JULY 2024: FULFILLED CHROME DREAMS–A 1958 BUICK SPECIAL 4-DOOR SEDAN NAMED MARILYN

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It is no secret late 1950s domestic cars were heavily adorned in bling that also set the table for the wild rear tailfins on most of Detroit’s finest.

The early days of the Space Race inspired the tailfin style, while the early days of big V-8 engines ensured the cars could rocket down the road.

There was never a time that celebrated chrome dreams like the back nine of the 1950s, an era that showcased shiny large-and-in-charge cars like no other period in automotive history.

Jim Sutherland

A solid case could be made for the 1958 Buick models as the most bling-laden vehicles in automotive history. For the record, most of the ’58 Buick’s shiny trim pieces were made of stainless steel, a fact not lost on Shawn Luker, the proud owner of a 1958 Buick Special with plenty of stainless-steel trim for him to occupy his winter months with a lengthy polishing program whenever the situation warrants it.

Shawn has owned his 1958 Buick since 1999 when he purchased it as a rough-running project sitting in a back alley. He was able to make the car’s factory 364 cubic inch Nailhead V-8 run smoothly after he discovered a couple of young weasels (who test drove the Buick before Shawn) switched two sparkplug wires and attempted to lowball the former owner on price because of the newly rough idle.

Shawn eventually rebuilt the engine but his sizable skills as a retired aircraft mechanic helped him solve the mystery of the misfiring Buick when he initially purchased it. The restoration process took place over the next several years and included his then teenaged daughter, mainly because she was an enthusiastic young car girl who eventually became a licensed auto technician.

The 1958 Buick Special was a more affordable model in the Buick scheme of things, but it still had plenty of bling right from the factory. Shawn wanted to retain the car’s factory roots while enhancing it with a few extra features.

Shawn installed a custom-built Continental kit on the car because he loved the retro look on vehicles from the skinny Elvis era. His ’58 Buick also has some extra creature comforts that were available and mattered to Shawn. The list includes power steering and power brakes, along with electric wipers that Shawn added to the car after experiencing the shortcomings of its factory vacuum wiper system.

The Continental kit has “Marilyn” written on it and it is not a tribute to famous Fifties icon Marilyn Munroe. Instead, the name on the car’s Continental kit is a tribute to Shawn’s late mother because she was also named Marilyn and a big part of his life over the years.

The 1958 Buick still has its factory Dynaflow automatic transmission, a transmission that intimidated car guys because of its unusual performance when in use. However, the design was reasonably simple for Shawn to understand because his background in aviation engines also relied upon turbines for motion. Shawn added the Dynaflow was “pretty easy to understand after a long career in jet mechanics”.   

He also said the constant motion of a Dynaflow transmission built up forward momentum without shift segments during the process. Shawn believes the Dynaflow’s acceleration process may have been slower than a conventional automatic, but the Buick is able to hold higher speeds in his opinion.

Shawn also enjoys the ride of his ’58 Buick because it was built for long trips and can easily handle ”70 mph (about 110 km/h) all day long”, in his words.    

Shawn and his wife have put the car through the paces on many highway adventures during its post-restoration years and still love to hit the road in the ’58 Buick Special whenever the spirit moves them.

They have an excellent game plan in our opinion here at MyStarCollectorCar.           

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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