But a black paint job is incredibly difficult, everything has to be absolutely perfect. Then you are doomed to forever clean the car. I like the flat black too, but that is an acquired taste. Lots of debates.

Dressing up the 425 to look like a 322. It appears that the heads will interchange on all years- not that they would all work together, but the valve covers are the same. The 322 valley cover is 1/4" longer than the 425, it had to be chopped and welded. I don't like the oil cap venting oil mist (engine must stay clean) so I'm sealing it, but using the back vent. The engine compartment will look very similar to stock, but I am considering putting an optima battery in the trunk to free up some more real estate. Had the radiator re-cored, it will appear stock but apparently the newer core is far more efficient than the OEM. I'll likely put a booster electric fan for those slow parades.

Note triple pullies- you get a lot of upgrades on a 425 and it has to have AC. the 57 and later engines have an additional 1/2" width. They increased the stroke but the engines are remarkably similar. Definitely improved oiling and bigger exhaust ports. Longer stroke generally means more torque, my personal preference. The 425 riv was pretty quick, 15 second quarter mile stock. That's plenty fast for me, going more for a pro touring but it is fun to do a burn out, assuming the wire wheels can take it.

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  • 1 month later...

The lift arrived in 2 days, 1800 delivered. A 55 star chief convertible followed me home, I now have a 2500 square ft insulated shop so I can work at home year round. Betty is getting stripped and the body will be painted underneath, then lowered onto the upgraded frame. It will be together, in paint and running soon. The next trick is what level of finish can be achieved in 30 days. I'm not worried about it being 100% done, just done enough to make Portland. I would like to drive it over but as a last resort I'll trailer it. That's the nice part of the modified class, done is very subjective and no car ever gets done on time, but I believe I'm well within budget. :blum:

Hope I'm not over confident, but the chopped up century provided every template to fit all upgrades . Other than some trimming on the fender skirts, it should be an exact drop on, no body mods. The new frame will be faster, lower and tight but every body mount the same as the original frame. Will know soon!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I figure I have 5 weeks to get ready for Portland. The frame is done, now it is time to put the body in paint. Black Betty will slide in under the lift tomorrow. The body will get any last minute touch ups and the cowl and undercarriage painted. By next week, the body should be on the frame. The paint will be done on the frame. Matador Red, then Betty becomes Betty Boop. :diablo:

One goal is no body mods (If it decides someday to go back to original) so the undercarriage brakes are now dual master with a modern booster. This made a dual exhaust impractical, but the single exhaust is oversized and it keeps the stock look. Got a good set of headers and it's all aluminized. the 425 has impressive torque so a beefed up drive shaft. Might make up a couple of frames since the Buicks of this vintage do not easily lend themselves to modification. We shall soon see if this works. I would actually prefer to use the Riviera drums on the front but disk is easier and less space. I'm also concerned the KH wire wheels may not be strong enough, so I may use them for show but have a burn out set for cruising.

One more note, Denver Bumper shut down to become a Maryjane growing facility. Hope I can get some chrome done quick, but past experience says that won't happen:help:

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Body to get blasted and painted next week. Now forgive me if I'm in the wrong section, the car is a modified but it is a skylark, that's why I opted for this section. But now, what is the absolute biggest pain in the butt on a 54 Buick? The dash. Everything else is pretty straight up, but the dash is an absolute nightmare. You can't get to anything, nor can you even pull the dash. Go pull your gages- If you are very crafty you can get the speedo out if you pull the fuse block or the defrosters. Just try and pull the ignition or wiper switch, change bulbs, change fuses or fix wires. I say this is the hardest part.

So, here is a little ditty on redesigning the 54 dash. To start, I want a dash harness that's plug and play. I want to be able to pull the dash without taking the whole car apart. I want a tach, AC vents and I want to keep the original look and feel. I admit- it will be a challenge. I want a secret kill switch. Lets start with what we have after 6 hours of disassembling. The front as you see it, the back shows the problem. The wire harness uses hardly any quick connects. The heater controls and a plate block most your access. It's a cluster fart. The electric window harness is 30 feet long! We have some big room for improvement. I'll start with a "plug and play" dash harness.

