"Look at that dude under his Skylark." We had been cruisin' Irwindale Raceway during the Thursday night test and tune when we saw Tim Dolan beating the starter on his primer '69 Buick with a hammer. He slipped a greasy arm in the window and with a sound like a wood chipper eating a stop sign, the Buick burped to life. We smirked.
"There's that Buick from the parking lot again." This time we were in the stands as the car leaped off the starting line with the left front steely dangling in the air and clicked off a 7.36 at 93 mph (that's mid-11s in the quarter). "Did you see that? Was that the same car?" We were in love.
Tim used to be a BMW driver in a sea of L.A. BMW drivers. His '95 735 was purchased on the cheap using experience as a technician at a BMW dealership to evaluate the likelihood of expensive repairs. It was his practice to scan the Penny- Saver for good deals on cars that could get him down the road. It paid off again when he spied this '69 Skylark ad and went to take a look. The car was owned since new by a 78-year-old man and his 82-year-old wife, and it was for sale at $2,200.
The Buick was a bit wobbly, so after a blur of fixing little things and many trips to our heroes at Certified Undercar in West L.A., Tim had a decent car. During a routine water pump replacement, he noticed that the balancer had about an inch of free-play. A machinist later told Tim that the crank had eaten the thrust bearing and was starting on the block. Tim rebuilt the 350 and added his first speed parts from TA Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. The next thing he knew, he was at the Winternationals in Pomona. Then he learned that you could take your own car to the track and how easy it was. Since then, Tim has been going nearly every Thursday for two years.
On his first pass with an open differential, the car ran in the 11s in the eighth-mile. A list of speed parts later, he was seeing 9.20s. But Tim wanted to go faster and started looking for a Chevy engine to swap. Buick guys Bruce Kent and Dave Benisek intervened and talked Tim into the politically correct 455 swap.
After Tim asked Bruce and Dave a lot of questions, they decided to sell him a motor they had intended to build. Following about three months of Buick-related fun, the engine was together. Out of the box, the Buick ran an 8.20. Since then, he has dialed the car with tire pressure, jetting, and timing into the sleeper it is today.
Who: Tim Dolan
What: '69 Buick Skylark
Where: Los Angeles, California
Engine: It's a 455 with stock cylinder heads, a TA 210S-HL cam, 11.5:1 compression, and a single-plane Cool Runner intake.
Trans: It's pretty much stock TH350 with a PAW 1,200 converter.
Carb: Hidden under the cleaner is a Quick Fuel P-1050.
Starter: Tim fixed the junk with a new mini-starter from Start 'n' Charge.
Rear: It's got 3.90s and an Auburn LSD.
Suspension: There are trick shocks from QA1 in the front, Summit shocks in the rear, Moroso drag springs, Edelbrock upper and lower control arms, no hop bars, and a right-side airbag inflated to 10 pounds.
Paint: This fine color is Krylon Olive Drab applied from the can.
Safety: "There is a fire extinguisher rolling around."
Seats: Those are all that is left from the 735i BMW.
Thanks: Brian Lopez, Tim Duffy, and the guys at Irwindale Raceway