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balthazar

Project INVICTA

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Some brief history first:

My buddy & I used to cruise all over central NJ & eastern PA looking for vintage iron. We were both Pontiac men, but always had an eye for other American iron (Cadillac, Buick, MoPar, independants). When we rolled up on this '59 Buick in Doylestown PA...

B-59carport.jpg

...I remember saying 'If it's an Invicta, it's mine'...

B-59carport2.jpg

Series 4600 Invictas used the smaller 123" wheelbase LeSabre chassis with the big car Electra engine; the 'Wildcat' 401 CI. This was the 'performance' series in Buick's catalog, preceded by the '54-58 Century and followed by the '62-70 Wildcats. Always into performance, the Invicta was the most exclusive B-59 and the perfect choice. I am not into convertibles, esp in this era; lopping that 'bubbletop' roof off, with those fantastic lines and all that stainless and replacing it with wrinkled canvas is borderline criminal, in my book... and 4-drs are for families.

I took it for a long test drive a week or so later, dust billowing off it's unregistered & uninsured curves (it had been sitting about a year at this point), and although it had what felt to me to be notable 'departures' from the Pontiacs I was used to (at this point, Pontiac really did do interiors noticably better), I was smitten.

She spent about a year in this picturesque barn down the road from my parent's house...

B-59barn.jpg

...then another 2 in my parent's driveway under a tarp, until I had my house & shop built. This is my shop; 24x48 :

DSC02686 copy.JPG

She then slumbered another 3 years or so in Bay #1 before I tore into the project.

B-59motorpull.jpg

More to come...

Edited by balthazar

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(I apologize in advance if/when I ramble on overly long....)

THE CAR was basically presentable, tho there was contained, deteriorating rot repair in the lower front fenders, the lower rear quarters and some rot in the rockers. There were also 2 strange fist-sized holes in a vertical panel in the trunk... but overall, the floors and the rest of the car were very solid.

My invicta was built in June '59 in the Wilmington BOP plant, and sold thru Pollino Buick in Ambler PA (since merged/moved/renamed... and apparently closed now). Standard Invicta equipment included a cloth & vinyl combination upholstery, DeLuxe steering wheel, DeLuxe wheel covers, Foamtex seat cushions, electric clock, electric wipers, padded dash, dual horns, trip odometer and a glovebox light. As built, my Invicta also came with the follwing options: power steering, heater/defroster, SonoMatic AM radio, E-Z-Eye tinted windshield, Safety Group (Speed Safety Buzzer, back-up lamps, Glare-Proof inside rearview mirror, parking brake warning light, map light), dual exhaust & whitewall tires. Didn't scan too well, but here's 1 of the 2 hand-written build sheets found during the teardown...

59build.jpg

'4637' is an Invicta hardtop coupe, 'CC' is Artic White body/roof, '601' is the green/black/white upholstery/interior color, rest is options:
D1 : Sonomatic AM radio / manual antenna
B1 : heater/defroster
C : power steering
F : Safety Group - BU lights, non-glare mirror, P-brake light, map light, Safety Buzzer speedometer
I7 : EZI tinted windshield
T1 : whitewall tires
These were added to the standard Invicta features of DeLuxe steering wheel, DeLuxe hubcaps, padded dash, dual exhaust & rear license plate frame.

In the time up until this point (6 years of ownership)- the B-59 did not rise in value according to the Old Cars Price Guide even tho relatively uncommon (11,451 built); an Invicta 2-dr hardtop was worth a year in-year out $7000 in #1 perfect shape. As she sat, she was technically a #4, or worth $1500 (I paid $500). Mileage was 103K when the odometer broke... I estimate it had 105-110K on it.

I looked into hopping up the factory powertrain, and although the Wildcat 401 V-8 (325 HP) was more than willing and parts are available, the rest of the powertrain (TwinTurbine DynaFlow, TorqueTube enclosed driveshaft, Buick 9.375" 3.23 open axle) were not. The TwinTurbine was not modifiable nor advantageous for performance, and the rear, being uniquely-designed to couple to the TorqueTube, had no aftermarket gears available.

Here is a B-59 chassis pic I cribbed off the 'net (NOT MINE) :

59Bframe.jpg

Note the rear suspension- the TorqueTube is red, and those angled red bars are the lower control arms. They're about 4' long and attach to the TorqueTube, so once again, change 1 thing here and you're changing it all. B-59s also utilize a factory Panhard bar to control side-to-side motion (no doubt a neccessity with those elongated control arms)- something that appeared much later on the GNX, BTW. Air-Poise rear air suspension was an infrequently-ordered option, mine doesn't have it.

