Big Al's Featured Car's
1953 Buick Special Rivera
Owned by Victor Guile
Pictures by Buddy Scoville

I fell in love with cars when I was in High School. If I wasn’t out chasing girls, I was looking for a car or working on one. Those two hobbies were more important to me then getting a good education. You can tell what won out, I have my lovely wife Jeanette and my “53” Buick! I have owned many Hot Rods in the past, like my 46 Ford, 46 Chevy Pick Up, 48 Chevy, 49 Buick Fastback, 49 Buick 4 door, 50 Mercury, 50 Olds, 56 Pontiac and my 57 Chevy! Having had all of these, I was still looking for something a little different. I saw my 53 Buick in a Trader Magazine at a Car Dealer’s down in South Carolina. While staying in a Motel one day I met and was talking to another Gear-Head who he had seen a place called Country Classics located in Creston, Ohio that had some really nice rides when he was there the last time. Well, this got my interest up and after breakfast I jumped in my car and headed for Country Classic’s. Low and behold, as I pulled up to the lot I saw my Buick to be! Talking to the Dealer I discovered that he had taken a couple cars down to South Carolina and traded them for a couple others and my Buick to be was one of them! The rest is history; I bought it and brought it home!

Now it was time to sit down and decide what to leave alone and what to change. The first thing I did was to give this ride a name that would be worthy of what I had planned for this 4,020 pounds of steel, glass and fabric. I therefore named it “Jeanette”. I then enlisted the help of two good friends, Fred Brown and Bob Showers. This was going to be a Land Cruiser, so a race engine was not needed, but enough horse-power was needed to go down the highway without much effort. I took a 1957 Buick Nail-head to Lant Auto Parts to have it rebuilt. Tom quoted me a price of about $ 2,600 for the work I wanted done. This sounded fair so I left it there for 3 or 4 weeks and brought a bunch of parts home to start assembly on my engine stand that I had made for building and testing engines complete with a radiator, exhaust and gauges.

After I got everything assembled, I hooked my drill up to the oil pump for priming the engine with oil and let it spin for a while. I then started the engine and quickly noticed the lack of oil pressure! I felt the gauge must have gone bad and replaced it with a spare unit. I then started it again and let it run for a little bit only to discover my bad luck, Still No Oil Pressure! I then removed the valve covers, started it for another moment only to discover a lack of oil on the rocker arms. I then did a partial dis-assemble of the engine. I took off the Intake manifold, valley pan cover and the distributor. I hooked up the drill to the oil pump again and let it spin. I could hear the drill load but I noticed that there was no oil getting to the top of the engine! Time to check the shop manual and see what should be and what is! The manual showed 3 oil galley plugs in the front of the engine. Now it was time to start taking the front of the engine back apart! Well, low and behold, Lant left out all 3 plugs going to the oil galleys! I went to Lant’s and told him what I had found! He sent Dave over and he put in the missing oil galley plugs.

OK, time to re-assemble the front and top of the engine for the second time! After getting everything back together, it was time to fire it up again! Watching the gauges closely, I noticed it had oil pressure now, but it was way too low! So shut it down again and off came the intake manifold, valley pan and distributor. I then hooked up my drill again to see if I could pump some oil this way. While pumping the oil this way I noticed out of the corner of my eye in the lower right hand corner of the engine, oil was being pumped through the right oil gallery right back into the oil pan! Well, out came the shop manual and saw that there was supposed to be another oil plug in the end of that oil galley also. So I put my little finger in the hole and sure enough, they had left out another oil plug! I went over to Lant’s again and showed Tom the where the shop manual showed the missing plug and all he said was I’ll give you another plug, but never even offered to put it in!

I took the plug home, put it in, reassembled the engine again and started it up again! This time it showed some oil pressure and at that point I put the engine into the car and hooked everything up. After the installation I decided to start the engine and just watch it for a while. Well, the engine oil pressure did not climb up to where it should be so I did not let it run and decided to check out the engine closer before running it. I started by pulling off the oil pan and soon discovered that since the engine had been started without those plugs in place, the Main Bearings wiped out along with the Rod Bearings, Cam Bearings and the Crankshaft! Lant’s offered me all new bearings and a redone crankshaft, but never offered to supply me with all the other things that it took to reassemble the engine!

When I finally got the engine back together again and started it, there was a tapping noise in the engine. So, off comes the intake manifold, valley pan and distributor one more time! Looking around I found a collapsed lifter which I replaced and reassembled the engine only to start it up again and find out that the lifter was not the only problem! At this point I called in four old time mechanics that I know to see if they could find out what the problem was. They came to the conclusion that it was piston slap! Well, out came the engine and upon disassembly including pulling the pistons out we discovered that Lant’s bored seven (7) cylinders .40 over and the number two (2) cylinder .60 over and put a .40 over piston in the hole! At this point I took the number two (2) piston to a machine shop who suggested to knurl it to fit the cylinder. I again re-assembled the engine and got it running only to find out it still has a small noise and the engine is running hot! Now I’m to the point where the only thing I can do is find another engine block and start all over again!

Behind the motor I installed a 1986 200R4 transmission with a trans cooler. Before installation I had “The Transmission Shop” go through it and beef it up so it should be A_OK for those long trips! The overdrive comes in handy as I run a 4:1 rear end ration to help launch this ride! It has been updated to 4 corner Air-Ride suspension which give me the desired height for what I am doing. The rear end uses a 4 Bar System while the front end is steered by a 1986 Cavalier Rack & Pinion with power assist. The wheels are stock 15” with Coker P-215/75R-15’s with 2 ½” wide white-walls for that 50’s look. I also changed the electrical system over to 12 volts with the help of an Easy Wiring kit. The interior is done in Velour with after-market gauges added.

The Body is all steel and after having it Nosed, Decked, Frenching the antenna, Shaving the door handles and Molding in a set of Lakes Pipes with the help of Glay Dura of Youngstown Ohio who also added a set of Frenched 1959 Cadillac tail-lights. It was covered in paint by Bob Shower before Guy Shively of Guy Graphics in Youngstown did
 The Graphics on it. I belong to the Lakeshore Cruisers and the Custom Classic Cruisers and hit a lot of the local Cruises and Shows and when I can get away take in some of the bigger shows. It can be seen every Sunday afternoon at Ashtabula’s Lakeshore Park Cruise In!