1954 Buick Special built and owned by Laurie Peterson
Laurie Peterson of Canadian Customs and Hot Rods has had a dream career for a Carnut. Starting off as a mechanic for a Cadillac dealership he drag raced very successfully a Studebaker Champion and eventually opened a repair shop with a partner. He also was into building and repairing Custom Cars and Hot Rods on the side until the wild 1937 Ford Pickup with the Terraplane grille lead him to sell his share in the Mechanics shop and build cars full time.
Using an old Canada Custom sign his Dad had found, the name and Logo for his new business was based on the sign. Canada Customs and Hot Rods was born. He had just finished an amazing 1954 Chevy Bel Air and was looking for a project for himself. He wanted something different but big enough for the family and reliable enough to go places. In 2008, looking online for a 1954 Buick Special lead Peterson to Vancouver Island where a stock 54 Buick Special was for sale.
The car had been probably restored at some point in it’s life and it was a nice clean runner. Stripping the car to bare metal there was only one very small part of rust and the paint had not adhered properly so it came off very easily. Although one of the most radical modifications was the chopped roof…it is not even off a 54 Buick.
The look of the 1957 Buick and Oldsmobile roof appeal to Peterson more than the 1954 roof. It turns out in 1957 the Buick and Oldsmobile use identical rooflines and an Oldsmobile donated it’s roof for the project. The 3 piece back window and roof were cut off a car in Vancouver Washington at the “American Classics” wrecking yard. The roof is chopped 3 inches in the front and 3.5 inches off the back.
The port holes on the front fender were moved below the stainless trim and the fender vent was repositioned. Headlights from a 1957 Lincoln and taillights from a 1950 Chrysler are nice custom touches. A bit more radical is the rear quarters are lengthened 4 inches to give the car a longer lower look.
The front hood had it’s corners rounded and the all emblems and handles are shaved. Caddy Wire Wheel replicas complete the “50’s Custom” look and only a few small pieces and the rear bumper was rechromed as the rest was in great shape. All the Stainless was polished.
The car had the interior done in a subtle black and grey cloth to match the Black paint and she was ready to drive. Peterson took the car to the “Westcoast Kustoms Cruisin National Meet” in Santa Maria California and drove the car there with it’s original drivetrain. Although the car was fully custom on the outside it’s running gear was totally stock…except for Fatman drop spindles up front to lower it.
The 264 cu. in. overhead valve V8, complete with Dynaflow transmission and the enclosed drivetrain cruised down the highway like a champ and the car was named Best Wild Custom and Best use of Wire Wheels…and he was up against the likes of John d’Agostino
After Driving it for 3 or 4 years a Super Wildcat 425 out of a 65 Riviera was found and mated it to a TH 400 transmission with modern driveshaft and 10 Bolt GM diff. To further improve ride and handling NASCAR trailing arms bought brand new from South Carolina were added.
Not one to leave too much alone a Dual quad setup with Chrome air cleaners was found on E-bay. A lot of power considering the car has the stock factory power steering and brakes, but the car was built for cruising not racing.
Now the car was perfect…it did not get driven too much in 2013 as Peterson had found 2 new loves in the summer of 2012. One was a nice little stock looking Austin Healey 100-4, ice blue with wire wheels, but a Ford small block and t10 transmission give it a bit more oomph! He also bought a 2001 Busch Series NASCAR and set about converting it to road course racing. It was a PJ Jones, Yellow Freight racecar and ended up in LA with a stunt guy that has a fleet of cars for the movies. It was in Herbie the “Love bug” with Lindsay Lohan, painted up as the Home Depot car and possibly “Talladega nights”.
To compete on the local road courses the car needed High caster spindles, different matched coil springs not stagger springs and a rear sway bar. Peterson also Changed the upper control arms and anti dive adjustments along with freshening the motor.
In 2013 he was getting his full race licence and during his last required race he broke a roller lifter and then the valves got bent in practice. Scrambling to find a new motor to swap out at the track, an old friend from high school that Laurie had not seen until starting roadracing came to his rescue. Craig Johnson offered his Datsun 240 Z racecar to Peterson so he could finish qualifying for his licence in 2013.
Strangely enough, Peterson and Johnson had both been into Datsuns as kids and although Peterson has gone through drag racing very heavily to full customs, rat rods, NASCARs and now back into the seat of a Datsun. Having his full racing licence now, the NASCAR is getting a new paint job with his Canadian Customs logo on the side and his new well earned Racing Number.
The long low Buick Special is a far cry from what Detroit put out but the subtle nature of the modification make it look like it should of come from the factory this way. Laurie Peterson is one guy that loves to build cars…the Buick may even get more and more competition for road time, but it is ready and eager to go for a rip!