So between a lust for performance and owning a collector-ignored example, I felt no guilt in 'resto-modding' the car. I stripped the B-59 apart over the next year or so, pulling the entire powertrain and selling it off (the 401 went into a FL '63 Riviera, and the axle & transmission are in NY State as cores for another B-59 damaged in a fire).

Edited by balthazar

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This is going to be a very interesting section of the forum. Nice job, balthy. More, please!

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Yea; that's the crazy, factory system: mufflers ahead of the axle (don't see 'em in that pic), resonators at the rear.

-- -- -- --

I am firmly of the school that believes a Buick should have a Buick engine, and with a ton of aftermarket support for the Buick 455 (would you believe multiple aftermarket blocks??), the choice was made. My engine came from a another Artic White Buick, a '72 Riviera Sport Coupe that had been whalloped in the rear, a standard 315 HP/450 TRQ (gross) 455 (that's 7.5 liters for you noobs).

B-59motorpull2.jpg

At this point a number of other cars left my paddock to help fund this, including the rest of the Riv (thru the Riv Owners Assoc) :

B-72.jpg

1957 Ford F-250 Styleside :

57F250.jpg

1973 Dodge Charger Rallye 440 :

D-73.jpg

1965 Pontiac Catalina 2-sr sedan :

P-652.jpg

1965 Pontiac Bonneville 2-dr hardtop :

'65 frt.JPG

1965 Pontiac Bonneville 4-dr hardtop :

P-65.jpg

1964 Pontiac Catalina 4-dr sedan. This one below left in 2017, it's monies will also go into the Buick Fund :

6423692.JPG

 

Edited by balthazar

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An excellent beginning to an excellent story of a most excellent project; looking forward to many updates!

Balt: if you EVER need to rid yourself of another '65 Bonneville four door hardtop in order to come up with some more project dough, please please PLEASE let me know! My father would about die if one ever showed up in front of the house to get restored; he's a big time Pontiac man too!

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I do have a '65 Bonneville 2-dr hardtop, but yer dad doesn't want what's left of it. I don't think the scrap guy even would.

-- -- -- -- --

I had a friend who worked for a Pontiac/Olds engine builder do some work on it next. I did not trust my (lack of) bodywork experience at this point to experiment on my baby.

I bought what may have been the last NORS B-59 quarter patch panels available; the lower half in 2 panels that split over each rear wheel. Aftermarket rockers are still readily available, tho in the repair, my buddy Joe put 2x3" steel tubing inside the rockers from cowl to rear wheelwell to help support them, making a secondary double frame rail. The body is incredibly stiff (even without a B-Pillar :P ). Here's a sectional view of the rocker/frame area- the green areas are what was added/replaced.

B-59framebabble22.jpg

Here's some cruddy surgery pics snipped from video:

ouch2.jpg

A local engine/chassis builder modified the rear of the frame to fit an axle & suspension befitting it's intended future use. B-59s use a unique 'K' frame, and the builder said he'd never worked on a car with such a beefy frame. So he cut the 'K' member out.

B-59framebabble3.jpg

The floor bracing noted above is C-channel welded to the body shell (like a unibody 'frame' so to speak). Standard practice.

My buddy also built the rear for the car, using a truck Dana 60 with a 4-pinion posi, 31-spline Moser halfshafts & 3.73 Richmond gears. He built 36" fully-adjustable ladder bars and a new Panhard bar. The factory Buick wheelwells are very large, but the framerails protruded into the well, so in order to put a larger tire on, he ended up back-halving the car- everything from about 1.5' in front of the rear on back is all new... but was made to accomodate everything factory that was staying: gas tank, fuel filler & all body mount points (B-59s utilize 22 body mounts). Rear tires are 315/60-15 BFG Drag Radials on 10" rims. Car here looks like it's riding high because of the lighting & angle; but from the curb the car sits quite low:

59rrwhl-1.jpg

Suspension is adjustable at both the front of the ladder bars, & the axle, so once all the weight is on, it can be fine-tuned as needed. Solid motor mounts & a custom trans crossmember was also fabb'd. I forgot to mention I had the body media-blasted, too. After getting the car back from Joe, she looked like so :

59B-1998-03.jpg

Edited by balthazar

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Veezel- the tires are a neccessity for traction--> car is going to have a lot of power. Pic doesn't show it well, but they are treaded tires, not slicks (tho I have a pair of 29.5" M&Hs, too).

-- -- -- -- --

'72 Buick 455 block has been boiled & completely deburred. Here it sits mocked-up with T/A Performance Stage II aluminum heads & single plane intake just sitting there.