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you never know what you have until it's media blasted. and that's a near perfect body. It's interesting to see the brass work, little orange areas. Buick went nuts with the dum dum, the crap is everywhere. The body must breath, water must drip and dry. I would be dead for the nationals if I got the usual "surprises". :heart:

Paint and assemble. clock is ticking:wacko2:

don't put the cart before the horse, put it under the skylark

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  • 2 weeks later...

red oxide primer, rhino lined undercarriage as we will be driving this and we want to keep betty's bottom side clean and pretty. tomorrow, it drops onto the frame. :download:The outer body will be painted last. Should be able to drive it right into the paint booth. Note: paint and chrome have become very expensive!:alcoholic:

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A little over 3 weeks to go. Body dropped on the frame perfect. Every mount like It was meant to be. Under tons of dum dum, we found a nearly perfect body. I personally like seeing spot welds, seams and all the little nuances they try to caulk over, only to further trap dirt and water. May not even put in all the rubber plugs, they just trap dirt. I want it to breath. The final paint will be done last, everything is jammed and painted top to bottom. :man_in_love:

But the matador red will get a very thick clear coat, all the panels were lined up, I want every gap to be exact. Steering wheel goes in and I have a temporary dash, the last thing in will be the dash, then the door panels. :wacko:Think I can get it done for Portland, may have a few loose ends but it's going, done or not.

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It is the Buick Matador red. You have to be careful, the 57 chevy matador red is very orange and quite lighter. Not that I would swear it's the exact shade, but we did it off the original buick paint patch. Saturday is d day, got to use a maaco paint booth for the weekend. everything goes in, each coat oven dried, sanded and shot again. Then 4 coats of clear with a cut and buff. F**k, so much for my "driver":sorry:

The next one is getting a single stage paint job. I hate when a car ends up to nice to drive, but my painter won't do a basic paint job on this car. I should have just had Maaco shoot it for $500.00

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With respect I can get the "Too Nice to drive" syndrome but I also see guys who will drive anything....

I can't recall who and what exact car but on the the show "Chasing Classic Cars" it was said that it was the first Ferrari every sold, a road racer. Worth about 2 mill...guy drove it to the show about 100 miles, actually regularly drove it.

I get it, driving a clean show car takes away from the value I guess...but what of that lost value of the enjoyment of the drive? Surely that has value?

Value is value to the beholder...I doubt anyone feels good about monetary value when they are bed ridden. I sure bet they felt that true value from the memory of that ride they had in that car that lost monetary value just by driving it.

I say live life and enjoy...stuff is just the rest of the stuff of life that adds warmth and color to the journey.

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With respect I can get the "Too Nice to drive" syndrome but I also see guys who will drive anything....

I can't recall who and what exact car but on the the show "Chasing Classic Cars" it was said that it was the first Ferrari every sold, a road racer. Worth about 2 mill...guy drove it to the show about 100 miles, actually regularly drove it.

I get it, driving a clean show car takes away from the value I guess...but what of that lost value of the enjoyment of the drive? Surely that has value?

Value is value to the beholder...I doubt anyone feels good about monetary value when they are bed ridden. I sure bet they felt that true value from the memory of that ride they had in that car that lost monetary value just by driving it.

I say live life and enjoy...stuff is just the rest of the stuff of life that adds warmth and color to the journey.

I agree with your comments. You sure put a lot of thoughts on your post! Can we nick name you "Tinker the Thinker" or "Bob Lephilosopher" ?

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Life is short- I'm driving it. I'm going to use driver bumpers and wheels, then have a show set I can swap in for stuff like Portland. I would have been completely happy with a cheaper paint job, just have to be careful. Might make a bra for it. today, it gets painted.

prep, spray, block all week, now the finish

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