Kevin O’Connor’s Smooth 1962 Buick Special
When my eye catches a cool car cruising down the open road, feelings of excitement and wonder fall over me. I’ll increase my speed to well over 100mph, or come to a complete stop, whatever it takes, but you can bet I’m getting a closer look at that classic. I’m not sure what internal forces are at work that make this desire so strong, but I’ve been this obsessive since my youth. I’m what one may call a ‘man-child’ so perhaps it’s fitting that my behavior has remained consistent into adulthood. Every now and again my wife strongly encourages me to slow-down and drive safely in moments when I’m fixed on catching-up with the rolling art barreling down the road. When this happens, I explain to her that no matter what I’m doing in that moment, I just have to. It’s a compulsion. This is what car guys and gals do. I know this to be true, because this is how I came to meet one of the more knowledgeable hot-rodders I know, Kevin O’Connor.
It was late July, 2015. My wife and I were just married and I somehow convinced her to let me buy a 1964 Rambler American 600 4 door alongside a 1963 Rambler Classic 330 wagon I found on Craigslist. Buy 1 get 1 kinda deal. That’s right, two 4 door Ramblers! A few of my friends laughed when I told them about the cars, but I thought they were cool and that’s all that matted to me. Turns out, I wasn’t alone! An old biker buddy of mine accompanied me on the trip so he could drive the 600 home while I towed the wagon. As my friend and I laughed about my new acquisitions while filling up at a quaint gas station in Locust, NC., my buddy spots a cop driving towards us. I’m not too worried, but my 60 year-old biker friend is always alert about ‘the-man’ and his intentions… The cop rolls up on us, rolls down his window and says, “hey, did you just buy that Rambler?” “I tried to convince my wife to let me buy it, but she wasn’t having it.” As you can probably guess, this on-duty car lovin’ police officer turned out to be my now pal, Kevin O’Connor.
We spent a few brief moments chatting about the cars when Kevin told me about an upcoming car show at Tilley Harley Davidson that he and his car club would be attending. I knew of the show and had planned on attending, so I told him I’d look him up at the show. The morning of the show I decided to hit an early-bird, cars and coffee cruise-in prior to heading to the show at Tilley’s. While gawking at the cars I strike up a conversation with a very knowledgeable guy about a traditional hot-rod parked in front of us. We share some stories when he tells me his son is part of a car club that will be out at Tilley HD show. Queue twilight music… Yeah, this was Kevin’s father.
A fine example of how no matter what we’re doing, car enthusiasts make the time to inquire and share knowledge about our passion. It’s in our DNA. Kevin, his father and Kevin’s very, very sweet 1962 Buick Special are picture perfect examples of everything that’s awesome about the car world. I’m proud to call Kevin a friend and deeply cherish the knowledge I’ve gained from him. If you’re around the greater Charlotte, NC area, you’ve probably seen his Buick. If you haven’t, keep your eye out for the car in 2018 and when you see it, strike up a conversation with Kevin, you’ll be glad you did!
Kevin and his dad – 2016
I come from a hot rod family, my dad has had his 32 coupe since he was 17 and that car was a large part of my upbringing. I always wanted an old car but I was intimidated to tackle a project. Once my wife and I bought our first house and were secure in our jobs we bought the Buick. I didn’t really set out to buy a sixties car but it was the right price and it would fit in our garage. It was also a running and driving car which was a great benefit. I figured I could learn on it and still enjoy it at the same time.
Soon after I got the car I started going on the H.A.M.B. for guidance and tech info. One day I got a message from a guy named Ron Barbarino about some wheels. The car has four lugs from the factory which makes wheel choices extremely limited. Ron just so happened to have a set of four lug 15’s that he was looking to unload. We met up and quickly became friends. Ron was nice enough to invite me to his club’s shop for a get together after the GoodGuys show in 2010, this turned out to be a turning point with the car and my life in general. When I went to the shop I got to see a bunch of guys my age that were actually building and driving really killer cars. Because of Ron and the Iron Lords Car Club I have met some of my closest and best friends. It also motivated me to get to work.
I took a body shop class at a local community college later that year and dug into the car full steam. I started at the front of the car and was really excited to see virtually no rust. Then I got to the rear quarters…….. what a mess! There were giant rust holes filled with steel wool and bondo. The floors were paper thin in spots and had galvanized sheet metal riveted over big holes. A guy in the class named Jason Smith jumped right in and helped me get the floors fixed and some patch panels welded in.
Within a couple months I had the car somewhat back together so I could drive it some. I got to know a great group of people that eventually started the Road Pilots Car Club, this was another big motivator to get the car looking respectable. I continued working on it, doing a few little custom touches. I shaved all the trim and emblems, shaved the door handles and fuel door and added new exhaust with some chrome bellflower tips. I also customized the grill by removing the center section and replacing it was piece of expanded metal, loaded with chrome drawer pulls. To this day that grill is one the best things I ever did on the car, it completely changed it.
In 2013 I decided it was time to finish the body work and paint the car. My fellow club members and I spent a lot of time blocking the car out before I sent it to my dad for final bodywork and paint. Little did I know we had a long way to go. For the next year and a half we continued blocking the car and making everything as nice as possible. I struggled on color choices for a long time but eventually found and fell in love with a one year only Pontiac color from 1957 called Limefire Green. The roof color is a modern Cadillac color called Diamond Pearl White.
In the summer of 2015 my dad shot the color and it turned out incredible. My fellow club member Holly Benson who is a wizard with a sewing machine graciously redid my seats. She did a nice traditional two tone interior using an old deadstock green/gold vinyl and some pleated white vinyl. I had a few of the interior trim pieces chromed and another friend Travis “Tuki” Hess lettered my daughter Lucy’s name on the glovebox door. The car turned out better than I ever could have imagined. For now I am enjoying the car with my friends and family. In the future I would love to do a V8 swap with an overdrive transmission.
I have to thank my wife Kelly and my daughters Lucy and Sadie for supporting all the car endeavors.
Thanks to my dad for the insane amount of work he put into the paint and showing me how great the car hobby can be.
Thank you Holly Benson for the awesome interior.
Thank you Kasey Harris and Justin Benson for the endless mechanical help and guidance.
Thank you to the rest of the Road Pilots Car Club for all the help along the way. Every club member had a hand in building this car and I will be forever grateful.