TA455.jpg

Heads flow 300+ cfm out of the box. Crank has also been deburred. Peeking out the front of the oil pan is the T/A block girdle, a heavy cast brace to keep the bottom end of the motor from doing the hoochiecoochie under WOT. I also have a new front timing cover, 1.65 shaft rockers, valve covers & oil pump, and I need to order the 3" primary headers soon, because that steering box (rebuilt with a faster ratio: 3.3 turns l-t-l) is jutting into the header's turf and I think I am going to have to fab at least 2 tubes on that side. Carb, pistons, rods, valves, springs, dist..... $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ still to come. And machine work. I don't like to think about the bill here.

But on the happy side, in order to be able to turn right around 11.0s in the quarter, the car need to put out about 575 HP. Hence the tires. Girdle is prolly overkill for a car under 600 HP, but what the hell- I value overengineering things.

Trans is going to be a '70 code BC Buick THM400 (ONOZ! OMG!! Slushtboxzez suxzorz !!). Mid '69 and later units have 'case saver rings', an internal cast reinforcement. And in another example of me going overboard, I recently cut the factory bellhousing off to replace it with this, an SFI-approved UltraBell:

ultrabell.jpg

More recently I have been pondering an auto OD unit.
Gear Vendors has a 'splitter' OD unit that bolts on the back of the TH400... and although it's rated for like 1200 HP, it's also about $2K new. Instead I'm strongly considering a 4L80E, the 'overdrive Turbo 400'. These need some other bits to make it work (a 'brain box' and an analog speedometer drive thingie), and I think one could be all done for more like $1300-1500. It's rear mount is 2.5-in farther rearward than the TH400, should be no big deal to fabricate a modified trans mount & keep the crossmember where it is.

With the tires planned and 3.73 gears, the car would be turning about 2520 RPM @ 60 MPH. Frankly, after driving ODs for 20 years, when I shift out of OD in my 3.73 SIlverado, I turn about the same RPM and it just feels & sounds... wrong. Still pondering cost vs. expected frequency of use...

Edited by balthazar

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Can't wait to see this thing finished

For real. When I die I'll be able to say I've seen an ALL STEEL 1959 Buick Invicta do f@#king WHEELIES! :metal:

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Even more impressive than this super blow-by-blow narrated photo montage

was my visit to Balthazar's house in the fall of 2005. His garage was full of

many amazing wonders. Pontiac 8-lug drums just sitting in a box, B-59 parts

on shelves, Buick & Pontiac memorabilia hanging up on walls & dozens upon

dozens of "what the heck is THAT?" items.

I managed to talk Balth into letting me lighten his Automotive packrat burden

by donating an antique pre-war car jack... (my Automotive packratness has

reached epic levels) and I took a few photos of the B-59 which was laid out

like a life sized version of a half-finished AMT 1:25th scale model.

Also in the garage was a menacing & fascinatingly awesome 1940 Ford truck,

but not some run-of-the-mill pickup like every farmer was driving in the

1940s... this is a COE and Balth has some very cool plans for it as a rat-rod.

The 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix (black hardtop, 8-lugs) I forget weather it's got

the 389 or the 421 but in any case it's just chillin' under a tarp, inside its

gorgeous interior time stands still... the garage keeps the cancerous rust at

bay and I'm confident someday the car will get the attention and care it

deserves. Then there's the 4-dr post Catalina sitting in the weeds, a victim

of a dumb deer... I'm sure Balth can tell some of those stories when the

sage of the B-59 is updated.

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Front suspension is all rebuilt stock: SLA (lowers forged), screw-in bearings, coil-over shocks w/ new 1" shorter HD springs. The 'Al-Fin' 12" aluminum drums do not fade and will get Kevlar-impregnated shoes. Pop Mech tested a '60 Invicta when new and got it to average 138' in 60-0 braking. That's modern family sedan territory. Add in wide radials, better shoes and lighter weight, and I expect to knock an easy car-length off that (circa 120')- that's only 9 feet more than a Lambo Gallardo.

Here's a shot of the above-mentioned rear suspension. Note that the factory fenderwell is still intact- it remains underneath somewhat like a motorcycle fender to keep the tire from tossing too much stuff around.

B-59RRsusp.jpg

Weight is... not inconsiderable. Shipping weight (no options, gas or water) for the Invicta coupe was 4274. Curb weight (full tank fuel, all fluids, all standard equipment) is officially 4394. My car with it's scant options (AM Radio, heater/defroster, power steering, dual exhaust)  tips the scale at 4566.

