Passion Needed: 1957 Buick Hot Rod

It’s usually sad to see a once-proud vehicle returning to the earth, but even more so when it’s clear that the car was once loved, was once somebody’s baby and the product of their blood, sweat, and tears. A casual glance at this photo might reveal just another mid-’50s GM lookalike, but look just a little bit closer at this ’57 Buick and the details start to pop out: the bumper-mounted driving lights, the rally wheels, the ghosted flames. If you have a thing for stray dogs and other people’s passion projects, maybe you have enough love in your heart to honor the pride and joy that went into building this sweet vintage street machine and bring it back to life. If so, check it out on the Facebook Marketplace (craigslist’s less-anonymous and therefore theoretically less skeevy cousin—here’s a screenshot of the ad if you’re not a Facebook user), where it’s offered in Dover Plains, New York for $1,200. Thanks to reader Doug in CT for the share!

I really love the looks of this thing—at least, what it looks like in my head, which is decidedly shinier and more roadworthy than it looks in these pictures. The Buick’s sweepspear character line and three-pice rear window are cool to begin with, so the mostly subtle mods just enhance its street presence. The biggest deviation from the original styling is around back, where the big, chrome-wrapped tailfin caps have been replaced by really neat looking frenched, stacked taillights. It looks a bit more Studebaker/Packard than Buick, but I like it.

Under the misshapen hood we find a Buick Nailhead V8 of indeterminate displacement (original equipment would have been a 364, so that’s the most likely candidate) with the popular “three deuces” modification. For the midcentury hot rod illiterate (like me, I admit it), this means three two-barrel carburetors mated to the engine via a custom manifold. No specs are given for the setup, but we are told that, unsurprisingly, the car doesn’t run. There’s an artfully shadowy picture of a Spearco Injectronic liquid injection system that may or may not be installed on the car as well; in any event, it adds a bit of period-appropriate dressing, since a non-running car doesn’t require much cooling anyway.

The interior shows some modification as well, with a full complement of gauges alternately obscuring the speedometer and being obscured themselves by being much too far away from the driver to be effective. There’s also a comically undersized steering wheel and a nicely rolled padded dash, plus a floor shifter for the automatic transmission. The ad also enigmatically refers to a “fiber glass [sic] tune deck;” I have no idea what that is, but I figured I’d pass it along in case it was useful information.

Whatever it is, the fact that it’s fiberglas has to be a point in its favor, because the metal on this beauty isn’t looking too healthy. If you buy your cars on a dollar-per-pound basis, $1,200 might seem like a good deal for this big Buick; it’s got a lot of needs, though. As much as I like it, I don’t know if I could be passionate enough to bring it back from the dead, but clearly a lot of passion went into this car once, and that’s what it will need if it’s going to ride again.

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Comments

  1. Adam

    buy it and restore it with the current paint. Beautiful car with cool history.

  2. MH

    I would buy it if it was closer to me. I am looking for a cool father son project for cheap.

  3. John Newell

    I had four 57 Buicks one after the other.They were the smoothest running tanks ever. It’s surprising anyone ever thought of them as serious enough drag cars to make performance parts for them even though that’s what I did with mine.

    I never paid more than $250 for one in the mid 60s in much better shape than this relic. While my 57s were nowhere near as rusty even then, restoring one would be a formidable exercise because there is so much structure in these beasts to rust. This car is a money pit of the first water as much as I hate to say it.

    The massive X frames the body sits on look like they were originally spec’d for a major bridge somewhere. Once that rusts out good luck. The structure around the rear quarters and both bumpers is formidable and very heavy gauge – possibly 16 or so. Very heavy forming work that may or may not be worth the effort…

  4. jw454

    If I were going to guess, I’d place it’s “re-construction” in the mid-seventies. With the aftermarket AM/FM / cassette radio, and the tilt steering column that appears to be from a late sixties to early seventies Pontiac. The re-purposed tail lamps look like they’re from a ’64 Impala and the wheels appear to be from a late sixties to mid-seventies Buick. Throw in that array of aftermarket gauges and the flamed “panel paint” spray job… Well… that’s my guess anyway.

  5. Howard A

    Too far gone, but what a neat car this must have been. Why someone would “Hot Rod” a ’57 Buick, is beyond me, but I bet it looked sharp at one time.

    1
    • Fred W.

      Was about to say the same thing- look at the quarter just behind the drivers door. On the ground like that, frame is likely swiss cheese. While this once terrorized the town it lives in, I doubt it will ever again.

  6. Corey Wadley

    It’s truly amazing how much of the 300hp in that 364 Nailhead was diminished by the Dynaflow. An absolutely zero-performance tranny.

  7. PAPERBKWRITER

    By the time I got married my Chevy Conv. was nearly dead and I bought Dad’s old ’57 Buick. It had the 364 and you had to blow on the windshield when the light turned green BUT punch it around 70 and hang on to your hat. Top end it ran with the big dogs of the day…Trying to bring this car back with not much available in parts would be a real challenge.

  8. Mountainwoodie

    Love the 3 rear windows..too bad about the rest.

