Custom Cruise Friday
Given the time of year and the recent first snow fall of the season, this will be the last Custom Cruise Friday blog in it familiar form until spring. Don Wheaton will still be publishing a weekly Friday post, but the focus will shift a bit. For the past 25 weeks or so, each Custom Cruise Friday blog was aiming to tell the story of a vehicle. Occasionally, those stories became inseparable from the vehicle’s owners. Nostalgia is a powerful force in life, and this final Custom Cruise Friday feature, a 1961 Buick Electra 225, owned by Ed Burdzy, very much follows that idea.
Burdzy grew up admiring the Buick his father, John Burdzy, owned for many years. He has fond memories of the smooth-riding sedan with a huge back seat. He famously predicted from a very young age he would own his very own Buick someday. Friendly pressure from some members of a classic car club of which Ed Burdzy belonged, put him in touch with John McEwen and the 1961 Buick Electra. After a one quick test drive during Christmas of 1982, Burdzy over came his initial objections to car and bought it right then and there. But was forced to wait until spring to really enjoy the car.
“It was hard to get excited about unwrapping a new shirt on Christmas morning knowing this thing was waiting out on the West end,” Burdzy said. “I’d be a royal idiot if I didn’t buy this car. I’d never find one in this shape again.”
Save for a few cosmetic fixes made to the exterior, Burdzy’s 1961 Buick Electra 225 still has the original paint in Phoenix Beige. The light color is a favorite of the owner because it does an excellent job of concealing dirty and dust. The seats in the front and rear of the Electra have been replaced over the years. Apparently, the foam covering the seat springs was so old and dried out that brisk driver with the windows down would leave the interior covered in a fine yellow dust.
From a mechanical stand point, the Electra 225 is just about brand new. In 2001, Burdzy and some friends undertook a complete rebuilding of the engine. During the rebuilt, Burdzy suffered a broken arm. This left him undeterred. He remained at work with a scraper for engine grease in one hand while holding the broken arm over his head.
“Several people (were) yelling at me that I was out of my mind,” Burdzy said. “I said this car is going to roll by March. Get out of my way.”
Powering the 1961 Buick Electra 225 is a type of engine known as Wildcat 445. During car shows, one of the facts that Burdzy must remind people is that the number on the engine doesn’t refer to the engine’s 401-cubic-inch capacity. For some reason or another, Buick, at the time, decided to tout how much torque the engine will make. Each time Burdzy repaired or replaced a component it was done dutifully and for good reason.
“I don’t want (the car) to become an ornament in my garage,” Burdzy said. “I treated it as any other vehicle that needed repair.”
He still takes the 1961 Buick to a few cruise nights and car shows in the Edmonton area. Burdzy doesn’t take the car very far from home any more. After having a major hurdle to overcome in getting the car’s very specialized water pump replaced, he makes sure he stays pretty close to home. However, there is still plenty road to stretch the car’s legs and take full advantage of the long and therefore pillow soft ride.
“I used to think this car didn’t ride so smooth when I was younger,” Burdzy said. “I drive a gravel truck for a living now. This (car) rides just fine.”
Burdzy shares another common thread with many classic car owners. He never plans to give up the car, in fact he’s already made a plan for remaining with the car long after he passes through to the other side.
“I joke with people,” Burdzy said. “It’s got a half-dozen ash trays. Just cremate me, fill them up and never vacuum.”
If you would like to see your classic or otherwise special vehicle profiled in a Custom Cruise Friday Blog next spring, contact Don Wheaton Internet Manager Melina Kawecki by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.