1957 Buick Roadmaster 75 Series
Article and photos by Larry Crain
According to Wikipedia, the 1957 Buick Roadmaster underwent a change as a mid-year production (March 1957) and became a Roadmaster designated as a Model 75. It was distinguished by standard power seats and windows, carpeted lower doors, a one-piece rear window, and Deluxe hubcaps. There is also a Series 75 script found on the rear quarter body panel of the Roadmaster Coupes and the rear door panels on the Roadmaster 4-door sedans, thus replacing the standard 3 chevrons found in the same location on the standard full model year Roadmaster model lines. If you take notice on this car there are two stainless bars that cross the trunk, rear window and roof that are a rare option on a Roadmaster 75 two door and were meant to evoke the three-window treatment on the smaller Century and Special. These bars actually cross over the one-piece glass.
Why does all of this matter? It helps give you an idea of the challenge ahead of building a full-on custom Buick 75 and how difficult it would be to find, not just one, but two of them to become one awesome machine that would become a Custom Rod of the Year Finalist.
The story of Steve and Michaele Giles from Dallas, Texas and their beautiful car starts out with a friend by the name of Rich Hall. Rich suggested doing something different as a build, such as a Buick instead of a 1957 Chevy that Steve had wanted to do. After looking around for quite a while, Steve found a 1957 Roadmaster close by in Texas and a closer look at the trim tag showed that it was the number 2 Roadmaster off the line in 1957! The car had been sitting for 15 years but generally looked okay. At one point it was mostly taken apart but never finished. A deal was made, and Steve took his new project to Carl Meredith at Carl’s Custom Cars in Red Oak, Texas to update it just a little to make it a reliable driver. We can now see how this little bit of updating became a whole different story. The best laid plans of mice and men…!
Once the car was in the shop and the process of taking it apart begun, the car started telling its own story. Apparently, the car had been used as a tow rig somewhere in life. Air bags were inside the coil springs, a strap had been welded across the differential, and the rear crossmember was bent. After sandblasting the tired old Buick, it became apparent at some point the body had been sitting on the ground at an angle because of the numerous holes in the metal.
As originally planned, Steve was just shooting for just a good driver, but after looking really hard at what he had there was a need to sit back and re-examine the project. With some help, Steve found a parts car in Oklahoma at Wheatland Buick, which is 40 acres of nothing but old Buicks! Ken Reeves owned the place and had a 57 Super that he sold to Steve and a bunch of loose parts for only $500! Heads up for you Buick people, Ken has since closed the site, sold everything and retired.
Once the car was home, Steve and Michaele unloaded all the stuff stacked up in the inside and found 4 pieces of windshield trim that were missing from the first Buick along with several nice stainless pieces for the sweepspear outside. The old parts car ended up donating the chassis, doors, trunk and several pieces of steel cut out of the body to weld into the original car. That old parts car probably saved thousands of dollars and in the end possibly saved the project itself.
The old Buick 75 underwent a lot of changes in Carl’s Custom Cars with many an hour logged by Carl’s son, Brad Meredith, and Pete McGrath in turning the car into the beauty it is today. Over 100 modifications were performed on the Buick, some obvious and others so subtle that you wouldn’t notice unless they were pointed out. The car features a 1/4" front chop, front tilt hood, shaved emblems, shaved factory lettering, Kindig-It door handles, shaved trunk handles and the headlight bezels welded onto the body for an extended or Frenched look. At least 140 hours were put into the trunk alone due to the labor of shaving one half inch off of the leading edge that changed the radius to match the body; none of the original 57's had a good fit.
Other custom features include small touches like the original trunk keyhole being turned into the lens of a back up camera. The original rear taillight housings all sat about 1/2" too low, so a pair of buckets were custom made to eliminate the gasket and made the rear fin area to taillight transition more appealing. Both rear quarter panels behind the wheel opening welded original steel chrome pieces into body. Front and rear bumpers were smoothed and notched into the body for a very smooth transition of body to bumper. Rear bumper ends originally had an opening for exhaust pipes and have been welded into one piece exhaust openings. The stock lower chrome pieces that extended from the rear bumpers to the wheel openings have been welded to the rear quarters.
