The Vault

Great Balls of Fire

Anne Grinney-Colomban Car Feature, Pinup Tags: , , ,
1954 Buick

By DCImagery/D.Chartier; Model: Debra Jane

Joe Monohan grew up in the 1950s in San Fernando Valley, California. Being a movie stunt man, he worked with and knew some really cool people. To name a few: Steve McQueen, Rick Nelson, Ritchie Valens, Ann-Margret, Joe Namath, and many more.

His kustoms influence came from growing up in the time when it all started. The love of hot rods and kustoms has been flowing through his veins his whole life.

Joe hadn’t done much with his love of cars for a lot of years but got the bug back in 1980 and has had several cars since. In March of 1994, Joe was looking for a ’55 Cadillac. He couldn’t find one that was in decent condition and came across an ad for a ’54 Buick Century. When he arrived to look at the car, all the guy had left was a ’54 Buick Special 2-door hardtop. Joe liked the look and how the car sat so he took it home.

A 50’s Kustom

Joe had a vision in mind for the Buick when he decided to go with it instead of the ’55 Cadillac that he couldn’t find. After getting the car to his home in Whittier, California, he went to work on disassembling the car. Joe knows cars, how to do metal work and body work, but he eventually decided to have a friend help out on the metal work and soon found that fixing someone else’s bad work is much more difficult than just doing it from the start yourself.

The ’54 got a clean shave, being nosed and decked, and door handles removed. The fender portholes that are a trademark of the old Buicks were left in, but Joe added some purple marker lights inside for something a little different. The antenna, headlights, and the 1959 Cadillac bullet taillights were all frenched in, making the already nice lines of the Buick a bit cleaner. The car sat so nice that a chop was not necessary, so it was left alone.

Chassis and Power

The frame was modified to accommodate the air ride suspension front and rear along with the 4-inch dropped spindles in the front and new motor mounts to fit the new ’64 401 Nailhead tied to a Turbo 400 tranny. The powerhouse is topped off with an Edelbrock intake and 4-barrel carb setup. The dual exhaust comes out in a chrome set of Moon lakes pipes. If need be, the rubber of the Coker radial wide whites can be laid out from the ’78 Caddy rear end. A 4-wheel disc brake setup stops it all on a dime. The stock ’54 Buick 15” inch rims were kept and topped off with a set of ’57 Caddy wheel covers.

The Driver’s Seat

Joe kept the interior pretty stock with a few slight kustom touches. The 32” Lokar shifter and the ididit tilt steering column fit nicely with the kustom shift boot and restored stock steering wheel. The white tuck-n-roll with purple piping by Joel’s Custom Upholstery in Upland, California, flows well with the color scheme and the stock dash with the tear drop knobs is a nice touch. Joe set up the doors and the trunk with poppers for easy entry and access.

Great Balls of Fire

Being a big Jerry Lee Lewis fan from way back, Joe named the car after the paint job that Jerry Lee would be proud of! Bob’s Customs did the finish body work and killer paint job on the ’54. The candy purple was kustom mixed. The flame job was laid out and put on by Quicksilver over at Bob’s Customs as well. For the finishing touch, Quicksilver laid out some sweet lines on the car and topped off the interior with the striping on the dash.

Thanks: Model’s hair & make-up by Shotgun Betty


Owner/Builder: Joe Monohan

Location: Sugarloaf, CA

Model: Debra Jane

Vehicle: 1954 Buick Special 2-door hardtop

Body Modifications: Shaved, decked & nosed

Paint Color: 3-stage candy purple

Painter: Joe at Bob’s Customs (Upland, CA)

Custom Graphics: Flames & pinstriping (Quicksilver at Bob’s Customs)

Engine: 1964 Buick 401 Nailhead

Tranny: Turbo 400

Intake & Carb: Edelbrock

Exhaust: Sanderson headers w/Moon lakes pipes

Rear End: 1978 Cadillac

Suspension: Air ride

Brakes: F- Chevy disc; R- Cadillac disc

Wheels: 15×6 steel

Tires: 225R15 Coker WWW

Seats: Stock

Upholstery: White vinyl

Upholsterer: Joel’s Custom Upholstery Upland, Ca

Steering Column: ididit

Steering Wheel: Stock

Taillights: 1959 Cadillac

Club Affiliation: Bear Valley Cruisers