Bob Metz' 1950 Buick

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Photo of the Buick taken around May 1951, before the car was completely done. Note the missing door handle.
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A newspaper clipping on the Buick
The Buick in Brett's driveway around 1983/1984
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The Buick as it sat in 1989.
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The Buick in 1997.
The Buick in 2008
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1950 Buick Super restyled by Bob Metz of Shelbyville, Indiana. The Buick was the first car Bob kustomized. Bob restyled at least two 1950 Buicks; the second and better known one is the XM105. According to a local newspaper clipping the car was once a 1950 Buick four-door sedan owned by Harry Meal. Harry tangled the car with a New York Central train at the Hendricks St. intersection. Harry ended up in the hospital, and the car ended up as a twisted heap of wreckage. Bob Metz bought the remains of the car, and transformed it into a custom car. When he bought the car, he worked as a body man for the Monfort-Olinger Sales of Shelbyville, and used his spare time fixing up and customizing the Buick. According to the newspaper clipping, it took Bob 4 months to fix up the Buick. After Bob completed the car, it took third place in the custom class at the 1951 Indianapolis Custom Auto Show.[1]


In 1983 Brett Johnson bought the Buick, and told his wife that it was her first wedding anniversary present. The car was advertised nationally in Old Cars Weekly and was situated just a few miles from his house. The asking price was $1,750. Brett offered the seller $1,700, but the seller wouldn't budge. At the time Brett didn't know anything about its history, and the seller didn't say anything about the cars connection to Bob Metz either. When Brett bought the car it was channeled and had a chopped removable hard top. It had fins with Cadillac tail lights, scoops on the hood and scoops on the rear quarters which had vertical Cadillac chrome added. The front had an rolled center section where the Buick waterfall grille had been. The top was white and the main body color was maroon. The all black interior seemed to be period roll and pleat, except for a pair pf a very out of place Olds Cutlass high back buckets up front. The black shag carpet was nasty and the black headliner made it really dark inside. Inside the trunk was more black shag carpet and under the hood was a large straight eight with a large six volt battery. It was dirty and no pretty chrome was in there. On more thorough inspection it was obvious that this car was never shown with the hood up, since all of the welds showed where the scoops were added and trim pieces removed. The car sat on some very tired wide whitewalls, but started and ran. It was a little loud since the exhaust terminated mid-headpipes. When he drove it home it ran out of gas in a not so nice part of town as it was beginning to get dark. Brett walked briskly to the gas station where they made him leave a deposit for the gas can. He got the car the rest of the way home, but it was obvious that all of the mechanical systems on the 40 year old car would need attention.[2]


Brett started by rebuilding the Dynaflow transmission, the brakes and the suspension. The car showed traces of having four exhaust pipes that at some point had exited from the rear. The standard exhaust manifold was an 8 into 1 set-up with a center collector. A second collector had been rather casually welded around where number 8 was. There was also a bunch of flex pipes up inside the rear quarter panels. Brett purchased a used stock manifold and had the exhaust system fabricated at the muffler shop across the street from where he worked. After fixing the exhaust Brett began to strip the car for paint. After the paint was removed, he was impressed with how little body damage that had occurred over the years. Previously unnoticed modifications were made obvious by the drawing of a Buick convertible in the shop manual. The rear cowl had been extended, which resulted in no rear seat leg room, and the coach-line on the rear quarter had been substantially altered. Looking at period Cadillacs, it was apparent that the fins had been made, and not grafted on. The gas door on the left side was at least partically fabricated as well. The front side molding was 1950 Buick, but it was from the Roadmaster model. The portholes in the hood were still present, but they were covered by the scoops. The hood and deck-lid were de-chromed and in the place where the hood ornament had been was a sculpted lump of lead. All of the grille shell chrome trim had been removed and the holes filled. The front bumper ends were original 1950 Buick, as was the entire rear bumper. The bottom of the convertible windshield frame had been cut off to lower it, and the bottom of the glass had been shaved. You can see where the cranked front vent windows were cut, and the rear quarter window frames had been cut apart and re-welded. The windows roll up and down, but they don't fit particularly well. When Brett stripped the top he revealed that a lot of brazing had been employed to make it fit. The center rear window in the top is glass, and the two outer ones are very old plexiglass. The top had two quick release catches in the back and three on the windshield frame. Due to the tops weight and awkwardness, it takes four people to remove it. [2]


The upholstery, except for the shag carpet, was in decent shape when Brett got it. When he folded down the rear seat armrests he revealed a small metal T handle that was used to release the dechromed rear lid via a cable. Not aware of its story, Brett decided to restyle the car after his own taste without deviating from its era. The only post-1953 items he added to the car were the bucket seats from a 1962 Chevrolet Corvair that were upholstered to match the remaining period upholstery. Brett also louvered the hood, radiused the ends of the hood scoops, added dual sunken aerials on the right fender, removed the Buick taillight housings and altered the appearance of the front end by using a 1952 Buick front bumper and a 1953 Chevrolet grille with extra teeth. The original Buick front signals were placed at the ends of the grille, and a valance was positioned under the grille. Two Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps sat on the car when he purchased it, so two matching ones were acquired with the best ones put on the front wheels. When it was time for paint, Brett had the car painted in a two-toned scheme and added flames. Brett named his car "Runaway" after the Del Shannon song.[2]


After Brett had made the car roadworthy it became obvious for him that trips of any duration beyond ten minutes or so resulted in overheating. The radiator had been modified to fit under the hood of the channeled car much the same way as the air cleaner had, by beating the top of it with a hammer. Brett figured that this might had something to do with the overheating, so he had a radiator shop in Muncie make him a shorter core and put a modified top on it. This didn't fix the problem, and the car still overheated. Tired of the problem Brett removed the engine, and sent it to a shop in Muncie to have it rebuilt. After the engine was installed again, Brett took the car to another shop in Muncie to have the electrical system rewired. With most of the lights functional, they gave up on the car, and returned it to Brett. The shop who did the rewiring stored the car outside. This had been rough for the Buick, and Brett needed to replate some chrome that had rusted. The paint had also been scratched and chipped. Inside the interior had also rodent damage from living outside. The car was repainted, and the chrome was rechromed and re-installed. This process took well over a year and was quite frustrating for Brett. After the repaint the paint was not nearly as nice as the first time around either. After the car was painted the owner of a high performance repair shop named Bill Hoke fixed the overheating problem and other issues with the Buick that had bugged Brett. Bill also suggested that his body man could do a better body and paint job on the car, so the Buick was painted for the third time. As the previous two piant jobs the car was also now painted in a two-tone blue with blue flames. The upholstery was repaired and a new set of light blue carpets were made and installed. In 2004 Brett made his first public appearance with the Buick.[2]


In 2009 someone suggested that Brett's Buick could be a Bob Metz car. Based on the proximity to where the car was located it seemed to make sense for Brett. Curious about the cars story, Brett contacted Bob Metz' son Dennis. Dennis provided Brett with some info on his fathers first Buick, and mailed Brett some photos of the car. After discovering the story of the car, Brett plans to restore the car back to its first version. He will take the cars to some local shows during the 2010 season and see if anyone remembers the car and can help him with some period photos of the car. He hopes somebody will remember how the front fenders were configured. It appears from the only actual photo that there is a separate "spat" that might be hinged at the front fender trim piece. It also appears to flare out, kinda like a reverse Corvette cove.[2]


References

  1. The 1952 Indianapolis Custom Auto Show Official Program
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Brett Johnson


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