(from GM Press Release)
Everyone remembers their very first love. For many, it means a special
car or truck. Rekindling the passion stimulated by a great street
cruiser has inspired thousands to reclaim their past by restoring their
first love. That's what happened when Jay Leno decided to rebuild and
improve his vintage 1955 Buick Roadmaster.
He and Big Dog Garage shop manager, Bernard Juchli, turned to GM
Performance Parts for the powertrain, suspension and braking components
needed for the job. The result: a completely stock looking 1955 Buick
Roadmaster that has the power, performance and handling characteristics
of a serious street rod.
Leno purchased the Roadmaster in 1972 for $350 and had it restored in
1973. Jay drove it everywhere in the '70s. In fact, it was the car that
he used on his first date with his wife. It also provided him a lift to
his first Tonight Show appearance in 1977.
"It's special to me because it was my first vehicle here in California
and it was with me during a number of other important 'firsts'," said
Leno of his newly restored street rod. "Now its better than new because
we've brought it into the 21st century. That means better performance,
better mileage and better emissions."
Leno, an auto enthusiast and collector for most of his life, decided to
restore the Buick - the first vehicle in his extensive automobile
collection - and charged his Big Dog Garage crew to "bring it back to
life." The vehicle, which sat in his mother-in-law's driveway for the
better part of 16 years, could barely run and needed a lot of work when
they started the project in 2002.
"I felt guilty that it was in such bad shape. It's kind of like falling
behind on your child support. It needed more than just a restoration. It
had to be better than new," said Leno.
Spoiled by the superior look and performance of his Corvette Z06, Leno
decided that his cherished Buick needed some serious attention.
Beginning with the exterior, the Buick received the latest classic black
and silver DuPont paint, as well as new chrome. He also had wider, stock
looking wheels made to accommodate wider tires. To keep the stock
appearance of the wheels, Leno even remade the vintage Buick hubcaps
slightly larger in order to cover the larger wheels.
The interior of the Roadmaster also received a great deal of attention,
getting a complete upholstery restoration. Underneath the vehicle, the
technicians at the Big Dog Garage enhanced the performance of the
Roadmaster by beefing up the suspension and brake systems with Corvette
C4 and C5 components.
But what makes the Roadmaster "go" was at the heart of this project.
"The look of the vehicle had to be stock, but it had to be fun to
drive...and I like power," Leno said. "When I heard about the GM
Performance Parts ZZ572 crate engine--and the 620 horses under the
hood--I knew that's what I wanted."
Juchli, who worked on the project from start to finish, agreed that the
GM Performance Parts engine really made the vehicle come alive. Since he
was doing most of the work on this vehicle, he also had a stake in
handling the sometimes difficult engine installation process.
"The GM Performance Parts ZZ572 crate engine was the perfect solution,"
said Juchli. "The vehicle required some modification because it's a '55.
But the ZZ572 made the job easier because it comes completely assembled
out of the crate and it was easy to bolt in."
Leno says that his story is a lesson to anyone who owns an old GM
vehicle parked somewhere "out back." Don't let it go. Don't junk it.
Restore and improve it.
"If I had to rebuild the original Dynaflow transmission and the engine
by going her or there for parts, I could do it - but eventually
something usually goes wrong," said Leno. "With this crate engine, you
just bolt it in, get great performance and its backed by General Motors
- what's not to love?"
Jay says that his prized Roadmaster is not only the first in his
extensive collection, but it is his favorite to drive. "You gotta love
the look in the eyes of a guy driving a Porsche who sees you coming up
on him, but just can't seem to shake you going up a canyon," he says,
"He's thinking 'how can this old Buick do this to me?'"
He smiles as he tells the story, cranks up the 620 horses under the hood
of his beloved Roadmaster, and goes for another drive.
About the ZZ572 / 620
The ZZ572/620 is filled with a forged
4340 steel crank with a 4.375 inch stroke; shot peened, forged 4340
H-beam rods, and forged aluminum pistons with full floating wrist pins.
A new GM single plane intake manifold and 850 CFM Demon carburetor
deliver enough air and fuel to reach 620 horsepower at 5500 RPM, and 650
ft. lb. of torque at 4500 RPM. And, because of the redesigned
rectangular port aluminum cylinder heads, all of this power and
performance is delivered with a gas pump friendly 9.6 to 1 compression
620 @ 5500 RPM
@ 4500 RPM
Tall Deck Bowtie Gen VI 10.200” deck height
Full floating wrist pin
Valve lift: 632” l, 632” E
Duration @ .050” 254°l, 264° E
118cc combustion chamber