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Ken's 1979 Buick
A year ago, I developed serious motivation for getting a new old car: with issues related to vertigo, I could no longer safely ride motorcycles, which I had done since 1972. My wife, Dana, and I discussed the potential for transition from two to four wheels. I suggested that, with all the motorcycle gear gone, that I wanted a big-ass Buick (BAB). Dana did not hesitate: she agreed!
Having spent many years in the marketing world, my networking, relationship building, project management and team development skills were put to good use. My more recent social work training also proved beneficial. A friend in Louisville, who once owned a Buick franchise, counseled me well: first, do my research; second, be vigilant for those who would take advantage and misrepresent their offers.
My research began with local and national car clubs: primarily, the Buick Club of America and the AACA. I embarked on the following information gathering:
Through Mark, I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Stephan (my Godfather) and Fred Trusty, the Chairman of the Board. These folks invited me to come to a KYANA board meeting at Hunsinger Lane, where I met the rest of the dedicated folks on the Board. This was a great start! All of these people were welcoming, and freely offered their assistance as I continued my search.
My online research began with poring through many sites: Hemmings; classiccars.com; trovit.com; Gateway Classic Cars; to name a few.
The first car Dana and I “had to have” was a 1956 Buick Roadmaster, coral and white, a beauty! However, I backed off: the Roadmaster was very expensive, located in Florida and had no air conditioning (crucial for the Ohio River valley!). Most importantly, I had no understanding of what I was getting into! I still needed to develop a team of trusted people to keep this car running well.
I spent considerable time reading about and analyzing potential cars: primarily mid-60s Electra and Wildcats; early 70s Electra. I called many sellers; the initial best of the bunch included a 66 Wildcat in Boston (no a/c), and a 64 Electra convertible in Pittsburgh (not all original spec). We called BCA members in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Ft Lauderdale, NY City, Ames Iowa. Then there was a slew of calls, getting coached by Mark Kubancik!
I met a couple on the east coast who were trying to sell their dad’s 76 Electra Limited: one owner, full set of service records. The couple had one rule for selling: that the buyer would keep the car original, without wild modifications. After a few months of their dad’s hesitancy to sell (emotional ties over 46 years), we had to let it go. But these were such nice people!
Some other noteworthy cars we found:
One car was beat up and badly repainted. One was missing trim parts. One was visited by Auto Appraisal Group, who basically concluded I should walk away. One was a dealer who had no history on the car other than “trust me.” One had a magical price increase in the final hour. One was, in the words of the BCA member who assessed the car, “just awful.”
In April, Mark Kubancik emailed me about a 79, 2-door, Electra Limited with a Landau roof and bright red velour interior on Virginia’s Eastern Shore (“too new?”). I reached out to the owner: this was a one-family car since new! Garage kept. Father and son were both mechanics, so the car was carefully cared for. Car had been shown at local events. Original paint; numbers match real Buick 350. Only challenge: the owner disclosed that a/c compressor was frozen. A BCA friend in Virginia Beach drove up to see the Electra: he sent me a video and called me to say this car is a keeper!
My BCA friend in Chicago helped me arrange closed transport to Louisville. We spent additional time and money: replaced the a/c compressor with GM OEM compressor; tightened and aligned the front end; bought new white wall (!) tires; installed a new carburetor; bought new floor mats with Buick logo. And yes: a floor console with cup holders. Still need to fix the clock (as Joliet Jake said to Elwood: “fix the cigarette lighter.”)!
This has been a 10-month adventure! It has been worth every minute and every dollar. Dana’s and my journey has been quite a learning experience, and will continue to be. We’ve met some wonderful people in this venture, and look forward to enjoying new relationships and new adventures.
As I’ve heard many times, as one who is new to older cars, do your homework and get involved with a good car club. We have met wonderful people. The folks I know with KYANA group of AACA are just that.
The fun is just beginning. We went to the AACA/BCA show in Auburn, Indiana. We met fellow KYANA members at Claudia Sanders. We went to the Buick races in Bowling Green (Dana: “they race Buicks?!"). We went to the Concours at Keeneland. I have been to several KYANA Board meetings. And we get 14 mpg with hi-test!
As Mark Kubancik counseled, “welcome to the world of older cars.” What convinced us to replace the tires was a blowout on the Watterson near Westport Road. Talk about adventure! With LMPD and AAA support, we got Big Red off the road to a safe place to change the tire.
We have begun the building of a service network. Tony’s for the front-end work; Mills for the engine work; Bob Hook for the a/c compressor; Towery for the tires (“sure, we can get white walls”). And, of course, AAA.
BAB is now named Big Red! Big Red is a fine car, and Dana and I will enjoy her for a long time “running down the highway, going to a show.”
Owner: Kenneth R. Martin, AACA; BCA
KYANA Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America
3821 Hunsinger Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40220