Above all, we decided that the stuff we used in the interior had to be cheap and tacky. My intent was not to make fun of anybody other than myself, and have a ball doing it. As I drove south on I-95 toward Miami, Reverend Mike was crawling around the interior of the '41, double looping the strings of fake rhinestones, draping them from the top of the window frames. He used Christmas tree ornament hooks and Scotch Tape to hold it together. The white tuck n' roll had been brightened up with several multi-colored serapes with pink fringe, tossed over the top of the seats to serve as Antimacassars (the crochet doilies women used to put on the top of easy chairs to protect them from men's hair grease, about 100 years ago).
When word got around that Terry was going tacky with the interior decor, my pal Rod Powell from CA brought me a set of chili pepper Christmas tree lights. I installed an inverter (converts 12 volt to 110) in the trunk to drive the flashing Christmas tree lights, and we had officially entered into another dimension, which shall be known simply as my Christmas Tree Light period. Slowly others appeared including light-up pink Flamingoes, skeletons, and the piece de resistance for this car, the "bubbler" lights. Perhaps you're old enough to remember the lights with a bulge at the bottom that would make bubbles that would rise to the top of the liquid inside once they warmed up. We put those along the base of the rear package tray and rear side windows. We sprayed 'em candy red because the white lights were just too intense, man. The center of the roof already had a chunk of pink neon, but when I added the revolving disco ball light with different colored lenses I began to think I had gone too far. I remember pulling up to a cop car at a stop light in Ocean City, MD one night with all the interior lights cranked up to "stun". He looked over at me and the array of flashing, dancing light, and turned his head straight ahead again, pretending I wasn't there.
As you can see from the photos, the dashboard started out with a fuzzy-haired troll (a gift from my daughter) and slowly became overrrun with small objects of junk. They were temporarily attached using the blue poster putty they sell so when you put up posters, it won't take the wallpaper with it when they come down. At first the rear package tray got several life-size plastic roaches. Then we added the battery operated 7-inch rubber rat that would writhe with pain every time it was sound activated. We never named him. Just when I felt the interior was "done", I'd see a small metal alligator that seemed like it needed to find a good home. I had become a "junk junkie" and I couldn't stop adding things. Unfortunately I never took any good photos of the interior in full bloom, but I have a few black and white snapshots here to give you the idea. I always considered the interior as a work of art in progress.
One more weapon added to the Buick's "fun arsenal" was a pair of exterior marine speakers for the stereo, one behind the grille and a second under the rear fender. My main sound man Franklin Amiano tuned me up, and during the decade or so while I owned the car he felt it was his task in life to keep the '41 tunes operating. A persistent leak around the base of the windshield would periodically fry the rado/tape player and Franklin would install another unit and try again, in vain, to build a plastic umbrella over the radio to prevent it from the next inevitable torrential rains. The sound system was never one of those obnoxious jobs where you can hear the bass thumping inside your house when the car drives by outside. I had about a 100 foot range to hear whatever wildly diversified music we decided to play, be it Frank Zappa, Cypress Hill, or Latin Jazz. Wagner's Valkerie was a favorite, just like the helicopters in APOCALYPSE NOW. At the Street Rod Nats in Syracuse we played this and you should have seen the look on people's faces.
The most fun we had was parking the car on the street, dropping the hydraulics, and put the car in the "full battle attack" mode. This meant all the disco balls and Christmas lights and exterior sound system was crankin', and we'd just walk away and watch from a distance as the car drew a befuddled crowd of onlookers. With two batteries, it seemed it would play forever and still crank up when it was time to go home. Some people got it and laughed, knowing we were just having fun, that the car was a joke. Others didn't, the poor souls. Now you know what I meant about not taking your car too seriously.
In the spring of '93 I gave the car a fresh new look. I replaced the ribbed Briz bumpers with '46 Pontiac 3-piece bumpers, which Ram welded together and filled the holes and we had chrome plated. The Pontiac bumper is a neat piece of art, especially with the optional "wings". I added fog lights, a big "flying lady" hood ornament from Frank & "wannabeer" Carol, a Foxcraft sun visor and old style evaporative air conditioner that attached to the top of the passenger's door window. I drove the car to the NOPI event in Atlanta enroute to Florida, and I'm sure this was the frist time zillions of young buck low-euro dudes ever saw a "bomb", although early model lows are commonplace on the West Coast thanks to the "old" lowrider guard.
Early in '96 I cleaned out the interior, removing all the interior decor items in the car with the exception of the original rubber Jivaro shrunken head hanging from the mirror, a present to me on my 50th birthday from CHROME IT friends Frank & Carol Schindler. I had the interior window frames chrome plated. Somebody saw my cleaned out interior and asked what had happened to all the junk. I replied, "I sent my interior to the Betty Ford clinic!"
The '41 had been an unusually trusy and faithful steed. Touch the starter button and it always starts. I've put literally tens of thousands of miles on the Buick since the spring of '92 as the stone chips on the front fenders will attest. On one trip to FL we spent Saturday night getting a personal and private tour of the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum in Ocala from Big Daddy hisself, as I've known Don for 40+ years. A totally amazing human being. Our ignition switch had been shutting off so he dug out a replacement switch from his parts department. We asked him to autograph it before we put it in the car, and when I asked how much I owed him for the switch he said I should just go to an auto parts store and send him another one when I got home. I autographed the one I sent him (as a joke). So now the car has the Don Garlits signature model ignition switch.
After driving the car for a zillion miles, coming home from the TYRODS great event in Hudson, MA I got a few miles from home only to have the wiring in the trunk short out, nearly setting the car on fire. It shorted out the electrics so the electric door wouldn't open, and I didn't have interior manual door handles (always a good idea to have on every hot rod). Luckily the driver's window was open so I pitched the fire extinguisher out on the ground and followed it (always a great idea to carry at least one of those where you can reach it). I opened the trunk and ripped the wiring out to stop the short. Luckily no fire, but lots of smoke and adrenaline. I put an interior door handle on the car.
I did had several "religious" experiences with the Buick. Once on Rt 80 at 70 mph in the fast lane, the timing chain broke and we had to dart across three lanes of traffic with no power to the shoulder without causing a multi-car pileup like you see on NASCAR. We made it. The best one was coming home from MA again, crossing the Tappan Zee bridge. The the left rear hydraulic cylinder burst. Usually the hydraulics were trustworthy, but it was just old and corroded. So here I am doing 65 in the fast lane on an elevated bridge in traffic and suddenly the left rear bumper is trying to dig a hole in the pavement! Yee haaa! I hit the up hydraulic switch and the tank pumped more juice to the cylinder and raised it a bit, for a moment until it squirted out. Fortunately I was 2/3 of the way across the bridge and managed to get to the right lane and limp, make that drag, along until I got to the end of the bridge to a place where I could pull off the Interstate. Again, no fender bender. When I pulled off the road I spent a minute, with heart pounding, thanking Jesus, again, for watching over me. It could have just as easily gotten into a T-bone and had some 18-wheel bunt me over the guard rail into the Hudson river. But Jesus must have liked the '41. A rollback ride, repair the car, and back on the road. The cylinder must have been 15 years old. Hydraulics are generally reliable but I doubt I'll ever build another hydraulic car. I must have had a half dozen of 'em.
Lee Pratt's '41 is a real "landmark" custom, no thanks to me, but due to Lee's great artistic eye. I had the cylinder heads redone and sold the car to a guy in TN, who drove it home. That was years ago, and I found the car FOR SALE on the internet at http://www.badboyztoyzz.com/41buick.html. Maybe I should buy that one back for another 50,000 miles of fun? I love that car.