Throughout the project, Michaele was at Carl’s Custom Cars helping with the build, including the disassembly of the car, labeling each bolt, nut and screw, sandblasting, and painting the small parts. She even Dynamatted the whole car and was there working wherever or whenever there was a need for an extra hand. Carl’s Custom Cars paint & body expert Pete McGrath smoothed and prepped the body before spraying out the Matrix System Candy Cognac that was laid over a silver base and a gray base to achieve the two-tone finish. The unique original Buick 75 script was the finishing subtle touch when it was reworked by a jeweler into a Buick 57 script before being chromed.
The original 1957 Buick frame from the parts car has been beefed up with a custom rear crossmember, transmission mount, and a front crossmember modified to handle the LS3 engine the car was to receive. For the front suspension, Carl’s custom fabricated a NASCAR style suspension with custom control arms equipped with first generation Camaro style spindles from Classic Performance Parts. This front suspension was then equipped with a rear-steer rack & pinion from RetroRack, an adjustable antiroll bar, and QA1 double-adjustable shocks. The rear suspension has been set up with a Eibach Springs and an adjustable custom-made panhard helps stabilize the rear of the chassis that is set up with a Ford 9-inch that is equipped with 3.55 gears. The ride height of the Buick is controlled by Linear actuators (two in front, one in the rear) that can electrically lower and raise the body five inches in five seconds without air bags. Finishing out the picture of the custom chassis is a set of Schott Wheels. They are 20 inch Octane’s mounted with Yokohama Parada Spec-X tires 285/50R-20 and 255/45R20.
When the custom hood opens forward it reveals a hand-built induction system that directs air flow to a 6.2L LS3 General Motors Performance Parts crate engine. A GM 4L70E transmission equipped with a Phoenix Transmission converter backs up the LS3 Hot Cam GMPP crate motor. The motor compartment surrounding the LS3 is just as unique as the exterior of the car thanks to Brad Meredith, who constructed the one-off engine cover made of sheet metal taken from the 1957 parts car. This custom cover, along with one-off inner fenderwells and many engine components, including the Performance Rod & Custom aluminum radiator and electric fan, were painted with a matte version of the Matrix System Candy Cognac. A set of ceramic-coated Street & Performance headers and mandrel bent exhaust pipes handle the exhaust flow that exits out through the dual vents in the rear bumper.
The interior of this car is just as tricked out in color and detail as the exterior with more of the matte version of the Candy Cognac gracing the dash area, Ididit steering column, and the a Con2R custom steering wheel. The dash vents are custom while the original instruments are rebuilt original, which feature a new speedometer face, custom lighting and lens. The spacious interior of this old Buick really showcases the talents of Phil Cato of Cato's Custom Upholstery and Brent Davidson with Sculpt Garage. The custom built seats and other interior components are finished in cinnamon leather material and look timeless in this car. Adding to the elegant look of the leather are the dash panels, teardrop and door panels that were all hydrographically dipped to get the burl wood look. When studying the interior be sure and take note of the custom center console that features an 8" flatscreen and a CNC machined control panel that is home for a twist-shifter control, touch starter, window switches and the Vintage Air controls. Finishing out the creature customs is an Alpine stereo system that is accessed by the touch screen at the front of the console.
Steve credits his wife Michaele working alongside Carl Meredith, his son Brad and the rest of the team at Carl’s Customs Cars for the awesome job in turning out this beautiful car. If you recognize the shop’s name, it’s because they have done a television show called “Reality Rides” that aired on Velocity. The statement that came out of the Giles home after this project was completed sums up the whole story in a few short words, “It started out as a nice driver but we got a little carried away”.
The Buick was finished just in time for the 2014 Good Guys Lone Star Nationals, where it was a finalist for the Custom Rod of the Year award and later the car was selected as a Custom of the Year finalist. Many more awards were to follow as the Buick Roadmaster got a Painless Performance/Street Rodder Top 100 win at the 2015 Hot August Nights and the awards keep on coming as the car rolls into its third season this year. If you ever see this car on display somewhere you better have some time on your hand so you can really study this car and enjoy all of the detail that was put into it. It will be time well spent!
Shops and manufacturers used in the building of this car.