- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Harold Scott had a nice car in 1966 but his wife, Gladys, desperately needed to replace her worn-out 1960 Buick before it let her down.

In March 1966 the couple went to Temple Buick in Alexandria and ordered a seafoam green metallic 1966 Buick Electra 225 two-door hardtop. It was one of 4,882 such models manufactured that year. Because they knew his employer, United Air Lines, was about to transfer him to always-chilly San Francisco, they decided against the optional air conditioner.

Otherwise, the Buick was pretty well loaded.

They returned to the dealership in February when their special-order Buick arrived. Five months later the expected transfer order arrived. They motored west in their 18-foot, 9-inch-long Buick after packing an incredible amount of their belongings into the cavernous car. It made the coast-to-coast trip on 8.55x15-inch tires supporting a 126-inch wheelbase.

With a single four-barrel carburetor feeding the 401-cubic-inch V-8, it produces 325 horsepower. The Wildcat 445 decal atop the air cleaner refers to the torque rating.

Soon after getting settled in California, the couple began hosting their grandson T.W. Scott on summer visits. Young Mr. Scott continued to visit his grandparents (and their Buick) whenever his school in Baldwin, Md., closed each summer.

From his first visit he was smitten by the “deuce-and-a-quarter” Buick. During each visit he would clean the interior and wash and wax the exterior. After a few years he learned which parts of the car to chamois first and where the water would run off and where it would collect. “I’m the only one that washed it,” Mr. Scott says.

His grandparents in later years used the Buick to haul “stuff” to flea markets where they would set up shop, using their Buick as a rolling warehouse.

From the beginning of the coast-to-coast visits, it became apparent that Mr. Scott had set his sights on his grandparents’ Buick.

In 1985, a few years after Mr. Scott’s grandfather died, his grandmother moved to Maryland to be closer to her family. The car made the trip east on the back of a truck. Mr. Scott’s grandmother continued to drive her Buick until 1990. “The last few years were like ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’” Mr. Scott says. At that time he, with the help of his father, convinced his grandmother that the time had come to hang up the car keys. The Buick’s odometer registered 97,000 miles.

There was no question of the car’s being sold. It was going to the person who had lavished great care on it for that past two decades: Mr. Scott. The car sat for a couple of years until he and his father, Bill, set out to bring the Buick back to like-new condition.

Mr. Scott, vice president of Business Operations with Northrop Grumman Electronics, found time with his father in December 1992 to begin disassembling the Buick down to the last nut and bolt. The father/son team effectively transformed a car with value into a pile of parts. “It was a great bonding experience,” the younger Mr. Scott says.

They conscientiously cataloged each part and noted the order in which it was removed.

Mr. Scott had promised his grandmother that he would restore her Buick to the condition it was in when she drove it home from the dealership.

During the 44 months of restoration Mr. Scott’s grandmother many times visited the work site to see how “her” car was progressing.

Somewhere in the past she had dinged the right front fender. Mr. Scott found a factory original fender in New Jersey that was available at less cost than straightening the original. That was the only known body damage, or so he thought, until the body was sand-blasted. That’s when the body filler in the right rear fender was exposed. The car must have been damaged in transit from the factory to the dealer and been repaired before delivery. Healthy sheet metal was welded in place.

Even with the mileage approaching 100,000 miles the big V-8 was still running strong. “It was almost a sin to take it apart,” Mr. Scott says..

However, both the engine and transmission were rebuilt. A new, old-stock two-spoke steering wheel in the correct color was located in Atlanta. After a nationwide search for the correct upholstery fabric, Mr. Scott struck pay dirt in Oregon. With an all-new interior in place, he replaced the original four seat belts.

All the glass was removed at the start of the restoration but was found to be in such good condition that it was replaced after the upholstery and exterior painting were completed. The windshield is so wide that the wipers overlap when in the rest position.

All the stainless-steel trim pieces were polished to a like-new sheen while the 53 pieces of chrome were sent off for replating.

“Even when the replated chrome arrived,” Mr. Scott explains, “it still needed a lot of car.” The wide band of trim near the bottom of the car crosses over the almost 5-foot-long skirts. All that swath of chrome required a strip of black paint to be applied in order to be correct.

The restoration was deemed complete in July 1996. Mr. Scott escorted his grandmother to the finished car where she once more sat in the driver’s seat and relived fond memories. She marveled at how complete her rejuvenated Buick appeared.

She died six months later. Mr. Scott is happy that she lived to see her Buick returned to the condition it was in when she bought it new in 1966.

“It’s an amazing car,” he says and will forever remind him of his grandmother.

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