Merced County Times Newspaper
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Local Buick owner restores luxurious Invicta cruiser


It’s like driving your living room.

Tom Ledford’s 1960 Buick Invicta four-door hardtop glides along the road as smoothly as a warm knife cutting through butter. It rekindles childhood memories of riding in a similar Buick and later learning to drive on it.

Ledford has owned the Buick for four years. He spent the first two years doing a ground-up restoration on the luxury cruiser. Many of the rusted parts had to be fashioned from scratch. Since then he has had two years to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Where some auto buffs favor two-door hardtops, Ledford is partial to four-doors. He also owns a 1961 Chrysler New Yorker four-door which is his favorite car of all.

“On the 1960 Buick, with all four windows down, it’s just too cool. There are no blind spots. You can see anything and everything. It steers really nice,” Ledford says.

The 1960s refined cruiser vibe is carried throughout the car. It has the trademark tabletop flat roof that lots of General Motors cars had in the late 1950s and early 1960s; the shift indicator for the twin turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission mimics a gunsight.

The rounded headlight bezels resemble the teardrop-shaped jet engines that hang under the wing of a B-52 bomber. This military influence is carried through on its pronounced tailfins and big window canopies.

Ledford, a longtime Atwater resident, likes both the 1959 Buick with its extended tailfins and the 1960 models where the fins and body contours are a little more refined and restrained.

“You can’t help but like them,” he says.

When he got the Buick, it was suffering rust issues along much of the lower body panels and the floor-chassis pan. He replaced those rotten panels with 22-pound sheet metal. He also hand-fabricated the custom floating grille bar lurking under the prominent hood and fender “eyebrow” lines.

Ledford’s Buick is cloaked in an Oxford white paint hue once found on Ford Motor Co. vehicles and the expansive top has champagne metallic paint. Rico’s Pinstriping in Merced did the 1960s-vintage pinstriping on the sides, hood and trunk lid. The trunk, by the way, is so big it seems like it could easily house a whole symphony orchestra or at least a garage band.

Tom designed the distinctive upholstery with brown vinyl fabric patterns and white accents, which was stitched by Sang’s Upholstery in Merced. Cragar five-spoke wheels on whitewall tires add a mild custom touch to the low-slung cruiser.

The car has the distinctive finned brake drums found on many years of 1950s and 1960s Buick production. Its 401 cubic-inch V8 engine gives off a throaty sound, since it only has straight pipes and no mufflers. Cruising down the road, however, the sound isn’t overpowering and settles down at speed. The ride’s silky smoothness is helped by power steering, power drum brakes and a factory-installed air conditioning unit.

“It just floats along. I have always liked this body style, with its softer lines,” he says. He added custom skirts over the rear fender panels and slightly changed the appearance of the rear bumperettes by paint and metal work.

Ledford told a friend about his fondness for those Buicks and the friend found the car on Craigslist in Raisin City.

This comfort comes at a price. The Buick gets 11 miles per gallon, whether driving in town or on the highway. It cruises comfortably at 70 miles per hour and has brisk acceleration when called upon.

I must confess I am a longtime Buick fan.

My folks had a 1956 Buick Super four-door sedan and this car took us all over the country several times. I don’t recall it having a ravenous fuel appetite but I wasn’t the one buying the gas back then. It would be great to find another 1956 Buick. However, they don’t show up very often at reasonable prices.

I remember hearing the story that highway road construction departments used to take a new Buick out to see how well they did on their paving jobs. Back in the day the advertising rang out: “When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them.” That’s one slogan I have taken to heart for many years.

Spending some time with Mr. Ledford and checking out his vintage vehicles and auto memorabilia was a rare treat. Capping that off with a ride in a vintage Buick made the day all that sweeter.

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