TO CHOP, OR NOT TO CHOP…

That was the dilemma facing Shane Monopoli as his 1949 Buick lay in bare metal. It was Justin Hills’ 1949 Buick Super sedanette featured on the cover of Cruzin #101 which inspired Shane to go looking for an equivalent back in 2009, finally locating one in St Louis, Missouri via a Google search. “I found it on an obscure classifieds website. It looked so nice with the Candy paint so I rang them up,” explained Shane. “They were an older couple in their seventies, Gayle and Ray Hopkins, but real car people,” he added. When asked why he was selling the recently restored car, Ray reasoned, “Well, I have 17 cars and a 12 car garage.”

The deal was done and the big fastback was shipped to Melbourne. First impressions were pleasing to Shane, apart from its altitude. “It was stock and sat so high, I was almost embarrassed to drive it.” He quickly delivered the car to Glen Rulach at Airride Suspension who planted it on the deck.

Shane’s chain of elite photographic studios sees him travel regularly between Gold Coast and Melbourne so he has a residence in each. He shipped the Buick up to his Queensland home for summertime cruising and had Gold Coast Exhausts breath some life into the 248 cubic inch straight eight engine by fabricating a set of tubular headers. Another workshop fitted a four barrel carb to the original intake with an adaptor plate but some overzealous ignition timing was the probable cause of terminal engine failure a short time after.

Undeterred, Shane sent the car back down to Melbourne and set about locating a specialist engine builder to rebuild the behemoth GM power plant. A referral put him on the doorstep of BnB Engines in Clayton South. “They were real old school guys, fascinated with the straight eight,” observed Shane. “They sourced all the pieces from the USA and did a great job.”

Resting behind is a Dynaflow two speed transmission. Introduced in 1948, the Dynaflow was renowned for its unparalleled smoothness. It does not shift at all during normal driving, instead utilising the torque multiplication of its complex torque convertor. In today’s terms the Dynaflow would be described as a continuously variable transmission, although it’s purely hydraulic. Shane loves the performance of the Buick, the big torque of the engine combined with the smoothness of the Dynaflow makes for a surprisingly thrilling experience.

The Buick looked a treat but there were clues that beneath the candy red paint hid a multitude of sins. It was a minor altercation with a concrete post that exposed a large quantity of filler in the rear fender, prompting Shane to commission a complete body and interior restoration. Through another referral he ended up speaking with Vito at Polo Body Works in Braeside. A complete strip down revealed the extent of the rust but no quick fix was in order. “I don’t care how long it takes, it can’t be half-arsed,” Shane told Vito. It would seem that half-arsed is not in Vito’s vocabulary as he exceeded Shane’s expectations without blowing his budget either.

The hood on these Buicks is hinged along both edges and can open to the left or the right, a handy feature, until you try to line it all up so that it works without damaging the paint. Vito was determined that the car would not be painted until everything was aligned and worked as it should. He also restored and replated the bumpers and chrome components and ordered new glass and fittings where possible. Shane was tempted to smooth and mildly customise the fastback, but taking Vito’s advice he retained the factory fitted exterior trimmings and is pleased with the result. Polo also prepped and installed a healthy but stealthy stereo complete with subs and amps, the only clue being two speakers at the rear.

When it came to the final colour, it was no contest for Candy Apple Red, although Vito added a hint of pearl as a twist. The same colour flows to the metal surfaces inside, contrasting beautifully with the cream leather tuck and roll trim. Peter Mazloungas of Unique Interiors in Reservoir was commissioned to complete the trim using nothing but the finest materials – perforated headlining from Italy, sumptuous plush pile carpet from Germany – it’s truly an international affair. The design is influenced by the original styling but nothing short of tuck and roll would suffice for those big bench seats.

There’s no gaggle of Autometer gauges or aftermarket shifter, the dash and dials again paying homage to Buick’s post-war stylists. The auxiliary panel with four dials is the controller for the Vintage Air system. “I didn’t want to change the dash or put a modern deck in it,” Shane reasons and we agree.

Complimenting the perfect paint and chrome are wide whites from Antique Tyres mounted on stock rims with new Dodge Lancer wheel trims with bullets and checkers. Nice.

We couldn’t have got a better set of photos of the Buick if we had tried, they are of course Shane’s own work and shot in his Melbourne studio. He also has car-size studios in Sydney and the Gold Coast so if you’re in the market for a premium studio shoot of your car, bike, family or even all of them at once, you can contact him via the Exclusive Photography website – www.exclusivephotography.com.au.

Often it’s the appreciation shown by others that is the real reward for a build gone right. Before the Buick underwent its overhaul, Shane had it parked at the Sheraton Towers hotel when an elderly gentlemen caught his attention. “What a fantastic car, congratulations,” the gent exclaimed. “My father had a Packard, but this is just beautiful,” he added, before introducing himself as Barry Humphries. Shane was chuffed. Imagine if he saw it now.

FEATURED CRUZIN #145, STORY BY GAVIN KELSO, PHOTOS BY SHANE MONOPOLI

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