17 Apr 2009

Buick 455

Posted by Teapots Happen

Fall, 2006

In Minnesota, savvy natives don’t look to a groundhog to know when Spring has come – there are more reliable signs that winter is done with its teasing, lingering retreat for good, not to return again til next time.

Last night, I saw one such sign – a platoon of trucks flashing their way down 35W in the middle of the night, a slow-motion herd of mechanical mastadons sweeping away the winter build-up of sand and corrosive road salt. And like a signalman in a semaphore telegraph tower, it was now my duty to take up the cry of “Spring is coming!” and spread the word to all who had not yet heard.

My part in this exalted message’s broadcast is a black 1971 Buick Riviera – for only in Spring do the old great steel beasts emerge out from hibernation, growling and roaring. So, with the pleasure that comes from doing one’s sacred duty, I changed the flat tire, charged the weakened battery, topped off the fluids, cleaned out the trash left behind from the last roadtrip of fall, reinstated my insurance, and hit the highways – not even taking time to wash off the dust – wind and rain would take care of that soon enough, and I had a message to deliver.

The Apocalypse (my 1971 Buick Riviera) & Cleo

the Apocalypse & Cleo

Anyway, this all prompted me to post another coincidence story:

I bought my car off of Ebay from a guy in downtown Chicago. Becky and I drove my crappy 96 Pontiac out there together.  When the Pontiac broke down on the way back out of Illinois, we ditched it in a hotel parking lot unlocked with the keys and title on the floor and kept moving – no time to deal with the mess; I had a real car to bring home safely. On the way through Wisconsin we stopped by the shop of a mechanic friend of mine, in Sparta.  We got it up on the hoist and checked everything out.

At some point I had a question about how something worked inside the engine, and he showed me the innards of an old rusty engine he’d had lying inside the shop for several years – a  1970 Buick 455 that he’d pulled out of a doomed car on its way to the junkyard. He noted that the engines were completely compatibile – but the ’70 was a better stock engine, with its 10:1 compression (vs my 71’s 8.5:1).

Well, a month or two later and this compatibility was no longer academic in my mind – on the way back from Lake Superior with Becky and Cleo, the car broke down on the highway. On the side of the I-35  holding the bone-dry oil dipstick, my heart imploded and there were, perhaps, tears hidden behind the storms of profanity that erupted from me. Something had failed and the oil had sneakily drained out.  And then the heat from eight thundering cylinders pounding without lubrication essentially welded the cylinders into the block – my car’s engine was toast.

Of course, luckily for me, my one mechanic friend happened to have one complete engine gathering rust and dust in his shop, and that one engine happened to be a v8 455 Buick engine that was not only relatively easy to swap for the original engine, but was actually an upgrade (faster & more powerful – but requires high-octane fuel and never heard about this new-fangled “fuel efficiency” thing).

( I also installed oil pressure and temp gauges, so history could not repeat itself …  I reckon that the universe was probably all out of coincidental Buick engines after this one.)

buick heart transplant

buick heart transplant

Without that donor engine and the help from my friend, the cost of repairing the car would have been high enough that I would have had to give up and write the whole experience off as a disaster.

Instead, I got a my Buick running better than ever – perfect oil pressure and temp, in a condition the original engine could never have hoped to attain – able to take Cleo, my friend Jessi, and me down into the deserts of New Mexico and back home again without a problem last spring.

predators eyeing New Mexican cattle

predators eyeing New Mexican cattle


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No Responses to “Buick 455”

  1. Another great synchronicity story from Max, the synchronicity generator!


    Trish MacGregor

  2. I remember hearing this story before. I remember hearing it twice, and many long hours with an even longer drill. I knew there was some cosmic force telling me to keep that engine. Or maybe I just have a hardon for big cubes. The world may never know…….



  3. Barreling down the interstate in the Riv, I prefer to wear a helmet:





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