Excerpts reproduced with kind permission of Custom Car magazine

A 468ci Big Block dyno’d at 505bhp!

Having friends in the right places meant at some point during the build John’s mate, Jeff Willett offered him a 468ci big block Chevy and Turbo 400 transmission as a replacement powertrain. Not just any old 468 though, but the full tilt race motor built by John Ellis that came out of his ’66 Chevy Nova and ran 11.09s and made 505bhp / 500ft.lbs of torque on Kenny Coleman’s dyno.

As we all know, Paul loves a Buick and, as he was in the process of updating his own car, quite a few of the bits made their way onto John’s, including the aforementioned back axle and the steering column, the column change of which has been hooked up to the TH400. It wasn’t until Paul and the boys had done all the work and were giving the car a test drive that they discovered it was in fact a reverse pattern ‘box...

When Keith, Burnham’s in-house trimmer, came out of his stock room with some green flake vinyl that matched the roof almost perfectly, John knew it was meant to be and so agrred to a full re-trim.

The combination of black yinyl and green metalflake marine vinyl give the interior a real custom flavour, but underneath the material it’s actually very close to stock. The tilt steering column is of later vintage and there are a couple of extra guages and switches, plus that flake steering wheel of course.


“Room with Zoom” was one of the slogans Buick used to promote its new 1951 models, but it’s just as appropriate today for John Reilly’s heavyweight hauler...

In the 1951 Buick sales literature it was described as having “swayless, swerve-free, everlevel stability from its sure-footed chassis, giving the car road poise and a solid ‘seat’ on the highway.”  Yep, John’s car’s got all that, and more, thanks to a period rear suspension upgrade by Burnham Autos that sees the car’s 10-bolt, LSD-equipped axle (actually the one out of proprietor Paul Burnham’s own ’53 Buick) located by ’60’s NASCAR-style location bars pivoting from a crossmember up near the gearbox. Complementing this upgrade up front is a full replacement clip, again fitted by Burnham Autos, using all the bits from a ’76 Camaro - steering, anti-roll bar, servo-assisted discs, the lot. “I do like to get a car to drive right,” says Paul of his work here, before adding cheekily, “ and to be able to lift a wheel in a corner...”


While Paul was busy with the spanners, John was busy looking at magazines and on the internet, deciding that what he really wanted was a set of chromed spoked wires - again not exactly ideal for a car with this sort of power, but he wasn’t to be swayed from his decision. In the end, Paul did all the measurements and calculations on offsets and back spacings and John ordered them direct from Truespoke in the States, complete with a one-off set of whitewall radials.

The end result is certainly a very different look to that which we’re used to seeing on similar cars, but we get the impression that’s exactly what John wanted all along!

Any big block is nice, but this 468 Chevy is a bit special, with a Crane roller cam, rectangular port early ‘Vette cylinder heads and a single plane manifold with Hardcore Racing Engines double pumper. Unfortunately, that combo only returned 8mpg so John has had the car converted to LPG so he can actually use it.