|Kris Trexler's 1958 Buick Limited "Laurel Mist" coupe
|I found this Limited after a 2 year search. I placed frequent want-ads in widely circulated collector car magazines. I was specifically seeking a 1958 Buick Limited Riviera Coupe needing minimal restoration. Since Buick built only 1,026 of their '58 Limited coupes, the typical survival rates of cars of the era meant I might never find a car of the quality I desired. But in 1991 I finally received a response to my want-ad in Hemmings Motor News. The second owner of this car, a fellow in Detroit, Michigan, was selling his 19,000 original mile coupe which had originally been owned by a retired doctor, Mr. H.B. Ardis of St. Petersburg, Florida. Dr. Ardis spent his winters in Florida and summered in his home state of Michigan. After his passing, the family put the Limited up for sale and this second owner acquired it.
The Buick was in strong number 2 condition when I saw it in Detroit at the height of the Gulf War. The original Laurel Mist and Polar White "Magic Mirror" lacquer paint was still nice, the chrome and stainless steel brightwork was very presentable, the original interior was immaculate, and the car drove like a dream. There was no rust, but the engine compartment was typical of a 33 year old car - greasy with chipped paint here and there, some battery acid damage on the battery tray and inner fender, etc. But this was the car I had been looking for and a deal was consummated and arrangements were made to ship the old Buick back to its new home in Los Angeles.
Detroit is an automotive buff's dream come true and I toured the city in style in my new Limited. I even drove it back to the factory whre it was built in Flint, Michigan - the massive Buick City plant, shuttered in the late 90's as GM cut production in response to slumping demand.
After the car arrived in Los Angeles, I tackled a few mechanical issues such as a re-cored radiator, a total brake system restoration including restored and new hydraulic components and a conversion to DOT 5 silicone brake fluid. I recommend this conversion on classic cars because the corrosion of hydraulic components that occurs with conventional brake fluid is eliminated with DOT 5 fluid, assuming a thorough conversion is done totally removing all traces of the conventional DOT 3 fluid. I have restored 12 cars with DOT 5 with excellent success on all of them.
I drove the Limited to numerous car shows where it always attracted admirers. When returning from one of those shows, I noticed a slight chirping sound coming from the rear of the car. Upon my return, I took the car to a trusted shop for evaluation. The diagnosis was a worn rear universal joint. While I enjoy doing my own mechanical work, I was a bit intimidated by Buick's "Torque Tube" enclosed drive shaft, so I gave the go-ahead to the shop once I located the needed part.
When the job was completed, the shop owner informed me he had "good news and bad news." Uh oh... The u-joint repair had solved the chirping problem, but unfortunately some brake fluid from repair work on another car had splattered onto the rear of my car. Unfortunately, DOT 3 brake fluid destroys paint, and my Limited's original lacquer was seriously wounded. The embarrassed shop owner agreed to pay for the repairs.
My trusted body and paint shop delivered the bad news I feared. There would be almost no chance of exactly matching the sheen and unusual color characteristics of the original Laurel Mist lacquer with a spot repair. My painter knows that I'm picky and would only be satisfied with a total repaint! Of course that would mean removing ALL of the chrome and stainless trim and trim retaining clips. Take another look at this car and you'll appreciate the monumental task I faced!
The repaint was done with DuPont Chroma Base basecoat-clearcoat with an excellent match of the color and metallic grain of the original lacquer. The car was now even more gorgeous. The quality of the paint now deserved the best brightwork, so all the stainless trim was polished and minor dings removed, and all the steel and diecast chrome was either replated by Christensen Plating in Los Angeles or replaced with rare NOS (new old stock) pieces. Every trim clip was replaced with NOS clips as well.
The Buick now had show car potential, but to compete in a serious concours, the engine compartment must be a nice as the body and paint. I undertook a 2 year project to disassemble the engine compartment, restore every component (except for the low mileage engine ), restore all the original nuts, bolts, and screws, replace every hose clamp with new original style pieces, and strip and repaint the engine and accessories. The inner fenders were removed, stripped, and powder coated rather than painted. Powder coating has the appearance of paint, but is far more durable and chip resistant.
The trunk was quite presentable but the cloth trunk floor material was showing some wear, so I located original (and expensive) fabric which was installed to original appearance. Buick used a dual exhaust system on the Limited with 1 muffler and 2 resonators per side. Of course most owners did not replace their exhaust systems with the expensive Buick components, and my Limited had been no exception. After an exhaustive search, I located a complete original new Buick exhaust system with the only variation from original being the use of rust-resistant stainless steel pipes.
My Limited has been in numerous shows and I am honored to have won numerous first place trophies with it. I enjoy the driving experience with my classic cars, and the Buick is no exception. It is a wonderful "dinner car" occasionally used to take friends out for the evening.
Needless to say, I consider myself very fortunate to have been the conservator of this fine car. Now I must excuse myself to tackle the cleaning of those 160 faceted squares on the glittering "Fashion Aire Dynastar Grille!"