Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Derelict - a Buick Super 8



The Sneaky Horsepower of a ‘Derelict’
A 1948 Buick with modern insides—including a Corvette engine—is literally one of a kind

The Wall Street Journal  by A.J. Baime May 2, 2017

Tim Vest, 52, a JetBlue pilot and co-owner of a Ford dealership, with his Buick Derelict. Outside, it’s a beat-up 1948 Buick Super 8. Underneath the body lies ferociously powerful modern machinery. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

The Derelict can get about 20 mpg in highway driving, Mr. Vest says. ‘I can get that much if I baby it,’ he says, ‘which I never do.’ Photo: Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal 

‘People are stunned when you pass them on the highway,’ Mr. Vest says. ‘It’s so much fun to see the look on their faces.’ Photo: Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal  
 
The coolest thing about the Derelict is the way it makes people smile. Old people love it because they remember cars from 1948. Young people love it because it reminds them of the movie “Cars.” Hot rodders love it because they quickly figure out what it is—something completely different from what it appears.

The build took two years. Ward took the body off and scanned it, then had a custom frame made by Art Morrison, a chassis builder. The brakes are Wilwood, the steering is state-of-the-art, and we got high-performance tires. The motor was an important decision. I chose an LS9 Corvette engine, tuned so it puts out over 650 horsepower. We also had a new stereo tucked into the dash under the old one. Back-up camera, navigation, air-conditioning, power seats and windows—everything you’d find in a new car.

The wheels are the only modern pieces visible to the eye, so we downplayed them—custom wheels and hubcaps painted so the color blends in with the vehicle’s rust.

While the Derelict is not cheap (mine cost well into the six figures), it drives like a new BMW 7 Series. I can motor down Highway 17 into Santa Cruz with two fingers on the wheel. When I shoot past a car on those windy curves, I love to see the expression on the driver’s face. He’s thinking: What the hell is that?

It’s a Buick Derelict—one of a kind.

The original 1948 hood ornament appears to be aviation-inspired, a plus for Mr. Vest, who is a pilot. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal 

Tim Vest’s Buick Derelict soaks up sunshine in Livermore, Calif. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

The Derelict is the brainchild of Los Angeles car builder Jonathan Ward, known for his brand of Icon custom-built trucks. Mr. Ward has built fewer than a dozen Derelicts, all unique. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

The wheels are the only modern pieces visible from the outside, so Mr. Vest had them made to look as if they are decades old. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

A shot of the interior, with the car’s original 1948 steering wheel. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

The car has a modern stereo, rear camera, navigation—all the electronic goodies you would find in a new automobile. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

A shot of the Derelict’s back end. The Buick had been sitting in a garage in Pennsylvania since 1959. In 2013, Mr. Vest bought it through Craigslist. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal


 The car with the hood up. ‘When I first saw the Buick, I was, like, “Wow, I love that!” ’ Mr. Vest says. He sent his wife pictures from his phone and she concurred. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

The Derelict’s 6.2-liter V-8 Corvette engine is more powerful than the motor found in a new Ferrari California T. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal

This lizard is custom-vehicle builder Jonathan Ward’s trademark. It appears on all his works. Angela DeCenzo for The Wall Street Journal
 
Derelicts are the dream children of a custom-car builder from Los Angeles named Jonathan Ward, whose company is called Icon. From the outside, the Derelict looks like an old machine with tons of character. Underneath, it is fully modern—a stealth high-performance vehicle. Ward has made fewer than a dozen, and each is unique.

I met Ward when I hired him to work on a different project. He had built a Derelict station wagon for himself, and I loved the idea. He found a 1948 Buick Super 8 on Craigslist, and in 2013, I bought it and had it shipped to his shop. The Buick had not been driven since 1959, and you could see all the patina, the dents and rust, even a stain on the fender where someone had left a rag sitting for decades.

Back-up camera, navigation, air-conditioning, power seats and windows—everything you’d find in a new car.

The wheels are the only modern pieces visible to the eye, so we downplayed them—custom wheels and hubcaps painted so the color blends in with the vehicle’s rust.

While the Derelict is not cheap (mine cost well into the six figures), it drives like a new BMW 7 Series. I can motor down Highway 17 into Santa Cruz with two fingers on the wheel. When I shoot past a car on those windy curves, I love to see the expression on the driver’s face. He’s thinking: What the hell is that?

It’s a Buick Derelict—one of a kind.

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