I’m going to stray from my theme of budget performance builds this week, because I simply have to share with you the details and pictures from my latest project. In the late summer months of 2013, I started sketching out the designs for the world’s first eighth generation Buick Riviera hood. I had already added many tasteful exterior modifications to my 1996 Riviera, but it hadn’t quite reached the “menacing” appearance that I had in mind. Since my car was already in such nice shape, I didn’t want to risk ruining the factory hood if my design didn’t work out as planned. So I called around to different salvage yards and found one located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, about 1.5 hours from my hometown for $75. It was white, but that wouldn’t matter, as the hood had to be painted anyway. In addition to a smooth raised 2″ cowl in the center of the hood, I wanted to install hood vents to give the car a little more attitude. I finally settled on a pair from the 2007-2014 Jaguar XKR, which had “supercharged” embossed on the vents. There would be no question now what lurked beneath the bonnet of this blown Buick.
I took the hood to a body shop my grandfather recommended, and the owner seemed more than ready take on the challenge. He wanted me to order a steel cowl from Summit Racing that he would shape and fasten to the hood for the center section. Since my hood was aluminum and the cowl was steel, I knew there would be no easy way to fasten the two together. But since he was the expert, I went ahead and ordered the part and hoped for the best. During Christmas break, I stopped back by to check on his progress over the last six months and was extremely disappointed to see that very little had been done. I wanted my cowl to flow with the body lines of the car, and the steel cowl simply wasn’t working. He tried splitting in down the middle to give it the shape I wanted, but it looked nothing like the design I had developed. It looked as if he had spent maybe an hour on the project at most. I told him again how I wanted it to look, and said I’d be back in another six months to hopefully pick up the hood. When I came back in July 2014, I was irate to find it exactly as I left it. I told him I’d be back in the morning to pick up the hood since he obviously was no longer interested in the project.
Luckily, two good friends of mine had recently opened up a new body shop in town and were eager for work. I showed them the so-called “progress” the previous shop had done on the hood, and they couldn’t believe the poor level of workmanship. The $160 steel center section was now scrap metal, and it was the wrong choice of material for the center section to begin with. I showed them a picture of the design I wanted, and by the end of the day, the cowl shape was already formed. Instead of trying to bond steel to aluminum, they made the shape for the cowl out of foam and sanded the edges smooth so it wouldn’t look obnoxious and out of place on a Buick luxury coupe.
After the foam had been sanded down to the proper height, they added many layers of fiberglass over the top for structural rigidity. The holes for the vents were then cut, and the internal structure of the hood had to be modified slightly for the vents to sit flush. After leaving the hood out in the sun during business hours, they noticed that the foam was expanding in the heat and warping the shape of the cowl. As a result, they cut a hole in the backside of my hood and removed the foam. The hood was then sanded smooth, primed and painted Medium Red Garnet Metallic to match the color of my Riv. On November 27, 2014, I drove my car out of the body shop with the new hood installed. It had been one year and six months since the project started, but it was definitely worth it. They were able to take my design and bring it to life. Grandma’s Sunday cruiser had officially been transformed into a menacing, muscular machine that any automotive enthusiast can appreciate.