Sometimes, there's just nothing better than the planning of a new car. This is where you get to fantasize about high-horsepower engines, award-winning paint jobs, and sleek leather interiors. Well, sometimes you just can't seem to get past the planning stages...reality is just too painful!

For those of us who do move on to the realities of actually building a car, some kind of game plan is in order. Obviously, one of the main decisions is engine choice, and for many, the logical one ends up being of small-block Chevy origin. And for good reason, as any aftermarket accessory ever made was more than likely first designed for use with the SBC. When working with a "non-Chevy" vehicle to begin with, issues such as motor mounts, exhaust routing, etc., can be a problem, but rarely enough to dissuade from the swap. On the other hand, there's always the option of retaining the original means of power, of course with a bit of internal/external refreshing, but depending on the year of said vehicle, you may be stuck with a primitive transmission--that is, unless you're the resourceful type and not adaptation-timid! With the Air Ride Technologies "AirWagon" '62 Buick wagon, owner Bret Voelkel wanted to keep the original 401 Nailhead (for its uniqueness and charm, among other things), but had little desire for the DynaFlow two-speed. The possible issues involved with the engine, as well as the mating of a GM 700-R4 overdrive, were overcome merely by contacting the folks at Jasper Racing Engines and Phoenix Transmission.

With the engine freshened up and the new tranny waiting eagerly to be mated with the bolt-on adapter, the Vintage Air A/C unit, power steering, and alternator were fitted with the engine still on the stand (much easier to do out of the car). To link the components together, pulleys from March Performance originally intended for a small-block Ford were machined to fit. Fortunately, Air Ride has a complete machine shop at its disposal; this may not be the most ideal conversion for the average garage builder! Still utilizing their machine shop, they fabricated an aluminum adapter plate to accept a Holley throttle body to the four-barrel, cast-iron manifold. Completing the exhaust and ignition systems, Bret was able to turn up a set of headers from TA Performance (off the Internet) and was able to take advantage of MSD's new Ready-to-Run billet distributor for the Buick Nailhead.

From here on out, it was just a matter of "cleverly" dressing up the engine. Again, they turned to their own machine shop to handle most of the chores. First, being there aren't many dress-up options for the Nailhead, the issue of valve covers needed to be addressed. These were eventually fashioned from 4-inch square aluminum tubing, cut in half lengthwise with ends welded on. The attaching points are the same as stock: two holes on top. With a bit of weld blending and polishing, they had a unique set of one-off billet valve covers! Nestled between, to not only hide the various components, wiring, and hose, but also to make a statement that people would remember AirWagon by, Bret wanted to create an air cleaner of epic proportions. Problem was, time was running out for the Buick's Americruise debut. The solution was a generic open-element type air cleaner obtained from the local AutoZone, painted the same light-blue metallic body color. With the addition of some billet hardware (made on their lathe, of course), the engine took on a nice, high-tech look--and it didn't take a bushel basket of time or money to accomplish.

As with any engine bay, there are always a hundred details to attend to. The accompanying pictures should give you an idea of how Air Ride Technologies tackled these areas, and hopefully, they will inspire some ideas of your own!

SOURCE
Air Ride Technologies
350 S. Charles St
Jasper
IN  47546
812-482-2932
www.ridetech.com