But it pays to do your research: the factory 455 alternator bracket (also mounts A/C compressor) was a heavy steel unit weighing 4 lbs by itself. I grabbed an interchangable non-A/C bracket from a junkyard '67 LeSabre 340 car; made of cast aluminum, it literally weighs nothing. Happily, every component swapped in has weighed less than the original; so far I'm down 363 lbs to 4203, with the weight differences in the rims and exhaust currently unknown. I would love to get to an even 4000 but don't know if it's in there. I've also added something to make the car lighter: holes (these are overrated- you can drill for a few hours and only lose a pound or 2). If I can drop a total of 500 lbs; 4004 lbs / 575 HP is 7.0 lbs/hp. As a reference, that's Shelby Cobra 427 territory.

A car this angry should move like atomic hellfire.

59 Invicta roast.jpg
 

Edited by balthazar

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Trunk is finished, metal-wise... tho the pan is square-edged, making laying a mat in there over the contours a bit difficult. I was thinking of spatter-painting it, but that's later, year-wise (for Buick at least). Factory had lots of 'beauty panels' to the sides & back that hid everything but the wheelwells, and my originals are toast and no one makes repros. Don't think they'd fit the new contours, anyway. Still contemplating the trunk cosmetics.

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Trunk is finished, metal-wise... tho the pan is square-edged, making laying a mat in there over the contours a bit difficult. I was thinking of spatter-painting it, but that's later, year-wise (for Buick at least). Factory had lots of 'beauty panels' to the sides & back that hid everything but the wheelwells, and my originals are toast and no one makes repros. Don't think they'd fit the new contours, anyway. Still contemplating the trunk cosmetics.

Custom "beauty panels" could be the answer.

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Now I was at the restoration zenith of the process: to pull the body or not. Well, you can't paint the top of the frame with the body there (nor that portion of the floorpan), so off it came. After unbolting everything, I used 3 guys to lift the front of the shell and my engine hoist to lift the back, setting the shell on two 4x4s on top of 35-gallon steel drums, which allowed me to roll the chassis out from underneath it. I left the doors on & latched, but with the extra rails inside the rockers, the shell didn't flex at all (the general consensus is you should weld angle-iron in an 'X' in the door openings when lifting it off the frame, especially on a hardtop).

I sandblasted the frame all over (fully boxed from the engine crossmember to the rear bumper). I used a drop-in syphon blaster, worked very well, but my frame was naturally nothing like a new toyota frame even tho it's nearly 50 years old & lived it's life in PA (DIG!!), and there was almost no heavy scale and zero rot. Then I painted it with POR-15. Here it is (upsidedown) prior to painting, and after rewelding a few factory seams, and modifying a few items (there were no provisions left underneath for exhaust (car is going to have 3" duals), so I added in the 2 quarter-round notches in the middle area, using steel tubing from a big dump truck hydraulic lift cylinder.

B-59frame.jpg

I built a body dolly out of 2x3" steel tubing, with 4 large pneumatic swivel tires. Now I could roll underneath and scrape & wirewheel the underside, seam-seal all the cracks, then brush-paint it in 2 coats of POR-15. One night I fell asleep for a while under the car at about 1AM- my creeper must be more comfortable than I thought. I breathed vast quanities of rust dust under there, but the body is a vault now.

My buddy Joe is a great welder, but he was not a bodyman at that point (he since has done numerous cars for others & is pretty good). I discovered while longboarding that the fiberglas filler he put over the quarters was on smooth sheetmetal, a no-no for adhesion. It all had to come off.

After digging around, I met up with a guy who did painting for a living in a body shop, and also did custom paintwork for cars in his own home down-draft paint booth. The cars I saw he did that looked brand new were 8 and 10-yr old jobs, and a number had been in magazines. I like what I saw, so I trucked the shell (plus fenders, doors & hood) to his house, where he & his father swore they'd never do such a large car again. They stripped all the fiberglas out, redid everything, sanded & sanded & sanded, then shot the car with epoxy-primer/sealer. It's in this stage now, all ready for paint. Here it is in the booth, still on it's dolly, ready for her first shot of primer. Look at the width of that firewall! :

B-59paint.jpg

Edited by balthazar

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VERY cool. It's amazing to see the improvised frame from the mid-section back; what happened to the rest of it?

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Original rails were tossed. I still have the 'K' section that was also cut out; it's leaning against a tree next to my shop :

DSC01825.JPG

My brother just took the body off the frame on his '71 GTO- the differences in the puny '71 C-channel frame, and the truck-sized B-59 frame is amazing, esp considering the cars are within 350 lbs of each other.

Edited by balthazar

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My brother just took the body off the frame on his '71 GTO- the differences in the puny '71 C-channel frame, and the truck-sized B-59 frame is amazing, esp considering the cars are within 350 lbs of each other.

Everything really was way overbuilt back then. I need to post a photo of the frame of my father's '37 Packard when the body was off; talk about a truck frame! And the frame from the '40 ambulance is even beefier.

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