    1
  9. erikj

    Too bad its in the shape it is in now. Someone loved that at a point.
    Maybe they still remember it, maybe would love to have it back, just to get it back and give it some love for a last time.
    I wish I could have my 71 340 duster from h.s. back in whatever shape, just to give it some love that I gave to it back then. I don’t care what shape it would be in now, just to feel it again ,but I’m sure its long gone. Those where throwaway cars then-try to find one now!!! I have got 2 now and looking for more and I look a lot.

    1
    • John Newell

      These old Buick wrecks are still around, usually on back country farms. There’s one south of Timmins, Ontario and a beautiful grey one in the Balsam Lake area, north shore. That one is a grey four door hardtop. It’s been a few years sinc I was up that way. The first one at least is likely still there.

  10. Craig

    A car like this would sell in Australia
    Cut the bottom out and mount it on our hq ute chassis
    The cost of the bumpers here would be worth it
    355hjstatesman

    • John Newell

      What is a hq ute chassis?

  11. CrazyGeorge CrazyGeorge Member

    Dover Planes ( the town where this 1957 Buick rests )was the sight of the legendary “Dover Drag Strip” … I remember this car in it’s glory ! I always liked it. The Mid 70’s comment is spot on! Dover closes it’s “GATES” in May 1977. 1976 was the last full season ! It is now a “peet moss” plant and housing development. Although parts of the track exist it is “Gone with the WIND” BECAUSE OF NOISE ISSUES AND THE SAFETY LIBTARD POLICE IN NY ! I wish I had the time and energy needed to bring this beauty back to life ! Alas I’m running out of both …. A sad ending for all. Anyone interested can google “Dover Drag Strip” , there’s an alumni organization complete with pictures and history !
    To Nathan Avots-Smith… I think ” fiber glass tune deck ” is an unfinished thought on the part of the seller… It made me look twice…..

    • John Newell

      Tell us more about the car!

    • Joe

      I scanned the Dover Drag Strip sites and did not find anything. I would love to get the history on this beauty.

    • Joe

      Crazy George,
      Please contact me. Hopefully you have more info or a photo. I have the engine only. She is in restoration phase.

  12. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Looks like someone’s taken it to the next level. *If* it could be safely put back to running condition it would be wicked awesome, but that’s a big if. Interesting that the seller seems to know little about it. Clearly someone saw something worth saving. https://www.ebay.com/itm/1957-Buick-Century-KING-ROD-PROJECT/142645764408?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

  13. The Dude

    The current seller (in Lakewood, PA) is trying to sell this scrap pile for $4,800 (welcome to NY/North PA). If I could talk the guy down a bit on the price I would take this thing in a heartbeat and return it to it’s former glory. It would be the only 57 Buick in town (and a hot rod at that). It’s a shame, with a manual backing that 364 Fireball it would probably be an absolute rocket on the country back roads of upstate NY. A young man can only dream.

  14. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Sounds like he intends to “skip” the title, which (according to VA DMV) is illegal in all 50 states. Keep us posted, Dude!

    • The Dude

      Says sold with NYS Bill of Sale, but I dunno, I’ll keep my eye on the listing both on eBay and Craigslist. I’d only pay $1,800 for it (and I think that’s being generous). The only plus side to it is that the engine looks savable and the interior doesn’t look completely shot. It needs many thousands of dollars worth of bodywork and even then, it probably needs a new frame.

  15. The Dude

    If the pictures and description are any sort of reliable, it needs many thousands of dollars worth of bodywork, probably a new frame, and everything mechanical I can think of. It isn’t beyond saving yet, but it’s almost there. I do believe it can one day return to it’s former life of terrorizing the NE, but it would be a long and painful job.

  16. The Dude

    Yet another update. The guy who’s selling it now said in his latest relisting that he’s going to part the car out. I can’t believe he would do that to such a piece of history. Someone needs to save it. If I weren’t strapped for cash fresh out of college, I would buy it. I just don’t have the $50,000 for the bodywork or a place to store it until I have the money to work on it.

  17. Billy lintzenich

    Hi, if he parts it out i’d like to get the window trim and quarter glass. Heck id even consider buying the car off of him.

  18. Joe

    So, I have the engine. I thought I overpaid until I found this article and posts on her past. Now I am responsible to bring her back to her glory! She is frozen. I have the heads and valley pan off, starter off, I just removed the oil pan. No apparent damage found yet. All bolts were removed without incident.
    I have so many questions!!!

    • John Newell

      If I were you Joe, I’d fix the body first. Without a sound body, there is no point in spending money on mechanicals unless you have another body to put the engine into. The engine can be repaired anytime. But since you have it apart, you might as well finish it so you don’t lose any of it.

  19. Joe

    I have the engine only. Apparently I’ve developed a carburetor fetish. I didn’t know anything about the history until I went to check out the engine. The car was gone already. The rebuild is a winter project. I will find a nice Buick for her.

  20. Joe

    Update: No historians have come up with any info. The engine is apart and being magnafluxed as I write. Turns out the seller listed it as a 300hp Roadmaster engine, it’s a stock “Special” 250hp engine. The a/c unit on a “drag car” should have been a warning sign. Duh.
    On the positive, not one bolt broke in disassembly. Cylinder walls are all good.

    Because I paid the seller in cash it voided the eBay warranty aka fine print!!!

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