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Slammed 427ci big-block 1957 Buick Special

By Ben Hosking - Story & Photos, 29 Jun 2018 Features

Slammed 427ci big-block 1957 Buick Special

Adam Clearly built his slammed '57 Buick Special by remote control from the other side of the world - and he has no regrets

This article on Adam's Buick Special was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine

MANY of the feature-car yarns you read here at Street Machine tend to fall into one of two categories: cars built wholly or partially in the shed at home, or those built by one or more workshops at the behest of paying clients. Skirting around the periphery are the cars built by workshops for self-promotion; projects imported in their completed form from overseas; or vehicles found half-completed in the classifieds and taken the last few miles to the finish line.

Buick SpecialHowever, there are always more ways to skin the proverbial cat. Sydneysider Adam Cleary found another way to get the job done. The 45-year-old commissioned a workshop on the other side of the world to build his dream Buick.

Related: 1957 Buick Super Riviera Sports coupe

Back in 2011-12, Adam was spending a lot of his time in the USA for work, and he got to know a few people. One gent to fall within his circle was Chad Canerday from Chad’s Auto Glass. It’s a friendship that would prove extremely beneficial and the catalyst for the car you see here.

Buick Special sideCustom-fabbed front inner guards, rear mini-tubs and a modified Fatman front clip were required to get the big Buick right down into the weeds when Adam mashes the buttons on the AccuAir e-Level, even with the massive 24x9in Raceline billets

“I’ve always loved the 1957 Buick, due to the lines on the car and the unique design with the three-piece rear window, big front bumper/grille and the VentiPorts on the sides,” Adam says. “By coincidence, Chad Canerday was selling one, so I bought it immediately.”

Related: Custom 1957 Buick Special

Buick Special frontThe Buick wasn’t the first car Adam had bought from Chad; the pair first met in LA in 2010 when Adam bought Chad’s custom ’61 Caddy. Adam shipped that car back to Australia and has been cruising it ever since. The friendship that formed over the ensuing years gave Adam the confidence not only to buy the Buick from Chad, but to entrust him with the project management of its rebuild, too – no small thing given that Adam would be relegated to little more than a spectator some 12,000km away.

Buick Special rear“I initially only planned to build a nice street car for some cruising,” Adam says. “But like a lot of car builds, the further we got into it, the more things got out of control and we ultimately made the decision to build a full custom and take it to the SEMA Show in 2012.”

Related: Chopped & bagged 1951 Chevrolet sedan

Adam’s main objective in terms of an aesthetic direction was that the car sit slammed on the ground and have big wheels like a DUB City scale-model car. We reckon he nailed it on that one.

Buick Special wheelBigger than your mum’s rims! Six-piston Wilwood calipers clamp down on monster 406mm detachable-hub rotors at all four corners 

With a clean, solid vehicle already in place, it’s only slightly less of a surprise that the crew was able to get the initial build finished in just 12 months, just in time for the SEMA Show. And anyone who knows anything about the annual Vegas automotive trade show knows that you don’t show up with anything half-arsed.

“A lot of time was spent mocking up in the car before deciding on the final set-up,” Adam says. “Plenty had to change under the car to fit the 24x9in Raceline billet wheels, including custom inner front guards and rear mini-tubs, narrowing the diff, custom rear suspension, and a Fatman front clip with Choppin’ Block tubular control arms.

Buick Special boot“We basically had to ensure that nothing on the undercarriage hung below the chassis level, so that when the Air Ride suspension was dropped the Buick sat right on the ground.”

As Adam stresses, the Buick was built as a street car, so the undercarriage is not to elite standards, although it has all been coated in matching PPG black and all the lines have been run neatly from front to back.

Buick Special interior‘On its arse’ is probably the correct turn of phrase for Adam’s Buick. When he hits the AccuAir e-Level controller that’s mounted into the custom steel centre console, those massive Sniper 5 rims tuck right up under the restored original Sweepspear brightwork and the sills hit the dirt. It makes for an impressive sight from any angle.

Just as impressive is the bright red interior that was a group effort between The Choppin’ Block and Looney Tunez Car Audio in California and Krist Kustoms in Texas. Back in 1957, Buick offered its line-up in over 47 trim choices, but there is very little of the original Buick in Adam’s car now. The dash was grafted in from a ’56 Chev, the front and rear buckets combine Glide Engineering items that were then custom-fabbed, and the full-length centre console and metal parcel tray were built in-house.

