All Out Custom: A Beautiful, Buick Nailhead-Powered ’28 Ford

As far as a custom hotrod goes, this is one of the cleanest we’ve seen. Every detail has been touched, every bolt replaced, and every style aspect carefully planned. This 1928 Ford roadster pickup belongs to Larry Williams of Gresham, Oregon, and it’s one wild ride.

We love the blue and yellow color scheme, it works well together and it's a nice touch to make the wheel color and engine color match up that way.

Larry has had it for about three years and since he bought it he’s made a few modifications and done a lot of work to the motor. “This car is actually 25-years old,” Larry explained. “I’m old enough to remember when this kind of car was the deal. It’s old school.” For a hotrod built more than two decades ago, this roadster is ridiculously clean.

It’s a Ford, but it’s powered by one of the most sought after engines in the hotrodding world: A Buick nailhead engine –a 425 cubic-inch nailhead to be more specific. The engines got their iconic name from the unusual setup and size of the valves, they are smaller than average and actually resemble nails. “These were the best engines to go into hotrods if you could find one,” Larry explained. “There was no internet though, so if you wanted one, you’d have to search the wrecking yards until you could find one.”

That Buick Nailhead actually also has a narrower footprint than some of the other common hotrod engines, this allows the headers to flow the exhaust between the framerails rather than outside of them.

The secret to the Buick engines is that they produce impressive horsepower and torque numbers while keeping the rpms in a relatively low range. “If you couldn’t get a nailhead, Cadillac engine, or an Olds Rocket, a small-block Chevy was the next best thing,” he continued. “There were lots of accessories and you could get good power out of them.”

The transmission on this hotrod is also something a little unusual. It’s a cast-iron Super-Turbine 400 automatic transmission. “That’s the same transmission they used in the ’63 Buick Electra,” he explained. “Those were big land yachts, and this car only weighs 2500-pounds.” The point is, the 428-nailhead engine and cast-iron 400 transmission are built tough, they’re bulletproof, and they pull the light little car around without breaking a sweat.

The Buick powerplant is fed by way of dual 650cfm Edelbrock carburetors, the spark is supplied by MSD ignition, and the drivetrain is finished out with a Ford 8-inch rearend with Dutchman racing axles. “That’s one of the things I got to do,” Larry told us, “I got to replace the axles after I broke one of them.”

“The thing that really attracted me to this car more than anything else is the detail when you inspect it up close,” Larry said. “This car is perfect underneath and on top.” That level of incredible detail we mentioned earlier is part of what made this car so attractive to Larry.

There are a couple other really unique features about this car that make it stand out. One of them is the original, 1963 Buick finned aluminum brakes. They are the real deal, not covers with discs underneath, just pure old fashioned Buick stopping power. They are 12-inch drums with 2 and ½-inch pads. It stopped the big old Buicks back in the day, so there is no reason it can’t slow down this much lighter, littler car today.

The white interior and bed cover look just stunning with the rest of the colors on the car. That's part of the detail work that Larry was talking about. All of the colors were thought out and nothing was done unintentionally.

The interior is also an area where this car shines. The dash is a custom centerpiece out of a 1940 Ford that was modified to fit this car. The look of the dash and instruments are also gorgeously modest. There isn’t a lot of excessive trim, there’s no extra holes, no dash pad, just pure smooth steel. The white vinyl goes perfectly with the blue of the car and the rich blue carpet matches the exterior paint perfectly. It’s just one of a great many things that make this car so well worth a second look.

Our All Out Custom series is off and running. We love Larry’s Nailhead powered hotrod and want to see more like it. Do you have an all out custom hotrod, ratrod, or other vehicle that you’ve built for yourself? If so, we want to see it. Shoot us an email and we’ll let you know what we think. If you’ve got a more conventional musclecar or hotrod build, we’d still like to see it and consider it for our Street Features series. It only takes a second to send an email and you’ll be internet famous forever.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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