We hit our fair share of car shows each year, which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. We get to see so many cars that it is easy to become jaded. For many journalists covering car show events, only the very best or the very worst stand out. The million dollar builds or the ones that are awkward and cause some irritation. Sadly there are a lot of cars with subtle details that build toward greatness, that get overlooked.
We’ve tried not to be that dulled and enjoy all of the particulars in every project vehicle that we see. Using that approach, we’ve been rewarded with some really impressive touches on home garage builds. Such was the case at the NSRA Western Nationals where we spotted Ryan Winkler’s hot rod sitting by itself in the grass. No one parks their car away from the other cars in a show unless it is special and the builder is proud of it. Car builds that are common get blended in with the crowd. Ryan’s Buick wasn’t being hidden in the masses.
We walked across the grassy field to get some shots of the car, and as we got close enough to point the camera, Ryan’s 17-year-old daughter Megan jumped out of the car and ran for cover. Assuming that she was afraid that our photos would capture her soul forever, we let her escape without shooting a single photo. The car however, was not so lucky.
The Starting Point
Ryan believes this body started out as a 1934 Buick Series 40 three-window coupe. The four door coupes were more popular with the two-door Sport Coupe less than desirable for most Buick fans. The entry-level body style for the entry level series model. Most of these bodies were treated poorly over the years so finding one in decent enough shape to build a project car around it was a stroke of good fortune. “I bought the original car from a very good friend and neighbor and still have the original chassis,hood and fenders for the purist,” he stated.
“I’ve built the car personally with the help of some close friends and my daughter who enjoys taking her ’58 Chevy Apache out for the local car night at Chuy’s in Bakersfield,” Ryan Explained. (That’s the same daughter that ran away from the camera as we approached to shoot the car). He continued, “I have tried to build this car without investing a fortune, so have done most of the work myself.”
The engine is a big-block Chevy 396ci bored .030 over, “with pop up pistons, roller rockers, and a nice healthy little cam.” The engine is backed with a TH400 transmission that spins a Jaguar rearend. Ryan went with 15X4 Chevy Rally wheels in the front with 15X15 Rallies in the rear.
The details that could easily get missed are part of what makes this car so great. “Did you see the iron cross in the firewall?” Ryan asked. A closer examination exposed the semi-hidden fabrication work. “I fabricated the custom firewall with a recessed iron cross,” he said proudly.
“The grille shell was chopped six-inches and the tail was shortened eight-inches,” said Ryan. “The very basic upholstery was done by myself with the help of my daughter.” (That’s daughter Megan, the one that didn’t want her photograph taken). “The seats were a swap meet find for $30 in the condition you see them.”
Why It Was Parked Away From The Pack
Ryan Winkler is a hard working, blue collar guy that does his work in a home garage, not a fancy shop with industrial tools. He is doing much of this fabrication work for the first time and he humbly told us; “Thank you for showing interest in my car. For a guy building on a budget and just learning, it is very inspiring in a field of high dollar cars. My total investment to this point is roughly $6,500.”
Ryan’s build was as good as any we saw that weekend, but what really stood out was his attitude. He was humble, but proud, and he had every right to be. “This is an ongoing build that i hope to continue to improve on,” he said. “As my first build it has been a great learning experience and I have built some great friendships around it as well. I’ve been very blessed to have a wife and daughter that enjoy the old cars too.” (Yes, the daughter that ran away from the camera).
Yeah. That attitude is one that will make all of his car builds great.