Steve Thomason knew he was a car guy from the start, growing up working in his dad’s body shop.
“I’ve had several hot rods. My dad and mom are both gearheads. I didn’t have a chance,” he laughs.
But there was something he didn’t know about himself until a few months ago when a friend tipped him off about an old car that was being offered for sale in Hutchinson as part of a package deal with a house.
“I went over and looked at it and I fell in love with it,” Thomason said. “I never knew I was a ‘Buick guy.’ ”
But when he laid eyes on the white-over-Dublin Green 1961 Buick Electra 225, he knew he had to have it.
“It was supposed to have 23,000 miles on it when I bought it. I’m the third owner,” he said. The car is in near-immaculate condition, with 24,165 miles showing on the odometer now.
It was a high-end offering from Buick, with almost every option available, from Guide-Matic headlight dimmer along with Twilight Sentinel, a dash-mounted sensor that turned on the lights automatically at sundown. There was a speed sensor that could be set to buzz at the driver if he exceeded a speed he dialed into the gizmo, 6-way power seats, power windows, powers steering, power radio antenna, Wonder Bar radio, air conditioning, an adjustable mirrored speedometer display that could be moved up and down with a clear lucite knob, and a vacuum-operated remote trunk release — just about everything an upscale car buyer could want back then.
“This was a $4,000 car in 1961,” he said, underscoring that.
Thomason wasn’t in the market for a house, having only recently moved to McPherson, but he was able to negotiate a deal with the son of the owner, who was in a nursing home.
The first two owners had put the Buick in storage for most of its life. Thomason said the car received a fresh paint job and an interior refreshing about 15 years ago.
The Buick is technically known as a 6-window 4-door hardtop, owing to the fixed rear quarter windows. With all of the windows down, it is the next best thing to riding in a family-sized convertible.
Power is supplied by a 401 cubic inch “nailhead” Buick V-8 producing 325 horsepower with a single 4-barrel carburetor. It is mated to a Twin Turbine 2-speed automatic, which in turn spins a 3:73 Positraction rear end.
Thomason installed a VIAR air bag suspension system himself, which allows him to drop the car almost to the pavement for static display. He retained the original steel wheels, but opted for custom cone-style wheel covers and 225/75R15 thinline whitewall tires for a period-correct look.
His plan for the car is to retain its classic good looks, while adding a bit of Space Age flair to the bountiful Buick. To that end, he had Sean Carey pinstripe the car at the recent Starliner car show in Wichita, with a “space girl pinup” embellishing the glovebox door and other subtle touches on the dash and exterior.
“I want to keep it all Atomic Age,” Thomason said.
He kept the working Wonder Bar radio in place, but had Damian Allegree of Salina install a Kicker Bluetooth 1,100 watt stereo system in the car, with the control panel hidden in the ash tray and heavy duty speakers installed under the package tray, with a 12-inch woofer in the trunk.
Curtis Zimmer rebuilt the finned aluminum drum brakes and handled other mechanical issues.
“There were just so many things to see in a ’61 … and I want to make everything work again,” said Thomason. He is planning a road trip to a major Texas custom car show next month, to check his 56-year-old creampuff out.
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org