AS a panel beater and car painter on the Sunshine Coast for the whole of his working life, Tanawah's Jim Humphreys has an understandably high standard when it comes to his own car collection.
Behold his immaculate 1957 Buick Century Caballero Estate Wagon, the only one of its type currently registered in Australia and deserved Grand Champion at Australia's recent 2010 Buick Nationals in Wangaratta.
It has taken Jim nearly three years of hard restoration work to get his American wagon to its current level, and the result is one of the most striking cars to be found on our local roads. It is, quite simply, huge.
“I brought it in from America in 2006 as a complete car, but it wasn't running and had the dents you'd expect with a 50-year-old,” Jim said. “I like it because of its rarity and just love the sweep in the rear door and its pillarless body.”
Importantly for Jim, his new import had very little rust in the chassis or body.
“I did need some new parts though, which were easy enough to find as you can get Buick reproduction stuff through the USA.”
The acres of chrome were re-done here in Australia, while Jim prepared the body in Pearl Orange and Pearl White which weren't original Buick colours, but worked perfectly on a big American car of this vintage.
The cavernous interior has two rows of bench seats in front of a lengthy rear cargo area. A Dynaflow automatic gearbox is controlled by a stalk on the steering column, and the whole cabin has been expertly finished in colour-coded leather by Jim's friend Chris Bakker.
With a Buick 401(6.6-litre) Nailhead V8 up front it's a powerful if rather thirsty cruiser.
“It is excellent to drive, but I only manage about 5km for every litre of fuel,” Jim said.
The Buick gets plenty of use on holidays, club runs and at shows, with Jim and wife Bev hitching their caravan to the wagon's rear end for life on the road.
Their tiny mobile home, which Jim has restored in orange and white as well, is a 1957 model to match the Buick.
“It gets nearly as much attention as the car,” he said.
With a 1976 Ford F-Series truck and 1934 Ford Tudor Hot Rod also in his driveway Jim has an eye-catching collection, but it's his mighty Buick that stands out as a brilliant nostalgic reminder of a time when the Detroit car industry thought it could get away with almost anything.
Owners: Jim and Bev Humphreys, Tanawah.
Model: 1957 Buick Century Caballero Estate Wagon.
Details: Full-size station wagon produced from 1957 to 1958.
Number built: 14,642.
Engine: 401 cu in (6.6-litre) 401 Nailhead V8 (transplanted to replace standard 364 cu in V8).
Transmission: Buick Dynaflow two-speed automatic.
Model value: $100,000+
Did you know? The Caballero Estate was produced only in 1957 and 1958 as it suffered from expensive construction costs and relatively poor sales. Few of these giant Buicks survive today making them incredibly sought after and valuable.
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