Buick Special engine bayThe minimalist engine bay continues the colour scheme seen in the interior and boasts a 427ci Chev big-block – and little else. Thanks to a smooth firewall, inner guards and fan shroud, the only other item taking attention away from the 500hp combo is the Wilwood master cylinder

Anything not painted gloss black was covered in bright red leather, including the roof lining, custom door trims and the cavernous boot space out back that hides the airbag, battery and power amps. The flat fabbed floorpans and boot floor were covered in high-end red carpet. The end result of all the toil is at once classic and modern-looking, which is what Adam had envisioned from the outset.

Buick Special engineBack in 1957, Buick’s biggest engine was the then-new 364ci Nailhead V8. Today, that’s been replaced by a 427ci big-block Chev, and it’s housed within a space that bears little resemblance to factory specs. A smooth firewall, inner guards and radiator shroud/support cover remove all the OE lumps and bumps, and a pair of VH40 boosters are hidden out of sight, leaving a solitary Wilwood master cylinder to distract the eye from the gleaming red lump of iron that’s been dressed to impress.

Buick Special engineWhen the Buick finally landed on Aussie shores, Paul from ProFlo Performance was given the task of rebuilding the 427 for greater power and reliability. This included the fitment of stout Scat and JE rotating parts and a Crane solid cam, and together with the Edelbrock manifold, 750cfm Holley and twin three-inch exhaust, the combo is good for around 500hp.

However, ProFlo didn’t stop with the powertrain. In fact, Paul and his team have been fine-tuning the Buick on and off since it arrived home.

Buick Special interiorThere isn’t much left of the original ’57 Buick inside, where Glide Engineering front buckets and custom rear buckets replace the original seats. The custom steel centre console runs from beneath the ’56 Chev dash right back to the custom parcel shelf, which boasts neat integration of the audio system

“I grew up with some good mates who were into cars and we all helped each other work on our cars,” Adam says. “I’m very fortunate to call Paul a best mate. We went to high school together and started working on old Holdens together in his parents’ shed with his brothers before we even got our licences.

Buick Special consoleThere’s plenty to see in the custom full-length centre console, like the bespoke alloy brightwork pieces that house the AccuAir e-Level controller, Pioneer head unit and Lokar shifter. The old girl has power windows, too

“ProFlo checked over the Buick and made several improvements including a custom metal radiator shroud, a bigger brake set-up using Wilwood components, and also rebuilt the motor. As always, they did an outstanding job tidying the Buick up and getting it ready for Summernats in 2015, where it was awarded trophies for Top Custom Classic and Artistic Expression.”

Buick Special interior rearAdam says there’s nothing major left to do to the Buick; now it’s time to just get out and enjoy it. “It handles well on the 24s and airbags,” he says. “I’d definitely build a car this way again. The key to this build has been the friendship created between car guys.”

Adam ClearyADAM CLEARY
1957 BUICK SPECIAL

Colour: PPG Black

ENGINE
Type: 427ci big-block Chev
Inlet: Edelbrock, 750cfm Holley DP
Heads: Cast GM oval-port
Crank: Scat steel
Rods: Scat H-beam
Pistons: JE forged, 11:1 compression
Cam: Crane solid
Ignition: MSD
Exhaust: Sanderson headers, twin 3in
Power: Approx. 500hp

SHIFT
’Box: T400, Lokar shifter
Converter: B&M 3500rpm
Diff: Narrowed 9in, 3.5:1 gears

BENEATH
Brakes: Wilwood 406mm rotors with six-piston calipers (f & r), Wilwood master cylinder, twin VH40 boosters
Front suspension: Air Ride airbags, rack-and-pinion conversion, Fatman front clip with Choppin’ Block tubular control arms, AccuAir e-Level system
Rear suspension: Custom rear end, Air Ride ShockWaves

INSIDE
Wheel: Raceline
Seats: Glide Engineering front seats, custom-made rear buckets
Gauges: Dakota Digital VHX
Stereo: Pioneer PRS 80, Hybrid Audio Unity 6.5in splits and 5.25in coaxial speakers, Digital Designs M1c 1200/1700W sub amp, Digital Designs SS4 4x160W power amp

ROLLING STOCK
Rims: Raceline Sniper 5 24x9 (f & r)
Rubber: Pirelli P Zero 275/30/24 (f & r)